Back brooding grebes are always fun to photograph but this image holds additional interest for me even beyond the “cuteness factor” of the chick.
1/2000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in
I photographed this back brooding Western Grebe four days ago at Bear River MBR. The adult and its mate had three chicks but by this time the youngsters were too large for all three to fit on the back of one parent simultaneously so they had two strategies for dealing with it. Either two chicks would ride on the back of one parent with the other one swimming directly behind and waiting its turn for a free ride on the same adult or two of them would ride on the back of one parent while the third was back brooded by the other adult. When I took this shot the two siblings of this chick were on the back of the other parent. I’ll bet this little guy felt special…
I find this image especially interesting for three reasons:
- I believe this may be first time I’ve seen, much less photographed, a chick riding “cross-beam” on the back of an adult. Usually they ride facing forward (sometimes backwards) and mostly buried in the dorsal plumage of the parent. This riding position gives me a unique angle and better look at the young bird than I usually get.
- Normally this composition wouldn’t work particularly well for me because there’s not enough room in the frame to the right for the adult to swim/look in to. But since the chick is facing the viewer and looking to our left, that right hand tension is reduced and I believe a more centered composition like this works best.
- Notice that there’s no discernible catch light in the eye of the chick but even with its reduced light there is in its reflection – yet another example of a difference between a subject and its reflection (recently I discussed the reason for this discrepancy in some detail here). This kind of subtle contrast between subject and reflection is usually not even noticed but I often find myself looking for and even appreciating the differences when they occur.
Yes, I think the image would be improved if there were more light in the eye of the chick itself. I also wish the head of the adult weren’t cut off in the reflection but I lost the top of the head when I rotated the image to level so in the end I went with this compositional compromise.
Tradeoffs. There’s always tradeoffs.
Addendum: I’m adding another version of this image in response to the request from Marya Moosman in the comments below.
Marya – here’s the version of the image you requested to see. It includes the head of the adult in the reflection but the image isn’t level and needs some rotation. When I rotated it I lost the top of the head of the adult. Including the head also makes the crop “squarish” in shape because I have no more room to the right – a composition that doesn’t appeal to many folks.