A kook like me
There are several things that motivate me to continue to photograph what I see in nature, and also to continue to improve my photos. I love that moment when I make eye contact with a bird, even through the camera lens. I know that I have done posts similar to this in the past, but not with images that are as good as what I’m getting now.
Also, like some little kid, I get an inordinate amount of fun out of sneaking up on a bird and capturing the surprised look on its face when it realizes how close I am to it.
Take this poor catbird, it was enjoying the morning sun and doing a little preening…
…when I snuck up on it, causing it quite the start.
Of course, if I’m shooting a series of photos of the birds, like a robin gathering mulberries to take to its young…
…the bird will spot me…
…and the last shot in the series is usually this one.
Sometimes, I can pull that trick off more than once with the same bird…
However, there’s another, more mature, even serious side to it as well. I love to learn about nature, and my photos help me to learn. I find that by getting close when I shoot the images, then cropping them, that I can learn what the birds or other wildlife is eating, when I can’t see it with the naked eye alone. I also learn how they eat what they do.
I’ve photographed the waxwings eating several other types of berries before, and they always swallowed the berries whole…
…but with mulberries, the waxwings crush the berries…
…before swallowing them. I don’t know why that would be, unless the mulberries taste so good that the waxwings prefer to enjoy the taste for a little longer than if they swallowed them whole. I never saw a pit or seed fall from the berries as the waxwings crushed them, and I’ve seen waxwings swallow larger berries whole, so I can think of no other reason than taste for them to eat mulberries differently than other berries.
I also learn which foods are popular with the most species of birds, as are mulberries, but also with other critters as well.
Find a mulberry tree or bush with ripe berries…
…and you’ll find photo ops if you’re a nature photographer.
I’ve also learned that while all the other critters are enjoying the mulberries, there’s always one that goes its own way.
However, even as good as my photos have gotten, there are times when I can’t figure out what the bird that I’m photographing is eating.
The waxwings are omnivores, they will eat both plant matter and insects…
…but I can’t tell if this one was eating something from the tree…
…or insects hiding there…
…but, there’s always another reason to hang out and watch them, the chance for a good photo.
On many occasions, when birds have finished eating, they will hang out for a short time before moving on. It’s during this time frame that I get some of my best images of them.
Okay, I suppose that brings up the discussion of what constitutes a good image. I have learned that there’s a huge disconnect between the experts consider a good image, and what the general public thinks. To satisfy the experts, the image has to be a close-up with only the subject in focus, and the background completely out of focus. Most nature photographers that win judged contests create a scene, then sit in a hide waiting for the subject to enter, to get the exact image that will be a winner.
To the general public, about the only thing that matters is the popularity of the subject. As long as the subject is popular, the image could be shot on a cell phone in a zoo, with the bars of the cage visible, and it could still win a photo contest.
Well, I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m ready to sit in a hide for days to capture a perfect image to make the experts happy. Nor do I get many opportunities to photograph any of the really popular subjects that would win a contest judged by the general public.
So, being the kook that I am, I have my own standards for what constitutes a good image to me. Of course the image has to be sharp and exposed correctly, the image of the marsh wren that I started with is a good example of what I’m going for as far as quality. But mostly, I like to capture my subjects doing something, like eating in some of the photos above here, or these photos.
Those photos will never win any type of photo contest, but I love them. That’s because I captured a species of bird that I love in the first place, and it’s engaged in behavior that few people ever see close-up like that. The swallow never stopped fluttering its wings as it scooped up a beak full of mud to build its nest.
I will admit that I used my Subaru as a hide of sorts to get that image, as well as this one.
I should have titled that one “Determination”, because of the look on the gull’s face. I also like the gull in the background which seems to be thinking “There goes George, showing off for the photographer again”.
So, I suppose that I should add that I’m trying to capture a subject’s personality in my images also, like this house wren.
All wrens are small birds with a huge amount of attitude. I thought that this one was giving me the stink-eye…
…but it turned out…
…that the wren was worried about a blue racer snake on the ground that I hadn’t noticed at first.
I’m not sure if the wren would have attacked the snake, it didn’t have to, the snake saw me, and slithered off. The wren had its nest nearby, which is why it was so interested in the snake. Wrens may not be as aggressive as red-winged blackbirds, but they’re fearless little birds that don’t hesitate to attack predators much larger than themselves to protect their young. The wren was so grateful to me for having caused the snake to leave, that it posed while singing for a few photos.
You can tell that this little guy was very happy that the snake was gone because of the way he was belting out his song.
Well, I kind of got sidetracked again, didn’t I? I was talking about how I was using my Subaru as a hide, then switched topics to trying to catch a bird’s personality. In a way, they are related, for while I wasn’t sitting in my Subaru as a hide to get the wren, I was hanging out in the shade of the porch at the headquarters of the Muskegon State Game Area. I was there in an attempt to get better photos of bluebirds, that didn’t go quite as well as I hoped though.
Something that I’m doing more of is finding an inconspicuous place to stand or sit in an area where a particular species of bird can be found, then waiting for the birds to come to me. I still don’t have the patience to sit in a hide for hours on end, but I can see how well that could work by the photos that I’m getting just by slowing down and letting the birds get used to my being there.
It helps if there are other things around to photograph while I’m waiting on the birds.
I’m finding that I can hang out for an hour or so, if I’m seeing birds, not necessarily shooting photos of them. As long as they’re around and there’s a chance for a photo, I can get by with just observing them in action, which also helps me in the future. The more I learn about bird behavior, the easier it becomes to photograph them. The more photos that I shoot, the more I learn about birds. It’s a never-ending circle that I hope truly never ends.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!