I took this photograph a couple of days ago during Easter bank holiday around Gentofte lake, Copenhagen. It was a beautiful sunny day, although still quite cold in the shade. I took only one lens, my 50-300mm, so I knew that I could zoom in quite a lot to be able to capture wildlife without having to get too close and scare the animals. I got this lens for Christmas and have been looking forward to a beautiful bright sunny day ever since. Bright light means that I can use a fast shutter speed, which in turns means that I can capture the action and freeze the motion.
While photographing ducks having a little clean I noticed those two swans next to each other moving in a very robotic manner. This caught my attention and after a few seconds I realised they were doing a routine.
A courting routine, of course.
They both synchronised their moves, and their necks and heads danced together, very parallel to each other, and ended facing each other.
This shot wasn't straight forward to take. I knew I potentially had a few seconds to capture this dance. So I took the shot from where I was so I had on camera but it wasn't the right point of view. I moved a few feet to my right positioning myself as best as possible without disturbing them. There I pointed my camera, framed the subjects with the Rule of Thirds (see article about the Rule of Thirds) and shots several times. By now I had learned the routine and knew they would end it facing each other, creating a heart shape between their necks. I also knew they would do it again and again, but that at some point they'll stop and my chance to get the right shot would possibly be over.
My camera was set on Continuous shots, which meant that when I pressed the shutter I would capture 7 or 8 photos in one go and would multiply my chance to capture the right moment. On my Nikon camera the Focus Mode was set to AF-C Continuous Servo with 3D tracking. This setting just helps capturing sharp moving subjects and makes sure the photo is not blurry. I was also shooting in Aperture Mode allowing me to choose the Aperture and let the camera choose the Shutter Speed.
Separating the Subject from the Background.
Another important point when taking this photo was to make sure no ducks or other birds would be right behind the main subjects, here the swans. It is very important in photography to separate your subject from its background so it has full attention from the viewer. It would be very distracting to have a duck swimming behind and 'touching' the swans around the neck area. I did have a duck in the corner of the frame. But that's ok because it wasn't 'touching' any parts of the swans. In this case I erased it because I found it distracting.
Composition: In a Nutshell...
Looking at this photos we talked about a few compositional techniques, such as framing your subject using the Rule of Thirds, choosing the right Point of View (POV), capturing the right Moment and separating your subject from its background.
A Couple More Tips:
This image is free of clutter. There is the subject and a simple background. Nothing sticks from the edges either.
There is a dominant colour in this image (blue) which creates harmony and gives a calm feeling for an intimate situation. I should mention that the swans were surrounded by a dozen of other birds as well as passers-by, but by choosing the right point of view and applying a few compositional tricks you will be able to capture the true meaning of any situation.
Composition is there to help the viewer understand a photograph and give mood to a scene.
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