Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bird Photography: Comparison to Where's Waldo?

I was at Shelby Farms Park today, and it struck me that using the large zoom on my Canon PowerShot camera was a lot like looking for Waldo in those picture books!  First the differences, though:  

1. Waldo doesn't move around on the page.  
2. Waldo doesn't leave the page as you hone in on him.
2. Waldo doesn't make surrounding leaves flutter. 
3. You can find Waldo wherever you take the book, in any room in your house.  You don't have to be outside.   
4. Waldo doesn't sing. 

All of the above make it a lot more fun trying to get a photo of a bird than finding Waldo. In fact, I don't particularly like trying to find Waldo in a picture book, but I do like bird photography, particularly in the natural environment. Taking photos of birds at zoos or birds of prey shows lacks the challenge of nature photography.  All of my zoo animal photos and bird feeder photos come with an asterisk, and I favor my photos that do not have that mental asterisk.

Often the first hint that there is a bird around is that you see it flying and then landing. Otherwise you might not notice.  Do you notice the bird in this photo? All of the following photos were taken from the same location, with various stages of zoom in the lens.
Where's Waldo?

Sans the clues, most people would not notice the bird in the above photo. However, I had seen the bird, an eastern kingbird, fly into the tree. Would I be able to find it in my viewfinder before it flew away? Finding the bird in the camera viewfinder is a little like finding a particular piece of a jigsaw puzzle.  But, with a jigsaw puzzle, you can take your time.  Not so with a bird that likes to move around.

Luckily, by the time I found the eastern kingbird, it was still there.
Success!  The zoom lens honed in on the bird! 

The process is a lot of fun, but bird photographers often miss shots of birds, so it can be as frustrating as playing golf. The golf equivalent to having a bird fly away before getting a decent shot is something like hitting the ball into a water hazard! You don't want to take too much time finding the bird, but sometimes haste makes waste. It can take quite a bit of time to find a bird in the midst of limbs and leaves that all look the same. 

The moral here is that bird photography, like golf, requires a lot of patience. Now, if you use a bird feeder to attract birds, less patience is required. Since the challenge is lessened, however, the reward isn't quite as great.  Where's Waldo? would not be as much fun if there were arrows pointing to Waldo on the pictures in the book.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Cedar Waxwing

Until this spring, I never recall seeing or identifying a cedar waxwing, and only have a bare recollection of even hearing the name of the bird.  So, after more than three years of photographing birds, I go from no photos of cedar waxwings to dozens of them.  I almost entirely missed Memphis spring photos this year due to funky cold weather.  I love photography, but I don't love getting cold.  

I was on a walk in Audobon Park when I saw dozens of cedar waxwings descend on a tree with buds.  The birds were everywhere, flocking and eating the buds.  I took a few photos and had to go home to make a positive identification of the bird.  I was thrilled to have a photo of a different bird species.  Robins and mockingbirds are just a bit too common.  Here is one of my first cedar waxwing photos: 

But that was just a precursor for a cedar waxwing experience to come.  My study looks out onto a patio where there is a large pyracantha bush with red berries.  Well, it USED to have red berries on it.   There was a frenzy of cedar waxwing activity on this one bush, and they managed to completely strip the berries off the bush within one half hour.  I felt as if I was witnessing an astonishing event.  Fortunately I happened to have my camera, and shot these photos through a somewhat dirty sliding glass door.  This event probably is not rare, but it was rare to me, so I just thought I would share these photos.  For the most part, I don't think the dirty glass on the door affected the photos all that much.  I didn't want to scare the birds by opening the door. 

So, I documented few flower buds this spring, and ended up with cedar waxwings.  When you are a nature photographer, you have to discard expectations and just take what nature gives you!  And, you just never know.   
This photo must have been taken through smudged glass.

This is a bit clearer

It was easy getting photos of berries in the mouth!

As you can see they are starting to do a number on the berries!

Three of them finishing off the remaining berries.

Bye, bye, berries!