Birds, Birds, Birds – Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

“We see the world through rule of thirds, and many shades of grey
The search to get the perfect shot, continues every day.”

Dean Thorpe

(10 Photos)



This week I am reaching deep into the archives for a post I’ve wanted to do for some time about the extraordinary birds of Africa. Our challenge, the “Rule of Thirds” is an easy one for anyone who has studied photography. While, as we all know, rules are made to be broken, this is one that photographers follow in most cases. In the shot above, our little jackass penguin is perched nicely on the right side of the shot as he enjoys a brief nap in the warm sunshine. His position in the shot allows him “room to move” in the direction he faces. He also gives us a nice illustration of “bokeh”, the creamy out-of-focus background described by Jen in her challenge this week. By the way, his name comes from his donkey-like braying, not his personality.Β  😊



β€œLearn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Pablo Picasso

The hamerkop, this time positioned on the left with room to move to the right, is named for the shape of his head, which resembles (supposedly) a hammer. He illustrates another aspect of photography – as always, it’s all about the light – in this case just after African daybreak.Β  One thing about an African safari – the animals and birds are out and about in the very early morning and late afternoon hours, which demands a very early wake-up call for those who hope to capture the many elusive species in their natural environment. This, of course, took me out of my own natural environment but in the case of a safari, the rewards definitely outweighed the annoyance of the wake-up call.



β€œAny fool can make a rule. And any fool will mind it.”

Henry David Thoreau

The beautifully colored Lilac Breasted Roller, also shown in this week’s header photo, is the national bird of Botswana and was fairly plentiful as we explored their beautiful countryside. As they pronounced the bird’s name the locals rolled the r’s making it sound as lovely as it looks. In this case, the foliage on the right side of the shot gave me what I felt was enough visual interest to place the subject a bit closer to the center of the shot while still allowing the bird room to move in the direction of his glance.



β€œThe hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.” Β 

Eddie Van Halen

This is a shot I’ve shared before, of another very colorful African species, the Crested Barbet. I’m repeating myself because he offers such a nice example of the rule of thirds as well as the use of a creamy bokeh to set him apart from the background. Don’t you just love the way he is permanently “bibbed” to be sure his meals of insects and and fruits don’t ruin his lovely red and yellow chest?!



“You are remembered for the rules you break.”

Douglas MacArthur

The guineafowl, another shot I’ve included in the past, is an example of how “not-to”. I remember vividly trying to race after this fast-moving fellow while he was surrounded by the beautifully colored flowers at the botanical gardens of Cape Town. I did my best but he was a bit too quick for me (they are known for their excellent running ability!) and I was only able to catch him on the very right side of the shot. Do you see how crowded he feels as he moves out of the photo with no room to maneuver? Still, I thought his incredible blue head surrounded by the colorful blooms made the shot worthy of a place in my favorites file.



β€œThe golden rule is that there are no golden rules.”

George Bernard Shaw

The gorgeous Secretary Bird is a large bird of prey thought to be named for the distinctive black quill-like feathers in the back of his head. Here I’ve purposely broken the rule of thirds, as the stately appearance of the bird seemed to demand a prominent place near the center of the shot. Tell me this one doesn’t look proud of it’s beautiful coloring and plumage.



β€œRules are a great way to get ideas. All you have to do is break them.”

Jack Foster

Somewhat less gorgeous, this yellow-billed hornbill is affectionately known as the Banana Bird to the local population. Jimmy Durante has nothing on him (OK, the youngsters among you can just look him up in Wikipedia!). He and others of his species were plentiful, and most often posed high in the trees. This shot of the banana bird on the ground, I thought, gave the best detail of his speckled coat and furry legs – oh yeah, and his big yellow beak 😊.



β€œNature provides exceptions to every rule.”

Margaret Fuller

I’ve seen many an ostrich in captivity, but it was really exciting to see this pair in the wild. I loved the way they were looking at each other – knowing that while males will mate with several females, each does have a primary female to serve as his partner. Apparently ostrich females are a bit more lenient than their humans counterparts. They are also the fastest of birds so I was lucky to catch them moving at a fairly leisurely pace.



β€œKnow the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”

Dalai Lama XIV

The stately African Fish Eagle is massive, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet. As his name implies, he feeds primarily on fish, but is also known to poach the eggs of other birds and to eat small mammals or crocodiles as well.Β  In this shot the eagle is in his typical position for hunting prey – high in the trees overlooking a body of water. Both his appearance and his hunting behavior reminded me very much of the bald eagles who nest near our home here on Kiawah. Similarly, for those who survive their first year, both bald and fish eagles can live well into their twenties – quite long for a bird species.



β€œThere are no rules. That is how art is born.”

