White-fronted bee-eater showing its full spectrum of colors Caption: White-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides) looking over its shoulder to display the full color spectrum of its plumage, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/500; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

Later this week I will be in Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana’s Tuli Block, where the above photo, and the ones below, were taken. That was in January. This time the game reserve will look very different — the start of winter in the Southern Hemisphere — with the vegetation turning shades of red, brown, and yellow.

While most the rivers in Mashatu will probably be dry except for the odd pool here and there, we should still see white-fronted bee-eaters as they are local residents, often found along the steep banks of dry rivers.

Although these bee-eaters are small birds, they’re not too difficult to photograph with a long lens (400mm to 600mm) as they tend to return to the same perch while hawking for insects. To me, the hardest part is getting an uncluttered background in a compatible color, free of distracting branches or blotchy patches.

In the top photo, the background is too mottled, while the light-colored twig not only bisects the whole image, but also the bird’s beak. I guess it could be eliminated with some cloning in Photoshop, but doubt it’s worth the effort.

The picture immediately below was taken early in the morning, so the sky appears washed out. However, even a deep blue sky is not ideal and can appear bland.

Pair of white-fronted bee-eaters perched on twig

Pair of white-fronted bee-eaters perched on twig in early morning light, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana

The shot of the white-fronted bee-eater with an insect (below) has a relatively uncluttered background but the subject itself was in mottled sunlight, making correct exposure tricky.

When photographing wildlife, you can’t control the light or the subject’s position. Luck plays a large part in what you capture with your camera, but the more you try, the better your odds. And that’s a great incentive to keep shooting!

White-fronted bee-eater with insect

White-fronted bee-eater perched on a twig with insect in its beak, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana

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