Reader’s wildlife photos

August 21, 2014 • 4:58 am

Stephen Barnard in Idaho continues his quest for the perfect photo of the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). He explains:

I realize that I’m being repetitive, but I’m looking for a definitive Rufous BIF — one that could be used in a field guide or a monograph.  This is as close as I’ve come.

I’m not sure what a BIF is, but that looks pretty good to me.

RT9A1693-2And another:

The light was poor, but the drop of nectar hanging from the beak is of interest.


And two more photos from Steve Pinker’s trip to Tasmania. First, a sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps):

face to face with a sugar glider-L

. . . a “tree filigree”, Hogarth Park Strahan:

tree filligree Hogarth Park Strahan-XL

and a “limpet valentine”:

limpet valentine-L

The whole gallery of Steve’s Tasmania photos (7 pages) is here.


23 thoughts on “Reader’s wildlife photos

    1. Also, for the truly adventurous, Bat In Flight. Some also apply it to Bug In Flight, but generally only in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

      And there’s damned little to criticize in Stephen’s example at the top of the page. Maybe just a slightly more elevated camera position? Light a bit (but not much) more diffuse (or reflected) to brighten up the shadowed area below the wings?

      That I have to dig that deep to find anything to criticize is remarkable. In the real world, it might not actually get better than this.

      Stephen, what on Earth is that background? The perfectly neutral perfectly flat mid-tone gray is ideal for this type of illustration…but where did you find (or manufacture) something like that?


      1. Ha to Bat In Flight. A level of technical expertise required that would be beyond me (focus?). it’s a lovely photo but I agree about the light under the wings.

        I wish we had Hummingbirds in Europe.

        1. “Ha to Bat In Flight. A level of technical expertise required that would be beyond me (focus?). ”


            1. Well, that’s a good thing overall. It seems to apply only to roosting areas, and it is dangerous to the bats to disturb them while roosting. Don’t know if you have White-nose Syndrome over there, but it is spreading here. The reason it kills so many bats is that it awakens them during hibernation and they prematurely use up their fat stores.

              And you probably already knew that. 🙂 And you’re probably also thinking, how in the heck could you set up such photo equipment anyplace else? I’ve seen many nice shots of bats pollinating flowers, so that is one option (set up by the appropriate bloom), though I tend to think most temperate northern bats aren’t nectarivores. Bat experts–perhaps yourself–correct me as necessary.

              1. I know almost nothing about bats so your post was interesting and led to a little research. While the fungus associated with White-nose Syndrome has been identified in bats right across Europe there have been no mass mortalities or other symptoms of the syndrome. The speculation is that bats here have an evolved resistance whereas in North America the fungus is a relatively recent introduction.

                The idea of sitting poised in a hide strategically close to a large flower waiting for a bat is an attractive/amusing one. I’m afraid though that we don’t have nectar feeding varieties around here. I think I’ll stick to Birds In Flight. That’s difficult enough!

        1. That explains the lack of detail, of course…I’m still struck by the color neutrality; Photoshop gives an average of a large selection of L*=60 a*=1 b*=3, which is as close to colorless as real-world objects get. Some of that could be due to white balance…I like the way you’ve developed it, but it seems to be a bit warmer than perfectly neutral. Still, even with my best guess for a perfectly neutral color balance, that only brings the background to L*=62, a*=-2, b*=-10, which most people would still classify as gray, maybe slightly cool.

          Whatever that spot is, I’m sure you’ll be returning to it…you couldn’t do better in a studio!


  1. Great pictures, as always.
    Now, did the limpets clear out the mussels, or was it the other way around?

      1. The war would play out in extreme slow motion. Well, corals do it. They slowly encroach upon each other, and actively seek to kill each other.

  2. A fine photo of a Rufous in flight!

    The difficulty in getting a “definitive” shot highlights one of the reasons I generally prefer drawn and painted field guides to photographic ones, however. It can be very hard to photograph a single individual of a species that displays all of the defining characteristics of that species, especially given various angles, etc., while a painting done by a knowledgeable wildlife artist can often capture more of the distinctive traits that characterize the species. For instance, I prefer the Sibley field guide to birds over photographic guides like Stokes (though I have both, and use both, and like them both!), and the Stebbins field guide to western reptiles and amphibians over, say, the Audubon photographic guide.

    Both have their value, of course, and photographic guides can be very good if they capture enough shots of the animal to reveal the important details. And a good photo of a beautiful animal is just enjoyable on its own merits.

    1. As you say, no single photograph will capture every characteristic. You would need anterior, posterior, and lateral (this one) views. You’d also need both female and male, adult and juvenile, breeding and non breeding. There are three species of hummingbird here: rufous, black-chinned, and broad-tailed. That’s 72 photos! 🙂

      Hummingbirds are notoriously hard to identify. I’m trying to do my small part.

      1. And it’s a fine photo, as close to a “type” rufous-in-flight as I can imagine. I’m just a curmudgeon when it comes to field guides, but can nevertheless appreciate a beautiful photograph. (We’re lucky enough to have seven species of hummer here in the southern SF Bay Area — some more common than others — but I don’t often see the rufous. I have had Anna’s nesting under my porch awning every winter for the past seven or eight years, though, for which I count myself lucky!)

  3. Great photos. I wish Rufous hummers were around here. Though the Rufous’ range in Summer covers WA state, I’ve never seen one and I have feeders and hummer-friendly flowers all over the place. Just the ruby throated model around these parts it seems.

    The tree filigree is very splendid indeed; it would make a very challenging puzzle.

  4. Lovely work!

    In the second photo, the morning glory on the left looks very fresh, ruffling out to open. So the time of the shot was probably before 10AM. The glory on the right was yesterday’s performer.

    (Their flowers last only one day and by noon they are beginning to close, but their daily abundance more than make up for their lack of longevity.)

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