Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recent photo... Spotted Towhee

Spotted TowheeSpotted Towhee, Hagg Lake, Washington Co., Oregon on 3 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


Saturday was my planned photography day. However, when I awoke at night to the sound of heavy rain, I changed my mind. Since concentrating more and more on photography over the past couple of years I have become a fair-weather birder, it seems. But I awoke early Sunday morning and noted the dry streets so decided just to get out there for the morning. Of course, it was soon apparent that it was foggy and gloomy, which isn't good for making striking bird photos either. My goal was to head up into the hills and get above the fog. And so I did, ending up at Hagg Lake in the foothills of the Coast Range west of Portland, Oregon.

In March I posted In the backyard... Spotted Towhee, discussing this species in more detail. The bird photographed in the previous post was a more brownish female. The bird pictured above is a shiny black male, singing away in this flowering tree. I took several photos of this bird, including some shots of it eating the blossoms of this fruiting tree. Actually, I think they eat the flower's fruiting ovaries and spit out the petals, which slowly rain down from the tree.

On my web site for The Bird Guide I have a birding site guide for Hagg Lake (updated in April 2007) that may be of interest to those birding in the Portland area.

In an attempt to make more artistic photos I have been following a few rules of composition. In the photo above I cropped it so that the bird was off-center, with more space above the head and more space in the direction in which he is looking. My camera is the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi and the lens is the Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM. The settings were 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200, aperture priority, matrix metering, 400mm focal length, fill flash at -2 stops. I shot in RAW mode and used Photoshop Elements 6.0, masking off the bird to adjust the exposure of the bird and sharpen it separately from the background.


  1. Hi Greg...My name is Larry Klein and I also photograph birds and other things ,I am an 'art' photographer been shooting and printing for 25 - 28 years even owned my own custom lab on Broadway in Everett until digital kicked my butt...I have though embraced digital and the outstanding freedom it has brought me as well (I try to be humble , I do!)...I'm an excellent printer! and shooter! OK ...so I like what I see of yours and I have a question about a bird I saw today. It looked (I live in Boston Harbor,Olympia) like a black headed grosbeak, robin kinda but it had an off white belly, below its rusty colored sides and black head Ididn't notice eyes like your shot today (I also use a Rebel and Photoshop CS1) iMac dinosaur while waiting to afford a new hard drive for my imac round white soccerball shaped model (also old)to be fixed! What could that bird have been?

  2. Larry, your birds sound likes Black-headed Grobeak. There is a photo of this bird on the page: Bird feeding... types of food

  3. I apparently misunderstood your question, Larry. You do seem to describe Spotted Towhee, which is a common bird in Olympia.