Fairy-wrens and backgrounds

Sometimes I’m asked about backgrounds, and photographing this little fairy-wren made me think about sharing how I try to ensure that the birds stand out in my images.

 

Superb Fairy-wren 2 - Kim Wormald

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)
1/640, f/5.6, ISO 1600, focal length 400mm

 

I’d hoped to meet a new species this week but that didn’t happen and the weather was so dismal that all I managed to photograph was this Superb Fairy-wren as it perched on a wire fence. Neither the perch nor the background were pretty, thankfully the bird is sweet. I like the way the wren is balancing on such a narrow perch and the way it’s holding its wing slightly away from its body.

The background is a veranda railing which I blurred by setting the f/stop at 5.6 to selectively focus on the wren by creating a shallow depth of field. If you look at the fence you’ll see that only the part of it closest to the bird is in focus, even the bird’s tail drifts slightly out of focus.

 

 

Superb Fairy-wren - Kim Wormald

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)
1/640, f/5.6, ISO 1600, focal length 400mm

 

It seems early in the season for the wren to be sporting breeding plumage. I’ve read studies that talk about the success of males that come into colour sooner than their peers but I’ve seen males with little colour mating – the social lives of fairy-wrens never fail to fascinate me.

In this shot he’s holding his tail in a more upright position which means it stays within the narrow depth of field, and I like the direct, curious eye-contact too – thank you little wren!

 

Superb Fairy-wren 3 - Kim Wormald Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)
1/640, f/5.6, ISO 3200, focal length 400mm


The wren had moved along the fence line so the background was closer than in the previous images, and the cloud cover thickened so I increased the ISO to keep the speed reasonable.

This pose isn’t attractive, the bill is ‘lost’, the head-angle isn’t pleasing and the way the bird is perched makes it difficult to compose the image pleasantly but I’ve included it to show the slats in the barge boards more clearly – the following image shows how I solved the issue of the rotten background; thankfully the wren kindly solved the posing issues himself.

 

 

Superb Fairy-wren 4 - Kim Wormald

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)
1/640, f/5.6, ISO 3200, focal length 400mm

 

As the fairy-wren hopped a few inches along the fence I lowered myself to the damp ground and took this image looking up at the bird, which meant the dark weatherboards became the background instead of the white veranda railing. It’s usually better to be on the same level as the bird but, as usual, everything in photography is a compromise.

Happy birding, Kim

 

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