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On Being Eye Level

It’s one of the cardinal rules of wildlife photography – or any form of photography for that matter – the eye is the most important aspect of a strong image. The eye is the window to the subject’s world, where the viewer can somehow by any small stretch of the imagination, put himself/herself in the shoes of the subject. The concept of being “eye level” gets introduced whenever this subject isn’t a regular human, at regular human height.

Birds, being (usually) much shorter than us, require an adjustment in perspective. For those birds that are not generally found in trees – such as waterbirds like this Wattled Jacana – the default position is prone.

wattled jacana immature-2










Sometimes we get lucky with a specie that isn’t usually on our level. A couple weeks ago we came upon this Crested Caracara rummaging in an open field in gorgeous early morning light. One problem though – we were looking down at the bird. Although the background wasn’t creamy and smooth as some would like, the intense backlight made it very interesting.

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Eventually, we scooted around to a lower point – where we’d be dead on eye level with this powerful raptor. Even better was that we were now shooting with the sun to our backs, relaxing the conditions a bit.

crested caracara







For those of us who are accustomed to seeing the closely related Yellow-headed Caracara, the Crested Caracara is truly massive. And its true imposing nature comes to light only when we’re on its level. I loved dinosaurs when I was growing up – it’s clear why I’m so enthralled by these creatures now.

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We ended up having way too much fun with this particular bird; it soon became somewhat accustomed to us and came so close that I was forced to stop shooting and enjoy it with my bare eyes!

crested caracara-8

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