Thursday, March 3, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - Emma

Emma in a peach tree during sunset. May 8, 2009.
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR and SB-800 to camera left using CLS*.
IS0 320, 1/200 sec, F3.5 at 28 mm
(Click on the photo for a larger version)

Emma is a Senegal parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) who lives in my house. We have a pear tree on our front lawn that blooms for only 2 weeks each spring and the house faces west. The weather was warm and dry, the sunset was pretty, the flowers on the tree were blooming -- everything was lining up for the perfect photo. If I took a shot of  the tree and sunset, it would've been a good photo ... but not a great photo. Enter Emma. (skip the next paragraph if you don't want to read the technical details).

I put Emma on the lowest branch and took a reading in aperture priority mode using F3.5 (the minimum for this lens) for the shallowest depth of field. I then put my camera in manual mode and underexposed by about a stop and a half by increasing the shutter speed to 1/200. I put my SB-800 flash in remote mode and then put the commander mode in my camera to TTL for this flash. All this while standing on a milk crate on my front lawn with Emma crawling around on the branch. I did a few test shots while holding the flash in my left hand just above Emma to make sure I was happy with the exposure. I popped off about 10 - 15 shots and had to stop a couple times to make sure Emma didn't crawl to the top of the tree while holding the flash in my left armpit. I'm sure I looked quite stupid to my neighbours, but you gotta do whatever it takes to get the shot, right?

I know some of you will have some questions about Emma so I'll try to answer them proactively:

(More after the jump)

  • "How come she didn't fly away?" - Her wings are clipped and she's bonded to us. 
  • "Does she talk?" - No, but she can immitate local birds such as starlings, robins and even other parrots. Birds that talk are generally very vocal (ie. noisy)
  • "Does she know any tricks?" - Just a few. She knows, "Angel" (lifts her wings up), "Lie Down" (on her back), Flip, Turn Around, Shake Hands, and Bird Brain (basically Lie Down but on your head). Check out Max on YouTube (Max is a friend of Emma's from the York Region Parrot Club)
  • "How old is Emma?" - 7 years when we took this photo.
  • "I heard parrots can live a long time?" - Emma could live to about 30 years.

Emma is a fantastic pet. She's friendly, she's not too noisy and she's cute. But not all birds are created equal. We did a lot of research before adding Emma to our family. We're part of the York Region Parrot Club where we've learned a lot about parrot care. It's an excellent place for Emma to socialize with other birds. We also do outreach events at seniors' residences and other places with people with physical and/or mental challenges. Because of Emma's friendly and gentle disposition, she's an ambassador of sorts for our club.

*CLS - Creative Lighting System. Nikon allows you to fire a Nikon-brand flash remotely. I'll be doing a blog entry on this in the future. In the meantime, check out the Nikon CLS Practical Guide blog.

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