Last year I joined my local photography club. The club holds regular competitions and I was amazed by the quality of the bird and wildlife photographs. I’ve never been much of a natural history photographer. So it’s not surprising that my own photographs did very poorly in competitions.

In particular, a judge criticized a woodpecker photograph that I submitted because it was clearly on a bird feeder. “Hand of man!” he said as he dismissed my attempt.

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This is where I started from. It’s a rubbish photo. We don’t want to see birds on bird feeders.

Natural history photography has more than a passing resemblance to street photography. One of the secrets of street photography is to first find your “stage” and then wait for the subjects to appear. So I thought I would apply this to photographing garden birds. I decided to set up a stage and then wait for the birds to arrive.

I have a bird table in my garden, but I knew that I needed to create a stage that didn’t reveal the “hand of man”. So I hunted down moss-covered logs, attractive blossom and created a miniature reflection pool. I then set up my camera and waited.

This picture shows how I baited the log.

I added off-camera flash to get catchlights in the birds’ eyes.



Blue tit

I clipped some flowers and blossom to provide a perch.

I then captured this image of a blue tit on a magnolia bloom.

I loved the storytelling feel of this image. Time for more of the same!

My next step was to create a reflection pool. Here’s a picture I took at a hide with a proper pool. I didn’t have room for one of these.

I did it on a miniature scale by using a plastic tray from a garden centre.

I call this one, ‘Depressed robin wondering if the rain will ever stop’.

The reflection pool is small, so there’s only one angle you can shoot from.