This gray catbird is a scene-stealer. Joel Sartore was photographing Baltimore orioles, including the one featured on our cover, when the silvery sneak swooped in to munch from feeders in the area. It was there for just the blink of an eye. “The orioles ran it off,” says Sartore—but not before he snapped the photo. “That’s a lucky picture.”
The differences between the pictures capture the two types of photography Sartore likes best: images that convey a sense of mystery—the Baltimore oriole fixates on some unseen treasure below the frame—and those that snag climactic moments, like the fleeing catbird.
“It reminds me of why I love still photography,” says Sartore, “because it freezes time,” revealing details that the naked eye might miss, such as the fine contours of the plumage on the catbird’s wing. “You just kind of look at the wonder of how this bird is built,” he says. “There’s not a feather to spare.” Frozen in takeoff, this catbird is yet very much alive.
Photographer: Joel Sartore
Subject: Gray catbird
Where: Raymond, Nebraska
Camera: Nikon D3
Lens: Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 zoom
Exposure: 1/250th second at f/22; ISO 1250
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