Wednesday, 25 April 2012


The nature of the background can profoundly influence the impact and mood of a photograph, but with birds it's often difficult to pick and choose. However, with an obliging subject, like the Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) below, it is sometimes possible to influence the outcome. The bird was at the same site as the Dipper in the previous post, just over the road, perched in a birch tree, preening, no doubt whilst its mate was sitting on eggs. The first image was taken against the distant background of trees on the riverbank, some in early leaf, giving a rather dull background. I noticed that by moving a few yards to the right, I could bring the blossoming gorse bushes into view to give a more colourful and interesting background, transforming the image to one of colour rather than almost monochrome. One has to be a little careful with exposure with the brighter background possibly underexposing the bird, but I find centre-weighted exposure readings sometimes better in this situation. Incidentally, the bird still shows some brown in the flight feathers, and an incomplete black mantle indicating a first summer male.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV, 500mm USM F4L IS lens, 2X Mk III converter, Gitzo tripod
1/250 sec. @ F8, ISO 800.

As above, 1/800 sec. @ F8, ISO 800.

It's a similar situation with the Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus). I know these birds are common as muck, but plumage-wise, they are a smart bird, as are many of the world's pigeons. Here, one image has a similar colour background to the bird, and the other a contrasting one. Both work for me. The bird was attracted to a feeding station and was oblivious to my presence in the car, even when I moved it a few yards to get the different background.

Canon EOS 1D Mk III, 500mm USM F4L IS lens, car, beanbag
1/350 sec. @ F5.6, ISO 800. 

As above, 1/1000 sec. @ F5.6, ISO 800.

I suppose the message is - "Look beyond the bird".

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A pair of Dippers nest locally every year under a bridge on the River Derwent. They are back on territory from their wintering site now. I've tried to photograph them on numerous occasions in the past, without much success, but recent heavy rain has caused the river to rise, covering their usual mid-stream perches. This one was oblivious to my approach, and was quite happy to pose. The name comes from their bobbing action, and has nothing to do with their underwater feeding habit. It's always accompanied by blinking of their white upper eyelid, but blinking isn't necessarily accompanied by bobbing. Blinking is a message signal which increases in frequency when the bird is excited or disturbed. The delicate upper eyelid has a fine brown eyelash to border it. A membrane covers the nostrils whilst under water.
These images were taken with a Canon EOS 1D Mk IV DSLR with a 500mm Canon lens with a 2X Mk III converter, on a Gitzo 3 series tripod and Systematic head. Exposure details: 1/250sec @ F8, ISO 800. Processed with Adobe Lightroom.


I started bird photography back in the 1960's, inspired by the late Eric Hosking, as an adjunct to my passion for birding. Since then I've amassed several thousand images taken in the UK and abroad. Many are on slide film, but I went digital when Canon brought out the EOS 10D. It seems a shame that most of the images will never be seen by anyone but me (the odd lecture aside), so this blog is about displaying some old and new stuff, and to invite constructive comments from anyone who cares to view it. In that way, perhaps I will improve my technique - it's never too late to learn. I don't have a website, as I'm not really interested in selling images, and every Tom, Dick and Harry has one so they are a bit hackneyed now.
Posts to this blog will be intermittent, and only when I have something to show, so there might be a few long gaps. Nevertheless, I hope you find it interesting.