How much of the environment do you show when your primary subject is a bird? Normally I try to fill as much of the frame as possible with the bird through a combination of zooming and cropping.
Yesterday as I walking along Cameron Run, a suburban waterway that feeds into the Potomac River, I spooked a Great Blue Heron when I took a few steps in its direction. A smaller bird was also spooked and it flew to a rock in the middle of the stream. I was thrilled when I realized that it was a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), a bird species that I don’t see very often.
It would have been easier to get a shot if I had been carrying my long zoom lens, but instead I had my 180mm macro lens on my camera. Fearful that the bird would take flight again, I took some initial shots and then slowly moved forward. As I climbed over large rocks toward the water’s edge, I’d stop and take a few more shots. After I reached the water, I decided to change lenses and put on the 70-300mm lens that was in my camera bag and, of course, the night heron flew off as I was changing lenses.
When I was at the closest point, I was able to capture an image that, with a lot of cropping, shows some of the beautiful details of the heron, including its startlingly red eyes, but as I looked over my images, that was not my favorite one. My eyes kept returning to the landscape shot. in which the heron is only one element of a beautiful composition of rocks and water.
What do you think? I’m posting three different shots of the night heron with varying amounts of background context, so you can see how the scene changed as I zoomed with my feet (and cropped in post processing).
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.