Sunday, June 9, 2013

What goes into a great bird picture?

I take hundreds, maybe thousands, of them.  Pix of birds.  The same bird again and again and again--shifting slightly each time--so that I could make a flip book if I wanted to.  Then the next one, same thing.......   And sometimes the whole series falls flat, others that are just 'nyeah'; not bad, but not one to remember either.

So, what goes into a memorable bird picture?

Of course, clarity, good focus, an appropriate depth of field, just as in any photograph.   I end up using auto focus, which allows me to shoot quickly.  However, since I used the 'old-fashioned' viewfinder, that also means that sometimes the focal point ends up being the tip of the beak or a feather rather than the eyes.  Hard to tell in that tiny window!

That's a key:  The eyes need to be in focus.  With just about any creature where the eyes can be seen, they usually need to be in focus. 

And, if there's a highlight on the eye, so much the better.

Is the light modeling the shape of the body? 

Is the bird doing something particularly birdlike?  Or something unique to its species?  Is the woodpecker pecking?  The warbler warbling?

And finally, do you get a bit of personality?   

In my second summer with this camera in the same, small two county area, I sometimes realize I have photographed a bird I shot last year--and it's not just markings, it's their neshama, their soul. 



Other times, in the case of red-winged blackbirds for instance, I'm finally getting technically proficient pix on a regular basis.  But there are the few that, if I shot the same bird again, I think I would recognize it.  Because of their essence, their personality that shines through.

So, that's a lot of it--do they become as individual as a person or a pet?  Could I pick them out of a crowd?  That's capturing soul.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

First Day of Meteorological Summer

(Before I start, here is another panorama that I think gives some more idea of the contours of the land in the Kettle Moraine:)

According to the weather'girl', yesterday was the first day of meteorological summer, although I am not sure what that means.  I tried taking some different routes, but found myself relatively uninspired until I returned to the familiar haunts of the past 11 months.  I am not sure what it is about this two county area, but something inside me jumps when I enter the area.

Yesterday ended up being more fruitful in terms of new sights and discoveries even within that limited area:  I saw my first 'baby' sandhill cranes and got to photograph them.  I have never seen them before they are 'teenagers', so this was very special.  It was a set of twins.  From what I have read, normally only one of a pair will survive most of the time as the parents cannot gather enough food for two.  However, last year I was sure I saw several pairs of juveniles, so am not sure what it means.  Here is one with one of the parents:

I got started taking pictures in this area as I would see sandhill cranes and was just fascinated by them.  Many of my pictures of them are backlit, which can work against a photographer by causing the effect of a semi-sillhoette.  However, in this case, it served to really set off the colt by highlighting the down.
Damsel flies can be so delicate and hard to notice, let alone photograph.  It was fortunate and serendipitous that I noticed this one.
As I have photographed and re-photographed this same area for almost a year, I have wondered how long I would continue to find new things to shoot.  So far, this has not been a problem.  There are several more specific things I am looking to photograph and then I think I will be needing to find a new location to explore; I'll return here, of course, to this place in  my heart where I met the sandhill cranes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Almost a year

It's been almost a year since I bought a good DSLR camera; the little point and shoots, even with zoom features and the like just weren't enough anymore.  Combine that with learning how to use some photo softwares better, and it's been loads of fun.

My most recent adventure in software involved learning how to stitch photos with the panoramic function.  Love it!

My major reason is that I do a lot of photography in the Kettle Moraine, an area carved by glaciers during the Ice Age and which is full of  curving hills and low spots.  Sometimes a regular lens really just can't give the effect.  It also can't catch some serious weather.  But with the panorama function: Wowie Zowie!

This is a three shot panorama.  Try picturing just the middle.  While that is the most interesting part with the contrast of blue, sunny sky against the rainclouds, certainly adding the rain on each side adds to the drama.

This one doesn't feature weather or rolling land; however, it did allow me to photograph an entire controlled burn site conducted by our DNR.  They do this periodically on state lands; it assists in allowing more variety to the plants;  on this site and others, there will be an abundance of wildflowers later in the year.  If the burn had not happened, the area would have been all grasses.

Here, the panoramic function allowed me to show these birds in one picture.  They were fairly close, but not close enough to catch together. 

Before digital photos and software, panoramic cameras were pretty rare and expensive.  They were designed so that the lens rotated on an axis, requiring longer time for the shot.  This could mean needing to use a tripod to ensure sharpness.  Due to that, many photographers did not take them.  I love seeing the plethora of panoramics my friends post!