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  • Introduction to bird photography.

    Bird photography (1)

    A multipart, single thread tutorial on basic bird photography.

    Introduction - Why?

    You may be intersted in wildlife.
    It is a technical challenge.
    It gets you out of the house.
    Your photography skills will improve.
    You may see things you have never seen before.
    It may be fun

    Most of my bird photography is in urban areas including suburban parks & reserves etc.
    It is very similar to motor sport photography both equipment wise and capturing the moment. You normally have no control over your subject, lighting and limited control over you shooting position.

    The main skills you will need are.

    (1) Be observant
    (2) Patience
    (3) Be very familiar with your camera.
    (4) Be able to isolate your subject.
    (5) Knowing your subject and locations, however subjects of oportunity may arise any time.

    Some topics we will be covering.

    Equipment, both camera & personal gear.
    Where to shoot.
    Setting up your camera.
    Shooting.

    #1 It can be fun (this is the one that "hooked" me).

    Thirsty birds at St Ives village green.

    On a suburban village green, Sydney Australia.
    ISO 800, 1/500@F6.3, F=300mm (~480mm equivalent) , hand held.
    Canon 350D (Rebel XT) with Canon 75-300 zoom.

    #2 It can be a technical challenge, especially birds in flight

    Urban wildlife

    Camera Canon EOS 40D *** mid range DSLR
    Exposure 0.001 sec (1/2000)
    Aperture f/5.6 *** Wide open
    Focal Length 240 mm
    ISO Speed 800
    Exposure Bias -1/3 EV
    Flash Off, Did not fire
    Exposure Program Aperture-priority AE
    Max Aperture Value 5.7
    Subject Distance 12.9 m
    Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM

    Same location as above. Hand held.

    #3 It gets you out of the house.......

    Tourist & local.

    Camera Canon EOS 40D
    Exposure 0.005 sec (1/200)
    Aperture f/10.0
    Focal Length 12 mm
    ISO Speed 400
    Exposure Bias -2/3 EV
    Subject Distance 0.89 m
    Toikina 12-24 F4 lens.

    #4 You may see things you have never seen before.

    The early bird catches the worm.

    Camera Canon EOS 40D
    Exposure 0.001 sec (1/800)
    Aperture f/7.1
    Focal Length 400 mm
    ISO Speed 200
    Exposure Bias 0 EV
    Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM

    Same location as pics 1&2
    Hand held.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Feel free to ask any questions and contribute to this tutorial.
    More to come.

    Thanks
    Richard
    Last edited by RichardTaylor; 01-21-2013, 02:49 AM.
    Flickr stream.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/34094515@N00/

  • #2
    Thank you for sharing. I love taking photos of birds. I find them challenging, and they do indeed improve my 'eye' and photography in general.

    Comment


    • #3
      I also have an EOS 40D and would be very interested in a specific list of the lens' you use. The shots you posted were nice and sharp and I am very impressed with the results. I will be following this thread very close. Thanks for starting it. I will find some of my shots to post and you can maybe tell me how to improve on them.
      Rick
      JustMe
      Canon EOS 40D

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks guys.

        @redartsjr
        Nowdays, but not always, it is mostly the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens.
        I will try to include the lens I used with the pics.

        Re sharpness: All the pics have been reuduced in size for web publication and sharpened when PPing the original RAW files.
        Flickr stream.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/34094515@N00/

        Comment


        • #5
          Great tutorial, thanks. The EXIF data is especially useful to try to figure out how you set the camera for various shots.

          Some questions immediately came to mind, I noticed that you have a couple of photos with exposure bias set in camera. Was the camera exposing too bright? Did you have time to chimp and adjust or did you know from experience and quickly adjusted exposure bias for each photo? Isn't a negative exposure bias pushing the histogram to the left, and therefore against the "expose to the right" concept?

          Sorry for all the questions, but you started it! ;P
          Zafar
          Nikon D300s, Nikkor 50mm F1.4G, Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 VC, Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 VC, Nikkor 18-300mm F3.5-5.6, Nikon SB 900
          Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/zafarsami/

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks -

            For some thoughts on exposure compensation see posts #13 on in this tutorial of mine.

            http://digital-photography-school.co...weather-2.html

            For birds the negative exposure compensation is usually to to stop the whites (feathers) blowing out.

            You don't have as much time as what you think when shooting birds, they may fly off at any moment. I nornally use evaluative metering (area?) and use the histogram/blinkies as a guide if I have time. The amoount of exposure compensation is mostly from experince (usuall -1/3 or -2/3 of a stop for white birds), except in exptreme lighting conditions. I don't always get it right.
            Flickr stream.
            http://www.flickr.com/photos/34094515@N00/

            Comment


            • #7
              Thank you Richard. I can understand your point about protecting highlights. Also, I assume that exposing correctly would help more than trying to correct in post, although RAW does allow a lot of latitude, I typically do adjust up to 2/3 EV up or down and do not feel that I lost quality. In certain cases even 1.5 EV or higher is possible without seeming to impact. I do that when I generally want to brighten or darken a scene, before moving to specifics for highlights, shadows etc.

