Blog / It's all down to light.

Peter Cairns
Thursday, December 15, 2016
It's all down to light.

I've always loved backlighting. It doesn't work with everything but with crested tits, it most definitely does. That cheeky little mohican really stands out with late (or early) winter light filtering through the delicate feathers. Setting up our crested tit hide several years ago, we were at pains to ensure a backlit shot was possible. Lining up a shadowed background with a lit foreground allows the differential lighting to accentuate that fantastic crest and in this case, the late autumn leaves of the larch. The conditions needed for this type of image are such that the "window" is narrow. In our case, you can shoot for about an hour in late afternoon between around November and February. Outwith this period, the light just doesn't fall as you need it.

This charismatic pinewood specialist is very easy to see during the winter months but unlike other tit species, they don't feed in small flocks but as singles or pairs. This means that they're generally not present at feeding stations all the time but instead, turn up for a few minutes every now and then on a smash-and-grab raid. Alighting on different perches for only a fraction of a second at a time, crestie photography requires vigilance and quick reactions. They dominate over other species so they tend to be on the food and gone within seconds. It's fair to say you need your wits about you.

We like to think our crested tit hide provides some of the best opportunities out there but that's not to say it's easy. These are still relatively rare birds and in mild weather can be unpredictable. We can build the stage but the rest is down to you. And of course that fractious little bird with the punky hair-do.

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