It’s spring in Florida and the gators are mating, Cardinals are nesting, and the Tufted Titmouse is flittering though the trees. It’s true that these birds are found year round in the forests of the Eastern U.S. However, in the spring they notoriously seem more prevalent.
These little songbirds are small. They easily fit in the palm of your hand, and in fact are members of the chickadee family. They are also extremely quick and curious. The little bird will not stay in one spot for very long. So how do you get a decent picture of this little bundle of feathers?
Remember that good artistic pictures depend on three major components; equipment, photographer, and finally luck or opportunity. Let’s deal with the equipment side of the equation.
I know there are many photography purists out there who insist that film cameras the only way to capture a true picture. Let me hereby declare that it is possible to take a picture of a Tufted Titmouse with a film camera.
However, I’m going to go digital here. Why? The reason is money. My picture of this Titmouse is the result of a lot of failed attempts. Attempts that include blurred streaks with slightly focused wing parts and a tail feather or two, or three, or four. Those failed attempts mean wasted film and that means wasted money. It’s not easier to use the digital camera but it is a lot less vexing on the wallet.
It’s important to mention that this is a wildlife photograph taken in imperfect conditions. You are at the mercy of the elements such as wind and, in this case, the bright tropical sun. You are also requesting a small animal with a brain about the size of a seed to sit still and pose for you.
There is another point of necessity that requires mention. By using a digital camera, I am in no way referring to phone cameras.
Yes, I‘ve seen the awesome pictures in those commercials that phone cameras make but I’ve also read the fine print of how those images were actually made.
The mobile phone cameras produce incredible pictures but they have a fixed lens. This means that you will need incredible luck to get a focused close up shot of the titmouse. Impossible? No it’s not impossible, but if you have that sort of luck take my advice and go play the Powerball lottery instead.
So my camera of choice is a DSLR camera. One setting on a DSLR that definably gives the amateur an advantage is the use of a sport shot feature. I’m hard pressed to remember a DSLR camera that does not have this feature. The camera uses automatic internal settings to take action shots with a quick shutter release and multiple pictures taken every time you push the shutter release. If you combine this with the usual autofocus the camera does most of the guess-work.
Another advantage of the DSLR is the lens choice. Unlike the fixed lens of camera phones and most point and click tourists cameras, the DSLR allows you to choose an appropriate zoom or telescoping lens. Fixed lens can’t be changed out so you only have set focal length. This translates into you having to get unrealistically close to a wild animal to get a good focused shot.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need a bazooka looking 800 mm $8,000 super telescope. The subject is a small bird in a tree not Phobos orbiting Mars. Again, think of the environment.
Your outside, on uneven ground, in a forest, chasing wild animals and probably quite some distance from you vehicle. Do you really want to lug around a heavy lens? I created this work with a readily available 55-250mm lens attached to my camera strapped around my neck. Seriously nothing special.
So, in the case of equipment it is a wise thing to consider function over form. Especially in the case of wildlife photography, I go for what works, what I can afford, and more importantly what gives me the greatest chance of success with the least investment of time, money and my physical well-being. As true in any work, always strive to work smarter not harder.