Bird Photography 101: The Kodachrome Effect


WC calls it “The Kodachrome Effect.” The reference is to the Paul Simon song, “Kodachrome,” which in the chorus says of the photos we take, “Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day.”1 Bird photography makes you think that the bird we photograph are always out in the open, perfectly lit and perfectly posed. The reality is that, especially in the case of unusual birds, you take what you can get.

WC and Mrs. WC were lucky enough to spot a Lewis’s Woodpecker on a telephone pole along Soldier Creek, just above Camas Prairie. You might think, because of the Kodachrome Effect, that the image would look like this.

Lewis's Woodpecker, Salmon River Canyon, Idaho

Lewis’s Woodpecker, Salmon River Canyon, Idaho

But that’s not reality. Reality is like this:

Lewis's Woodpecker, Soldier Creek, Camas County, Idaho

Lewis’s Woodpecker, Soldier Creek, Camas County, Idaho

An inferior image, if the best for this bird. The bird’s head is in shadow, the eye is closed and it’s obviously a man-made pole. The focus could be better, too.

Lewis's Woodpecker, Soldier Creek, Camas County, Idaho

Lewis’s Woodpecker, Soldier Creek, Camas County, Idaho

Better lit, better focus, and not obviously a man-made post, but the lower half of the bird is cut off.

Lewis's Woodpecker, Soldier Creek, Camas County, Idaho

Lewis’s Woodpecker, Soldier Creek, Camas County, Idaho

Worse still. Against a bright sky; even with spot metering it’s too dark. And the perch is lousy.

WC has dozens of bad to mediocre images for every bird species photo posted here. And WC recognizes that even the ones he chooses to post aren’t always all that hot.

So when you see a decent bird photo here, remember the Kodachrome Effect. It’s the exception, not the rule.

 


  1. Yes, WC knows that Kodachrome was discontinued by Kodak in 2009. Irrelevant to this post. 
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