Wildlife photos don’t get much crisper than this. It’s a strange adjective to use, but crisp seems like the only word that does this image by Italian photographer Melchiorre Pizzitola justice—it’s just so dang sharp and perfectly timed!

It was also one of the most popular photos on the entire site this past week (quite a feat for a bird photo!) and I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up in this week’s Top 25 Most Popular Photos post on Saturday.

Here’s the full photo:

This photo captivated us from the beginning, and so we got in touch with Melchiorre to see if he’d share the story behind the shot. Where was it taken? How was it taken? And was it just a lucky shot?

The last of those can be ruled out by looking at Melchiorre’s account on 500px. Photos like this abound, and nobody is that ‘lucky.’ Here’s another of his photos from the same session:

But we still wanted to know the story behind the shot, and how he processed the final image. Fortunately, he was kind enough to share.

The picture was taken in Italy, specifically in the province of Bologna in the north, in May of 2015. This colony of bee-eaters nest in the same place for many years, using a range of sandstone overgrown property of universities’ bologna that prepares in the spring to allow nesting.

Perches are placed immediately after the arrival of the bee-eaters and left up until their departure in autumn.

The photo in question is the result of many hours spent photographing for several days. It’s difficult to get everything perfect: the light, the subjects, the shot, but with a little luck you can succeed.

I used my Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 300mm f/4 and Canon 1.4x Teleconverter on a tripod with a tilting head. It was taken in manual mode with shutter speed set to 1/2000 sec, ISO at 1000, and aperture at f/5.6.

For post-production, I opened the photo in Bridge for the first adjustments (adjusting light and tones). Then the final post-processing was done in Photoshop CC where I was concerned with curves, levels, color balance to cool down the tone, adjusting highlights and shadows, noise reduction with the Neat Image plugin, and adding contrast in the transformation from tiff to jpeg.

The result, worth embedding again, is really a thing of beauty:

To see more of Melchiorre’s work, follow him on 500px or pay his website a visit. And keep an eye out for ‘landing’ to show up in this week’s Top 25 Most Popular Photos on 500px.