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Nature Photography - Done Naturally

White-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta carolinensisWhite-breasted Nuthatch

Angering Your Spouse

An oldie but a goodie!  This was a photo taken with my first DSLR, one of the early Canon Digital Rebel bodies.  It's still one of my favorite photos, even after all of these years.  But there was a price to be paid in getting this photo.

On the bird photography tips page, I have a section that talks about feeder setups being a good way for a beginner to learn the tools of the trade.  In a feeder setup, YOU control the environment, rather than hoping for a beautiful setting when you find a wild bird.  The problem?  Rarely are feeder setups "beautiful".  This is a White-breasted Nuthatch, a fairly common visitor to residential feeders.  A beautiful bird, yes!  But a photo of this bird feeding on a peanut at a plastic bird feeder isn't likely to be a photo that you hang on the wall.

Wait, you say!  This photo shows a tree trunk, complete with beautifully detailed lichen and other features!  Why am I talking about feeder setups?  Because this photo was taken at my feeder setups at our old house in Brandon, South Dakota!  Yes, I realize this certainly doesn't look like any "feeder" you've ever seen.  And therein lies the part about "angering your spouse"...

In 2005 I still hadn't been using a DSLR for very long, but I was getting tired of not being able to get close to birds.  My feeders at my house certainly offered plenty of photo opportunities, but the photos certainly weren't very eye-catching.  The solution?  Introduce some "nature" to your feeder complex!

We live across the street from the Big Sioux Recreation Area, a wooded state park along the Big Sioux river.  One day while walking through the park, I saw some freshly fallen logs, several of which were covered with some beautiful lichen.  What a great photo perch that would make, I thought!  Yes, that gives you some insight into the twisted mind of a bird photographer. So what did I do?  I found a piece of broken off log, and lugged it back to the house.

Now, how could I possibly use this lichen-covered log to my advantage for bird photography?  Simple!  I sawed one end off clean, ending up with a perfectly perpendicular cut so the log could stand on end.  I then screwed the bottom of the log onto a flat piece of cedar.  The flat piece of cedar wood, with attached vertical log, was then screwed onto my deck rail, RIGHT next to my main bird feeder.  BRILLIANT!  To make it even MORE enticing for birds, I drilled a few holes in the sides of the log, holes that I filled with peanuts and suet.  Given the green yard and trees of a neighbor behind the setup, when took a photo out of the patio door at the setup, it looked like you were taking a picture of a wild bird on a tree trunk, with a gorgeous clean green background behind it.

I know, I know what you're thinking too...BRILLIANT!!  Somehow my wife didn't see it that way!  For some strange reason, she thought it odd that her weird husband had permanently screwed a vertical chunk of log to the railing of her cedar deck. Silly wife!  Why didn't she see the brilliance of the setup?

Alas, the log-screwed-to-the-deck scheme didn't last long, perhaps a month before certain powers demanded that it be removed. But in that time, I had the opportunity to photograph multiple species who clung to the side of the log while feeding on the concealed peanuts and suet.  If you go through my site, you may find photos of Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and more, perched on the side of a tree that looks very suspiciously like this one!

Sometimes as a bird photographer, you just can't be afraid to rock the boat a little bit.  Go nuts!  Be weird!  In other words, in my yourself!!  Just be prepared to back down if your actions start to threaten your marriage or other relationships...



Camera Body:   Canon Digital Rebel
Camera Lens:   Canon 400mm 5.6L
ISO:   400
Aperture:   f/6.3
Shutter Speed:   1/320th
Flash:   Not Used
Support:   Hand-held
Date:   04/20/2005
Location:   Brandon, SD



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