Anatomy of a photo #80: Helmeted Guinea Fowl


Couldn't you imagine a similar head on a dinosaur?

What does it mean to photograph wildlife? Sitting (or lying) for hours in a hide or a blind? Careful stalking through the woods, practicing woodcraft handed down throughout the generations? Having a 500+mm lens that you cart around in a wheel barrow so that you can get right next to the bird or animal from a mile away? (The tripod needing to be specially reinforced to support the lenses weight.) Yes, there are times where all of this can pay off hugely with some magnificent shots, but it’s not always necessary to always go quite so gung-ho.

Close-up detail of the Guinea Fowls mesmerizing patterning

In fact, some of out best opportunities to take pictures of birds and animals don’t have to take place too far from home. And not all of the animals will necessarily be totally wild.Taking photographs of the deer that come to visit your yard can land a person some real keepers. And the birds that come to our feeders are still wild. The things that you need to consider when taking these photos is that by the background, you can sometimes tell if they are in a truly wild environment, or in the yard. Of course, sometimes the “wilderness” can be something much less than wilderness. Like when I found this Helmeted Guinea Fowl to photograph

It was wandering down the streets of one of the small towns near me

The fact that it had to have escaped from someones yard and that it was obviously in a town didn’t stop me from shooting it (with the camera people). In fact, I rather enjoyed taking a picture of it investigating the trailer hitch of this truck. If I ever did try to use or sell these images to a publication however, I would disclose the fact that it is a domesticated bird. Likewise, if I am ever photographing an animal or bird that is somehow captive (even if only momentarily to apply a tracking band or for rehabilitation) I would still let the buyer know the fact. If by contrast I captured a nice image of a wild bird or deer in my yard, I don’t know that I would feel the need to disclose. They are still wild and being part of nature.

At least more so than this bird which was checking out the local restaurant. Someone actually asked me if it was a wild turkey that I was photographing

I used two lenses for these shots. A 70-200mm zoomed out to capture some of the town, so that people could place where the bird was, and then a 300mm lens with a 1.4x converter (I don’t quite need a wheelbarrow for it) to capture the closeups and details. For the 70-200 I used a slower shutter speed and therefore a lower ISO, since I wasn’t as worried about camera shake with this shorter lens (ISO 200 and 1/160). Aperture was f/8. For the longer lens I was concerned about camera shake, so I bumped ISO up to 400 and my shutter speed to 1/500. I also adjusted the aperture to f/5.6 to compensate for the faster shutter speed, but to also give me a shallower depth of field, since I wanted the focus to fade away from my elected point.

Anyone else out there have contrary or more defined feelings on disclosing how, when or where photographs were taken? Or concerns about disclosing details of photos? There are some things that I absolutely will not disclose, like the location of a nest. I don’t want people flocking to a nest and disturbing a bird when it needs its space or it will abandon its nest. I always want closeup nesting pictures, but I will not disturb the birds to get them (and so have no close up nest images even though I know where there are some magnificent nests).

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in birds, ethics, nature photography, photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Anatomy of a photo #80: Helmeted Guinea Fowl

  1. Victor Ho says:

    Great story. Once, photographing a moose, I cropped out the fellow with a point and shoot camera imprudently sneaking up from the other side. The wide shots are better at telling the fowl was on the run. This is one instance where the close up detail indeed tells a different story.

    • Thanks Victor. Sometimes it can definitely be about the creative cropping. That’s part of the fun of photography, sometimes you can choose what too include in the story by what you put in front of the lens… like the town

  2. Vicki says:

    I love the shot of the guinea fowl checking out the trailer hitch. Funny, I’ve seen lots of the “wild” birds you’ve photographed, but this is one of the only helmeted guinea fowl I’ve ever seen. Thanks!

  3. Old Jules says:

    Good job. I’ve had guineas around here for years, though the attrition rate’s high from predators because mine insist on sleeping in the trees. But I rarely am able to photograph them. Tough critters to get a decent picture of. Gracias, Jules

  4. Jimi Jones says:

    What a great post!
    I really love the photos. Awesome shots.

  5. Enjoyed this story and the photos! Not a pretty bird – does look primordial. I agree with your practices regarding disclosure of situations, locations, etc. I remove subject’s personal info in Photoshop (such as address on a mailbox). So far, I do not have wilderness situations to consider, but I would protect the locations when necessary.

    • Primordial is a good word for it, and no it is not a pretty bird (although the patterning of its feathers is so striking). I haven’t had so many situations in which I’ve had to remove a subjects personal info, but that is a great situation to point out. I can definitely see where that could become necessary.

  6. UTMB says:

    I love the feathers on this bird. It’s head isn’t pretty but the feathers are lovely.

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