How I Got the Shot: Bird Butt

Because I primarily shoot portraiture and weddings my gear choices (obviously) reflect that. I have a great deal of respect for those who shoot wildlife but I don’t get to do it much myself anymore due to other priorities. The longest lens I currently own is my Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 (yes 80-200mm not 70-200mm; the 80 is cheaper and I don’t need the bells and whistles of the 70) which is great for portraiture but can be a bit short for wildlife. Due to this I’m limited to shooting wildlife I can get close to.

I have a dog dish on our porch which holds the cat food for the outdoor cats (originally strays who have warmed up to us). I have made a nice warm place in our garage for the cats so there are plenty of times the cats are inside (the garage) instead of out on the deck. When the cats aren’t around various birds come and eat the bird food on the deck. This also makes it so I can easily photograph the birds with my 80-200mm lens from my living room.

In February 2017 I walked into the living room to see a gorgeous cardinal out on the deck. For years I’ve wanted to get a good cardinal image (especially when I was younger and my aunt who loved cardinals was still alive). The first time I had gotten a cardinal image I was happy with was a year prior in 2016 (that image would later get used as the cover of the Phone Guide Isabella – Gratiot County January 2017-2018). I grabbed my camera out of my bed room and slowly approached the window in the living room. Because of the constant threat of our cats these birds are very skittish. I slowly inched closer to the window snapping images as I went. I was worried that my camera’s shutter noise would scare off the cardinal (one of my few gripes with the Nikon system is how loud their camera shutters are and the quite mode’s uselessness). The cardinal stayed put long enough for me to get right up into the window. As the cardinal flew away it kicked up some snow off the railing of the deck. Later in post I would crop in quite heavily to emphasis the snow being kicked up. Little bits of gesture like this in any photograph greatly improve their quality. This ended up being one of my most liked images on Instagram in 2017 and an image people have mentioned they liked to me in person several times over the year.

Shot using a Nikon D600 and a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens handheld. ISO 800 200mm f/4 I/4000 of a second shutter speed.






Photographer/Retoucher at Ryan Watkins Photography
Portrait and Wedding Photographer catering to Clare, Mt Pleasant, and Midland, Michigan. Ready to travel anywhere in the state.

Graduate from the Hallmark Institute of Photography and recipient the Highest Academic Honor.

Published in several magazines including Shutterbug, Digital Photo, Outdoor Photographer, and PDNedu.