It seems like the longer I photograph birds, the more I seem to be looking beyond the bird itself. In the earliest years of my career, like so many other photographers, I focused most of my attention on the main subject of the photograph......and for me that meant the bird. However, as the years have quickly passed, I have seen a change in my own work, and that change has been dramatic, and, I believe, very positive.
The photo of the sparrow above is representative of my approach today. While birds remain my primary subject, my images are as much about the habitat and the light as they are the bird. In fact, in many of today's photos, the bird might actually be thought of as a secondary subject. While the image above contains many of the elements required to make a good photo, it's the tiny sparrow that completes the image and gives the photo an interesting focal point. Try to imagine this same photo without the bird, and you will see that the photo could not stand on it's own merits. It needs the bird to complete the composition and bring some sense of relevance to the image.
Color also plays a vital role in this image. With only small amounts of color, it is still the patches of color that pull us into the image. Without the hues of green and red, the image would die. The muted colors of the sparrow and rocks desperately need the greens and warm reds to make the photo visually interesting.
I think all photographers can profit by looking beyond their target image. Before I click the shutter, I believe it's important to have a close examination of the entire frame. Does the frame contain what you envision for the final image? Does the image need to be expanded or perhaps tightened? Is there enough content to the photo to make it interesting for the viewer? Can you see the final print in the viewfinder? So many questions need to be answered before we make the shot final. Maybe we all just need to slow down and think about the image before us. I believe doing so will result in real and meaningful growth. What do you think?