Robin in tree

by Peter Menard
(North Bay, Ontario, Canada)

Walking down a trail beside the creek I managed to capture this robin sitting on a branch. I always have a hard time with birds as they seem to be constantly in motion.

Any tips on bird pictures would be appreciated.

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Recently, on a lazy Sunday morning, I had time to flick through the bulk that is the Sunday papers. I can’t quite remember what the kids were doing, and maybe it was my watch, but nonetheless I managed to find some quiet time. Just me, a coffee and the paper.

I keep half an eye on the Arts scene and found myself getting stuck into a piece on Martin Scorsese. Up until this point I had a vague understanding of the man. Film director, famous, worked with DeNiro. And that was about the extent of my knowledge. Suffice to say that if I ever found myself in the chair on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and a question about Scorsese came up, I would be phoning a friend.

So I felt I should continue reading. And I found out that he has indeed made many great films. And there was a common theme running through his films (at least the ones I’ve seen) - I remember watching these films knowing that greatness was being presented to me, but that I wasn’t really sure I was enjoying it.

I knew I should persevere right to the very end. After all this is a great movie director whose films have scooped a number of Oscars. But still, I wasn’t really enjoying it as much as I felt I should be.

And so it is with wildlife photography, and especially when photographing our feathered friends. I remember spending time with other photographers in hides waiting for a particular bird to appear. It was cold, damp, and all I had to look forward to for much of the day were my sandwiches. Which were also cold and damp.

And I kept telling myself that this was good, this was enjoyable. And yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t too sure I was having a good time at all.

So I take my hat off to wildlife photographers the world over who have far more patience than me, and a whole lot more tolerance of the cold!

But back to Peter’s photo. It’s a nice enough shot, and being picky I would say that it is better from a compositional perspective to leave some space around the subject in photos like this. If the subject is looking to the left (as this bird is) leave some extra space on the left for them to ‘look into’.

There are many aspects that are very good though. The focussing is pin sharp. And the aperture is wide so there is a shallow depth of field (this means the bird is in focus but the background is blurred).

All good. But what about tips to improve? One thing is to develop the patience of a saint! It pays to spend time studying birds to get a feel for how they will react.

This time of year is a time when a lot of birds begin clearing out nests and preparing new ones. This means that they are often flitting off, and then will be back a few minutes later with something in their beaks. If you can capture them when they return to their nests you are first of all ready for them, and they will have something in their beaks to add to the overall scene.

To do this you need to find a place where you can sit still for quite a while. Movement scares most birds and they are less inclined to show themselves. You don’t necessarily need to go for full camouflage, just be able to sit in a spot quite still.

Another tip would be to take care with post processing. In the real world birds are colourful creatures. This can get lost in photos – especially if the light wasn’t particularly good. I would recommend boosting the colour saturation a little in post processing.

The final piece of advice would be to get a really good telephoto (or zoom) lens. Peter either has one, or managed to get very close to this bird. A good lens will be able to zoom in from a distance and will also allow a lot of light in – essential to allow a shallow depth of field.

All in all, this is a nice photo and I think Peter should feel proud of it. Thanks for the submission,

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