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Thread: Bird Photography

  1. #1

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    Bird Photography

    As it is becoming Spring and all the birds are building their nests and becoming way more active I want to be ready to take some photos.

    I would like to know if anyone has some pointers on how to achieve the best photos and maybe some tricks of the trade I could use.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by TobyMac View Post
    I would like to know if anyone has some pointers on how to achieve the best photos and maybe some tricks of the trade I could use.
    I am SO glad you started this thread, Tobias! Exploring how to get great bird shots is an area I would like to learn more about as well!

  3. #3
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    Re: Bird Photography

    I think the best possible tip I could give here is patience and stealth. While having a nice 400 prime would be my first wish.....maybe next year. Until then I will improve upon both my stealth and my patience. One of my favorite shots came at the cost of 20 min on my hands and knees threw mud and blackberries to arrive 15ft from my target. Good luck

  4. #4
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    Re: Bird Photography

    To expand on what Paul said... Stealth and Stalking! Seriously get used to stalking and start looking for the unexpected. With my interest in birds and butterflies, I've gotten to the point where I notice any movement. Most times it's nothing, but other times it's that perfect shot just waiting for you. Also learn to understand the types of birds and their habits. I got very frustrated this spring with the Red-winged Blackbirds because they were so sporadic in their flight. But after observing and being patient, I managed to get a couple decent shots. And next spring I'll be ready. My latest obsession is with hummingbirds, now that I'm in a place where I can have a feeder. So, get ready for those shots and my frustration with them :-)

    Excellent question! And I look forward to seeing your birding shots. There is nothing more rewarding that feeling like you got that perfect shot!
    Good luck!
    frankie

  5. #5
    Markvetnz's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    I love bird photography.

    You can see some of my shots here http://www.flickr.com/photos/markvetnz/

    There are basically 4 elements to good bird photography.
    1. Know your target and what type of food and habitat they like.
    2. Patience - essential
    3. A long long long lens
    4. The ability to post process well, because unless you spend all day in a hide then often you only get one or two opportunities and sometimes the exposures and focus are not 100%. I've yet to find a bird that sits still when I want it to.

    400mm is often too short. I have a 400 2.8 L prime and it often does not get me close enough.

    The first image was taken using the 400 prime with a 2X converter on a 1.3X camera = 1020mm lens
    The second was taken without the converter.

    You have one big advantage over us, unless you want to shoot sea birds. That is South Africa has, in my opinion, the most spectacular birds on the planet. I was at Lower Sabi in the lowveld 10 years ago and the birdlife was splendid. Vultures, raptors, cranes, storks and a multitude of other species.

    Bird Photography

    Bird Photography

    These guys are Tuis - thet are nectar eaters and at the moment we have a flowering cherry which they love. They are fairly common when food is plentiful. There is a group pf about a dozen that spend all day squabbling. They have the most beautiful array of calls varing from whistles to clicks. They almost chatter and talk to each other.

    Post some of your photos. I'd love to see them.

    Cheers

    Mark
    Last edited by Markvetnz; 6th September 2011 at 08:17 AM.

  6. #6

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    Re: Bird Photography

    Thanks Mark

    here's a couple I took of a Weaver trying to build his nest, the second attempt.

    Bird Photography
    MrWeber2 by Tobias Weber, on Flickr

    Bird Photography
    MrWeber3 by Tobias Weber, on Flickr

    I used a 300mm for these shots, it took me a couple of days though for him to let me get this close, now I can pretty much stand under the nest and he doesn't have a problem with me, if its anyone else though he'll sit all nervous and chirpy on a nearby branch.

    Hope that I'l get some more different species to come visit the garden though

  7. #7
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    Re: Bird Photography

    My wife would be a great wildlife photographer because she can spot birds and other animals when I am saying, "where?, where? I can't see the darned thing!"

    Aside from eagle eyes like my wife has, learning the habits of the birds you are shooting would be a good investment of your time. This is not always available on photography forums but, can often be found on bird-watching related forums.

    I am going to a mini class next Monday presented for senior citizens like me who have nothing to do but go to classes. The title of the class is "The Grebes of Lake Hodges". Lake Hodges is a large reservoir just a few miles from my home and grebes are a type of diving bird akin to ducks. Oh God! More duck pictures!

    Here is the class description:

    Anyone who hikes the trails at Lake Hodges almost certainly has noticed the hundreds of black and white birds that inhabit the lake. Many have also seen their "mating dance", where they run on the water in pairs. These birds are Grebes and they engage in many interesting activities, including nesting, mating rituals, tending young, and fighting. In this class Robert Harrington will show photographs of the Grebes in their many activities and describe their habits from his personal observations. He will also discuss techniques for photographing the Grebes and birds in general.