              That tutorial is also a great one. I have book marked it and will study the complete series in a more leisurely fashion. I have posted a question there though to understand a specific item. Would really appreciate a pointer on what I asked.
              Zafar
              Nikon D300s, Nikkor 50mm F1.4G, Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 VC, Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 VC, Nikkor 18-300mm F3.5-5.6, Nikon SB 900
              Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/zafarsami/

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by RichardTaylor View Post

                For birds the negative exposure compensation is usually to to stop the whites (feathers) blowing out.

                You don't have as much time as what you think when shooting birds, they may fly off at any moment. I nornally use evaluative metering (area?) and use the histogram/blinkies as a guide if I have time. The amoount of exposure compensation is mostly from experince (usuall -1/3 or -2/3 of a stop for white birds), except in exptreme lighting conditions. I don't always get it right.
                *I* typically use spot metering (or occasionally center-weighted). This is because the camera will underexpose whites, saving the highlights; and overexpose blacks, which is easy to recover. In either case the exposure offset is typically well within the tolerance of a raw file. My EC is set to the "camera default;" and for most Nikons that tends to mean a little +compensation (but not w/ my current cameras).
                The success using spot metering on moving subjects is very camera dependent and requires very fast/accurate AF(metering point) tracking.
                Of course, having more time/knowing what the subject will be allows me to refine settings for the particular situation and the metering mode becomes less important.
                Steve
                the Photographic Academy.com
                SharpShooter Industries
                My 500px, My Flickr, My Blog

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sk66 View Post
                  *I* typically use spot metering (or occasionally center-weighted). This is because the camera will underexpose whites, saving the highlights; and overexpose blacks, which is easy to recover. In either case the exposure offset is typically well within the tolerance of a raw file. My EC is set to the "camera default;" and for most Nikons that tends to mean a little +compensation (but not w/ my current cameras).
                  The success using spot metering on moving subjects is very camera dependent and requires very fast/accurate AF(metering point) tracking.
                  Of course, having more time/knowing what the subject will be allows me to refine settings for the particular situation and the metering mode becomes less important.
                  Thanks Steve. I haven't tried spot metering yet, also haven't had much success using a single focus point on moving subjects. I use matrix metering and all 51 focus points. I do get some shots with correct focus and others with focus on the background. Photographing birds is hard!
                  Zafar
                  Nikon D300s, Nikkor 50mm F1.4G, Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 VC, Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 VC, Nikkor 18-300mm F3.5-5.6, Nikon SB 900
                  Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/zafarsami/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    LOL! If you can consistently photograph little birds in flight, everything else is easy..Well, almost. Bugs (i.e. dragonflies) are even harder without specialized equipment. (and "consistently" means ~ 50%)
                    Steve
                    the Photographic Academy.com
                    SharpShooter Industries
                    My 500px, My Flickr, My Blog

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Avian Photography

                      Renewed an interest in photography about a year ago when i purchased a Nikon 5100 DSLR.
                      We spend winters in on the central east coast of Florida. With the return of the migratory birds I am out many mornings at dawn. this is a photo of great blue herons starting to build a nest taken right after the fog lifted.
                      Exif data
                      Camera Nikon D5100
                      Exposure 0.001 sec (1/1600)
                      Aperture f/6.3
                      Focal Length 500 mm
                      ISO Speed 100
                      Exposure Bias -2/3 EV
                      Flash No Flash

                      [IMG]2013 01 12_Viera_GBH 8x10_0588_edited-2[/IMG]
                      Last edited by FLNY; 01-24-2013, 05:18 PM. Reason: unable to see photo

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        @ FLNY
                        Cannot see your photograph.,
                        ---------------------

                        Bird photography (2)

                        A multipart, single thread tutorial on basic bird photography.

                        Equipment

                        For groups of birds or birds in a scene, in reasonable light (low ISO) a P&S camera may meet your needs.
                        Example

                        #5 Shot with a P&S camera in a suburban street. These cockatoos are used to people being around. Basically a snapshot in auto. This is the first of a series, however more control was taken over the later shots

                        Urban wildlife (2)

                        Camera Canon PowerShot G11 **** (P&S)
                        Exposure 0.017 sec (1/60)
                        Aperture f/8.0
                        Focal Length 30.5 mm
                        ISO Speed 80
                        Exposure Bias 0 EV
                        Flash Off, Did not fire
                        Subject Distance 4.17 m
                        Exposure Mode Auto

                        A bridge camera will give you a lot more reach which solves one of the biggest problems with bird photography, and that is filling the frame with the subject.
                        From personal experience, they may be far from ideal due to the lack of responsivness and the viewfinder immage.

