And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:20-25
There is an art to taking a good photo of a bird. It’s all in the eyes. You want to capture the catchlights in the bird’s eyes. This shows that the bird is in focus, and gives the bird a clear sense of being alive. Birds typically move fast, so getting that in-focus shot isn’t always easy. Then there’s framing, the direction and quality of the light, the background and foreground of the photo, and the composition itself. Where is the bird in the frame? Are there any tree branches, grass, or other things that distract or obscure.
It also helps to have a good camera and lens. Bird photographers go for long lenses – 500MM or longer. And many add a teleconverter, multiplying the lens focal length by 1.5, 2, or more times. Continuous autofocus is a real asset, as is a camera that will allow you to take a burst of 10 or more photos in a second.
All that, however, is nothing without the person behind the camera. Ansel Adams has famously said, the most important part of the camera is the 12 inches behind it. He was referring to the eyes and brain that sees, sets up, and takes the shot.
When someone says to me, “That looks like a really good camera. I bet it takes good pictures!” I reply, “Yes, I’m sure it does. Let me set it down here and we’ll watch it do so.” Well, maybe I only imagine saying that, but I do imagine doing so!
Which gets to the whole point of this rant. If God had not created the heavens and the earth, the seas and “every living creature that moves,” the finest camera, greatest photographic eye, the most perfect technique, and setup would be for naught. It’s like the scientist who told God he could create life, and picked up some dirt do begin his work. God says to him, “Just hold on there. Get your own dirt.”
The splendor of God’s created order is delightfully beautiful and worthy of my best photographic pursuits. And I’m thankful for the excellent photographic equipment I have available to me. Once in a while I manage to take a decent photo. But all glory goes to God, for whether it’s “Flowers by God…” or “Birds by God…” or “Light by God…” it’s all his work. It’s my privilege to see, and I thank God for it.