    Obviously when you want to shoot birds, it helps to go to a place where there are lots of birds...

    I might get some pointers on shooting the Grebes and be able to post the results on this forum. You might have classes like this in your area.

    Additionally here is a quick video on general bird photography:

    http://www.prophotolife.com/video-ep...otography-101/

    If you go to www.youtube.com and do a search for "bird watching videos" and "bird photography videos" you will get a plethora of information... There are even videos listed as "South African bird photography videos".

    Of course, it helps to have a long lens. The longest lens you have available is always in order for birds.

    Good luck shooting... Or in this case I'd better say, Good luck photographing!

  8. #8
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Not a whole helluva lot to add, except if there's a local Audubon Society, they can give you a ton of good information not only on good birding spots, but also good birding habits and ethics. Field guides are cool tools, too.

    I go mostly for birds in flight, so I've learned to shoot with both eyes open, and to use back-button autofocus.

    Bird Photography
    50D, EF 400mm f/5.6L USM.
    Brown Pelican
    La Jolla Shores.

    Richard--the grebes at Lake Hodges are a really great subject, but I've never figured out how you get near them. I'm bound and determined this year to see if I can get the mating dance, though, because it's freakin' awesome. Your teacher got an amazing shot of it last year. His website is one of my faves.
    Last edited by inkista; 7th September 2011 at 02:16 AM. Reason: linkage

  9. #9
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Great pelican shot, Cathy... Thanks for providing the link to Robert Harrington's site. His work is awesome. He should have posted a link to his website in the Oasis catalog.

    Speaking about shooting with both eyes open, here is something that might interest you. It is a sportsfinder that was used on the Navy Topcon 35mm cameras by pilots and other aircrew and fits in the hotshoe of a camera. The aircrew personnel could keep the visor down on their flight helmets and still sight the cameras which they used to shoot pictures of shipping and warships for intelligence work.

    I have it on a DSLR of course...

    Bird Photography

    Also, you might or might not be interested in this shoulder mount which I febricated for my 400mm f/5.6L lens...

    Bird Photography

    Bird Photography

    Here is my smugmug page on this mount...

    http://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/gallery/g...w=forum&Page=1
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 7th September 2011 at 10:11 PM.

  10. #10

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    Re: Bird Photography

    Here's some more of Mr.Weaver and one of a Sparrow with some nest building material in his beak.

    Bird Photography
    Weaver2 by Tobias Weber, on Flickr

    Bird Photography
    Spats by Tobias Weber, on Flickr

    Bird Photography
    1 by Tobias Weber, on Flickr

    Richard that mount looks pretty good, I'm sure it helps a lot.

    Kathy that shot is amazing, I'l get my chance at some sea and lake birds at the end of October, going to an estuary on the east coast. Hope I'l manage something half as good as that

  11. #11
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    I had a reply all set to go. Then the power cut out.

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Great pelican shot, Cathy... Thanks for providing the link to Robert Harrington's site. His work is awesome. He should have posted a link to his website in the Oasis catalog.
    No kidding. I'm really surprised he didn't.

    That sportsfinder is way-cool. Also the shoulder mount. But I think I'd have to make it out of PVC for it to be light enough for me to handle it.

    Tobias: great shots of the weaver and sparrow! I completely suck at passerine shots.

    Quote Originally Posted by TobyMac View Post
    Kathy that shot is amazing, I'l get my chance at some sea and lake birds at the end of October, going to an estuary on the east coast. Hope I'l manage something half as good as that
    Thanks, but it was easier than it seems. I had a LOT of targets to draw a bead on that day.

    Bird Photography

    Good luck with your shoot!

  12. #12
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    I had a reply all set to go. Then the power cut out.
    What a coincidence; I lost power too... Along with a couple of million other folks!

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    That sportsfinder is way-cool.
    It was the only one of this type that I have ever seen. Here is another type which could very well be set up for a any focal length lens just by adding some plastic or black cardboard to the finder. Actually, I use the sportsfinder to help locate where I should point my 400mm lens. I sometimes lose orientation when shooting a moving object.

    Love your pelican shots... I have to try shooting gulls and pelicans, it would be good practice for me to hone up my BIF skills,

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Koni-Omega-S...item2567069309

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    Also the shoulder mount. But I think I'd have to make it out of PVC for it to be light enough for me to handle it.
    Since you live in San Diego, I'd be happy to loan it to you to use any time. It made mostly from PVC electrical conduit and is really light weight.





