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Hummingbird Chicks

A little while back, a hummingbird started building a nest just outside the window of my brother's home office. Soon enough, she laid 2 eggs. Soon enough after that, those eggs hatched. Now, those 2 chicks barely fit into the nest.

Hummingbird Chicks
The two nicely-camouflaged chicks wait patiently for mom to return with food.

I went over today with the intention of capturing some shots of the mother bird feeding her young. I'm happy to say it was a success, but there were some barriers to overcome that resulted in images a little lower quality than I'm used to.

First of all, I had to shoot through the window - a dirty window at that. This meant a loss of sharpness and contrast. Next, the light was dim. That meant I'd have to boost the ISO to an uncomfortably high level - 1600 - just to get a shutter of 1/200. And finally, the window prevented me from getting close enough to fill my frame, so I'd have to crop pretty heavily to get the shot I wanted.

All of this ultimately amounted to images that are far grainier than I care for, but I can't complain. This was a rare opportunity to photograph a hummingbird feeding her young...and from the comfort of the indoors where I could shoot the breeze with my brother in between shots.

Hummingbird Feeding Her Young

With a little bit of online research, I'm almost certain this species is the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (selasphorus platycercus). The coloring matches and it certainly did have a broad tail.

Photography Tips: When to Break the Rule of Thirds

Skill Level: Beginner

This photography tip was taken from the curriculum of my online course "Composition for Dramatic Landscapes." It's just a little tidbit taken from Week 1: Compositional Basics.

The rule of thirds is a pretty common compositional tool (notice I said tool, not rule) for creating better compositions in most scenarios. It's covered in beginning books everywhere and is one of the first composition tools you'll learn in photography. The idea is simple: just imagine your frame divided into thirds horizontally and vertically like so...

When to Not Use The Rule of Thirds

Then, place your main subject on one of the crosshairs and/or divide your landscape into 2/3 foreground and 1/3 background/sky. It will often times result in a better composition, but not always.

It's a great tool no doubt, but I've found that in landscape photography, there is one particular situation where breaking this rule of thirds and doing the dreaded "horizon through the middle" actually works much better. That's when you want to highlight symmetry.  In these instances, it can be most beneficial to put your subject or horizon right in the center of the frame. Doing so highlights the symmetry better than placing it off-center, per the rule of thirds.

For example, all of the following images are about symmetry through reflections. You'll notice I divided the frame into 1/2 foreground (e.g. lake, sand) and 1/2 background (e.g. sky, mountain, rocks) instead of the guidelines laid out by the rule of thirds.

When to Not Use The Rule of Thirds

When to Not Use The Rule of Thirds

When to Not Use The Rule of Thirds

When to Not Use The Rule of Thirds

When to Not Use The Rule of Thirds

This last example is a little less obvious, but I wanted to highlight the symmetry between the texture of the rocks with the textures of the clouds. The clouds seemed to be mimicking those rocks and I wanted to show that in the final image. Breaking the rule of thirds and putting the horizon through the center was just the right recipe for showing that symmetry.

When to Not Use The Rule of Thirds

There you go! So don't be afraid to break the "rules"!

From the Archives

I was browsing through my archives in search of some pictures for an upcoming Tips & How-To post when I stumbled upon the following image. I posted several others from the same day back in September 2010, but this one slipped through. I opted to post some variations on it back then, but on looking through them tonight, I think this is one of the best from that sunset. Funny how something can look better to you with time...

Crystal Cove State Park