Waxwing in focus
How a cooperative bird helps a photographer learn his equipment
Published: April 20, 2012
On a June day in 2006, Robert Strickland decided to conduct an experiment on his backyard deck. Birds were flying to his feeders and zipping among the trees and lilac bushes. The goal of his experiment: to see how his Canon 20D camera and EF 500mm lens would focus with a 2x extender.
CEDAR BEAUTY: Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), Candor, New York, June 4, 2006, at 1:31 p.m., by Robert Strickland
He set up his equipment on a tripod. As he watched the feeders in one direction, a Cedar Waxwing landed on a treetop in the other direction.
Strickland quickly swung the big lens around in order to get a shot, trying his best to be quiet. Once he got the waxwing in view, he realized all the focusing would have to be done manually. While he turned the focus ring back and forth, the bird remained cooperative, picking away at the flowers on the tree and ignoring the movement on the deck. When he finally snapped the shot, he knew he could create a sharp photo at 1000mm.
Camera: Canon EOS 20D
Lens: Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM with the 2x extender
Tripod: Bogen 3211 with Bogen 3030 head
Settings: ISO 400, 1/160, f/8, focal length 1000mm with manual focus, PE mode, exposure +1, shot in sRGB
Light: Natural light, no flash
Adjustments: Shadows/highlights +12, brightness/contrast +5, and hue/saturation +6 with Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.
Meet the photographer
BACKYARD PHOTOGRAPHER: Robert Strickland is a subscriber and an active contributor to our website. His photo of a Red-shouldered Hawk, one of the more than 200 images he’s uploaded to the online galleries, appeared on the cover of our October 2010 issue. We’ve also chosen his pictures of Tufted Titmice and a Chuck-will’s-widow as Photos of the Week. He is a retired quality-assurance specialist for the Department of Defense. He lives in Beverly Hills, Florida.