Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bird Photography: Opportunties to Overcome - 5 Tips

Let me think, birds...small, rapid movement, never sit still, fast, poor lighting conditions, and so conscious of their surroundings that you can never get near them.  You have thought it.  I have thought it.  We all have thought that because of these reasons we just won’t take photographs of birds.  Let’s quit blaming Hitchcock or our own ornithophobia and overcome our fears together.

Here's five quick tips on bird photography.
5.  Respect  Respect for the birds domain, safety, and well-being.  Do not put a bird at risk just so you can get a great photograph.  Go it alone, don’t bring the cat along just because you think it will make a great photo.  Besides, going it alone allows you to observe the birds in their natural habitats and allows you to display non-threatening body language.  They really can read you like a book!

American Bald Eagle Taking Flight Bird Photography Tips by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
American Bald Eagle - Taking Flight
4.  Understand the Light & Background Photographing a bird in a tree gives you a tough lighting situation against the sun unless you shoot during the early morning or late afternoon.  (Refer to Tip 5)  Because birds move around so much, you have to be aware of the background as well.  Watch for homes, electric poles, and miscellaneous other items in the background while you are setting up.  While some of these items can be used to enhance composition, they can also distract from it if not planned for.

American Goldfinch Male Winter Colors Bird Photography Tips by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
American Goldfinch - Male Winter colors
3.  Timing  Timing is a key issue.  Most bird species are more active in early morning or late afternoon.  Purchase a phone app or book that provides local species migration and location information or check out your local ornithology website.  If you are looking for bald eagles in the middle of summer at Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD – you probably won’t find them.  They are usually more prominent during the months of Dec – Feb fishing the open water below the dam.

Common House Finch Female Bird Photography Tips by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
Common House Finch - Female
2.  Glass  Bird photography will cost some money, but only after you are sure you it's something that works for you.  Use the longest lens available.  You will generally want a 200mm w/extension, 300mm, 400mm, or higher if you can afford it.  Or you are going to have to spend additional time setting up camouflage blinds to allow you closer proximity.

Black Billed Magpie Bird Photography Tips by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
Black-billed Magpie
1.  Practice  Start with the birds in the backyard.  (Yes, even as a wildlife photographer who doesn't shoot in captivity - I practice in my backyard!)  No, you probably won’t get that shot that will win you fame and acclaim, but like everything else – you have to practice.  Set up bird feeders and watch their actions.  Use this opportunity to learn their language, their hierarchy, and normal patterns of movement.  Watch what branches they land on near the bird feeders and prepare your shots.  Make notes to help you prepare for birds in the wild.  Get used to catching them in flight with the correct camera settings.  Learn what camera settings work in the lighting conditions and what shutter speeds are most effective for the type of photograph you want to shoot. 
Practice really does make you a better bird photographer.  I’m still learning all of the different techniques for catching a bird in flight but that's a topic for another post. 

If you have some great bird photography to share, please list a link to your photography on your online web gallery below in the comments section.  Click the Facebook icon below this story to share it on your own page.  Good luck and we’ll see you behind the lens…