Painting and Photographing the Osprey ~ Out on a Limb!

This spring and summer I’ve devoted quite a bit of time going down to the river to photograph Ospreys in order to gather up enough resource material to feel comfortable painting them.  

I just completed my second Osprey painting entitled Out on a Limb.  This Osprey was frequently perched on a bare tree, thirty feet or so from its nest in a Cypress tree surrounded by water.  Many times as I approached, the bird would take off, trying to lure me away from the nesting area.  I would wait for long periods of time for the bird to come back and land on the same branch or in the nest, often with a fish.  

Out on a Limb, by William R. Beebe, 14 x 12, oil on board, $2300

Out on a Limb, by William R. Beebe, 14 x 12, oil on board, $2300

In this painting the light is coming from above, causing the Osprey to cast a single shadow on the end of the branch.  Highlights on top of the bird’s talons and beak along with the brightest white on the Osprey’s head are all subtle indicators of the light source.  Since the great majority of the bird’s underside was in shadow, I decided to help create definition of the feathers by adding texture.

Out on a Limb (detail shot) by William R. Beebe

Out on a Limb (detail shot) by William R. Beebe

It is a simple composition, but a painting like this can be much more challenging than it looks, beginning with the photographic prep work.  

Photographing Ospreys presents a number of challenges because there is significant contrast between an Osprey’s light and dark feathers.  I took many photos with washed out white feathers and when I compensated the darks would get so dark I couldn’t make out the detail.  Combine these challenges with not always having the best lighting and the fact that they are moving targets, it really makes you work on your photographic skills.  Having clear, detailed pictures to work from significantly reduces the frustration level when reproducing the image on canvas.  

Along with my painting Out on a Limb, I thought I’d share some of my other Osprey photos with you.  I find the bird fascinating to watch and photograph.  They hover in mid-air flapping their wings with great speed, they dive into the water from up high for fish, they will take on an Eagle over food or to protect a nest, they will land on top of their partner’s shoulders sometimes when returning to their nest, they pretty much eat only fish, etc…  Here are a few pics of Ospreys in action, showing off their beautifully intricate wing pattern….

I would love to hear from you about my painting or photos.  You can contact me through my website, Facebook, or email.  Thanks as always for following my journal and my art!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe