Cookbooks are filled with successful recipes and successful bird photography is similarly not limited to a single recipe, but here is a recipe that works every time.
1. Start with a great camera and lens.
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens are excellent choices.
2. Find a beautiful bird properly posed against a clean background.
A snowy egret in breeding plumage easily qualifies for this main ingredient. A practically uninterrupted clear blue sky background frame keeps the viewer's eye on the main subject.
3. Time the bird meetup with an early or late day sun at your back.
Lighting is one of the most important ingredients to any photo. Early and late day direct sunlight, generally warm in color and slightly diffused in hardness, is a highly desired source of light. The 5:50 PM light was so warm in this case that I decided to cool the 7D II's AWB (Auto White Balance) choice very noticeably in post processing. Because the sunlight was directing my shadow toward the bird, subject shadows are very minimal.
4. Cue a side or tail wind to ruffle the bird's feathers.
Birds like to face the wind, keeping their feathers in line. When a side or tail wind presents itself, I like to take advantage of it. The ruffled feathers add a character to the image and in this case, the wind pushed the breeding plumage into better view.
5. Carefully time the shutter release
Birds are often constantly moving and timing the shutter release, in conjunction with balanced framing and accurate AF, is a challenge. With the 7D II's wide-set AF points, I was able to select a point that covered the bird's head without recomposing needed. When the bird turned its head to the side, I quickly pressed the shutter release and the 7D II's short shutter lag did not get in the way.
Compared to the effort required for many of my photos, this was a very easy photo to capture. Being at the right place at the right time to apply the recipe was all that was needed.