Orphaned Babies – Dunnock


This week’s ‘behind the picture’ is from a personal project, which is close to my heart. Of course, all my personal projects are passions of mine, but this one involves creatures that are completely helpless and dependent on humans to survive.

Orphaned baby birds are bought to the UK’s animal rescue centres every spring in the hundreds. Blackbirds, chaffinches, owls, blue tits, sparrows and dunnocks are just a few of the species that are handed in. Many are from nests destroyed by gardeners or pets and so are only helpless, homeless and parentless because of mankind’s effects of the environment.

They are taken into heated rooms and looked after by a group of dedicated staff. They require feeding every hour or so from sun up to sun down a level of care way above most other creatures. It takes a huge amount of time, effort and money to rear them from babies to being ready to fledge when they are released back to the wild.

I decided I wanted to do something for the rescue centres and so hatched (pardon the pun) a plan to photograph them as if I would a model.

So far my favourite picture is this Dunnock. It exudes confidence and personality. It was photographed with the permission and under the guidance of the rescue centre staff. I am, in another part of my life, used to working with wild animals and work with them very delicately and sensitively. I must stress that these were all taken in controlled conditions with birds that had been assessed and As well as being an expert myself, I was surrounded by experts. Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to do this sort of photography without experience.

I constructed my own mini studio and lit it with two flash units. One on the background and the other lighting the subject. I got the lighting right before placing the model into the frame and then I waited for it to get used to the surroundings. The most crucial element to getting a good shot in this situation was not blasting away with the camera hoping to catch a good look. I had to wait and wait. When I saw the look I wanted I grabbed the shot. At most I took 5-6 pictures of each subject. How many modern photographers would take so few shots of a subject?

I have now turned the pictures into prints and sell them to raise funds for the rescue centres. You can see my online shop at www.gavinparsons.co.uk/shop/shop.html