Ray HennessyComment

Feeder Flash

Ray HennessyComment
Feeder Flash

Every year, usually in November and December I spend some time with the birds that visit my parent's bird feeder in southern New Jersey.

This "tradition" started around 5 years ago and with each consecutive year I've refined my bird feeder photography. It mostly started with an idea my father, who is also a nature photographer, had to attach a natural perch to the feeder for the birds to land on. This provided us a great setting for the bird photographs while also allowing us to somewhat control their location thus allowing the modification of the lighting.

We first started modifying the light by adding in a reflector in the foreground. Since the location of the feeder and our position comfortably inside the house put the sun behind the birds this was initially not the ideal lighting. By adding in the reflector we were able to create much more pleasing lighting for the feeder birds. I should also mention that the background we would usually achieve were some dark bushes across the yard that were always in shade thus giving us a very dark almost black background naturally.

After a year or two I decided to start adding in a single flash to my bird feeder photography. I had seen this done before to great effect and thought it would be fun. While I got some different looking photos it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. Another year passed and thanks to my job as a wedding photographer my flash lighting skills increased dramatically. The winter of 2013 was the first year I tried using 3 flashes to create much more dramatic images and finally I was getting the results that I was looking for. The lighting setup generally consisted of two flashes on stands positioned behind and to the side of the intended bird perch. A third flash was positioned in the front and to the side to add in some slight fill light.

Another year in and I have really been able to dial in the lighting I want to create a very dramatic photo of the regular backyard birds that visit my parent's feeder. During my most recent attempt there was a light rain all day which helped to create even more interesting photos as you will see. Below are a selection of some of my favorites from the past few years of using flash photography with birds. All of the photos were taken mostly in the middle of the day and sometimes in full sunlight. I find that the lighting and stark black background really show some of the personality that these birds tend to exhibit and I hope you can see that too.

Blue Jay

Common Grackle

House Finch

Northern Cardinal

Carolina Wren

Mourning Dove

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

Northern Cardinal (female)

Northern Cardinal

Blue Jay

Mourning Dove

Carolina Wren

Tufted Titmouse

Northern Cardinal (female)

Tufted Titmouse

Mourning Dove

Tufted Titmouse

Blue Jays

Nature photography has become a very passionate hobby of mine and whenever I get a chance I love to get outside and enjoy being outdoors. I am also the co-owner of KGM Expressions, a wedding and portrait photography business, with my wife Kim. This is how we make our living and I love that we get to do that together.