Magellanic Woodpecker

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


I recently returned from my latest Patagonia tour, during which I fulfilled a long-time goal. Thirteen years ago, I visited southern Chile and Argentina on my honeymoon. During that trip I had my one and only sighting of the Magellanic Woodpecker (a large species akin to the Pileated many of us are familiar with). It was a female: jet black with a spot of red on the face and a white stripe down the back. Cooler than the male, IMO. He’s got sort of a standard red head, but his tuft isn’t normally as impressive as hers. Over the years I’ve remained convinced that she is the coolest-looking woodpecker I’ve ever seen.

The only problem I’ve had is finding another one. Since I started leading trips to this area, we’ve always spent time looking for this species, with no luck (it’s not exactly a rare bird, either). This year, we finally broke the streak when a female (yes!) flew into a campground. Getting her perched amidst some late autumn color was an added bonus.


Technical Details

Canon R5
Canon 600mm + 1.4x
ISO 800
(I had just photographed something else at these settings and was firing off my initial shots of her before I tweaked them to obtain a faster shutter speed… I feel lucky to have landed a few sharp ones in the initial burst.)

That is one cool looking woodpecker, Max. Even with modern image stabilization, getting this crisp a shot at 1/50 from any distance is an achievement. I love the background except for the dead branch on the right. I’d be tempted to try removing it, but I don’t enter any competitions that care about such alterations. Congratulations on getting the one that got away!

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Congratulations on the successful hunt and capture. She is a beauty. I’ve never seen one of them before so it’s exciting in that way, too. Interesting that you find her flashier than her mate as the opposite is pretty much the way it goes. The background certainly helps here, but alas the branch doesn’t. If you can’t or don’t want to remove it, maybe burning it to match some of the darker areas of the main trunk can help a bit. Also reducing its sharpness/clarity. But the star is that gorgeous bird. The crest is so cute and I like the hint of color/iridescence in the feathers. Super job in what was probably an heart-pounding, nervous-wreck situation.

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I’m not one to clone out imperfections (unless requested to do so by a client), so the most likely solution would be to just crop out the branch. I was likely fixated on retaining as much of the foliage as possible, but I’m not opposed to square crops at all.

Having tried that, I actually think transforming it into a vertical is the cleanest compromise (since most of my other shots of her are also vertical, I’m still keeping the horizontal option :wink:).

Thanks for the feedback, guys.

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Hi Max!

This is a very fine look at a species of woodpecker I never knew about!
It does have a general shape that compares to the Pileated variety, those talons are kind of scary looking.
I bet it was a very exciting moment to finally be able to get a few good shots of one and good for you being able to get a few sharp images at the lower shutter speed!

I’m intrigued by the white stripe down her back and there is a glimpse of that in this image, for curiosity, did you happen to get a shot of her showing the white stripe? (just to see what that part looks like?).

The color of her eyes match the color of the foliage in the BG and that to me helps tie them together, some form of continuity between subject and the environment is always a plus in my view. Even her feet have a texture and color that resembles the gray bark on the tree trunk.
I like the vertical crop that eliminates the majority of the branches on the right side of the frame!
I also like the way her tail merges with the surface of the tree bark, everything about this image says that this is where she belongs.

The Magellanic seems to have more of a prehistoric presence than the Pileated, although, the Pileated have that prehistoric presence as well and I love the sounds they make.
Does this species have the same or similar sounds as a Pileated?

Wonderful display of a very interesting species! :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing, Max!!

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Max, Doesn’t Patagonia have wonders we don’t see elsewhere - unlimited natural beauty? Super capture of this proud woodpecker. I like the way you’ve included its environment with the tree and background. I agree with @_Kris about burning in the branch. I’d add some contrast to the trunk as well. I think the branch adds to the environment and provides balance and interest on the right side. Great capture for your wall.

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Yes, pretty similar! I’ve found that most of the large woodpecker species I’ve seen (including those in the Latin American tropics) have somewhat similar calls to the Pileated.

I like the vertical presentation, Max. And you still caught some of the fall colors on the far side of the trunk, which I like.

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Hi Max, I like the vertical crop as well. Really nice catch of a real beauty and the BG leaf colors are present enough to add another element of interest. Well done.

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Hi Max,

The branch does not really bother me because those OOF leaves add something essential to the comp. The vertical comp looks is good, but I prefer the horizontal version…Jim

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