Cedar Waxwing photographed small in the frame – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Even though this adult Cedar Waxwing is small in the frame because I photographed it from quite a distance it is one of my favorite images taken in the Wasatch Mountains four days ago. I took lots of waxwing photos and I could probably easily post a half dozen or more of them along with this image but sometimes I believe that one image by itself on my blog has more impact than stuffing a post full of them when there is something I want to point out about just one of the photos.
On more than one occasion I have run across people that have what is called “lens envy”, in other words they wish they had lenses with long reach like my Nikon 500mm VR has and I understand that completely because there were times early on when I photographed small shorebirds that I remember wishing I had more than 300mm of focal length when my longest lens was my 70-300mm. I wanted; or maybe craved is a better word, images of birds where they filled the frame.
But there is something to be said about photographing birds that are small in the frame too because sometimes more of the bird’s habitat can be shown which can add interest to the photo or having the bird small in the frame conveys how tiny a bird is in a great, big world and sometimes having a bird small in the frame can simply be about artistic expression.
When I photographed this Cedar Waxwing four days ago I struggled to get the look I was after because there were branches and leaves between myself and the bird and in some positions that I used the leaves were in front of the bird’s tail and partially obstructed my ability to get a clear view of it so I had to move my lens around on my pool noodle to get a clear view of the entire bird and I only had a small opening between the leaves in the foreground to get the look or style that I wanted. I knew I would have a nice bokeh in the background and hoped that would highlight the simple beauty of this elegant looking bird. I believe I succeeded.
The thing is that beautiful, interesting and artistic photos where the bird or other subject is small in the frame can be accomplished with a point and shoot camera, a cell phone or a DSLR with a lens with less reach than I usually use. I know it can be done.
I recall a friend and fellow photographer on a nature photography critique site who started off with a lens that only had a reach of between 55 to 200mm and I thoroughly enjoyed his photos because even though his subjects were small in the frame he used his skills and artistic eye to create visually compelling images. When he did purchase a lens with more reach one day I told him that I missed seeing the style he had in his earlier photos where the bird was small in the frame and at first I think I may have hurt his feelings by saying what I said but when I explained how much creativity and forethought it took to create his earlier photos with the shorter lens he said he understood what I was saying.
Even though I have a longer lens now and more reach I find myself looking for opportunities where I can show my bird or wildlife subjects small in the frame because I think images like this one of the Cedar Waxwing can be very appealing and it just doesn’t matter what gear was used to create it.
Life is good.