The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of Bird Shoots

Learn some photography techniques on how to take good bird photos (with my apologies to Arthur Morris).


by
Michael Goldstein


Copyright 2007 Mike Goldstein

Close inspection of this screech owl portrait will reveal that there are two highlights in the eye, and they are not both in the retina. This is one of the hazards in using a flash to fill in shadows on a bright day.


Copyright 2007 Mike Goldstein

This is a front-lit photo of a screech owl, made on a bright sunny day, with dark forest in the background. The white highlights of bird and perch are blown out (over-exposed), due to the use of auto-exposure.


Copyright 2007 Mike Goldstein

This is a nice portrait of a barred owl, with the diagonal of the branch making for a dynamic composition. Selective focus nicely separates the bird from the background, while the falling snow in the upper half of the shot picks up the brightness of the snow on the ground. It could be argued that the bird is too central in the image, but it was desirable to have the diagonal branch clipped off on either side.


Copyright 2007 Mike Goldstein

The brightest area of a photograph is the one that catches the eye first. In this case, it’s the patch of snow at the right side. A move to the right, and a tighter crop, would eliminate this problem.

Notice how, by using selective focus, the bird and its perch stand out beautifully from the background.


Copyright 2007 Mike Goldstein

This red-tailed hawk is nicely positioned on the perch, looking into the frame. The red berries in the foreground contrast nicely with the same berries, very much out of focus, behind the bird.

Two interesting problems occurred when scanning this slide (originally on film), and others. I found that the Silverfast scanning software was better for adjusting tricky colors, but did not seem to do high contrast well, while the Nikon software was the reverse.

It took a lot of work to get the colors in the scan exactly right. Eventually, I had to adjust the colors in the scanner software, while looking at the projected slide.

Then, it was difficult to retain detail in those bright white feet, while scanning. Silverfast scanning could not do it for me, but luckily, my Nikon software would!

I started with two scans, one from each scanning software package, and eventually chose to correct the Nikon scan in Photoshop, so I could deal with those white feet.

Copyright 2007 Mike Goldstein

This image of a great horned owl made a great Christmas card! The bird nicely takes up the lower third of the frame, while the red branches fill the negative space above it, and provide a good colour accent. Those wonderful, huge eyes capture instant attention, completely open in the subdued light of a winter afternoon.

by Michael Goldstein

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