Barn swallow, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

I took this photo of a barn swallow during a trip to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I found this dead branch that was a favorite perch for the swallow, and then patiently waited for it to land. Although the swallow was in shadow, the trees in the background were in mixed light. I knew that any bright highlights in the background would be rendered as ”specular highlights,” which is how bright out-of-focus details appear when you use a large telephoto lens with a wide aperture. Normally, specular highlights are very distracting, but with some clever repositioning, I was able to use the highlights to my advantage. I placed the brightest and most prominent highlight right behind the swallow's head, creating a halo effect that helps to draw attention to the bird. I used the second prominent highlight as a counterpoint to the first, placing it in the lower right hand corner of the image. The two highlights, placed on an opposing diagonal line to one another, help balance the image and create compositional interest. Once everything was in position, it was simply a matter of waiting for the bird to strike the right pose.

"Barn Swallow" - Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

"Barn Swallow" – Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Technical details: Canon 1D Mark III camera, 100-400mm lens (@400), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/320 second.

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