Birds in the Backyard

Michael's feeder swaying with feathered activityWith autumn coming on, the birds are gearing up for colder weather. Thanks to Michael for providing them nourishment with his ingenuitive, homemade birdfeeder, it has been easier for me to get some good pictures of them. On Wednesday morning last week, I slowly approached the feeder, quietly set up the camera on a tripod, and clicked away for the next hour or so, thoroughly enjoying the crisp autumn air and cheerful company of many local birds.

Tufted Titmouse against sunlit background. Can anyone guess what aperture I used?I deliberately positioned myself so that this Tufted Titmouse would be silhouetted against a blurred, colorful background of fall foliage. The contrast between light and dark was less than 3 stops so I was able to experiment with the creative lighting without completely silhouetting the main subject.

Sunlight on another Tufted TitmouseMy first position worked for awhile, but I soon became discontent with the lack of contrast in the shaded subjects. The sun, still slowly rising over the hill behind me, shed some light on the situation. Now the foreground was flooded in light creating beautiful contrast and unique detail. Contrast is the key to detail.

Black-capped Chickadee waiting it's turnI was quickly filling up my CF card on Tufted Titmice so I decided I had better get some shots of the Black-capped Chickadees. They preferred the upper branches of the tree but occasionally, and thankfully, they landed in the area on which I had focused. Following an animal through the viewfinder is frustrating. Discern frequented spots and wait for it to arrive; then your chances for success will be much higher.

White-breasted Nuthatch; the best picture of the batch.The White-breasted Nuthatch was another visitor, only extremely elusive. I observed that it arrived about every 5 minutes, scurried down the trunk of the tree, quickly jumped to the feeder, picked out a seed, and immediately flew away. The sun had risen enough now to shine on the trunk so I repositioned my camera, a little closer this time, and patiently waited. The perfect picture was never captured the first few tries, but the last time it came, with only 4 more pictures left, I finally captured what I was looking for.

Though I deleted about 75% of the pictures I took, walking away with a select few wildlife photos is a huge success for such a quick photo venture. The more I practice with common backyard birds, the more experience I will have when circumstances are not quite so easy.

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them…” Mat. 6:26

Emerged from the foliage......a quick flight to the feeder......and gone.


  1. david October 16, 2007 at 12:19 pm #

    What’s aperture?

  2. Esther October 16, 2007 at 5:39 pm #

    That’s incredible that you got him just as he took off! Somehow it is so relaxing to watch birds.

  3. Joshua October 17, 2007 at 7:59 am #

    The second to last photo is remarkable and probably stands out to me among all of them. You know James, I am not terribly familiar with ins and outs of aperture settings on a camera, but have desired to learn. Because of the blur and bright lighting in back, would this be a slower shutter speed, thus allowing more light in?

  4. Donald October 18, 2007 at 1:33 am #

    You are right Esther. Watching birds is a real refreshment–And I was almost surprised at how glad I was to see those common backyard species again. Even more memorable was my life verse there at the end, James. Thank you. I am looking forward to making out a report on some of the birds that are here. I’ll guess F stop 4.5???

  5. James October 19, 2007 at 5:01 am #

    Good question, David. Aperture is just a setting that controls the amount of light you let into the camera. The setting “f/2.8” is extremely wide, letting in a lot of light. “f/22” is narrow, letting in much less light. On SLR’s and some point-and-shoot cameras you can manually set your aperture to be wide or narrow, depending on what creative effect you want to create.

    Now take a good look at the blurred background of the second picture. Do you notice how the light blobs are slightly hexagonal in shape? At a wide aperture, these blobs are always round; at a narrow aperture, they are clearly hexagonal. So, now can you guess what aperture it is? Because they are slightly hexagonal, you can deduce that the f/stop is somewhere in-between; f/8.0! This is one of those thrilling phenomenons that makes photography such a creative art.

  6. Robert October 20, 2007 at 10:22 pm #

    Incredible, James! I had no idea… There is so much I need to learn from you about photography. Keep up the great picture-taking!

  7. Dad October 21, 2007 at 4:45 pm #

    Good example of patience.
    Thanks for the lesson on apeture.
    Keep shooting!


  1. » Blog Archive » Does God Leave Time for Hobbies? - November 15, 2007

    […] hobby is. All the same, I am grateful for Matthew 6:26 where Christ calls for us all to be at least casual birdwatchers. Regardless of how busy I am, I happily find that I am always able to see the local birds and call […]

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