Thursday, June 9, 2016

Post #68 - IN YO FACE! Headshots of birds....

First, a leg update. It is feeling better, so I guess that's a step, errrrr, a crutch in the right direction. I had an MRI yesterday to confirm the diagnosis of a partial/slight tear of my lower calf muscle. I'll find out for sure once doc looks at the scan results later this week. As I am still crutching everywhere in my protective walking boot, this post will come to you live and direct from the comfort of my couch. Don't worry - I've got some cool stuff for you anyway!

Headshots are often overlooked in favor of more interesting compositions or more action-orientated frames. I completely understand this, but a photographer generally has to work with what the bird gives him. Sometimes, a headshot can salvage a shot where none otherwise existed. For example, I photographed this handsome guy in Vancouver a few weeks back. The entire duck was shaded except for the head; Trying to shoot a bird so unevenly lit would have resulted in painfully under- or over-exposed areas in the final image. I decided instead to use the facial lighting as an opportunity to snap this portrait.

Wood Duck - Aix sponsa
Vancouver, Canada
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 7D2
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 800, handheld

Here is another example of where I saved a frame with a headshot. I posted this on this blog when I took it last fall, but it is worth reposting in the context of this discussion. This bird was found along one of the agricultural fields surrounding the Salton Sea. He was standing on an ugly, concrete drainage ditch, and, as I try to avoid any signs of human-made objects in my shots, I decided to focus on his upper body so as to omit that unnatural eyesore. The close-up really puts the focus on his amazing eyes. The eyes are KEY when it comes to headshots - the bird MUST be looking at or very near the photographer for the image to have any impact. 

 Burrowing Owl - Athene cunicularia
Salton Sea, California
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 7D2
1/3200 at f/8, ISO 1250, handheld

Headshots also work when the bird won't give you any behavior. In the following example, the lighting and open sandy beach were perfect, but the bird just wanted to stand there doing nothing. By creeping a bit closer, I was able to crack of this frame that shows all kind of detail on him. It's still a static shot but its a lot more intimate this way.

Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Plum Island, Massachusetts
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/4000 at f/7.1, ISO 400, handheld

Sometimes, headshots allow the photographer to show common birds in uncommon ways. Both Great blue Herons and Herring Gulls are notorious for their shark-like appetites. I think that these two photos show nicely the sometimes greedy nature of these two species.

Great blue Heron - Ardeas herodias
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Canon 400mm f/5.6 on EOS 7D
1/8000 at f/5.6, ISO 640
Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
Boston, Massachusetts
Canon 400mm f/5.6 on EOS 7D
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 400

And......sometimes it just fun to see exactly how close you can get to a bird, particularly a rarity or a notoriously shy species! Note: I was the only one on the beach with the stint, so I wasn't worried about scaring it off. A peregrine took care of that for me!
Little Stint - Calidris minuta
Chatham, Massachusetts
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/800 at f/8, ISO 200, handheld

Virginia Rail - Rallus limicola
Concord, Massachusetts
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on Canon 1D Mark IV
1/500 at f/8, ISO 800, Fill flash, handheld

And a few more, just for fun!

Red-tailed hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
Boston, Massachusetts
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 + 1.4x III on EOS 7D
1/1000 at f/8, ISO 400, Tripod

American Oystercatcher - Haematopus palliatus
Boston, Massachusetts
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/1600 at f/8, ISO 400, Handheld
Great gray Owl - Strix nebulosa
Ontarion, Canada
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/800 at f/5.6, ISO 800, Handheld

Well, there you have them. Hopefully I've sold you on the merits and beauty of the avian headshot. I've got a few more that might surface at some point - hopefully not over another injury!