Snow day

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A good photograph, like any other artwork, can evoke feelings when viewed.

When I look at this photo, my photo of the week, I feel cold. 

Part of it is the visual — a ruffled bird against a snowy background. And part of it is memory, because I was freezing when I shot this. 

The temperature was dropping rapidly, falling from the upper 30s when I left the house to the upper 20s when I came across this female Northern Cardinal perched near a feeder in Blendon Woods Metro Park near Columbus, Ohio. 

The background was white with snow and the bird’s beak had remnants of snow from the cardinal’s recent visit to the ground to grab some seeds. I was pretty close to the bird, probably less than 20 feet away, so the background is reduced to an out-of-focus blur.

Female Northern Cardinals, unlike their bright red male counterparts, can be difficult to see, especially in most fall or winter environments. Their subtle color (yellow-brown with touches of red on the crest, back and tail) blends in with their surroundings in brown fields or autumn trees.

But snow changes everything.

Cardinals are year-round residents of Central Ohio, hanging around for the hot summers and for the cold, snowy winters when other birds head for warmer climates. 

Cardinals are extremely shy birds, flying off quickly if they detect motion. So the vast majority of my photos of cardinals are taken during the winter months when I can shoot from cover — a viewing shelter near a feeder in Blendon Woods Metro Park near Columbus, Ohio — and catch the birds as they wait in nearby trees for a spot at the feeder. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Date/time: Jan. 24, 2012, 10:26 a.m.  
Location: 40°4'23.76" N 82°52'5.279" W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 7D  
Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter: 1/640th second
ISO: 1600