This isn’t an essay on photography and art (by any stretch), nevertheless I touch on both here and hope you find what follows interesting and helpful.
Before we get underway, here’s another female bird we can add to the “pantheon.” This is a female Wood Duck—a perching duck, as you can see. Here, she was in a dead tree that had fallen into a farm pond. She was also studying this intruder, who was doing his best not to disturb.
Several people who read “Nature Encounters” told me they enjoyed the tips about backlight photography and using Zone AF. That was gratifying. I love doing what I can to encourage people to get out there with their photo gear and to visit local spots especially (more on that later). I also love sharing with others what I’ve learned about the craft of photography. Here’s another Zone AF shot, (as well as one that’s backlit). I took the photo at 7:30 a.m. on 5/3. FYI, I wasn’t trying to compete with Ms. Swoboda. Furthermore, it was way too warm for smoke rings. The 2 long silvery shapes below the bird are railroad tracks, and the round shapes just behind it are specular highlights.
I ended up “Nature Encounters” with this great advice from award-winning photographer Joe Edelman: “Don’t try to be the best [photographer] – work hard to be the best that YOU can be. Create and record moments with your camera, focus on the emotion of your shot. Strive to have people look at your work and pause and consider it. If you’re like me, work for that WOW response.” That quote came from his article “A Picture Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect – To Be Perfect.” The title alone is great advice.
Joe explains what “perfect” means to him earlier in the piece: “In order for it to be perfect, my photograph needs to make people pause. Hopefully say WOW. I want to create a story with my lighting and composition and the elements that are included in the photo. I want people to feel something when they look at my image – in short a perfect image should evoke emotion.” Joe may as well have said, “I want to create a work of art.”
A Great Photo
Now, here’s a photo that does all those things and is a great example of what Joe was talking about. It, too, features a backlit subject.
Barbara Houston, a Virginia-based photographer, took the photo of this buck just after sunrise on 5/17 at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. Here’s how she described the moment. She and her friends had come up empty in their quest to photograph black bears and had just returned to their car. “Near the car, there was a path to the east that was a refuge use only road that headed right into the sunrise that had just happened minutes earlier. We spotted movement and watched as a young buck came up out of the woods and started walking the path toward the sun. I had on my 800mm lens and even though he was a good ways off, the light made for a great shot with the silhouette of the deer with the sunlit sky in front of him.”
Richard Bernabe said the following in a piece he wrote for Outdoor Photographer, “I believe, whenever it’s possible, in creating a little mystery in my images, particularly with wildlife subjects.” There’s more than a little mystery in Barbara’s striking photo. Here’s one of my own with some mystery, too, though it doesn’t quite pack the punch that Barbara’s does. This female is busy gathering insects to feed her young. We’ll add her to the pantheon, too.
Earlier, I hinted at the value of local spots. I devoted “Bird and Photograph Locally” to the idea and noted there that it’s easier, cheaper, and takes less of a toll on Planet Earth to bird and photograph wildlife in your yard, your local patch, or your local park. Those words ring especially true now with the price of gas reaching record highs. All my photos above were taken in a tiny greenspace and haven for wildlife not 5 miles from my home in south central Pennsylvania. It’s also there that I monitor the Osprey nest and have opportunities to take flight shots like this.
Louisiana-based photographer Roberta Davidson is another who understands the value of local spots. She also understands a few things about photography (and art). She recently posted a bunch of her photos on FM Forums including this exquisite one of what appears to be a pearl crescent butterfly. She opened her post with the words of Minnie Aumonier, “When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden.” She then followed that up with some words of her own, “A few shots from the garden where I seem to spend all of my time.” I’ll bet she took this one with Single-point AF.
And This Just In
We began to focus on and celebrate female birds in “The Unsung Female.”
I define “Zone AF” toward the end of “A Few Sights and Sounds” (and just above the swallows photo). You can use that AF area mode any time you have a clean background and there’s nothing between you and your subject.
You may have noticed that Barbara “had on” an 800mm lens—a super-telephoto, for sure. She was using a Canon RF800mm which she’d paired with a Canon EOS R6, a camera considered by many to be the “low light king.”
I mentioned BirdNET Sound ID toward the end of “Nature Encounters.” Another great new app worth mentioning—and downloading—is Merlin Bird ID, which includes Merlin Sound ID. I’m using Merlin Sound ID more and more in the field. And I often run into others, both novices and pros, who are using it, too, with great results.
Quip, Question, Quote(s)
“Most of us live within a short drive or even walking distance from a greenbelt, some open space, a shoreline trail or city park. These are wonderful places to take a break and just go ‘see what you can see.’ A visit to a local park can re-energize your photographic spirit, and you can get out there tomorrow with ease.” Don Mammoser
“The earth is art, the photographer is only a witness.” Yann Arthus-Bertrand
“Actually, it’s nature itself that creates the most beautiful pictures, I’m only choosing the perspective.” Katja Michael