May 24, 2009

And the Rest of the Chickadee Story

Eldreth Pottery salt-glazed pottery birdhouse
Thank you for everyone’s sweet comments about my recent chickadee pictures! How would you like to know more about the lovely birdhouse AND learn a little about the photography behind the pictures? A two-for-the-price-of-one kind of post? Oh my, I see a lot of hands raised up there! OK, get settled in your chairs and get ready to take some notes!

Hubby and I are fond of salt-glazed pottery. If we learn of a place that sells it in our travels, we make a point of visiting and shopping. On one of our many trips to the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania, we discovered the
Eldreth Pottery showroom in Strasburg. We were immediately charmed by the style and ingenious design of their salt-glazed pottery birdhouses. At their store, they have so many hanging from the rafters, we found it difficult to decide which house we liked the best. Eventually, we decided to get a large and small one, both with floral designs. The one pictured above is the large birdhouse, and it was the residence of choice for the chickadee family.

If you don’t have a chance to visit to one of Eldreth Pottery’s three retail outlets, there is a small selection of their birdhouses for sale in the “outdoor” section of their web site. One design feature that we like is how the roof section lifts off for cleaning. There is a lip on the opening of the bottom half, and a metal hanging ring fits securely below it. With the first chickadee family raised and gone, we can easily clean out old nest and then wait for a second nesting season to start. During the winter, we store the birdhouses in the garage so that they do not crack in cold weather.
baby chickadee, posing for its worldwide view on the internet

Now I will share with you a few photography tips behind the creation of new seasonal header featuring the cute baby chickadee. Of course, opportunities for shots like this particular example are largely due to the luck of timing. The picture above is the full-frame photo that I selected. I took about two dozen pictures in the course of about five minutes, and some of them I intentionally framed with the subject off-center, like this one, so that I could create a new blog header. I also made a few minor adjustments of the original file in Photoshop Elements, including cropping and the addition of text.

This one was among my top choices because of how the bird tilted its head, clearly looking in my direction. A light reflection in the crook of the tree in the background also provided a clear and distinct silhouette to the bird’s head. As I was taking pictures of the subject – the baby bird – I was mindful of what the background looked like so that there was contrast. I was slowly moving as I shot the series of pictures, working on the perspectives of the subject and the background. (And I also didn't want to startle the bird!) This is the first tip – know your subject and pay attention to the background so that it does not compete against your subject.

So how did I create that nice blurry background in this image example? I used two things in tandem while focusing on the subject: the f-stop and the focal length. The settings on my digital SLR were ISO-200, 1/80 second, f/5.6. And, I was using an 18-200 zoom lens. A small f-stop setting of 5.6 allowed more light into the camera and it decreased the depth of field. Additionally, the digital zoom was set on 200mm (equivalent of 300mm in 35mm format for film cameras). This setting flattens perspective, allowing the background to be much larger relative to the foreground. In contrast, if the zoom was set on 18mm focal length, the image would not only be wider in coverage, but more areas of the image would be in focus. This is the second tip – use your f-stop and focal length to your advantage.

Digital photography lets you learn much faster than film photography. You don’t have to break the piggybank on film and processing costs. And, you don’t have the time delay between when the image was taken and when you get a print back. By all means, experiment with your digital cameras! All it costs you is your time. Take notes while you take pictures. Set up a shot, mindful of your background, and take multiple images on different settings. Then check your pictures on the computer screen, while reviewing your notes. Have fun and learn!
Oh yes, and also sign up for periodic photo challenges by clicking on my sidebar link!


  1. I don't have any salt glazed pottery that I know of, Donna, but when I first saw your bird house, it reminded me of a small collection I do have of royal blue & white china type stuff; tea cup & saucer, a planter 'duck' my sis-in-law gave me as a gift along with a hat/scarf "holder thing" (I'm really good at words, eh?). I love it all, so I think you should send me the bird house. LOL HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

    I hope you and hubby are enjoying a nice, relaxed weekend. It's still raining here, and I've been reading so much my eyes are crossed and my butt is numb. :)

    Your header is beautiful, and you're too smart for me. I tried a new one that I stole, and it doesn't fit. :)

  2. Well done Donna.
    The piccies are the sweetest.
    And I would Love to own such a unique gorgeous Birdhouse.
    The design is great.

    I happen to have the most wizz bang camera and no time to figure it all out.
    Though I am getting better at playing.
    My Hubby and I are teased by our friends Saying we are the Paparrazzii!!!!
    We just love cameras and Photos That's all:)

  3. The bird house is so dainty and lovely and the little bird fits it perfectly.

    Thank you for the photography lesson, I love to learn new things!

  4. I love the pottery. That chickadee is so cute. I always thought it was just a nickname i.e. "my little chickadee" so I've learned something new today: it's a realy bird. I guess they must be really small. Thanks for the photography tips.

  5. the pottery is gorgeous! great pictures Donna!

  6. Thanks for all the camera info, Donna. I need to take my old 35mm out and practice again, it's been too long and I've forgotten many things. It took me awhile to get to your post, as our internet got kicked out again... I hope they get this figured out soon!

  7. I love that birdhouse and that photo is just wonderful. I wonder if there is somewhere that you can submit it because it is a winner. Thanks for the tips and I hope you are enjoying your weekend!

  8. I should have recognized the birdhose as being Eldreth Pottery! Lovely!


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