There are several holly bushes that have grown quite well in my garden over the years and they are a perennial favorite for masked bandits.
Who are these masked bandits one might ask? Well, they are a flock of Cedar Waxwings with their black masks that fly in and out en masse and descend on the holly bushes stealing away the ripe red holly berries after the first frost.
I never know when they will arrive as it’s not set on a calendar. And when they do it’s usually in the middle of the morning when I’m out and about. But when I do happen to see them around it takes just a moment for me to grab my camera to spend some time with them.
I decided to use the lightweight Sony A9 with 200-600mm lens with its fast frames per second. Yep, so fast that I blew through a 32GB memory card in less than ten minutes. Thankfully I had a second one on deck. After about fifteen minutes and over 1,400 images the flock rushed off and I knew this time they wouldn’t be back until much later.
It was an overcast afternoon and I had to push the ISO to 2000 giving me shutter speeds around 1/640 a second. I wanted to shoot as wide open as I could to help with the light at f/6.3 but I’ve found that the depth of field is so shallow with the lens that I prefer to bump up to at least f/7.1. Even then many images had the body in focus, but not the head. I wanted to use f/8 but the shutter speed just wasn’t fast enough for me.
I find hand holding the kit shooting up instead of straight ahead needs strength, so I’ll have to keep working on developing muscle memory to be able to hold the lens steady. Zoomed out at 600mm the camera kit is susceptible to camera shake and a number of images came out soft, especially with the high ISO setting.
It’s always such a gift when the Cedar Waxwings come to visit and there is nothing more fitting than to have them on the beautiful holly berry bush for the holiday season.