Male Northern Cardinal

I simply can’t resist taking the occasional photo of a Northern Cardinal. This one is sitting in a Spice Bush that is just beginning to leaf out.

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Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Canon 60D, Canon 70-300mm IS USM zoom, f/5.6, 1/1500 sec., ISO 800, Hand Held. Processed in ACR and PSE 2020 for exposure and sharpness. I also performed some burning on the branches surrounding the bird.

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Not living in Cardinal territory, I certainly can’t resist them when I’m there. This one has gorgeous color, Terry. The head looks a bit soft so I think your focus was on the back or a nearby branch. Are you using back-button focus? If not, I would suggest you check into it and give it a try. It separates the focus and shutter release functions which makes it really easy to focus on the head/eye and then recompose the image without losing focus.

Thanks, Dennis. I am not using back-button focus right now, but I have. There was something about using it on the 60D that I didn’t like, but can’t remember what it was, now. However, when I look at the image in DPP, it shows my focus points, and in this image it was right behind his eye. Maybe in the post processing I did something to soften it.

Certainly one bird us westerners wish we had. A real beauty here. Nice pose and setting with the green background contrasting with the cardinal. While the head does appear a bit soft, the eye seems to me to be quite sharp.

Thanks, Allen. They are definitely beautiful. They’re so common here I think we often take them for granted. I can’t explain or account for the softness of his head?

Terry, this is a good looking Cardinal, with his strong red set against that green background. His eye looks acceptably sharp to me.

A lovely opportunity – keep going for them! The small branch grazing the head looks sharp and I suspect your focus point locked onto it even though the point just behind the eye was the one active. Even if you had a single focus sensor selected, it is likely that it had some invisible “helper” areas around it, and one of them liked that branch. It hasn’t been until the more recent high-end cameras that the focus area has been narrowed down better.

The focus point shown in DPP only means that was the one that was active, not that the area was that precise. You could also have a front-focus issue, but I think that “secret” helper points are a good possibility.

Thanks @Mark_Seaver . I was struck by that brilliant red on green, too!

Thanks, Diane. Sounds like a plausible explanation. Gee, another reason I need to upgrade my equipment… :wink:

I like the look back pose and the colors. I also like the branch the bird is on, but the scene is pretty busy otherwise. I’d tend to agree with Diane about the cause of the softness.

A fine posing good job on the color. I think the head could be a tad bit sharper and I also agree with Diane.

If you had moved more to your left when you took the shot, you may have been able to get the head clear from the branch. The autofocus system caught the branch and that is why the head is soft. The BG is not the best, but one should never give up on getting a cardinal shot…Jim

Thanks for your comments @David_Schoen @Lyle_Gruby @Jim_Zablotny