Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bird Photography

One of my favourite genres of photography is bird photography as I admire these beautiful creatures entertaining me with their songs, joyful and swift activities, colours and shapes. Though I consider myself an amateur in this area, I have learned some essential skills of the trade to improve myself over the last few years.

Being a nature lover, I love to watch and photograph birds in their natural habitats. Though it is generally harder to photographs birds in the wild when compared with shooting them in aviaries or cages, the great experience of interacting with the nature is incomparable when I venture out into the wild. 

The following are the essentials of bird photography.
  1. PATIENCE. Hours and days of waiting, returning with no worthy photographs are not uncommon in bird photography.
  2. Knowledge about birds such as species, food, behaviours, habitats and migration patterns, and the environment like places of fruiting trees, water resources and perches.
  3. Sharpening the senses, especially sight, hearing, and smell.
  4. Getting close without spooking the birds -
    • Understanding birds' body languages to identify whether bird/birds is/are alarmed by the movement
    • Moving slowly and smoothly
    • Lowering the apparent height (kneel/crawl if possible)
    • Avoiding movement straight towards the bird, and moving in a zigzag manner
    • Wearing camouflaged clothes (colours that go with the environment)
    • Using blinds (existing places to hide / portable blinds / cars)
  5. Timing: weather, season and time of the day are important factors to consider. Morning and evening times are the most suitable for birding in general.
  6. Practice with the camera to use the necessary controls swiftly.
  7. A fast camera with quick auto focus and burst mode. Manual focus would certainly be an added advantage.
  8. Telephoto lenses with focal length of 400mm or more are generally used by professionals. Extender/teleconverter tubes are also used to extend the effective focal lengths.
  9. Flash with Fresnel lens extenders are useful to have sufficient light levels and/or to increase the shutter speed. 
  10. A tripod or a monopod based on the movement requirements. It essential that the head of the stabilizing device allows smooth movements in all the directions with ease and has a quick release plate. For those who wish to wait for birds behind the blinds a tripod is ideal. On the other hand, for those who move around a monopod is very handy.
  11. A good camera bag and/or photographer's vest to store and retrieve your gears with ease while on action.
  12. Avoiding (whenever possible) taking photos of birds against harsh light in the background.
  13. Learning composing skills such as rule of thirds and applying whenever possible.
  14. Having a pair of binoculars to locate birds.
  15. Staying alone or in small groups, away from crowded and noisy areas. A mate who has the passion of birding would make the day successful.
Here are my captures with very basic photographic gears.



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