A Photo In The Life Of

A Photo In the Life Of is a weekly photo blog written by Larry Lewis. Topics include photo opportunities, past and present, product reviews and other topics of interest to photographers and photo lovers.

In Search Of The Pileated Woodpecker

  No Pileated Woodpecker here!

No Pileated Woodpecker here!

Everyone is looking for something. Some for fame, some for fortune, some for the perfect hotdog (hello Freddy Eaglesmith). I'm looking for many things, but one of the more irksome things I look for is a high quality image of a Pileated Woodpecker.

This isn't to say that I have sat and waited for a Pileated to arrive, I haven't attempted to bait them to choose a close tree for their supper search, and I definitely have not sought a zoo so that I could get a good pic of one in captivity - that would be cheating. But I have ventured into the woods when I hear the wild cry of this large bird, or ran for my camera when one has landed close by.

One would think that after all the vacations and holidays that I have spent in the bush over the years I would have had an opportunity for the perfect shot. I almost got a pic in Florida and several almosts in South Carolina. There has been at least one extended family of the species in the woods around our family cottage on Manitoulin Island taunting me almost daily.  

The best shot I ever got was while on vacation in The Birkshires, Massachusetts. I was on vacation with Yvonne and my Mom and Dad. We were travelling a winding county road and saw one working on a tree branch above the road. We were able to get stopped and I got my camera out of the trunk. I got a decently sharp shot but the Woodpecker Gods weren't smiling. Somehow I have lost the image! It must be archived somewhere, I just don't know where! Over the years my family has gotten accustom to these unscheduled photography stops. Has yours?

I have many compulsions and frustrations with photography. I can't walk past a group of public Bixi Bikes without attempting a shot even though I haven't got one that I'm happy with in 7 years. But frustrations like these are easier to deal with than the subject that shows itself regularly but flies away.

I'll keep trying to get the shot. Best of luck with your Pileated Woodpecker, whatever it may be. 

I may not get any Pileated Woodpecker shots but the Downy Woodpeckers are much more accommodating to me. 

Below are a group of images of a pair of Downy Woodpeckers that were hard at work in the trees while I was below working on spring chores at the cottage this past weekend.  

All shots of the Downy Woodpecker were taken using my Sigma 150-500mm lens on a tripod. For a change, I cropped them in a 5x7 aspect ratio instead of the usual 4x6.

A couple of tips for shooting woodpeckers that are helpful to me are:

  1. Use a tripod if possible for sharper images.
  2. Use the time delayed shutter release option on your camera (2-5 secs) or a cable release. This will make it more difficult to get the perfect shot since they are so quick moving, but if you take several shots you will get what you want and your image will be sharper since there will be no camera movement from the pressing of the trigger.
  3. Use manual focus if you are using a tripod. This will allow you to lock in the focus before the shot.
  4. Use the highest shutter speed possible while giving good exposure. This may mean shooting at a higher ISO when shooting into the shadow of a tree. I find that a little bit of noise due to a high ISO is better than a soft image. 


A Photo In The Life Of is a weekly PHOTO blog on LARRYLEWISPHOTO.COM.   It is an evolution of my original blog A Photo in the life of  that began in 2006.  I hope to give a little context to my photography and maybe make a few new photography friends. To purchase a print visit Shop. If the image is not listed Contact Me for availability.

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