Just a Sparrow (Artistic Bird Photography)

I went to Yaquina Head, just north of Newport, Oregon this past weekend, the purpose of which was to shoot birds, and this photo of a sparrow was all I got. Bummer. The common murres and pigeon guillemots had not yet arrived at Colony Rock in force, if even at all.  The first signs of these bird’s spring arrival at this special wildlife location was barely visible. I was a little down, just ask my wife.  Instead, I put the camera away for most of the weekend, slept in both mornings and enjoyed the time with my family.  My little guy had the time of his life running along the beach and diligently trying to empty each beach puddle of its’ water. This is too precious to watch for this dad, and I know this season of life will not last as long as I want it, so I made the most of it.

But all was not lost photographically. While walking out to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, I heard a song sparrow singing, announcing the end of winter on a perfectly clear and calm morning.  I strained my eyes to find the little brown bird (my friend Bruce just calls these and other common bird species LBB’s for short, hinting at their plainness with this acronym). I found the little one singing for a hopeful mate while perched on a drab looking brown stick in the middle of a brier patch, all of which were uniformly blown toward land by the ocean’s relentless winds.  This shown composition was already in my vision before I could raise my camera to my eye. Choosing a focus point right on the bird with the frame composed as I wished, I was able to catch this little fella’s tongue showing as he sang mid note (though this small detail may not be seen on the smaller web sized photos), and the sparrow is tack sharp.  I just love this Canon 400mm f/5.6 L lens. It’s a great lens for beginner bird photography, especially if you’re on a budget and appreciate sharp results.  So even though this photo is just of a sparrow, I love it still for several reasons:

  1. The composition. All of the windswept twigs are bending in the same direction, the pattern of these sticks is visually intriguing.
  2. The moment. Mid note, this little is singing his heart out, and this frame shows this story.
  3. The simplicity. There is little distracting in this frame, a factor I strive for more often than not.  While there is one prominent stick in the left third of the frame that distracts a little, I otherwise love what these brambles bring to this scene. Also, the color pallet is quite clean.  Just two main colors make up this photo.
  4. The light. The catch light in the sparrow’s eye shows that the sun is in a location near where many portrait photographers would place the light if this sparrow were a model.  As a general rule, I try not to press the shutter on a sunny day if there won’t be a catchlight in the bird’s eye.  I just end up deleting these photos on the computer later on, and waste more of my time.
  5. The bokeh (out of focus components). Especially foreground bokeh can be interesting and give a dreamy and artistic look to a photo. Some photographers use foreground bokeh like this frequently to give their work a look and style. Note though that this technique is not guaranteed to make pleasing photos, at least from my experience.

Singing Winter's End

The cleanliness and simplicity of a frame is something I most always strive for.  I love what I was able to capture in this frame, even the subject is merely that of a sparrow. Each time I head out to photograph birds, I hope to capture a shot that includes many of these qualities. In the near future I will try to get a blog post or two up that includes more technical bird photography requirements (in my opinion), and also some tips I use to  get better bird photographs. As always, please feel free to email and ask any photography questions should they cross your mind. I hope this was of help and inspires you to see and photograph the world of detail and interest that exists in seeing and photographing the many birds around us every day, but especially now in this spring season. Thanks for hanging in there! I promise the next post won't be centered on birds!