Watch the birdy!

That’s the phrase that photographers used in the past to get their subject’s attention.  But what do you do to get the attention of a bird?  Well, I use a soft clicking noise!  It doesn’t always work, and other people sometimes look at me a bit sideways, but if I get better images as a result I don’t mind that.

I was at a local Fete recently and there was a falconry display.  After the display the falconer put his birds into a rather dark tent.  Using a long (300mm) lens I was able to get some bird portraits with the, not very bright, available light, and with different backgrounds.

"Short-eared owl portrait"

“Short-eared owl portrait”

I had to wait for quite a while to get this short-eared owl to look at me, but the wonderful expression, and fabulous eyelashes (!), made it worthwhile.  I’ve lightened the face shield, and vignetted the corners, to make the face stand out.  The background was in shadow so it’s rendered as almost black, allowing us to concentrate on the face and the feather texture.

"A buzzard called Leyton"

“A buzzard called Leighton”

This buzzard, rather wonderfully named “Leyton”, was in moult, and the loose feather on his head made for a slightly comical look.  You can see how different his face shape is compared to the owl.  Buzzards use binocular vision to hunt, whereas owls use sound.  The background here is the white wall of the tent.  Once again I’ve vignetted the corners to concentrate on the bird.

"Barn owl portrait"

“Barn owl portrait”

Finally there’s a portrait of a beautiful barn owl (tyto alba).  It was on the falconer’s gloved hand with the Fete’s field in the background.  The mottled green of the background goes well with the brown/cream tones of the bird’s feathers.  The heart-shaped face shield of the bird catches sounds and focuses them towards the asymmetrically-placed ears, giving fantastic hearing.

Three different birds, and three different backgrounds.  I probably moved no more than 6 feet to change the background from white to black to green.

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