I’ve been moaning about our lack of snow here in Bucks County, PA for awhile. Little as it was, we got a few inches last Friday. It was enough to cancel school and keep my wife at home. That meant I could go out, and I did. My intent was to do landscape imagery, but I brought along my telephoto just in case the birding looked good. Well, the landscape lens never made it onto the camera. I spent about 3 hours working inside a blind and out in the snow composing environmental images of birds against various backdrops.

I’m a sucker for cardinals in snow images. And there were a lot of cardinals around. Males, females, some bright red, others more drab, but all looking good to me against a snow white background. The snow at times was quite heavy and it was encrusting my lens and camera. While the equipment I was using is sealed, there is a limit and I was getting a bit uneasy. It was also quite cold, making a battery replacement necessary just as I had composed an image.

Interesting too was the presence of a menacing sharp-shinned hawk (or was it a Cooper’s hawk?). Three times it disrupted my image making by scattering every bird in the area. After it’s third time causing chaos to my image making, I gave up on the birds. That and the snow changing over to ice and I had enough. Too bad, as I was really enjoying the conditions.

Focusing in the snow on fast moving little subjects like birds with long lenses, and eyes watering from the cold wind is a real challenge. I try to pre-compose potential images in my mind and keep an eye out for that configuration to occur. Otherwise, I work the situations that present themselves with an eye to maximizing the graphic nature of the scene. I use autofocus when I feel I have time to recompose or can trust that the sensor won’t be fooled by an obstruction. Often, manual focusing is the only way to go and if I have to work fast, I can get it wrong. A strong image without perfect focus can still be used for a small print though.

The image below is just such an image. I like the composition and color contrasts, but this image will be restricted to 5×7 prints or smaller (perfect for a holiday card though). Other images I made I believe will lend themselves to 11×14 or larger.

With shows starting in less than 2 weeks, I want the snow done. I’m thinking about spring already.

Cardinal in Holly with Snow



3 thoughts on “Finally Some Snow

  1. Paul: I had very similar experiences with the snow and with birds. Like you I was thrilled to see the snow last week, and I played hookey from work to make as many images as I could manage despite the light rainfall we received all day. This was the best and may be the only significant snowfall we’ll get this winter.

    I recently upgraded some equipment and I was checking out our local nature center to try to get some nice bird shots. As you say the cardinals were very active. I agree that although auto-focus is preferable for the fast-moving birds but can get easily confused by the branches. I had good luck using manual focus when the birds rested for a little while.

    Good luck with this year’s shows.

  2. Thanks Mark,

    I am always looking for triangular configurations and I was able to have two in this image. The cardinal’s posture is a nice triangle and the two sets of berries on the right form a triangle with the bird itself.

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