With vivid scarlet wing-patches and dramatic “song-spread” displays, the male Red-winged Blackbird is a welcome harbinger of spring. It’s also a perennial favorite with bird photographers, making it hard to come up with a photo that stands out from the crowd. So to be different, I chose to photograph the bird backlit, by pointing my lens toward the sun, rather than having the sun behind me.
The further one moves away from standard front-lighting, the more the image changes from a typical documentary shot to an abstract rendition of the bird, the most extreme being rim-lighting in which the bird is outlined by the light, as it is here. Plus the redwing takes the artistry a step further – as it blares out its loud conk-la-reeee call, its steamy breath is made visible by the backlighting, looking like exhaled smoke!
Not an easy shot to get. In fact I spent every morning for more than a week at one particular pond, waiting for the right combination of elements to occur: the bird on a suitable cattail and turned toward, not away, from me, the angle of the sun low enough, the background shaded, the temperature cold enough that the breath was visible, the exposure set so that highlights weren’t burned out. I’m still not done with this subject, though … on the next sunny morning I’ll be out there again enjoying the challenge!
That is a stunning image — one that will stay in my memory for sure — truly outstanding!
Yes, I agree. I watched Marie stand in one spot for hours on end, morning after morning to get it. She’s way more patient than I am.
I know from experience what kind of patience and perseverance it takes to get a photo like this, plus the knowledge of the camera — it’s a spectacular image! Kudos!
Stunning. I can’t recall ever seeing a pic of visible bird breath! I’ve seen it in person once, but to capture it is truly a feat!
So glad to see you all back. I was begining to think Lang gave up this site. Im so glad to see it was just for an update. Great Photo.
Steven j marshall
Steven: I almost did give up on it, for as number of reasons. But now I intend to see it through, though it may be awhile before it takes full shape!
Brilliant – I commend you on your ability to persue a most commonly photographed bird in a different way and obtain an great image outside the box.
Marie’s patient photographic effort paid off in a big way, as this image is a profoundly beautiful one. Perhaps the Smoking Redwing will become a symbol of new diplomacy between our domestic birds and the creatures of Cuba….?!?
I hear that Castro courted a bevy of redwings, just to watch that smoke!
You not only captured the smoke but the flared epaulets at seemingly close range – an amazing and rare shot. Congratulations.
Marie’s patience pays off! Wonderful image!
Wow, what a stunning photograph! Thanks for sharing with us. I’m so happy to see this website active again. It makes my day! Thank you.
Hi everyone. Thanks so much for your kind comments…they truly make my heart feel glad. And in a world already so full of wonderful bird images, it’s nice to be appreciated for trying something a bit different. Enjoy the spring!
Remarkable, the breath of a bird, just amazing. Thank you for sharing this delightful photo and info on redwing blackbird.
Hi Lang and Marie,
I am so happy to see Miracle of Nature back, and better than ever. I often forward these pages to my sister in Colorado who is an avid birder and nature photographer. Love, love, love the snoring Pickerel Frog and the Smokin’ Redwing! Bravi!
Lynn. Glad you lik’em! Spring is sure sprouting here, isn’t it? Hey, please find me a Pileated excavating a grub. That’s a video I’d sorely like to get.