Tui portrait feature photo

Tui bird
Headshot of a tui bird deep in a dense shrub. Taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV, EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM +1.4x tele converter, 1/125 s exposure at f5.6, ISO 1250, hand-held.

Tui are one of New Zealand’s most well known and loved birds. Their dark, iridescent body, finished with a delicate scarf of lacy white feathers is unlike any other New Zealand bird, and their song is rich and varied. If you listen carefully it might seem that no two sound exactly alike.

Because they are relatively common, and generally quite bold, they are a popular subject for bird photographers. Indeed, I have many hundreds of photos of them, and may go out tomorrow to try to improve on the classic, perhaps cliché image of tui feeding on dense kowhai blossom. The trick then is in trying to create a unique image that might stand out a little from the rest. The image here is one I made a few months ago on Tiritiri Matangi Island. Tiri is a great place to photograph native birds, and I’ve spent several weeks there. I particularly like this image because of the way the bird, with its inquisitive posture is framed by soft, out of focus elements. He was singing deep in a kawakawa shrub and quite hard to see. I knew a clear shot of the whole bird wasn’t going to work. Even if I could see it all, the background would have been full of distracting branches and bright leaf reflections. Instead I used my 300/2.8 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter (giving me a 420 mm lens) to give a relatively narrow field of view, and hand-held so I could quickly make the tiny adjustments needed to get the balance and composition I was looking for, through a narrow gap in the shrub it was in. The outstanding high ISO performance of the Canon 1D Mark IV combined with an Image Stabilised lens really paid off here.

I like this shot, but if you’d like to let me know what you think (good or bad), feel free to leave a comment on my Facebook Page or Flickr Photostream