Okay, maybe the headline gave it away, but in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the problem is that big dark shadow on the bird’s breast.
Why did this happen? Simple: I wasn’t keeping an eye on the Sun. I don’t mean that literally, of course. If you really kept an eye on the Sun, you’d go blind pretty quickly (not a good condition for photographers!).
But, when you’re photographing wildlife, it’s a good idea to keep track of the Sun’s position, to avoid harsh shadows from appearing on your subject. You’ll most likely want an evenly lit subject, unless you’re exploring a creative type of photo.
To get the photo above, I searched for a spot where two conditions were met:
- There were lots of hummingbirds flying around
- There were lots of close branches that had good backgrounds
Then, I just waited for hummingbirds to land on the various branches. But, the thing I forgot to consider was the Sun’s position. Only one of the branches had a good background and good lighting (direct sunlight). The rest were either completely in shadows or, like the one above, were only half lit well (the Sun was shining from slightly behind the bird).
Unfortunately, when I returned to the same spot a week later, all the Rufous Hummingbirds had left! Looks like I caught them on the last weekend of their migration 🙁
So, remember: when you’re choosing a spot to photograph wildlife from, always consider where your subject will appear and determine if that spot will have proper lighting. Always keep an eye on the Sun.
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or the Mojave Desert, both located in the beautiful state of California.