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Entries in Tip (4)


Tuesday Photo Tip - The Big Three Pt. 2 ~ Head Angle

Image A

Image B

We'll start off this post with a quick question - which image do you prefer, A or B?  Nine out of ten people will pick image B and the interesting thing about this choice is that most can't tell you the reason behind it.  Both images are identical except for one small difference, head angle.

The first few times I read about head angle I just couldn't understand how a couple degrees of difference could make or break an image.  Despite my willingness to learn I couldn't wrap my head around the idea, no pun intended! :)  It wasn't until someone posted two images highlighting the difference that I immediately understood what it was all about.

In Image A the ducks head is a couple degrees away from the camera's sensor (bad head angle) and in Image B it is a couple degress towards the cameras sensor (good head angle).  If the birds head is exactly parallel to the cameras sensor then it's considered an acceptable head angle.  

Here's two more images which are very similar - which do you prefer?

Image A

Image B

Image B has an acceptable head angle, but Image A is much better! :)  The difference is quite subtle but the emotional impact of the image dramaticlly increases when you get the head angle just right.  If you want to delve into this subject a little deeper here's a good discussion to look at on Bird (a great site to learn from),

A little while ago someone mentioned to me how awesome it was that all my bird images have catchlight in the bird's eye.  Flattery aside, I thought about it for a second and realized that catchlight isn't something I even think about anymore.  By following last weeks tip of proper light angle and this weeks tip of proper head angle catchlight in the birds eye becomes a given. :)

Next week we'll finish off the trinity with Perspective and Backgrounds.


Tuesday's Photo Tip - Knowing Your Subject

I know this weeks tip was supposed to be on set-ups but the post has grown beyond a tip and will be published soon as a full post, maybe two! In it's place we'll talk about the benefits of knowing your subject with regards to bird photography.  The term "Knowing Your Subject" actually comes from portrait photography.  The philosophy suggests the more you know about your subject the better equipped you are to truly capture who they are.

Learning a birds tendencies and behaviours will be help you to anticipate what the bird is going to do and thus put you in a better position to get that killer image.  We briefly touched on tendencies in last weeks tip when discussing how Downy Woodpeckers like to work an entire branch before moving to the next one.  Other examples of this type are :

  • if you see a perching raptor (hawks, eagles etc) and it defecates (poops), get your camera ready as this behaviour usually prefaces an imminent take-off.  Kelly used this technique to nail Ospreys taking off last season.
  • knowing if a bird is skiddish or not will let you know how close you can get to it.  It's really important to know how specific birds will react to you and your camera.  (Remember to practice birding ethics.)
  • knowing the flight patterns for different species is a helpful behaviour to know as well.  For example gulls tend to have very preditable and slow moving flight patterns.  When photographing gulls one has to treat them differently than say shooting a duck of the same size in flight.
  • tips like these can be found all over the place - on blogs, in field guides, forums etc.  However, the best way to learn, I find, is by studying the birds yourself out in the field.

All right, you're now armed with a bit of knowledge but where are the birds?  Just as important as knowing what birds do is knowing where they are and at what times of the year can you find them.  For instance, in Barrie I know that if I want to photograph Solitary Sandpipers and Egrets, my best chances are in the fall at Bear Creek Wetlands;  if I'm interested in seeing Snowy Owls, Northern Shrikes and Rough-legged Hawks, I know I can find them in the Minesing Wetlands during winter and so on and so on.  Some good ways to learn about what's going on in your area are:

  • local or regional nature boards, blogs and forums - a wealth of knowledge can be found at these places, especially if they have archives.
  • join your local naturalist group.
  • get in contact with any other local nature photographers when you find a good bird and pass the info on to them - they will likely to do the same to you.
  • get outside and explore!!  Don't forget to keep lists of what birds you're seeing, when and where.

Arming yourself with knowledge, aka 'Knowing Your Subject' is an integral part of bird photography.  Just remember that it takes years to acquire this type of knowledge so don't get discouraged if things don't click right away.  


Tuesday's Photo Tip ~ Pre-Focusing

After last weeks cop out for a tip, I figured I would actually write this one myself ;-) This week we'll be taking a look at pre-focusing when taking photographs of birds, although you could apply this technique to other genres such as sports or wildlife.  This little tip may just end up being one of the best techniques you will ever learn, it certainly was for me.

The technique works like this: you focus the camera on a nearby static subject in order to capture the moving subject quicker and more accurately.  A great example to start with are Hummingbirds!  Hummers are one of fastest bird species on the planet which makes photographing them very difficult.  Not only that, they are small, I mean 3-4 inches of small!! :)  If you've ever tried to track one in flight, especially with a camera, then you know how quickly they move and how difficult of a task it can be - this is when pre-focusing can help you.

With this next photo I focused my camera on the flowers and pressed the shutter button halfway down;  all I needed was for the Hummer to enter frame.  When the hummer came close to the flower I happily fired away, all the while keeping my camera's focus point on the flower.  This technique eliminated my having to track the hummer in flight and increased my chances of getting a keeper just by cutting down on focusing time.

For the second example we'll go with a Downy Woodpecker, the cutest woodpecker of them all ;-)  Let's say your out at your local park and you notice a Downy on a tree branch but unfortunately there's a bunch of branches surrounding the bird, what do you do?  What I did was anticipate where the Downy would go knowing that they usually work an entire branch before moving to a different spot.  I scanned the rest of the branch for clean spots.  Once I found one, I pre-focused on the branch and waited for the Downy to enter my frame.  Once in frame I fired away!  Of course there's a good chance the bird will take off before getting into frame but that's the risk you have to take if you want to capture the best shot.

A couple weeks ago I actually tested this technique out at home on the perches we have setup on our patio and was shocked at the results.  When I randomly jumped from perch to perch following the birds I only came up with a few decent images.  When I pre-focused on just one perch and waited my keeper rate skyrocketed!

I hope you find this technique as helpful as I did!!  Next week we'll be taking a look at how I set up our patio for bird photography during the winter months.



Tuesday's Photo Tip - Raw vs. JPEG

Am Goldfinch shot at our place in Barrie.

I set off to do some research on this subject and found a post written by Darren Rowse on Digital Photo School. After reading the post I realized that I couldn't have written it any better so my tip this week is to click here and read his article ;-)