a teatray in the sky

up the wrong tree

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Grand Teton National Park, National Parks, Photography by firthefirst on October 7, 2010

people always tell you it’s not about the gear, it’s about the photographer.  which is true … up to a point.  I mean, try taking a wedding portrait with an 8mm fisheye.  you’ll find very quickly you’re barking up the wrong tree.  birding is one of the more specialized forms of photography, involving lenses that cost as much as a major surgery, crawling on your stomach through marsh grass and cold mud, and strange tripod attachments that look like they were meant for cruel and unusual punishment.

but that’s because birds are tiny and fickle, it just can’t be done any other way.  right?  right?

yeah.  you’re right.  but that doesn’t mean you can’t get lucky sometimes.  none of my equipment really qualifies as proper birding material on a full-frame body, and to be honest that’s alright, since I’m not a very good birder.  I’m not very observant, I don’t have quick reflexes (I blame genetics, and genetics backs me up on that one), and I’m not great with panning while in AI Servo mode.  so any time I actually manage to get a shot of a bird, it’s either a very cooperative (read: immobilized) bird, or pure dumb luck.

the top shot is of a fairly lazy black-billed magpie that we chased around the parking lot in teton village (in case you look at the background and think it’s a strange background … well, it is.  it’s a silver toyota camry).  I really like the colors on the wings of these guys.  I believe this one is still a juvenile, his head will get darker, the chest will get less fuzzy, the relative size of the blue wings will shrink, and his tail will get longer as he matures.

the bottom one is a rufous hummingbird shot with … well, take a guess which lens I had on when I shot this.  like I said, pure luck.  there are a bunch of these fellows zipping around the hanging flower baskets in jackson town, and they’re marvelous to look at.  this one is also a juvenile or female, which is a wee bit disappointing, because male rufous hummingbirds have fantastic red-orange throat plumage.

guess the lens?  the 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM.  sometimes you just gotta do the best you can with what you have.

12 Responses

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  1. photobyholly said, on October 7, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Wonderful shots!! Having the right equipment certainly does pay off! The colors are so clear and vibrant, and I love the photo of the hummingbird – how it shows the movement of the wings…. beautiful!!

    • firthefirst said, on October 7, 2010 at 11:32 am

      thanks holly! I was very excited to see that photo turn out as well, I didn’t expect it to at all.

    • firthefirst said, on October 7, 2010 at 11:17 am

      nice babe, love your hummingbird shot … I think they’re the same species

  2. Elmira said, on October 7, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    these shots are amazing!!

  3. yangsc said, on October 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    oh my goodness that first one is fantastic

  4. Kai Brockbank said, on October 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Amazing! That first shot is brilliant. The composition is great and the magpie really stands out. In the second, the colours are stunning but perfectly balanced. In both shots, the level of detail is amazing.
    Great work, no matter what lens you used!

  5. truels said, on October 7, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Two very different shots, but both are faboulous: The first is a perfect bird – it has a wonderful blurry background – from a Toyota!!! – Interesting, maybe we should use cars as background more….. The hummingbird – luck or not: It’s simply a great shot you took here 🙂

  6. clicksey said, on October 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    These photos really are fabulous. I love the colour of magpie wings too and that little guy looks so cute and fluffy!
    The hummingbird shot is amazing, I love the depth of field on the flowers, the blur of the wings and the composition, it’s just brilliant! I’d say it took a few shots to get that one so perfect! Well done 🙂

  7. firthefirst said, on October 8, 2010 at 10:54 am

    thanks guys, glad to see others appreciating the little things in nature as well.

    clicksey, you’re damn right, I took probably a dozen shots of the hummingbird and that’s the only good one that came out of it. it’s hard to find focus with a camera held above your head!

  8. photographyfree4all said, on October 9, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Your photography is amazing! I love the information you include with your shots! These are stunning!! Great job.

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