My Top 10 Images of 2018

FORSYTH COUNTY, NC -  Last year seemed to go by so quickly.  I spent many months dealing with what the doctors believe is a failing gallbladder.  Even so, I did get out now and again to make some photographs.  Although I do not think 2017 was one of my best years, it did provide some images I am proud of.  As is my tradition, here are my top ten images of 2017.  I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed making them.  If I had to characterize this year, I would call it the year of the portrait.

 Let's switch it up from last year's and count them backward  from 10 to 1.

#10 -  Female House Finch 
I like this image because it takes a common species we all have in our own backyards and adds a little color and interest with the log perch flanked by moss.  The curvature of the log also parallels the finch's posture.  This image also shows what is possible with the older Canon 7D (classic).

#9 - Barred Owl (tight portrait)
I have always wanted to see just how close I could get to a bird of prey and provide a portrait that is in your face.  This was the resulting image.  I like how the viewer can see every feather of his facial disk, and the large eyes of the barred owl. It is slightly "over the shoulder" with a 3/4 view.  This shot was taken with the Canon 1D Mark III and the Sigma 150-600mm lens.

#8 - Barn Owl in Flight
The barn owl is somewhat unique in that it flies almost silently and very close to the ground.  Here, I am on one knee and waiting for the owl to dip down to the ground.  I use the zone focusing technique here, and hold the shutter button down as the bird approaches.  I let him fly into my zone of focus instead of focusing on him directly.  This shot was taken with the Canon 1D Mark III and the Sigma 150-600mm lens.

#7 - Blue Jay Surrounded by Light Snow
I really like this shot overall, but I placed it at number seven, because I do not like the fact I used my Christmas tree top as a perch. Yeah, I know, kinda corny. This snow storm caught me a bit off guard, and so I used what I had close for the perch.  Other than that, I really like the heavy snow in the scene and how comfortable the blue jay appears perched on the tree top. Had I not used a Christmas tree, this might have made #2.  This shot was taken with my Canon 1D Mark III and Sigma 150-600mm lens.

#6 - American Robin Nest
I have done very little nest photography, but it is something that has been on my list for a while.  I noticed this American robins nest on my property, and decided to take some shots of the little guys.  I like this shot because all the nestlings have their mouths open, ready for mama robin to return.  I also like the detail in their bodies.  This image was shot with my Canon 1D Mark II, EF 50mm 1.8 lens and an extension tube.  Lighting was provided by a fill flash and natural light.

#5 - Eurasian Eagle Owl
This is a shot that had been on my mental shot list for some time.  I wanted a symmetrical shot of an owl as he looked into my lens.  The depth of field is so shallow here that only the eye and part of the facial disk is in focus.  This image was taken with my Canon 1D Mark III and Sigma 150-600mm lens.

#4  - King Vulture on Skull
You almost couldn't ask for a better setup shot than this.  At PhotoWild, a trained king vulture on queue would jump up on this skull and wait for his picture to be made.  My only regret are all the trees in the background.  The trees really distracted from the subject. The other issue is the ground was actually sloping in different directions which made it hard to make level.  I got down in a prone position to make this shot with my Canon 1D Mark III and the Sigma 150-600mm.

#3 - Eastern Bluebird with Insect
Many years ago, when I first started on this journey of wildlife photography, I read a book by Leonard Rhue called "How I Photography Wildlife and Nature."  This was the book that first supercharged me into wildlife photography. One of the images in that book was of an eastern bluebird with an insect in his mouth.  From that time on, this is one I have longed to get, and finally in 2017, it happened.  I will continue to hone this shot, if possible, and make it better.    This images was made with my Canon 1D Mark III and the Sigma 150-600mm lens.

#2 - Eastern Screech Owl Yawning
This is a shot that I wasn't in love with immediately.  Don't get me wrong, I like the shot, but as it grew in popularity, I took a second look at it.  The appeal is really a universal appeal among humans and animals.  You see almost every species of animal yawns.  This image was featured in Europe, and won 2nd in Wildlife Magazine's contest here in NC.  This shot was made with my Canon 1D Mark III and my Sigma 150-600mm lens.


#1 - Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Every year, in late May and June, I add to my lifetime project simply entitled: "The Hummingbird Project."  Hummingbirds are the most amazing animals that God put on this earth.  Nothing else compares!  Each year, I try to "take it up a notch" by trying new techniques and presenting the hummingbird with a more artistic flair.  This is a three flash setup shot with 2 flashes on the subject and one on the background.  I used the Canon 7D with my Sigma 150-600mm lens.

Well, that's all for 2017 and I thank God for giving me another year on planet earth.  Thank you for taking the time once again to read the newsletter and I hope you like my best of from last year.  This is a great exercise for all of us to do as it helps us to find our strengths and identify our weaknesses in our own photography.  I hope you have a wonderful year in 2018.

God Bless,

Matt Cuda

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