Stating the obvious, I have no formal photographic training. But I surely love shooting the feathered ones; digitally, that is. I’ve attended a couple of low cost one-day photography sessions, oriented toward birders who shoot photos. The common advice from both volunteer teachers: digital red is the hardest color to develop.
Digital sensors easily saturate with red. Why? Well, I’ve never bothered to ask or research as I’m certain I’d soon be back in the world of optical physics. I can just tell you that I’ve never shot really great photos of Vermillion Flycatchers or Northern Cardinals.
And speaking of Northern Cardinals, their ever-so-common presence makes most of us take them for granted, ignoring their beauty. But can you imagine if you’d never seen a Cardinal, and lived only in a world of the beautiful yellows and grays of warblers? Cardinals would knock our socks off.
I’m especially fond of Cardinals because of the year-round behavior of the males. Male Cardinals seem to spend most of each day following (or gently chasing after) the female. The male’s chase of the females doesn’t seem controlling; they just seem prone to watch and follow the feathered apples-of-their-eye. When a female Cardinal first comes into your view, stand silently still, and most likely a male will cross your path.
Maybe I like these male Cardinals because their behavior reminds me of my Dad’s behavior with my Mother, especially when his Alzheimer’s took away his independence. If my Dad was in a room where he could see his lovely wife, he was happy. When not, he fixated on one question: where’s Bonnie? He forgot every name; every person—but not his beloved Bonnie.
Of course I’m not the only one that is especially drawn to Cardinals. The famous artist Charley Harper brought a wonderfully playful spirit to his artistic interpretations of Northern Cardinals. If you are unfamiliar with his work, just give him a Google. His designs will bring you a smile. His minimalist style captures beautifully the true-to-life behavior of many a bird. His Cardinal expressions are spot on.
This past week, while birding Brazos Bend, I gave a couple of male Cardinals my appreciative attention. And the next day, while developing the photos, I once again almost deleted the over-saturated red images. But rather than under saturate to the point of turning their surroundings black and white, I decided to playfully embrace the red. And so I played within the world of Photoshop, and these photos are my playful outcome.
The results made me smile, reminding me of an old childhood toy where you’d place stick-on objects in a picture. I think these Cardinals look like bright red stick-on cutouts in a world of green, brown and blue.
I hope they bring you a smile.