Today's Cedar Waxwing

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


After hanging out at this tree every day for the last week, I got reasonably lucky today. It was cloudy but not too dark, with very light rain. The birds come and go, and seem to prefer low light, but that’s almost better than full sun. I’ll be there every day until they get all the berries. Good poses are scarce and for now they are still working on the berries high in the tree. So I need 1000mm, which is f/14 and to get enough SS to halfway freeze the motion, I need ISO 3200 or more. Shooting at 20 fps will only catch one toss, and most of those are not in the middle. Poor focus and motion blur shoot down most of the ones I catch.

Specific Feedback

All comments welcome!

Technical Details

Screenshot 2023-12-02 at 4.20.06 PM

Shadows and Highlights almost full throw in LR. Into PS for Topaz Denoise and some very minor cloning. Cropped to 60% of the full frame. The bottom edge is the edge of the frame – I thought about adding a bit more sky there and may still.

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What a wonderful shot, Diane! I would never have the patience for this but I’m glad you did.

Another nice shot of the waxwing feeding. And the berry in mid-air! Great timing. I like the composition. Wish the eye was more prominent. Have you considered a ladder? :grinning:

I can’t wait to see your shots of the bird lower down and more sideways on to show the red patch on the wingtip (am I easy to please?). I have been spoilt by Hans’s shot of the Bohemian Waxwing, but this has its own charm, the view of the tongue, the fine array of berries, and the placement of the tossed one. Keep them coming, Diane - lower down and darker background perhaps, but really I’m so jealous as I very rarely see waxwings!

Thanks, @Don_Peters, @Allen_Brooks and @Mike_Friel! I’m still hoping to come even close to the one posted by @Hans_Overduin! That toss occurs VERY fast. I shot over 1400 frames today to get this one decent frame out of a couple of dozen tosses that I halfway captured.

For a little more than a very good lens I could buy a scissor lift. I’d need to replace my Outback with a pickup, though.

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Hi Diane, I pretty much agree with Mike’s assessment above. A really tough moment to capture and one I hope to get myself as I watch our holly tree full of berries in our yard. These birds are so photogenic and this behavior is great to catch. Nice image and TFS!

Every once in awhile I’ll see old utility company vans with boom lifts for sale. It always tempts me!

I made 50 Purple Martin boxes for a group I volunteer with last winter and we rented a tow behind 40 ft boom lift to install them. If I recall correctly, it was about $450 for a day, but weekly rental is only about 3 times that-another temptation.

Nice image, Diane. You caught that berry in a great position. Does the R5 have the pro capture feature? I’m amazed at the image quality we can get with a zoom lenses and teleconverters these days.

Thanks, @Dennis_Plank. Don’t have pro capture. For this particular situation it wouldn’t be a huge advantage, although every exposure does increase the odds. I can see one land in what looks like a good spot and get on it pretty quickly with my dot sight and usually acquire focus pretty quickly. After they grab a berry they usually pose with it before tossing it and I just start shooting at 20 fps. But the buffer fills fast at that speed so it’s a matter of some ESP to time it right. Sometimes I miss but the worst problem is that 20 fps isn’t fast enough – it’s luck to catch the middle of a toss.

Eventually they’ll work down to the lower branches – probably about the time the current cloudy weather clears up.

Hi Diane, I love this. No matter how many frames you shoot, it only takes one good one to be a success. And you achieved that here. Well done.


This is sensational, Diane. The berry in mid-air, just great. Yes, a little less ‘from below’ would be the next step, but I simply love the image as is! Well done on all the techs as well ! Cheers, Hans

Outstanding, Diane. I’ve only witness the Cedar Waxwing migration through here (Texas hill country) once a couple of years ago. They are fast, way to fast for me! I love this shot. The diagonal of the perch, how the white background sets the bird and berries off . . . the that berry in the air, is fantastic. I had no idea the very tip of their tail is such a bright yellow. Great capture.

Thanks, @David_Bostock, @Hans_Overduin and @linda_mellor! Hans, your Bohemians are prettier than our Cedars – I’m jealous!! And very few of the ones I’ve seen so far have the wax bits on the wings.

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A very nice pose. I wish that the waxwing was lower, but you have to deal with what nature provides. Comp looks good and the open beak is very nice. Even though this was a very challenging shot under tough conditions, you handled it extremely well. Awesome…Jim

Thanks, @Jim_Zablotny – I wish they were lower too! They have completely cleaned up the top third of the tree and seemed to be venturing lower, but for the last 2 days there haven’t been any as long as I could hold out, even with a good book and a Starbucks 2 blocks away. They completely wasted some very nice light!! Rain tomorrow – probably too much. Maybe the next day.