In the second part of Tom Mason’s tutorial on the art of bird photography, he looks at the creative side of shooting birds on location
looks at the creative side of photographing birds on location in the second part of his tutorial to help you brush up on your skills.
IN PART ONE of my introduction to bird photography (Bird Watching, September issue) we looked at gearing up, along with basic camera control to get you started shooting images. Here, in part two, we delve into some of the more creative aspects of bird photography such as composition, as well as some of the field techniques required for capturing great bird images on location.
Photography is an art form – for the most beautiful looking images, we need to develop our thoughts and ideas further than a simple sharp image of a bird on a stick. The way we compose images has a huge bearing on the overall look and feel of a photograph, with the way we position subjects having a drastic impact on the aesthetic nature of a photograph.
The rule of thirds
The ‘rule of thirds’ is a great starting point for any image. Simply divide the frame into nine equal sections with four lines both horizontally and vertically (like an elongated noughts and crosses game) and position your subject on one of the intersecting points looking into the frame. The space for the animal to look into makes a more pleasing and natural looking image.
With composition, shape and form are very powerful, and line is something than can create strong images. Working with leading lines, that allow the viewer to be drawn into a frame, can take the audience on a journey into an image for added interest. This could be a fence line, path or simply streaks of colour, drawing the viewer in to take a closer look. Position your subject at the end as a perfect finishing point.
Look for odd numbers in your compositions – 1,3,5 all work better than 2s or 4s as they allow a place for the viewer to stop, rather than bouncing between two objects without really setting on either. If you are working with two, such as a pair of birds, try and add a third element into the frame to add balance, be it something slightly out of focus in the background, or maybe an additional piece of foliage for added interest and compositional completeness.
For some images, working with your subject slap bang in the centre can create a strong and powerful composition. I emphasise the need for a strong subject, because if your intended bird is too small, or without enough weight in the frame, placing it centre stage can see it become lost, in which case the ‘rule of thirds’ is a far better option.
The rule of thirds is a great starting point for any image
FLIGHT IMAGES Capturing the perfect image of birds in flight takes skill – but what a result! ÈRULE OF THIRDS Dividing the frame into nine equal sections will produce great photos
LEADING LINES Use of lines in images draws the attention of the viewer SUBJECT CENTRAL There are exceptions to the rule of thirds – only with a strong subject ÊBE ODD Four birds would have less impact