A winter storm pushed through Georgia these past few days, bringing snow and ice to most of the state. My home received 2-3″ of snow and as I gazed out the window before going to bed, I knew I’d have a good opportunity for some great images if I could convince myself to leave the warm covers and brave the cold conditions. To put things in perspective, people in my native South Texas think 40 degrees is arctic cold. So, knowing that the morning hours would start in the upper teens, this South Texas transplant had to do some convincing that getting out there was the right thing to do. Now, I realize that people in the North country might laugh at that comment and I’m laughing with you; but get out there I did.
I was after birds on this day, but I also wanted to convey the cold in my images so I searched for the perfect perch. After a few minutes of walking around my property, I spotted this small, multi-forked branch sheathed in ice and knew this was what I was looking for. I placed it at an attractive angle near my feeder and waited. My toes and fingers were numb and on numerous occasions I had a case of the shivers, but the birds were flying and I knew it was only a matter of time. The first bird to land on the perch was the Titmouse above, followed by numerous Pine Warblers and an Eastern Phoebe. The Phoebe was a new species for me so I was excited about that one.
For most of the day, I was shooting under overcast conditions. Since some of the birds I was photographing had dark plumage, I used a Canon 550ex flash as fill set at -2/3. I had the flash zoomed to 50mm so that I got a decent amount of light projected forward, but broad enough to cover the bird and perch. I also had to bump up the ISO to 800 because early in the day there was little light. The Canon 7D is not reputed to be a great high ISO camera, and while I like to keep the ISO at 400 or lower, I will not hesitate to shoot at 800 or even 1600 when I need to. At those higher ISO’s I do tend to expose to the right and pull the exposure back in post processing. I have found that this helps with the noise on this particular camera body. Anyway, that’s probably enough technical information but hopefully it is useful to you.
I had a great day of bird photography in the cold, documented several new species that I will share in another post, and made use of a very “cool” perch.
Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN