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Bird Watch SXM By Mark Yokoyama

turnstoneBIRD SHOTS: BACKGROUNDS

What is the best background for a bird photo? There's no simple answer, but it is hard to go wrong with something plain that brings attention to the bird, not the background.

When it comes to backgrounds for bird photos, less is usually more. There are exceptions to every rule, but a relatively plain background that provides strong contrast with the bird that is the subject of the photo is almost always a good thing. Getting the right backgrounds isn't always easy; and in some situations, it probably isn't possible at all. Still, once you appreciate a good background, you may find yourself scouting out the right background as much as the right bird when you take pictures.

Sky and water usually make good backgrounds. They both tend to be plain and usually provide good contrast with the bird you are photographing. Blue skies are generally more pleasing and easier to work with than clouds. Clouds can reflect too much light, making it difficult to get a good exposure, and white or grey is generally less pleasant than blue.

Water can be a wonderful background. The turquoise Caribbean Sea is a favourite, but on St. Martin, water comes in many colours and most of them work well behind a bird. Water can also create interesting patterns and reflections that add to a photo without being distracting.

There are plenty of other plain backgrounds to be found if you go looking for them: Sand, stone or even a plain wall. Depending on your camera gear and settings, many backgrounds become pleasantly blurry, especially if there is some distance between the subject and the background. A tangle of vegetation that is distracting in focus can become the perfect backdrop when blurred beyond recognition.

Of course, the best backgrounds usually aren't completely plain; they just don't overwhelm the subject. Objects, shapes and textures can all add to a photo. They can also tell a story, and in a future instalment, we will take a look at how habitat can play an important role in bird photos.

One thing you probably don't want in the background of your photos, but can be hard to avoid on St. Martin, is trash. Few things ruin an otherwise lovely bird photo more completely than a discarded can or plastic bag. In addition to learning to seek out good backgrounds, you will probably develop an instinct for avoiding trash, especially after you discover a few otherwise lovely photos are ruined by some litter you didn't notice at the time.

This week, take a look at some of your favourite bird photos and analyse the backgrounds. Do they make the photo better or keep it from being great? Also, when you go out to take some photos, pause to consider the background as you take each shot. Is it clear from distractions? Could it be improved by moving over a few feet or squatting down to get a different angle? Follow along online at http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com during the week to see some backgrounds that work, some that don't and a few more helpful rules of thumb.

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Saturday Oct. 17, 2015
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Friday Oct. 16, 2015
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