Wing Tippers add elegance and grace to a photo

What the heck is a Wing Tipper.  It is a hard shot to get and doesn’t happen all the time.  Waterfowl at times use the tips of their wings to glaze the water for balance.  Sometimes it is just sloppy navigation too.  Be on the lookout for this special shot. The other hard to get shot is the toe dipper. This is the shot when just the bird’s claw  skims the water. This is even harder to get.

Graceful Take Off

Graceful Flight-010

Peek a Boo Wing Tipper

Graceful Wing Tipper

If the eye was not showing this shot would not be good.

Power Wings

Power Wings_Denver1

This mute swan gracefully skimmed the icy lake.  The wings touched the ice surface with each beat of his wings.

I am sure it helps with stability, balance and navigation.


Action is better than no Action

It is really hard to get an animal to do something other than sit, when you have limited time.  I once had a mentor tell me that, “let them see the blood and gore”, if you want a better score in competition. It needs to tell a story. Here is a simple example to get the point across.  This California Brown Thrasher caught my attention while he was singing away.

California Brown Thrasher- Mouth Closed

Blurb_CaliforniaBrown Thrasher_Mouth Closed

California Brown Thrasher-Mouth Open- The title could be “Chatter-Box”

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Same bird, same position, only one photo has the mouth closed and the other has its mouth open. Does the title fit the photo? Which do you like the better?

The morale of the example is let them see the guts and gore.

Adding Impact to an OK photo

As I said in a previous post, one of the three most important essentials to a good or great photo is IMPACT. So what do you do if you have a photo that looks pretty good but you feel it needs a little more juice. Based on my competition experience, I find that the judges know too that a certain photo needs a little more umph to get it in the merit classification. Often, the piece of advise is to add a border with the possibility of  a stroke or key-line to hold the focus on the subject.  These two items can really change how a photo looks. I know the purists will not like this but I think for the  beginner photographer this is one easy approach without knowing a lot about Photoshop etc.

Ready for Take-Off

Ready for Take Off_Denver1

This shot was taken in Cape May, New Jersey. It was one of those anticipate and be patient shots. This Red Wing Black Bird never stayed still and it was windy in the marsh.  When I looked at the photo in the computer I liked the action of the wings. It was perfect. I always wanted to get something like this but the situation never presented itself as it did on this day.  As I looked at this image, I asked myself how can make this image even more impactful. When I do use Photoshop it would be for  borders and key lines. Click here for description of a key-line.

Ready for Take-off , with border and key-line

Blog_Red Wings Ready for Take Off

This photo now has a black border and a little line that goes around the photo about an eighth of an inch from the edge of the photo. The photo won Best of Show and Best in Class in two different competitions in 2015. The only major change was adding the border and key line.

Here is another example using the border and key line options:

Power Wings with no border or key line- pretty nice photo as is

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Power Wings with the border and key line:

      N_Power Wings Skim the Frozen Pond_Akers_Jim

This photo also won Best of Show and Best of Class in two different competitions as well as garnering a merit in International Competition in 2015. I believe the border and key-line took it over the top.

What’s the Point

When preparing a photo for competition or for show and tell, I try to pick a photo that has two major factors, well maybe three. They are:

  • Impact
  • Does it tell a story
  • Placement or composition

If you find yourself wondering what the point is with a particular photo you may want to reconsider showing it. Better yet, ask yourself what is the point of this photo.  Yes there are varying degrees of the above qualities. Anyone of these qualities may overpower the other two and win the day.  A firemen running out of a building on fire with a child in his  hands has more impact than the composition. A bird such as a raptor gliding is nice but what is the point. If it had an animal in its talons or beak that would be better and a story teller.  That is not to say that the underbelly of a full spread Red Tail Hawk against a blue sky is not beautiful. All I’m saying is add impact to the shot somehow or perhaps you should move on to another photo. Then again maybe the sheer beauty of the bird is the impact and story wrapped together. Each photo has to stand on it’s own merit of Impact, Story Telling and Composition.

Hand and Hoof

Blog_Hand and Hoof

Impact- yes; tell a story-yes (look at the steam, shoe and those burly arms); composition- ok follows the rule of thirds somewhat; nice mat to contain the photo and make the eye focus on the POINT.

Feed Me Now

Feed Me Mom

Impact-yes (ah how cute); story- yes (baby wants to be feed) ; composition- yes- not quite rule of thirds but the two are off-center and towards upper left quadrant of photo

Next week I will address how to take an ok photo and put some juice to it. I know my purist bird photographer friends cringe when making adjustments to bird photos. And, some competitions frown or will not allow you to make major changes to your photo.  So my tips will be up to you to decide how you want to proceed.

A Different Perspective

Sometimes you may want to look for a picture within the picture.  There can be a gem hiding someplace within your larger photo.  Here is an example.

Swamp Ears

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This is a shot of a lot of lichen on a log. Only this particular shot is very small. The photograph illustrates a shot within the shot.