Helen Frankenthaler

Finally, a bit of homage to the humble Oxpecker, aka the Tickbird. These little creatures were everywhere, offering a valuable, symbiotic service to most all of the animals in the jungle as they feast on the ticks, flies and maggots that would otherwise be an intolerable nuisance. I think we saw them on every species other than the big cats and elephants. I’m not sure which would be worse – being infested by fleas or being pecked constantly by birds. Somehow Dante missed that in his infamous Inferno 😊.

An African safari is, as I’ve said before, a photographer’s dream. As one is surrounded by the incredible animals in their natural environment, one realizes the masterpiece that our world really is. But once you begin to become part of the whole, you realize that there are more wonders to be seen, including the beautifully exotic birds – just a few of which I’ve shared today. To see what others chose to share this week, click here.

127 thoughts on “Birds, Birds, Birds – Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

  1. You are a superb photographer Tina, I always look forward to your posts and this one did not disappoint, these bird images with your descriptions and explanations of why you chose to shoot using the rule of thirds was also a lesson in “seeing” and quotes are so appropriate. Thank you for sharing your favourites with us.

  2. Pingback: The Rule of Thirds Goes on Safari | One Foot Out the Door

  3. Gorgeous shots – not sure I will ever be able to go there but I can certainly live vicariously through your photos. That’s what’s great about these blogs is seeing so much of the world through the eyes of others

  4. Lovely post on birds, Tina. My favourite shot has to be the one of the Crested Barbet. Not only as you mentioned permanently bibbed, but it looks like he is bibbed with a crystal bib. And he has a bit of a haughty look about it πŸ˜€ Well done on the photos. I find it hard to take photos of birds. They run away when I approach with my point-and-shoot camera πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Mabel – love your description of the crystal bib 😊 . Birds are indeed difficult to catch. The secret is to hang quietly somewhere and let them be used to you. In the wilds of Africa they have bigger things to worry about than someone shooting their photo LOL. Also, for every good shot there are many throw-aways !!!

    • Thank you Perpetua. You’re right – in the wild there is peaceful co-existence except for the need to satisfy hunger – then look out and make sure you’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time!!

    • It is a great gift to be able to do a safari sally, you’re right, I am indeed very fortunate to have been there. Glad you enjoyed the quotes – amazing how many great minds thought alike !!

  5. Marvelous photos, Tina, but this week I like your somewhat rebellious quotes just as much. (That means the quotes are particularly good, not anything wrong with the photos.) I enjoyed your information about both birds and technique as well.


  6. As I thought. Beautifully put together post explaining how you consider the placement of your subject. I love your photos Tina and always look forward to your choice of words. And of course, I love all things about the African wildlife and nature so adored this one.
    Jude xx

  7. Such a variety of birds, all very nicely done.
    Regarding rule breaking, I’ve done my share. When taking a picture, I don’t even bother with the rule of thirds. πŸ™‚

  8. Beautiful images, Tina! I love seeing your posts not only for your fabulous images, but also for your words…always something new to find out! You’ll probably find my Rule of Thirds rather prosaic!

  9. Lovely set of photos, compelling and well composed. Just stumbled onto your site and am most impressed. I always enjoy viewing other photographer’s work!

  10. These are great! I really like the Picasso quote. I think the rule of thirds is quite intuitive, although i have come across slightly different variations before. However the interpretation of it in the challenge was very different from how i have heard it explained before.
    But explanations and rules or not, I enjoyed these birds. Thanks for sharing.

    • My pleasure Kris, happy you enjoyed. Several people explored the many meanings of the rule. I think it was Jen’s attempt to put it into the simplest terms so that everyone could appreciate what it meant without getting too technical. In any case, thanks for the fly-by 😊

    • Thanks Jane – I suppose to the locals they see a lilac-brrrreasted-rollllller much as we would see a robin or a finch but I sure found them, and the others as well, quite beautiful and exotic.

  11. You never stop to amaze us, Tina. You’re a birdwatcher as well as a photographer, author and a passionate traveller! πŸ™‚
    Lovely collection of birds and animals and of course I pinched a couple of the quotes for my book of gems.
    Great post! Wishing a you a good week ahead,
    Dina et al

    • Greetings Dina et al! Thanks for the lovely comment. I’m afraid calling me a birdwatcher would give me way too much credit. I just took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves as I was stalking the big beasts LOL. Glad you pinched the quotes, they deserve to be proliferated!!

  12. Thank you for all the quotes on breaking rules. This challenge kind of got me hot under the collar because I don’t like to be bound by rules, but you’ve risen to the challenge in great style, in my opinion! And your photos are beautiful.

    • Thanks HD! Actually I must admit I was only taking advantage of the opportunities that hit me in the head! My real focus was on the magnificent animals, and the birds were an excellent addition. Patience is NOT one of my primary characteristics 😊

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