This image grabs me for reasons that only other bird photographers might appreciate.
1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in
I photographed this adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird six days ago at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. He was scurrying around on last year’s dead phragmites as he snagged midges out of the air and intermittently broke into raspy “song”. At first glance there may seem to be nothing special about this shot – it’s just a fairly nice photo of a blackbird doing it’s “thing”. But I keep coming back to the image for one reason – the light and detail in the blacks.
This time of year thousands of bird photographers photograph various blackbird species every day and their frustration levels are high because of the photon-trapping characteristics of those deep blacks. Getting detail there is very difficult unless the sun is low in the sky and directly behind the photographer. Even then the bird usually has to be turned broadside to the photographer to get good light on most of the black surfaces and show detail there. And even when things go mostly right many blackbird images have significant areas of blacks that show no more detail than a chunk of coal at midnight.
But with the exception of part of the left leg and a small area under the right wing there’s excellent detail in all of the blacks of this bird. To my eye it almost seems as if I can see every individual black feather in its well-defined glory and for me at least that almost never happens with blackbirds. At a larger file size and resolution those details in this bird are just stunning.
As a photographer I can take only partial credit for that fact. True, I chose to shoot in the early morning when getting good detail on blackbirds is much more likely and the high quality lens I shoot with is fully capable of capturing that detail when conditions are right. But it was largely a matter of luck – the bird had to be turned just right at the instant the shutter clicked.
So, even though this image may not be particularly interesting on some levels it shows me what is possible regarding detail in blackbirds. And that motivates me to keep striving.