Panama: Back to the Basics and More #4 Composition

blue-chested-hummingbird-female-_mg_3856-canopy-tower-panama
This perched female Blue-chested Hummingbird was photographed near Canopy Tower with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, a 25mm Extension tube for close focusing, and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evauative metering +2/3 stop: 1/50 sec. at f/6.3. Fill flash at -3 stops.

The Basics

When working in horizontal format with small-in-the-frame subjects , be sure–as I did above–to place the subject well back in the frame with the subject looking into the open area of the image. 

green-honeycreeper-male-_10j2908-canopy-tower-panama
This male Green Honeycreeper was photographed near Canopy Tower with the Canon 800mm f/5.6 L lens, a 25 mm Extension tube for close focus, and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/60 sec. at f/5.6. Fill flash at -1 stop.

When working in horizontal format with large-in-the-frame subjects, be sure–as I did above–to leave at least twice as much room in front of the bird as behind it.  

leaf-frog-_10j3620-canopy-tower-panama
This free and wild Leaf Frog was photographed near Canopy Tower with the Canon 180mm Macro lens and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/30 sec. at f/6.3. Fill flash at -2 stops with the Canon Macro Twin Light.

When working in horizontal format with large-in-the-frame subjects like the Leaf Frog above that are looking (or with birds, flying)  right  at at you, placing them dead center is the way to go. 

black-breasted-puffbird-fledgling-_10j5395-canopy-tower-panama
This fledgling Black-breasted-Puffbird was photographed with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L lens, the 1.4X II TC, and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/50 sec. at f/8. Fill flash at -2 stops.

When working in vertical format with relatively large-in-the-frame forward-facing subjects it is fine to place them in the middle of the frame as I did with the young puffbird above.   (With small-in-the-frame subjects you will need to place them in one of the corners….)

To learn the basics of image composition, be sure to see the chapter on composition in the original “The Art of Bird Photography” (soft cover).  To learn about Advanced Composition and Image Design, see the chapter of the same name in “The Art of Bird Photography II” (916 pages on CD only).   You can learn more about both books by following this link:  https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32

Buy both and receive a $10 discount. 

broad-billed-motmot-_10j4840-canopy-tower-panama
This Broad-billed Motmot was photographed with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/40 sec. at f/5.6. FIll flash at -3 stops.

And More

As in the image above, when you are working in vertical format with relatively large-in-the-frame subjects that are looking to one side or the other, place them back in frame so that they have a bit more room to see into their world. 

lemur-frog-_d4i2757-canopy-lodge-panama
This captive Lemur Frog was photographed at Canopy Lodge with the Canon 180mm Macro lens and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/4 sec. at f/11.

In the image above I chose to move the frog right of center so that the green bark of the eucaluyptus tree on our left could balance the strip of green background on our right.  The principles that I teach are only guidelines; feel free to break them whenever you have a good reason to do so.

Final Notes

Bt studying the technical details above you can see that slow shutter speeds are the rule in the rain forest.  While the improved 4-stop Image Stabilization of the Canon 800mm lens was a huge help, using my very best sharpness techniques (as described in ABP II) was equally important.   When working with the macro lens and static subjects I used mirror lock-up and the 2-second self timer to ensure sharp images.  With the macro lens I find that focusing manually is the best way to go.  (I do however rely on the focus confirmation beep.) 

I hope that everyone will benefit from this post.  See y’all soon.

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