Unintended Effects & Happy Accidents

Pigeon Liftoff by Vaughan Weather

Sometimes mistakes can become “artistic intent” or as I like to sometimes call it, a happy accident!

In this case I was trying to frame pigeons in a cluster phobic looking shot, there was a rather large cluster of them that were busy pooping on a utility pole and these pigeons were in no hurry to move anywhere, or so I thought!

While I was busy lifting the camera and doing “camera stuff” I completely ignored a big noisy street sweeper coming down the road. Apparently, pigeons hate the noise of these machines; I found it odd since they paid no attention to the passing vehicles, some of which were big noisy busses and trucks. But as soon as the machine was a stones throw from the pigeon gathering they all started taking flight!

This entire situation caught me off guard, it was early in the morning, and there was a nice yellow/golden cast against an increasingly blue sky. Because morning sunlight is never really strong and I’m always looking for the best quality photo at the lowest ISO, I was shooting at ISO 100 @ 1/125 of second with an F8 aperture for maximum clarity. These settings were perfect since the pigeons looked like statues, they simply were not moving.

Of course, as soon as I went to take the first photo the noise from the street cleaner just sent the pigeons crazy and they all took flight. I panicked and started snapping photos not even realising my settings weren’t even close to the more realistic 1/800th of a second I would need to freeze a birds flapping wings while in flight. This slow shutter speed hit me like a brick as I took the 3rd photo in my series. I quickly dialled up the ISO, shutter and kept shooting as the pigeons formed a huge mass in the sky.

Once all the action calmed down I looked at my photos. The photos in flight were cool but not overly exciting, then scrolling backwards as I hit the first three I took at the slow shutter setting I was impressed at how cool the blurred wings looked. This surprise element of motion blur brought the birds in flight to life while the motionless bunch still sitting on the wires were sharp and clear thanks to the low iso and narrow aperture.

Would you believe it, the “bad photos” were actually my favourite ones!

This just goes to show that before you curse yourself out for having the wrong settings or planning one shot when suddenly you need a whole different approach, things can sometimes work out for the better. Truth be told, I probably could not have planned a shot like this which is why it’s all the more exciting to have a happy accident.

Just remember, if anyone asks, this was always your “artistic intent”.