So…you know how last week I wrote about how going down to the pond to take photos of ducks and other waterfowl was almost like cheating? Well, here we go again! This is a squirrel right near Theta Pond on campus, and just like last week part of me feels like this picture shouldn’t even count because shots like this are almost too easy to get. My coworker and I went for a walk around the pond and she spotted this fella munching on some kind of nut or acorn, and as usual I had my camera with me which was, thankfully, my D7100 and not my D750 so I had the advantage of a little extra reach with the crop sensor. Squirrels near the pond are so used to people that they barely bat an eye when you walk past them which makes images like this seem almost a bit unfair because it’s not like this required hours of waiting or any real work whatsoever. But still, just like last week’s picture of a duck, I rather like this picture even if it is somewhat derivative. It was fun to take and I like the way it’s composed, so I’m posting it here because I can :)
I shot this at f/1.8 which regular readers know is something I generally avoid, but since I knew I wouldn’t be able to get super duper close to the squirrel I wanted to make the most out of whatever I had and try to get a shallow depth of field if at all possible. Even though the resulting image isn’t as zoom-in-to-a-hundred-percent tack-sharp as I would like, using the wide aperture gave me the bokelicious background I was going for and helped focus the viewer right on the eyes and face of the squirrel.
One weird thing happened as I was taking this photo, which I hope is not an indicator of a larger problem that might be down the road: my lens refused to autofocus, at least at first. I tried a few different options on the camera and checked that the lens was in M/A mode, but nothing worked. I was getting a little antsy because I thought this squirrel might hightail it outta there and I was in danger of missing what might be a really nice photo, so I quickly took a few shots while focusing manually. Then I took the lens off, put it back on, and everything worked just fine at which point I got the shot you see here. Much to my surprise though, the manually-focused images actually looked decent. Not great, but not bad either, and if I would have shot at f/2.8 or f/4 they probably would have been just fine. The takeaway for me was that I need to take a cue from the US Coast Guard: semper paratus. Always be prepared. If I had taken the time to double check my gear I would have fixed the problem before it even became a problem. Thankfully all’s well that ends well and I’m treating this as a lesson in what to make sure I do the next time :)
It is ironic to me that you say this shot was so easy to take. I teach a Photo 1 class at night at a local Career College. My students would be ecstatic to catch such a great image. As I read your commentary, I know exactly what you are talking about in regards to crop sensors and depth of field. These are new terms to the 10 new photographers I met Monday night. In fact, I stopped myself from bring up sensor size because everyone in the class is on a crop.
This week I am taking a new interest in my cameras, as I compose my presentation. But, I am re-discovering my love of a good simple image.
The bokeh in both the foreground and background of your image are wonderful. The focus on his face is perfect. These are simple things to you and I, something we shouldn’t overlook.
I thank you for teaching and inspiring.
I know it’s probably unlikely to happen, but I sure would enjoy taking your Photo 1 class Rebecca. I feel like I always have more to learn about cameras and photography, and taking an actual class like yours would be awesome :) I’m glad you like the photo and I promise my description wasn’t some kind of humble-brag. It’s just that the squirrels here on campus are so used to the student population that they let just about anyone get super close which means pictures like this are a little easier. I wonder if there might be a place in your town where you could suggest some of your students go to try their hand at urban wildlife photography? A well-known public park or or college campus where the animals are a bit more trusting of us humans :)
Oh Simon, I would be so nervous to have you in class. I’m sure you could teach it. I am in no way a professional. I have learned a lot since I took the same class about 4 years ago. I am happy to share.
We actually a photo walk in the daylight somewhere in Cincinnati. Last year we went to spring Grove Cemetery. While next to one of the lakes a male swan decided we were too close to his nest. He charged at us wings and water flying. A couple of the students were in shutter priority and turned and caught some unbelievable images. Unfortunately I was looking at the back of someone else’s camera and missed the whole thing.
No worries Rebecca! I’m no professional either, I promise :) Sounds like you had kind of a crazy run-in with those swans too. Good thing your students were prepared with their cameras!
This is such a sweet little picture, lovely framing, expression, bokeh etc… Just because he was only a short stroll away doesn’t make it any less of a good photo. Thousands of people see these critters everyday in their neighbourhoods or parks, but not everyone takes time to SEE them and capture their portrait. I for one love these pictures of the creatures and things that surround us in everyday life. I look forward to your posts each week. Thanks for the inspiration to take my ‘big girl’ camera out with me more often.
Thank you for your kind words Sabine! I know I’m also guilty of not taking the time to really SEE the world around me. Sometimes I’m so busy looking for just one perfect picture that I overlook all the wonders of nature right in front of me!
And I’m glad this blog has been an inspiration to you, and has helped you get out more with your “big girl” camera! Keep up the good work!
Well done! A really nice job with the squirrel. Combined with last week, are we now in ‘phauna (sic) phase’ of your blog?!?! Sorry, couldn’t help myself!
Thank you for the reminder to look around and enjoy the glory of His creation.
Hahaha! That cracked me up, David! One might say we’re in the phauna phase of Weekly Phifty :)
Knowing your affinity for squirrel pics, I thought you might enjoy this one Marybeth ;) Glad you like it!
Simple things like Squirrel picture by you are more inspirational since they are achievable by most of amateurs without the most expensive equipment or having to travel at far away places. All one needs is curiosity to see and capture the the amazing photo opportunity provided by nature in every corner.
Great work Simon. Always admire your honest and humble approach to photography.
You’re certainly right about the equipment, man. I would still be shooting many of these pictures with my very old Nikon D200 if it hadn’t died on me a little while ago. You certainly don’t need to spend a lot of money to be able to take good pictures! My cousin Beth takes incredible pictures with nothing more than an iPhone and an inexpensive lens attachment. Someday I hope I can be as good as her :)
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