Yesterday morning, I spent a couple hours with another local photographer Raghu Ramanujan at Foster Pond in the Finger Lakes National Forest. It was a spectacularly beautiful morning and the woods were alive with warblers feeding and singing. Despite the huge amount of activity, we struggled to create photographs because we couldn’t really get close to many of the birds.
Rather than get frustrated with myself, I decided to switch gears a bit and focus on creating images of the warblers in their habitat rather than close up portraits. While I love the challenge of getting close to warblers and other small songbirds, creating environmental portraits can be even more of a challenge and extremely rewarding when one works.
With environmental portraits, there is a lot more to consider when creating the composition. Take the above image of a Song Sparrow for example. Not only do we have to consider the actual bird as part of the composition, we also have to consider all of the other vegetation on the right side of the image. These additional elements can create for a busy and distracting image unless managed carefully. Additionally, when we make the bird smaller in the frame, it commands less of a presence in the image so placement in the frame is even more important.
Whenever I am creating an environmental portrait, it is my goal to use the included foliage to inform the viewer. For example, in all of these images, the foliage is either in the process of budding out or in bloom. This clearly indicates the images were taken in early spring. Additionally, some of the birds are singing which also suggests a bird on territory. By including all of these different elements, we can start to tell stories through our images, a task much more difficult with simply a single bird sitting on a stick on a solid colored background.