It's for the birds...

Discussion in 'Photo Philes' started by MikeScone, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. Jul 19, 2011 #1

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    One of my favorite photographic subjects is nature, and birds in particular. Birds can be particularly challenging as subjects, since they are very wary and move very fast. All but two of these pictures were taken in Ireland - locations indicated [in square brackets].

    It helps to start with a long lens - you'll probably want 200mm at least. This picture of a Skylark was taken at 200mm (f/5.6 @ 1/750sec).[Inishbofin, County Galway]

    [​IMG]

    Longer is better - this Ringed Plover was taken at 300mm (f/5.6 @[sup]1[/sup]/2,000sec, ISO500). The wide f/5.6 aperture, as wide as the lens will do at that focal length, throws the background out of focus and lets the bird "pop". With limited depth of field, always make sure to focus on the eyes. [Inishmaan, Aran Islands]

    [​IMG]

    This Pied Wagtail was also taken at 300mm (f/5.6 @ [sup]1[/sup]/500sec, ISO200). Notice the placement of the bird, according to the Rule of Thirds, which says to put the subject on a one-third line rather than precisely centered. If you're going to do that, though, make sure that the bird is looking into the frame and not out of it - in this image, if the Wagtail were looking left instead of right it would throw the picture out of balance.

    Pied Wagtail at Slieve League, County Donegal:

    [​IMG]

    If you can get the bird to look right at you, that's a plus, especially if it looks interested. The "tongue click" technique sometimes works, or a low whistle, which is what I did to attract the attention of this Wheatear (once again, 300mm, at an exposure of f5.6 @ 1/350)[Achill Island, County Mayo]:

    [​IMG]

    In-flight pictures can be especially tricky. You'll want the highest shutter speed you can get to freeze the motion, but that will require a wide aperture. With the limited depth of field of long lenses at wide apertures, this is where a really good autofocus system can prove its worth. If your camera has a "continuous autofocus" mode, use it. With my Nikon in "Auto-C", I center the bird in the frame and push the shutter button halfway to activate the autofocus. The camera focuses on the bird, and as long as I hold the shutter halfway down and track the bird, the camera changes focus sensors to keep the bird in focus as it moves around the frame. When the picture is what I want, I push the shutter all the way and take the shot.

    Fulmar, taken at 280mm (f/5.6@1/2000sec) [Carrick-a-Rede, County Antrim]:

    [​IMG]

    Another Fulmar, 200mm (f/5.6 @ 1/1500)[Ft. Dunree, Inishowen, Co. Donegal]:

    [​IMG]

    It sometimes helps to bump up the ISO a bit to allow higher shutter speeds - this picture of an Arctic Tern was taken at ISO 500 instead of the normal ISO 200 (300mm focal length, f/5.6@1/2000). Be careful not to increase the ISO to the point where your camera introduces noise into the image - experiment a bit and see how high you can go without losing image quality. With the D7000 you can go to ISO 1600 at least, but on my old Fuji S2 I couldn't go even as high as 800.

    Arctic Tern on Inishmaan, Aran Islands:

    [​IMG]

    Note that with all of the in-flight pictures I have the bird either centered, or on a one-third point flying into the frame. You never want the bird to be on one side, flying out of the frame.

    It's a plus if you can include something in the frame to indicate the bird's environment. Here, these Razorbills are nesting on a cliff face. Because they were stationary, I could afford to stop down the lens to get some more depth of field to show both the birds and the rocks in focus (300mm, f/11 @ 1/60). Normally, you shouldn't try to hand-hold a lens when the shutter speed is less than the focal length - in other words, at 300mm you should try for a shutter speed over 1/300th. This is where image stabilization (Canon's IS) or vibration reduction (Nikon's VR) really comes into its own - because the lens was compensating for any vibration in my holding the camera, I could use a shutter speed as slow as 1/60 and still get a sharp picture (40+ years of practice doesn't hurt, either).

    Razorbills [Carrick-a-Rede, County Antrim]

    [​IMG]

    Sanderlings in the surf [Inishmaan, Aran Islands]:

    [​IMG]

    A Jackdaw in the ruins of the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary:

    [​IMG]

    The photographs I like the best show the bird actually doing something. It can take a few tries, or a lot of patience, but if the bird is calling or singing it's worthwhile waiting for the perfect shot.

    A Rook in full cry (250mm, f/5@1/500)[Fota, County Cork]:

    [​IMG]

    A Song Thrush singing on a rock wall (300mm, f/5.6@1/500)[Inisheer, Aran Islands]:

    [​IMG]

    Catching a landing water bird can combine the challenges of flying shots and action pictures - continuous autofocus helps, if you can track the bird as it approaches to land, then shoot just as it touches down. Here, a Canada Goose lands in the pond at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology at Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca, NY:
    [​IMG]

    Finally, if you can get in really close, do it! This is seldom an option for wild birds, but you can get pictures under controlled circumstances which don't look like they were staged. Look for raptor demonstrations or falconry, or even birds at zoos or wildlife parks, where the bird is used to having people get close. This Kestrel was part of a falconry demo at Stirling Castle in Scotland (200mm, f/5.6@1/125):
    [​IMG]

    And as one bonus, a famous press photographer was once asked his rule for getting great photographs. He said, "f/8 and be there". In other words, you can't get the shot if you're not there - so get out and take pictures!


     
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  2. Jul 27, 2011 #2

    GorbyJobRabbits

    GorbyJobRabbits

    GorbyJobRabbits

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    Firstly, I want to say absolutely stunning!! and it has taken me forever to come back to this site lol. I've worked all over the country with birds, and have missed out on sooo many things because of lack of a good camera.

