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Posts Tagged ‘photo tips and techniques’

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Thornton, Ontario, Canada

Earlier this spring I decided to build a bird photography reflection pool at my backyard bird feeder setups. It was a fantastic idea, especially since Ontario has been under Covid-19 restrictions with a stay at home order in place for a lengthy period of time. I typically spend about 2 hours of each day in my photography blind that is positioned roughly 8-10 feet from my setup. The entire setup is also positioned approximately 30 feet from a cluster of Eastern White Cedar trees that provides the out of focus backdrop for these images.

A male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Thornton, Ontario, Canada

In order to photograph birds with clear reflections a day with virtually no wind is a necessity. On days where the breeze is blowing a bit too much it is often best to compose scenes with all but a strip of water along the bottom edge. Nonetheless a reflection pool setup is a fantastic way to photograph birds beside watery habitat and since we are creating the setup we can pick and choose the props for the cleanest look possible. I find that small moss covered branches, small stones, dried leaves or pine cones make wonderful props.

My Backyard Reflection Pool Setup

How did I construct my reflection pool? I built it out of scrap materials I had left over from home renovation projects. To build your own reflection pool set up I recommend using a 4X8 foot sheet of 5/8 plywood. Do not skimp and build a smaller one as the 8 foot length is required to capture the full reflection of larger birds such as Blue Jays and Grackles. If you only have small birds visiting your garden you could possibly get away with building a slightly smaller pool. Do note that my setup is elevated on sawhorse brackets to raise the pool up to the height of my camera position in my blind. This ensures that I am photographing the birds at the same level as the water, which maximizes the reflection as well. The reflection pool is also tilted so that there is a deep end and a shallow end. The shallow end is where the props are placed. Down each long side of the pool I have screwed a 1X6 board, which deters birds from accessing the pool from the sides as they are quite a bit higher than the surface of the water. At the deep end I have screwed a 1X3 piece of wood and at the shallow end I have screwed a 1X3 piece of wood flat against the plywood to create a one inch lip at the shallow end to help contain the water. Once the pool was screwed together I used black silicone to seal all the joints and then I painted the interior dark brown. Painting the interior a dark colour will help with the reflections as well. Some folks like to line their reflection pools with pond liner, which I think is mostly an added expense as a the plywood construction with silicone joints retains the water just fine.

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

To attract birds to the reflection pool I place shelled peanuts, black oil sunflower seeds, and homemade bark butter in stratgeic locations. The black oil sunflower seeds and bark butter are often placed in behind stones, while the shelled peanuts are placed directly in the water. The shelled peanuts will sink, therefore, placing them in the water in front of the props encourages birds such as Blue Jays and Common Grackles to pick the peanuts from the water.

Below are a few additional images created over the last several weeks at the reflection pool setup.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), at pond edge
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
Male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Thornton, Ontario, Canada

And if you are lucky enough to have small rodents such as chipmunks and squirrels you will likely have opportunities to photograph them as well.

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

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