The Snowy Egret

Today’s image is another bird image I made at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Most of the other egret images I have shown are the great white egret, sometimes known as a white heron. This one is a smaller egret with a black beak – a snowy egret.

Snowy Egret, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Florida
Please click the image to view a larger version.

One reader asked for more photography tips, so here are a couple of tips for photographing animals:

1. Use a shallow depth of field to blur the background. This helps make a clear distinction between the main subject and the background. In this image I used an aperture of f/5.6 which was the largest aperture available for the lens I was using. Remember the smaller the number the larger the aperture opening since the number represents a fraction: 1/5.6 is larger than 1/22. The larger the opening the more shallow the depth of field. If I were to use f/22 the background would have been in focus and therefore more distracting. Aperture works just like our eyes. If something in the distance appears out of focus to us, we squint to bring it into focus, which is just like making the aperture opening smaller.

2. When you use large aperture the entire animal may not be in focus. That is ok as long as the eye is in focus. Since we are naturally attracted to the eye, it absolutely must be in focus. I usually use the old fashioned method of having a single focus point in the middle of my frame. I focus on the eye and then, while the shutter is pressed half way down to set the focus, I re-compose and move the main subject out of the centre. I know the new cameras have all sorts of fancy focusing methods, but I find the old fashioned method is easiest and fastest for me to make sure the eye is in focus.

Did you find these tips helpful?

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  1. says

    Very nice!

    One little tip I might add for your inquiring reader is that the aperture needed to blur out the background depends on the relative distances between you, your subject, and the background. So, if you’re relatively far away looking down on a bird standing in water (like in your shot), you need to use a larger aperture than if you’re looking at a bird from up close with the only background being items that are many yards behind it.

    As an example to contrast with your image, in this picture of a pelican sitting on some cliffs I’m fairly close to the bird, and the background ocean is more than a hundred yards away, so I was able to use f8 and still get a nicely blurred background:
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    • says

      Hi Marc, thank you very much for adding your tip. That is excellent advice because you can wonder why two images come out so different when you used the same settings. It is the distance between the yourself, the subject and the background. Depth of field can be hard to get a handle on but it is so important to understanding what will be in focus. Love the pelican shot by the way, amazing details!

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