The Power of Bad Photos

As I’ve been working on improving my photography, the thought has entered my mind to stop snapping so many random pictures when I’m out and about.  I pretty much know when a picture is going to be out of focus or just not attractive, but I still come home with a card full of terrible pictures.  But then I remind myself that my goal is not just to create beautiful photos, but also to learn a bit about the world around me.  I’ve always loved birds, but have never really learned their names past the common ones we see all the time.  My photographs, even the crappy ones, are helping me to learn a lot.

Yesterday, I spied this bird outside my window.  It flew into a tree in my backyard with a recent catch.  It was obviously a hawk, but looked smaller than the Red-tailed Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks that I usually see.  I snapped this photo, but couldn’t really identify the bird.


While I was being snap-happy, I also caught this photo:


Not a great picture for sure, but it was extremely helpful in letting me identify this bird as a Broad-Winged Hawk.  Seeing the type of tail and pattern of the feathers led me to believe that’s what it was.  Then I was able to research the bird’s call and made a positive id!  Later in the day I was able to catch a better picture, but even if I hadn’t there was still a certain satisfaction in identifying a new-to-me bird.


Another example was this picture:


I knew when I took the picture it would probably be out of focus–the bird was way too far away for my lens.  But this was a fantastic photo for identification purposes–it was very easy to look up the Yellow-Rumped Warbler in my bird book with the bird’s marking so clearly visible.  A few days later I got a much better shot:


These examples have served to remind me that digital photography really is a wonderful thing.  It’s cheap to snap away, even if most of the photos are poor and you will never use them.  You never know when you will catch something wonderful!

This entry was posted in Birds of Prey, Photography, Wood-warblers. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Power of Bad Photos

  1. I do not know how many times I’ve used photos to ID birds. Also, I have learned no matter how bad a photo is, sometimes it is required for proof when submitting a bird sighting. No one would have believed me that I saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler at the end of June last year. They are not supposed to be in Iowa then. Both of your photos are much nicer than the one I had. 🙂
    Yes, digital is wonderful. I am not sure I would have taken up birding if I had a film camera.

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