Northern Cardinal, Franklin Street

Northern Cardinal, Franklin Street. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @200mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/500 sec.
Northern Cardinal, Franklin Street. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @200mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/500 sec.

I’ve discussed the difficulty of photographing small birds before. Even with a 300mm lens (combined with the D200’s 1.5x crop factor for an effective reach of 450mm) you have to be pretty close to the bird in order to fill the frame with it. In the instance of this cardinal, I was shooting from my bathroom window.

That’s right, my bathroom window. I was standing in the tub.

I had been wanting to get a good photo of a cardinal for a while because it is my mom’s favorite bird. I spent all winter trying to get close to them at Huntley Meadows, and while I had a few decent pictures, none of them were really all that close. I had to crop a lot to get the bird larger and then ended up with less than ideal image quality.

Then one day later that year (in July, my EXIF data tells me), I was practicing in the empty upstairs bedroom (it’s not empty any longer), and I saw it! A male cardinal hanging out in the tree right outside the window. The thing was sitting in full sunlight about 15 feet from me. Pretty ideal conditions for sure, since harsh sunlight tends to help bring out detail in birds’ feathers.

After getting my camera out he had (of course) flown away, but it gave me time to get set up in the bathroom window. That window was even closer to the tree where he was perched and it was also easier to remove the screen from the window in that room. Once set up, I waited.

I didn’t take long before he was back and I was able to take a decent number of shots. Some of my favorites were right after he had puffed his feathers out and was preening. It’s almost like he knew he was being photographed, and decided to put on his best airs.

Thank you Mr. Cardinal. I appreciated it.

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