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Thread: Introduction to bird photography.

  1. #1
    RichardTaylor is online now dPS +1000 Club
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    Default 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 at 02:49 AM.
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  2. #2
    Kayulani's Avatar
    Kayulani is offline dPS Forum Member
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    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.

  3. #3
    redartsjr's Avatar
    redartsjr is offline JustMe
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    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

  4. #4
    RichardTaylor is online now dPS +1000 Club
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    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.

  5. #5
    ZafarSami's Avatar
    ZafarSami is online now dPS +1000 Club
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    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/

  6. #6
    RichardTaylor is online now dPS +1000 Club
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    Thanks -

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

    Light #8 - Weather

    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.

  7. #7
    ZafarSami's Avatar
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    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/

  8. #8
    sk66's Avatar
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    Quote 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.

  9. #9
    ZafarSami's Avatar
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    Quote 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/

  10. #10
    sk66's Avatar
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    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%)

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