This was one of my favorite recent bird photos. Getting a sharp close photo of any songbird is usually somewhat of an accomplishment, but capturing one doing something “cutesy” can be especially endearing.
This photo was largely the result of right time, right place. But composition-wise I knew I wanted a bit of negative space on the right side of the frame, so the image would not appear too crammed. I went with an aperture of F/7.1 to pull some of the vegetation into focus as well as ensure decent sharpness throughout the bird’s body.
Sometimes it just pays to be lucky in photography, and that’s pretty much how I came across this wildlife photo opportunity. Anticipating possible action, being prepared, and visualizing how to maximize the opportunity are also very helpful.
Red Eft and Earthworm
I like to do my photography rounds with two camera bodies ready to shoot and two distinctly different focal lengths. Generally, I will have either a macro lens or a wide angle lens on one DSLR and a longer telephoto lens (400mm) mounted on the other camera. Currently, no all-in-one zoom or all-in-one camera can match the image quality attainable using specialized lenses as standardized charts and personal experience have taught me.
How else can you be prepared? Remove the lens caps in advance, leave your DSLR switched on (they go into convenient standby mode anyways), and have the camera settings attuned to the current ambient lighting situation as best as possible. A formatted memory card and extra batteries are a must for me as well.
Maximizing the opportunity:
Let’s talk about this particular shot. I did not immediately realize there was a tiny amphibian chowing down in front of me as I don’t have superhuman vision, but once I did I knew that I wanted to get in as close possible to emphasize the action, to allow my macro flash setup to illuminate the key elements, and to eliminate the need to crop my final photo and waste valuable megapixels of the image. Cropping reduces the maximum print size of an image, and also emphasizes imperfections like noise (film grain).
Luck? Well you’re one your own with that one.