Here is another example of a photo within the photograph. I took a portrait shot of a huge eucalyptus tree. The bark had a lot of texture and color. I played with the sliders to get even more color.  I then turned the portrait to landscape which made the wave more noticeable.  As an abstract, this came out pretty interesting. Interesting enough to get a Judges Choice and Best of Category in Fine Art.

Eucalyptus Abstract

Eucalyptus Abstractus

Rule of Odds- or is it just a guideline

Don’t get hung up on the Rules of this and that.  I use the “Rule of Thirds” as a guideline. I don’t adhere to it all the time. It is a starting point and then I work my composition to what I think is the most pleasing to the eye.  There is another rule that I use when possible. It is called the “Rule of Odds”. 3 and 5 subjects can be more pleasing to the eye/brain than 4 and 6. With the following example, I could have easily left the little mushroom out of the photo. The photo seems more interesting when the “third” little mushroom is included.

We Love You Little One

N_We Love You Little One_Akers_Jim (1)

So the moral of the story is don’t get hung up on rules of this or that they are just guidelines. Of course, some of the great master painters used these rules or guidelines.

Click here for more information concerning the rule of odds.

Whats this “rule of thirds thing” I keep hearing about

When I first started being serious about photography a few years ago, I would hear speakers and presenters talk about the “rule of thirds”. It was usually when the subject of composition came up.  Think of a tick tack toe grid, where the lines intersect is  where you want the main focus or subject matter to land. It doesn’t have to be exactly at the intersection.   This rule helps with composition/balance. You don’t want your subject to be right smack in the center of the photo. It does not sit right with the eye. You can use this technique for vertical or horizontal photos. Here are a few photos that will help get the idea across.

Waiting for Love-Horizontal or Landscape

Blog_Just Watchen_Jim Akers

One and Done- Horizontal or Landscape

One and Done (1 of 1)

Ready for Take-Off- Vertical or Portrait

Blog_Red Wings Ready for Take Off

Do you always have to use the rule of thirds. No you don’t have to use the rule of thirds but it will help your overall photo if you do. Here is a shot that won a lot of awards and does not follow the rule of thirds.

Pretty Boy- non-conforming

Pretty Boy


Good Bird Magazines

I find it useful and inspiring to page through magazines that have to do with what you like to photograph.

I am sure there are similar state magazines as the California magazine on the right.  These types of magazines are idea provokers. If I see an interesting photo I tear it out and put it on my wall next to my computer.


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The Small and the MIGHTY

Sometimes, small is mighty. As in macro or close-up photography.  First of all, if you are truly a macro shooter then look on your lens and if it says 1:1 then it is a macro lens, if it does not say 1:1 then it is not a true macro lens. It doesn’t mean you can’t shoot macro. Some cameras have a mode for macro such as my Canon G12.   I use a Canon 100mm 1:1 lens. It is not an easy life as a 1:1 macro photography.  To the average viewer it may look great. But, to the competitive eye it so so tough to get a great shot with a macro lens.  So, I use a Canon 24-70 lens for close up and it does a great job at least for me.  I guess it depends on what you want to convey to the viewer. For me, I don’t care what lens I use as long as the impact and sharpness is present. A story would help too. Take my advice to the bank, I have been there done that.

Destructive Beauty

Destructive Beauty

This little guy was a great actor. He or she was all over the place. Again, patience and anticipation played a role in this award wining photo.

Hover Fly

Blog_Hover Fly

Yep Hover Fly  is the name of this critter. They look a little like a Yellow Jacket. They are harmless and sometimes you see them hovering in the air. This fly is no bigger than a dime. Was it shot with a macro lens or something else. I will never tell. Let me know what you think.

Working the Lilly Pond

Working the Lily Pond

This award winning photo is one of my favorites. Just look at the shot. Flower, insect and water that provided the opportunity. I may have mentioned in a previous blog that patience is the key.  You just have to wait and see what happens. Of course, knowing the habits and subject matter helps.

I Can’t Find Anything to Photograph

Hogwash!  Just be patient. Sometimes it takes going to a quiet place, sit down and wait with camera in hand. Or, bring a folding chair and go to a designated place like a pond, lagoon, forest, flowering garden and just wait.  The opportunity will come to you if you are patient.

Dragonflies Mating

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This shot was taken at El Dorado Park near Long Beach, CA.  I was sitting on the ground just waiting for the dragon flies to land on a reed. I let the situation come to me rather than roam around trying to find an opportunity. This was a gift shot. Very hard to get this quality of shot.

Working the Lily Pond

Working the Lily Pond

I sat down next to a lily pond and just waited. Once, again the situation came to me. I did not pursue the opportunity. You can do the same thing.

Sometimes when you get photographers block, you have to just get out of the house and go, sit and wait and be observant.  A side benefit of fresh air and some exercise is a plus.