A Joyful Noise

Image Description

A Joyful Noise

The sounds of the morning increased proportionally with the increasing brightness of the rising Sun. What started off with the occasional babbles of a pair of Cinnamon Teal mixed with the distant call of a Sandhill Crane, soon became a symphony of birdsong. Robins were gleefully hopping along the ground looking for insects. Their chirping added a sense of optimism to the day. Geese on the pond next to the one I stood near could be heard as well as Ravens off in the trees by the river. The Cattails lining the pond came ever more alive with various birdsong as the sun began to line the ridge of our beloved Bridger Mountains with silver edges. It wouldn’t be long before the shadows of these peaks shrank towards the mountains as if running to hide from the Sunlight.

I needed to be in position to catch a moment I’d only ever seen in other people’s inspiring photos. I walked to the western edge of the pond and set my tripod up facing to the east. The trilling call of Red-Winged Blackbirds began to rise to an earnest level as the males were staking out territory for themselves. Then, just as the Sun crested the ridge, an interesting sound made its way to my ears. I recognized it immediately as the “rusty gate swinging open” call of the Yellow Headed Blackbird. I say this with all due respect, because I can relate a bit to their apparent lack of ability to sing melodiously. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but just like these beautiful creatures, it doesn’t prevent me from making a joyful noise in my attempts to sing! I just love the way they throw their heads back and just let that noise escape with the gusto of a seasoned opera singer!

Now back to why I was here, at the edge of a pond, on a frosty morning. In the magic of the early morning, the raucous song of the Yellow-Headed Blackbird became visible in the chilly, humid air. Faint prismatic colors formed in the vapor as it dissipated into fantastic shapes. I smiled ear to ear with my eye plastered to the viewfinder as I captured moment after moment of this amazing sight. I ended up taking about 600 pictures in 45 minutes and this one is my favorite of them all!

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

Catching bird breath condensing was my inspiration. Wondering if the backlit cattails with the yellow fringes are ok? This was just after the sun crested some mountain to the east. The sun was not as low as right at sunrise, but still pretty low. I’m always open to any critique of all elements of this image.

Technical Details

Nikon D850
Nikkor 500mm, f/4 (rented!)
ISO 400, f/4, 1/640

I processed this in Lightroom. Used masks to reduce shadows on the bird and lighten the background just a bit and add some texture. I used a tiny brush to enhance the brightness and saturation of the colors in the breath.


Absolutely stunning! And yes the fringes around the cattails are more than okay. They help to tell the story of the rising sun beautifully. You didn’t ask about cropping so if you don’t mind me saying I think you could also crop closer and just show the two tall cattails to the right in the frame and eliminate the light at the top…though it is magical the way it is as well. Congratulations!

Hi Paul,

I think I enjoyed the story as much as I did the image :slight_smile:

This is wonderful in every way, the breath is striking, it’s not something we get to see very often.

The head thrown back while blurting out sounds that only a potential mate could fall in love with (based on your description) is awesome, the sounds can be imagined as well because I can easily recall what a rusty gate hinge sounds like.

The glow around the cattails is very appropriate and pleasing, it works.

I’m a little torn on the crop, on one hand it’s great the way it is because of the amount of environment and atmosphere shown, on the other hand, it might be equally as good to crop to the point where the breath is in the left 1/3 and the top 1/3 of the frame. The benefit is to bring the YHBB in closer to the viewer but still have a good amount of environment and atmosphere but maybe in a more balanced way? I’m not sure.

Either way, this is just wonderful! :slight_smile:

Thank you Mervin. Here’s a copy of the very first edit I did last year when I captured this moment. I do like the closer crop, but it’s a huge crop resulting in some loss of detail. The lighting is soft though, so it at least maintains that look!

I like the tight crop too :slight_smile:
There are lots of possibilities without losing the moment of the breath and atmosphere.

I was thinking of something along the lines of the crop below, it’s almost a square crop and there’s still a good amount of environment and atmosphere while bringing the YHBB in a little tighter.

It’s hard to go wrong on the crop with such a an awesome subject! :slight_smile:
I still like the original version posted at the top as well :slight_smile:

1 Like

Paul, what a phenomenal capture. Your story and the way you caught the bird are absolutely gorgeous.

Regarding the crops, I cannot make up my mind, as I like all three. I am sorry that I am not any help there, but the bird, the lighting and the composition of all three images is a winner for me.

Thank you for sharing this one with everyone.