This week, we are treated to a photo taken by Stephen Miller. Stephen describes the picture as a “lucky shot,” and indeed it is. Photographing wild birds can be incredibly difficult, especially because they move so darned fast and they spend a lot of time in the air. While it’s sometimes good to have a picture of a wild bird in mid-flight, these pictures usually don’t have enough reference points to tell a story. Stephen’s picture is the rare instance in which a photo of a single moving bird can maintain a viewer’s interest.
Because the bird has some kind of relationship to the branch, we feel more connected to it than we would if the bird were just flying around in the sky. There is intent and emotion wrapped up in that intent. The bird’s single-mindedness and focus dominates the shot. It makes you feel uncomfortable, in a way, because the bird hasn’t quite reached its destination. The uncertainty of this shot piques the viewer’s interest and keeps it exciting.
I wrote an article today about giving your subject a space to look into, and Stephen has done a great job in implementing that concept. The extra space to the right of the bird helps to signal the bird’s intent. Imagine, for a second, what this photo would look like if the bird’s beak were smashed up next to the right edge of the frame. It wouldn’t look nearly as appealing, right? Stephen didn’t have to give the bird a lot of space to look into. The small amount he added helped to accomplish his main goal.
Notice how Stephen has also cropped the photo to only include the relevant parts of the scene. This picture is only about two things, the bird and the branch. By choosing to cut the image off at the end of the bird’s wings, Stephen has constrained the image to its more important elements.
Unfortunately, and this is probably something Stephen wasn’t able to control, the branch sticks out in front of the bird near its head. This distracts from the overall theme of the photo, which is the bird’s intent to reach the branch. It would be nice if the bird and the branch were two completely separate entities. We would feel a little bit more of the emotion wrapped up in the image.
The colors in this photo are kind of drab, but they balance very well. The brown on the bird’s feathers goes well with the brown on the branch. The sky isn’t some vibrant blue. It’s a toned-down lighter color, almost a grey. It goes well with the bird’s less flashy colors. As a viewer, you aren’t blown away with the colors in this photo, but that isn’t really point of it. If too much emphasis were placed on color, (not that the photographer had much of a choice) we wouldn’t see this photo for what it is. This photo is about the bird and the branch.
After staring at this photo for a while, I noticed there is one more thing I really like about it. You get a sense of the bird’s anatomy, especially its muscles. This is a fairly up-close shot, and the bird’s wings are completely outstretched. When it reaches for the branch, its legs aren’t concealed. They are wide open for view. You can actually see the tension in its muscles as it prepares for landing.
This photo makes me think of birds in a different way. Strangely, I kind of expect the bird to have some hind legs, which it lacks. Overall, it is an interesting perspective, and I thank Stephen for sending this photo my way.
And to everyone else, I appreciate your shots. I look forward to critiquing more of them in the future.
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