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Photographing Birds - (Differently)

I really enjoy photographing birds; actually, I get a great deal of pleasure just being around them. They're highly energetic and very animated and I love trying to create photographs that reveal their often humorous behavior.

This time I challenged myself to go out and create photographs that only show part of a bird (no total body images). The following images were created at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, CA or the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, CA.

The Hunter

A slow morning at the wetlands. That's part of the adventure. You never know what to expect. Some days it's non-stop action and others (like today) there's just not a lot to choose from and you may have to wait a very long time between opportunities.

Still relativity early in the morning, mostly cloudy, soft diffused light and little breeze which offered up some nice reflections. I thought that including a small portion of the body and the entire reflection created a great sense of mystery and drama.

Serious Business - Egret Yoga

I spent several minutes following this bird as it hunted for small fish in the shallows. I hoped that it would continue on its current path which would bring it into this section of the pond where the beautiful morning light was shining nicely on the surface of the pond.

Here the birds neck is almost at full extension and ready to strike. It held this position without movement for at least a minute before rocketing into the water in an attempt to grab a fish (it missed this time.)

I zoomed in tight and just watched. Stealth - Stillness - Concentration - Hunger. For some reason this scene made me think of Egret Yoga. Weird huh? I think this pose is called the Cobra :)

Great Blue Heron

I spotted this bird from a couple hundred yards away. It was standing on the edge of a path studying the shallow waters of the lake looking for a quick snack.

I slowly worked my way in its direction stopping several times trying to get a read on its temperament, while trying to communicate that I had no bad intentions and hoping it would become comfortable enough with my presence and allow me to approach close enough to get a few good shots.

I was stopped about fifty feet away watching it out of the corned of my eye (this is less threatening as opposed to staring directly at pretty much any critter.) Good news - It did not seem to be to concerned with my presence. Then better news - it started preening itself!

I watched for a couple of minutes; again out of the corner of my eye while moving as little as possible. The next time it buried its face under its wing I slowly moved four or five feet closer. I repeated this movement every other time it concealed its face. Now I was less than thirty feet away and the bird was obviously more interested in getting its feathers in order than my presence. So, being the opportunist that all wildlife photographers are I took complete advantage of this precious gift. I spent several wonderful minutes with this beautiful bird and made some very nice images. Here, I was going after a more abstract look. I wish I had a little more reach from my lens or was a little closer, but I did not want to risk crossing the line and have the bird fly away so I worked with what I had. After creating a few images I slowly backed away leaving it to attend to its business.

Thank You Bird!

The Look

This bird was not sure of what to make of me or simply did not like the fact that I was following it.

It would go about its business for a while, the suddenly stop, look back at me with the most un-trusting gaze and then repeat the entire process. After a couple of minutes of this I framed up a shot and waited. This is the result.

What a knucklehead!


This bird flew in and landed on the bridge railing about fifty feet from me. I moved in a little closer and framed up a couple of full body compositions. While doing so I noticed how the legs stood out in front of the dark background. Working as quickly as I could (hoping the bird would not take off) I worked out this composition which is all about the legs. I also included a small portion of the body and tail because I liked how the light was illuminating the feathers and felt it provided additional information that helps make sense as to what my viewers are looking at. Legs and feet alone obviously belonged to a bird, but the composition just did not fell right to me. Including just a slight hint of body makes all the difference. I am very pleased with the overall look and feel of this image.

What do you think?

I challenge you to pick one of your favorite photographic topics or subjects then go out and photograph it in an nontraditional manner.

Be creative and have fun!

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