    I can only lay in the yard and get baby bird pics lol
    [​IMG]


    Thanks for all your help again on the other thread. I may search you out for other questions in the futuer if you don't mind. =)
     
  3. Jul 27, 2011 #3

    Nancy McClelland

    Nancy McClelland

    Nancy McClelland

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    :yeahthat: Very good catch Mike. Loved the pics. When we hit northern Europe five years ago we bought a professional Sony with a monster Leica lens. Took some really fantastic shots from a long ways off--but, needed a heavy duty tripod.
     
  4. Jul 28, 2011 #4

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    Here's my picture of a baby robin - a Scottish robin, that is, taken on the Isle of Mull:
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Jul 28, 2011 #5

    gmas rabbit

    gmas rabbit

    gmas rabbit

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    These are incredible!!!!!
     
  6. Aug 2, 2011 #6

    GorbyJobRabbits

    GorbyJobRabbits

    GorbyJobRabbits

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    still has the chubby thrasher shape like the american robins.

    I just got another birding job up in N.E. Ohio, not too far from home, and before I leave I'm going to see if I can get the new lens. Would just like to have some nice stuff to share.
     
  7. Aug 4, 2011 #7

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    GorbyJobRabbits wrote:
    As babies, yes. The adults really look very little like our robins.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The same is true of Irish "goldfinches" - a very colorful bird, indeed, but not the same as our American birds of the same name.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Aug 4, 2011 #8

    GorbyJobRabbits

    GorbyJobRabbits

    GorbyJobRabbits

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    the adults do remind me more of a warbler in a way.

    and that is a stunning finch. I would think it would have a different name because of the coloring. lol
     
  9. Apr 29, 2012 #9

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    There were lots of birds on my feeder this Spring morning. Here are a few of the shots I took:

    Blue Jay:
    [​IMG]

    Brown-headed Cowbird:

    [​IMG]

    Redwing Blackbird:

    [​IMG]

    Chipping Sparrow and a pair of House Finches - the female on the left, male on right:

    [​IMG]

    Here are the House Finches alone, male first...

    [​IMG]

    ... and the female.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. May 27, 2012 #10

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    [align=center]Another colorful bird - black and white and red all over, as the old riddle says
    [/align]
    [align=center][​IMG]
    [/align][align=center]Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
    [/align]
     
  11. May 27, 2012 #11

    Nancy McClelland

    Nancy McClelland

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    Really neat!
     
  12. Jun 9, 2012 #12

    ZRabbits

    ZRabbits

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    Always came to this thread. Absolutely love your pictures, especially the feeder birds. Have feeders myself, but the one outside my kitchen window is being used for something else.

    A young couple were trying to build a nest in our awning. Since we only feed the small birds during the winter, instead of removing this feeder, my Husband took the plastic sides out.

    The young couple was successful. There are actually five babies in that nests. It's been such fun watching them grow.
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    Little off center, lol But I was hanging the camera out the window, not focusing with the view finder.


    Just look at that face. Just love those feather sticking up. They are just so funny looking at this age.
    [​IMG]

    K:)
     
  13. Dec 22, 2012 #13

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    These birds were around my feeder this morning.

    A male Downy Woodpecker (you can tell by the red patch on the back of his head). Hairy Woodpeckers, the other common woodpecker around here, are very similar, but larger and with a much longer beak.

    [​IMG]

    A Common Junco (formerly known as "slate-colored Junco") sitting on my woodpile, looking in through the living room window. Around here they're best known as "Snowbirds".

    [​IMG]

    Using fill flash helped a lot - without flash, the light was dim enough in the snowstorm we're having that I could not use a high enough shutter speed to avoid blur from the moving bird and swaying feeder. Also, without flash the bird was pretty much silhouetted against the brighter background. When using flash through a window like this, be sure that the flash strikes the glass at an angle, so that it does not bounce back into the lens.
     
  14. Dec 23, 2012 #14

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    A chickadee - they move so fast, it's hard to catch one in an interesting pose. Notice the blurred streaks from the seeds the chickadee was flinging around.

    [​IMG]

    From a photographic point of view (this is the Camera Corner, after all), notice that I've placed the bird off-center, on a one-third line. Most important, the bird is looking into the picture frame - if I'd put him on the left-hand one-third line, he'd be looking out of the frame. That wouldn't look "right", even if a viewer couldn't explain why. It's human nature - we're wired to look where something else is looking, and if the subject seems to be looking out of the frame we find it disturbing.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2012
  15. Dec 24, 2012 #15

    Nancy McClelland

    Nancy McClelland

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    I was going to say "ick! snow!", but we are supposed to be getting some on Tuesday. Last time we had a good one was in 2008, 2 weeks before xmas. Love the pics.
     
  16. Jul 23, 2013 #16

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    I've had quite a few goldfinches on my feeder recently. They're so brightly colored, they almost seem to glow in the sunlight.

    [​IMG]

    The female goldfinch, peeking out around the feeder on the right, is slightly less brightly colored, but beautiful nonetheless...

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Jul 23, 2013 #17

    Ilovemyrabbit

    Ilovemyrabbit

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    Mike, we have lots of those around our feeders as well. They are really pretty birds that's for sure! :)
     
  18. Jan 6, 2014 #18

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    MikeScone

    Mike - Camera Corner Mod Supporting Member

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    There was a cardinal on my feeder this morning - what a spectacularly colored bird!

    [​IMG]
     
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  19. Jan 6, 2014 #19

    lovelops

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    What a great photo!
     
  20. Jan 9, 2014 #20

    Chrisdoc

    Chrisdoc

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    Fabulous photos, such intense colours, love them all.
     

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