Written By onci on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | 8:39 PM
Waxwings by Tim Kuhn
Late spring and early summer is the time of year that Cedar Waxwings start to invade the Seattle area in decent numbers. I was keen on a photo shoot with them in the morning light so my buddy Tom Sanders and I headed out shortly after sunrise. The weather did not cooperate with us, the skies were clouded over and never burned off. We both went home early with little to show for our efforts. I was really let down, I was hoping to take advantage of this flock as they allow you to get fairly close to them as they are feeding.
Later in the afternoon the weather cleared up some and the light was filtered as it came through the partial cloud cover. I decide to head back to the area where the Waxwings were. As I was pulling up I saw Tom’s truck and a smile came over my face, like minds as they say. As I headed down the path by the ponds where the birds feed I could hear many of them, as I got closer I saw many flying around feeding. I found where Tom was, always a good first step, he had already scoped out the area and new the better places to set up.
We took full advantage of the feeding birds as they would fly from perch to perch between feedings. They almost always go back to the same perches that gave us wonderful opportunities to set up and wait for them with great backgrounds and clear shots of the birds. The light was getting worse, the clouds were thickening.
This meant it was time to put on the flash units for much needed fill light. I am not that experienced with using flash for wildlife but I have been working on technique. At first only the slightest fill was need so I dialed back to -3 on the compensation. This was still a little to harsh so I tried bringing the exposure down a stop.
Ah, pay dirt, I would shoot, check the screen for flashies, adjust the exposure by half stops or the flash compensation by 1/3’s. This was working like a charm. My confidence grew so I was comfortable getting more aggressive with my shooting. I knew when the exposures would work without looking at each and every image. The clouds continued to thicken and soon thunder could be heard approaching. When I decided it was too dark to shoot I was down to -1 on the flash compensation and straight up for the metering, this had my exposures down to 1/125th, a good time to call it a day.
Back home when it came time to process the images, they all had a cool cast to them. I adjusted them with a slight linear burn layer and a slight bump in saturation. I do think the resulting images look completely natural, displaying the subtle beauty that Waxwings posses. I suppose I could also have gone with a White Balance adjustment in RAW, something to try in the future.
The lesson in all of this is to not be afraid to push your comfort zone, be willing to try something different in order to get the results you want. Pull out that piece of gear that you haven’t mastered, slap it on and have at it. Most of all have fun doing it.
Posted by onci at 8:39 PM