The story: A very regal Cardinal
Including this image in my list of favorites was an easy decision. It's been near the top of my list since I shot it in late December 2005.
The pose and posture of this male Northern Cardinal appear almost regal. And capturing this image at a time when I was still struggling to get quality photos of birds motivated me to keep trying.
I was deep in the woods in Blendon Woods Metro Park near Columbus, Ohio, when this Cardinal landed on a nearby log. It perched on the very end, giving me a nice profile shot. As I pressed the shutter release a gust of wind came from behind the bird, lifting and separating the feathers of the crest to provide a crown-like appearance that fits nicely with the rich red cloak of feathers.
I was using a Canon EOS 20D with a Canon EF 300mm /2.8L lens and a Canon 2x teleconverter to provide a 600mm focal length. This was before I had the Canon EF 600mm f/4L that I use now. The shutter speed was 1/200th of a second at f/5.6 and ISO1600 on an overcast winter afternoon.
I've shot hundreds of very nice images of male and female Cardinals since the day this guy posed for me, but this still tops the list.