    Bird Photography

    Good luck with your shoot!
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 9th September 2011 at 11:07 PM. Reason: fix quotes

  13. #13
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Here is a similar pelican shot, different direction and your photo is much better but I took this shot in Los Ayala, Nayarit but I think it is amusing how similar they are... For bird shots, I try to anticipate where the bird is going to head, as I too, like to catch them flying or doing something.
    Bird Photography
    Here is one of my favourite pelican shots
    Bird Photography

    And just for fun I made a you tube video of my pelican shots

    http://youtu.be/iz8YiHBsxdo

  14. #14
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina Stobbs View Post
    Here is one of my favourite pelican shots
    Bird Photography
    Like this one, and looking at the video, they really are 'characters' in flight, aren't they!

  15. #15
    epmi314's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    I love bird photography. It is perhaps my favorite subject but it is a challenge. The focus, getting close enough to get detail and the waiting... Oh, the waiting. I can relate to those like Frankie that have mentioned the acute awareness one develops. It is amazing the things you notice. It might be a shadow, the call of a raptor or a dark spot in a tree. I have learned you can never have enough reach. I just picked up a Sigma 150-500mm lens. It is great in good light and I look forward to putting it through its paces next year. I have a large pond with an island in the middle that is a nesting ground for Egrets and Herons. Until this year I didn't realize they all leave in early July once the little ones leave the nest. Getting a wonderful image of a bird with great detail is an exciting prospect. Let's all keep shooting and posting our good ones. Good luck!

  16. #16
    Markvetnz's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    Not a whole helluva lot to add, except if there's a local Audubon Society, they can give you a ton of good information not only on good birding spots, but also good birding habits and ethics. Field guides are cool tools, too.

    I go mostly for birds in flight, so I've learned to shoot with both eyes open, and to use back-button autofocus.

    Bird Photography
    50D, EF 400mm f/5.6L USM.
    Brown Pelican
    La Jolla Shores.

    Richard--the grebes at Lake Hodges are a really great subject, but I've never figured out how you get near them. I'm bound and determined this year to see if I can get the mating dance, though, because it's freakin' awesome. Your teacher got an amazing shot of it last year. His website is one of my faves.

    Absolutely brilliant focussing. I can't believe you managed to use 1 shot focus on this image. Well done.

  17. #17
    Letrow's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Good tips in here. I would add that looking in your own backyard or garden can be helpful as well. Birdseed is a good means to an end to get the birds to come to your garden.

    These are photos I took last winter

    Bird Photography
    The blackbird is pretty shy, so a longer lens is useful for this bird. For these photographs I used the 18-200mm at 200mm. A 400mm would have been more useful here, but I am still waiting for Nikon to get a new lens to the market.

    Bird Photography

    Bird Photography

    The robin wasn't shy at all. He was always in the garden and quite eager to get to the food. If you move slowly these birds will let you get as close as 30 cm (12 inches). You can get some great shots then.

    I have been thinking about drilling a hole into a wooden nesting box, so that the camera would be able to capture the family life of the tits for instance. So far, my wife hasn't allowed it

  18. #18
    epmi314's Avatar
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    Re: Bird Photography

    Here's one I caught today...

    Bird Photography

  19. #19

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    Have a guess :)

    Re: Bird Photography

    If you haven't seen this already, point your browser at the site of Arthur Morris (generally regarded as the world's premier bird photographer) ...

    http://www.birdsasart.com/

  20. #20
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    Re: Bird Photography

    I do shoot a lot of birds and particularly birds in flight.I use a 300m VR lens. Yes I would love a longer lens but that’s not going tohappen soon.


    Some tricks I have learned. If you are using a zoom lensthen make sure you have focused on something 100 meters away so your focus isat the end of the zoom range. This will stop your lens ‘hunting’ for the focus.Shoot with the widest aperture you have to give you the fastest shutter speed.If necessary increase your ISO to 400 or above. You will need a shutter speed of at least1/1000 sec to freeze birds in flight. Set you focus mode to single point focusso you can choose the focus on the bird and not have the camera focus on thetree in the foreground.

    I have shot birds at 1/30 sec with VR reduction lenses atISO 1200. Admittedly there was a little noise but it does not come out in printas much as on screen. The idea is to get the shot first. I was oveseas and not likely to get back so take the shot.

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