Very often, we as photographers dream of cooperative subjects. Whether you photograph weather, landscapes, people or animals – everyone wishes that conditions are perfect. Loosely speaking when photographing birds, the “easiest” and most basic of situations is your subject in good view and is lit evenly by the brightest light source accessible – the sun. Of course, the ensuing aesthetic requirements eventually factor into the equation. Shooting with a handicap has proven to be tons of fun (unexpectedly so), and even when presented with the aforementioned conditions I still have a phenomenal chance of missing focus. Luck plays an even bigger role when your subject is small in the frame, such as this Masked Yellowthroat. This resident relative of warblers fascinated me years ago, and still does every time I see one. This particular bird perched atop a bamboo stalk that was waving in the gentle breeze, making me ever more thankful I got a decent photograph.
But now and then I give in to the constant thought of “what if?” and give other, more challenging situations a shot. There are few images that say “bird” more than one of a flying object. Landlocked creatures for the most part we are, and we’ve been spellbound by flight from very early on in our brief history. So I’ve been trying to land a flight shot or two over the past year since the fateful CBC last year, and I have let’s say, conservatively, a 0.1% success rate. Sometimes, having a stunning subject like a Scarlet Ibis gives the final result – however rare – an added oomph.
I spoke about rain and my weakness for it previously, so I didn’t complain when I felt the first few droplets. Several thousand similar droplets later, I began to regret my decision. With some Yellow-billed Terns hovering in the distance though, I had enough incentive to embrace my soaked status.
What’s better than trying to photograph birds flying? How about tiny birds in flight, but not only that, backlit by the last rays of sunlight that are filtering through the trees. As I type that, I’m laughing at myself. What’s to lose? I just delete the thousands of pictures that didn’t work, hahaha. And then there are some that almost work, like this young Black-throated Mango.
The few times when my crazy ideas do end up coming together, I’m usually pleased at the result. Remember to click the image to view it full-screen!
Working at a maximum aperture of f/8, darkness seems to fall easier. At first, I’d just not bother, but eventually my natural tendency to push it kicks in, and I’ve actually grown to prefer slower shutter speeds over the action-stopping 1/1000s most prefer. I guess it’s understandable why most folks prefer the faster shutter speed, camera shake becomes a non-issue, which is actually especially important for long-lens users. At 560mm I should be faster than 1/640s, but a tripod would take care of any motion blur. If I used a tripod. Again, I’m laughing at myself. This female Black-throated Mango was shot at 1/30s, handheld.
Of course, positioning your other limbs to be used as stabilizers isn’t cheating. This image of an Eared Dove staring off over the precipice contemplating life was shot using the same shutter speed as the previous image, using my very own knee-tripod.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, I photographed this female Violaceous Euphonia at 1/25s. Of course, lots of files for the trash, but I may have a problem with pushin’ it. I’ll continue to try slower and slower speeds until my success rate goes to below zero. Probably not. But it sounded like a cool thing to say.