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.

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