Tricolored Heron with head tiltTricolored Heron with head tilt- Nikon D200, handheld, laying flat on the sand, f6.3, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 330mm, natural light

On the web there are many image critique forums and though I was only fairly active on one of the nature photography critique forums I have participated on a few since 2003 and lurked on others without participating. I believe that by receiving and giving critiques I strengthened my skills in composition, technique and learned a great deal about the birds I love to photograph. I am not currently active on those forums now simply because I can’t find the time.

I have seen some bird images posted on other forums that I found interesting and appealing but several people who critiqued the photos have talked about having the head angle 2 degrees this way or three degrees another to obtain the “perfect head angle”. I’ve pondered those critiques and personally there are times when I think different head angles; even those that do not show the “perfect head turn” can be very compelling images.

At one point in time I posted a few of my photos on the avian photography critique forum where I am a member where the head angles of my subjects weren’t perfect but where I found that I liked the images despite the lack of direct eye contact. The feed back I received was very positive, so I don’t believe I am alone with my thoughts about head angles.

In the image above the Tricolored Heron turned its head towards the sky to eyeball an Osprey flying overhead and I feel that the head being turned upwards adds interest to the image. It can make the viewer wonder what the heron is looking at. You can see the eye but the bird is just going about its life and it was comfortable in my presence.

American Coot and reflectionAmerican Coot – Nikon D200, on Gitzo CF tripod, Black Widow head, F7.1, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

In this American Coot image the head angle might not be considered ideal, there is no direct eye contact or catchlight in the eye but I still feel that this is a compelling and interesting image because of the head angle and the bird’s pose and demeanor. I have more images of this coot where the head angle would be considered “better” but they do not have the same effect on me that this one does. In this image it is the head angle that draws me in and keeps my attention.

Snowy Egrets on a stormy morningSnowy Egrets on a stormy morning – Nikon D200, handheld, laying in the sand, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 500, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

In this photo the primary Snowy Egret is looking away, yet you can still see the eye. I believe the reason this image works for me is that it appears that the Snowy Egret is looking at the stormy water thus I don’t mind the head angle. For me this photo is as much about the setting as it is about the birds. I like the out of focus egret in the background, I feel it adds a tension that might not be there if that egret were absent.

The critiques I received on all three of these images were overwhelmingly positive.  I believe that even without what some may consider “the perfect head angle” that we can create interesting and compelling avian images.