Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

October 1, 2011

Impact, or not?

Filed under: Birds, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, comparisons, composition, favorite places, light — richditch @ 5:54 pm
Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

#1. Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), ISO 800, 1/400th second @ f/5.6, tripod, spot meter, 78% of frame

I’ve written here and elsewhere many times about my preferences for bird-in-habitat (BIH) compositions, as opposed to the more sterile (to me) bird-on-a-stick (BOAS) style of limited compositional elements and smooth backgrounds. Although I enjoy looking at a well executed BOAS image I find more satisfaction in searching out and composing bird images in a more realistic setting.

Over time I’ve noticed more appreciation of BIH images, but when it comes to any sort of competition the more sterile BOAS type shots tend to do better. Much of this comes down to what many people call “impact” or sometimes “pop.” Although these terms are seldom defined by the people who use them they seem to mean the image catches the viewer’s eye quickly. The more colorful the bird, the larger it is in the frame, and the fewer other elements in the composition the more impact it has and the better it is likely to do in garnering comments and prizes.

Warbling Vireo landing

Warbling Vireo landing

#2. Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), ISO 800, 1/250th second @ f/5.6, tripod, matrix meter, 65% of frame

Another factor that can attract attention to an image is action – a subject doing something makes it a bit different from other images. Interesting behavior can sometimes compensate for minor problems in the shot. In Image #2 the vireo is just landing, with one foot in motion and the wings in action. That excuses some blur in the body and the missing/displaced feathers that should be covering the ear opening. But I don’t think this image would have worked if the head wasn’t in focus.

Warbling Vireo in habitat

Warbling Vireo in habitat

#3. Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), ISO 800, 1/60th second @ f/5.6, tripod, spot meter, 93% of frame

A BIH shot can be messy – at least a badly executed one can be. I’ve seen far too many photographers try to pass off a cluttered badly composed image as a “habitat shot,” usually accompanied by a statement along the lines of “we get what we can” or “that’s where the birds occur.” You just can’t randomly shoot at a bird in the bush and expect a good composition – you’ve got to pay attention to all the elements and evaluate a complex setting in real time hoping for everything to “come together” at one instant.

Even though a quality bird-in-habitat shot can be challenging to see and capture it is unlikely that competition judges will reward it. Their eyes will be attracted by the “bright shiny things” with impact that pop.

These three Warbling Vireo images were all made at Boyce Thompson Arboretum on the morning of September 18, 2011. All were taken at ISO 800 in soft natural light. This is a common migrant in central Arizona in fall. They were attracted to running water in a man-made “negative edge” water feature surrounded by tall trees and low bushes.


1 Comment »

  1. I’ll take the third image in a heartbeat. I love it.

    Comment by rondudley — October 1, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

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