Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Feeding the birds in Kensington Gardens – Just One


I’m thrilled to share this wonderful picture from a recent family photography in Kensington Gardens. It’s a picture that, by sheer chance, is a homage to the fabulous street photographer Matt Stuart with the pigeons walking across the bottom of the frame in this remarkable line. I could hardly believe it when I saw the file. I’d like to say I had realized this was happening at the time but I didn’t. My focus was on the children and the birds in flight. With such a complex composition the eye can’t be everywhere at once and sometimes, as photographers, we are lucky when everything comes together like this.

We had the most wonderful day on this photo shoot, my second with this lovely family. We were so lucky with the weather and chose to start the day by heading out to Kensington Gardens before they became busy. London parks are wonderful places for family photo shoots but it does pay to be up and out as early as possible.

The children were keen to feed the ducks and so we headed for the lake only to be surrounded by a sea of pigeons and very few ducks. I thought the most interesting way to shoot this would be to get down as low as possible, my trusty waterproofs coming into their own, and suggest the children threw the crumbs as close to me as possible. It’s hard to get a good feeding the birds shot as there is often a big gap between the main subjects – the children and the birds and in many situations the best vantage point would be from in the lake (which might require more than waterproof trousers!). By arranging the composition in this fashion I could use the birds as a foreground in a really interesting composition and not get wet! Also, the children thought it was hilarious and I’ll do anything to amuse the children and get really lovely expressions.

It worked perfectly and I love this shot so much. The children in a line, the low angle separating them from the background and the detail still present in the sky. But what makes it work is definitely the pigeons, those in the sky giving a real feeling of action to the picture and the others, nonchalantly walking along the bottom of the frame, all heading off to the right, as if they are marching in formation. I wonder what they were heading towards.

I’m thrilled with this picture and I hope you like it too – today’s just one from a recent family photo shoot in Kensington Gardens.

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