Bruce’s Birdtography: Bird Photography as Storytelling

Male house finch (left) with female (right). Photo by Bruce Wunderlich.

I like to look for bird behavior in photographing birds and create images that tell a story and can almost speak for themselves. I look for images that will speak to the viewer. Ansel Adams once said, “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation, and execution.” Similarly, you’ve probably heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” 

I recently captured an image of an interaction between two house finches. I was interested to see how this image spoke to those who viewed it. I posted it on social media with the simple label, “Caption this.” Here are a few of the responses I got.

(Have a caption idea of your own? We want to hear it! Include it in the comments below.)

  • And where were YOU all day, MISTER?!
  • What do you mean you thought it was me??? She’s a SPARROW!
  • Why are you blushing?!
  • I don’t know much about birds, but I can tell which of these is the female.
  • Are you even listening?
  • Why did you give the kids candy after 8 pm?
  • What do you mean they’re out of toilet paper?
  • I’ve told you once I’ve told you a million times, no poop in the nest!
  • I said, “Take a right!”
  • It’s your fault it’s raining again!
  • You’re late, Walter! And I saw you staring at that little chickadee at the feeder today. You know she’s a brazen little hussy!
  • Where have you been?!? You’ve been down to that Seedy little bar again!
  • How many times have I told you…
  • You didn’t hear a thing I said!
  • You never listen to me!
  • I saw you watching the young female cardinal down the street!!
  • The Boat House patio was open, and you didn’t take me?
  • Don’t “Edith – Edith” me, Archie – this rain stops or I go…!!!
  • I’m singing in the rain, Just singing in the rain.
  • I thought YOU were sitting with the kids!!
  • Do I look fat?
  • What do you mean I’m mad as a wet hen
  • You bought me a feed block?! I asked you for sunflower seed! You don’t listen to a thing I say…
  • Feed me.

What the photo doesn’t say or show is that a moment before I shot it, the male had fed the female a seed. The last couple of responses are on the right track; I think she wanted another seed.

There are many reasons for doing bird photography, but looking for images that capture bird behavior and tell a story can be extra rewarding and fun. Look for interactions between birds, birds being themselves in their environment, or just a bird doing something as simple as taking a bath.

Check out my column in the July/August issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest titled “Why Bird Photography?” for my thoughts about the various purposes for photographing birds.

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