                        A digital DSLR, will be responsive, have better high ISO performnance, better focussing performance, possibly better erganomics and the right lens can make it a very versatile tool.
                        An entry level will be fine a lot of of the times, however once you get into birds in flight higher performance cameras, especially focussing performance, may result in a lot more keepers.

                        Lenses

                        If the birds are really used to people almost any lens will be fine as per example #3 shot at 12mm (~18mm on full frame equivalent lens).

                        When you get into urban parkland, etc, you will find you need a lot more reach, especially if you want to take headshots/potraits.
                        Here is why.

                        #6 A 400mm (real) lens on a 1.6 crop camera in landscape mode. Notice the shooting distance for this mid sized bird, 11.2m or 36.6ft
                        In portrait mode the the shooting distance would be 8.3m or 27ft

                        Landscape400

                        #7 Normally nowdays I use a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens on a 1.6 crop camera, however even urban areas it can be a bit short especially for smaller birds. I am at 400mm a lot.
                        Even with large birds at a distance 400mm is too short except for group shots as in this cropped example in an urban wetland

                        Company for breakfast?

                        Camera Canon EOS 40D + Tokina 80-400 lens
                        Exposure 0.005 sec (1/200)
                        Aperture f/6.3
                        Focal Length 400 mm
                        ISO Speed 800
                        Exposure Bias 0 EV
                        Exposure Program Aperture-priority AE
                        A monopod was used.

                        Never having shot birds in the real wild, where they not used to people, they only thing I can say is that you probably want real long, maybe starting at 500mm+ and going out to 800mm.
                        I wonder if you can ever have too much reach sometimes. I do not have any lenses over 400mm.

                        When you get to photograph birds in flight you will need (not want) a lens that focusses fast and accurately. It took a few lens purchases to finally get one, you can save yourself a lot of money, and frustration, by buying a good lens straight up. I didn't.

                        Other gear

                        Shooting for long periods with heavy lenses makes your arms very tired.
                        A monopod more than meets my needs, for a lot of shots but not birds in flight or at high angles.
                        If you are using a real heavy lens you may find a tripod with a gimbal head, to make tracking easier, may be better.
                        There are camera "gun" stocks available which makes shooting at high angles and birds in flight a lot easier. Steve (SK66) knows about these.

                        Flashguns will be another posting.

                        A ground sheet/poncho, etc, or some really old clothes will ,make life a lot easier when you a shooting from a prone position or sitting on the ground.

                        Finally, climate dependant and location, take some stuff to make life a bit easier (like sun protection, bug repellant, niblies, water etc)

                        Feel free to ask any questions and contribute to this tutorial.
                        More to come.

                        Thanks
                        Richard
                        Last edited by RichardTaylor; 01-22-2013, 08:57 PM.
                        Flickr stream.
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/34094515@N00/

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I do all of my shooting "in the wild" where birds don't generally tolerate people, at least not at close distances. It becomes a lot like hunting, quiet, stealth, patience, and luck. I work primarily between 400-800mm using a 400 f/2.8 +TC's or a 300-800 f/5.6... But it really doesn't matter how long your lens is, the better pictures are taken from shorter distances. I get very good usable pictures @800mm ("how" I get 800mm doesn't make much difference) but those pictures would be better taken from closer w/ a shorter lens.

                          Rifle stocks: IMO, most suck. That's why I invented/sell my own. And even with mine, the rig doesn't all of a sudden get lighter. It's just easier to hold steady and most of the weight is transferred to the body's skeletal structure. If I'm going to be set in one spot for a long period of time I'll still mount the whole thing on a gimbal. Also, IMO, monopods suck. But my primary goal for birds is flight shots. I'll still attach my rifle stock to one when it's convenient though....like I said, my camera/lens still weighs 15+ lbs. (and I have almost no triceps/pec on the support side)

                          For occasional use, with a lighter lens with a rotating tripod collar, you can set a ballhead @90* and use it as a makeshift gimbal..it works quite well. Acratech makes a ballhead reinforced for this type of use.
                          Steve
                          the Photographic Academy.com
                          SharpShooter Industries
                          My 500px, My Flickr, My Blog

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Bird Shot...

                            This shot was taken awhile back with my Canon PowerShot SX30IS
                            f/5.8
                            1/200
                            ISO:160
                            150mm
                            Metering: Pattern
                            No Flash
                            Smart photo fix in PSPX5,Cropped, then resize for post. Also removed a blue drinking straw that was in picture. Any suggestions on the camera settings that might have made for a better picture? Please keep in mind this camera does not shoot raw. The two shots are before and after.
                            Rick
                            JustMe
                            Canon EOS 40D

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Thanks for the posts guys

                              @ FLNY

                              Love the light and how you have isolated the birds against the sky.

                              @ redartsjr

                              Good example of what can be achieved with a good P&S (bridge?) camera.
                              You PPing is very good.

                              The only thing I would suggest when shooting is to reduce the exposure slightly to stop the highlights blowing out.
                              Flickr stream.
                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/34094515@N00/

                              Comment

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