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|Category:||Animals / Wildlife|
Photographing garden birds - Photographing garden birds isn't always straightforward but ePHOTOzine member Cheryl Surry is here to help.
First, you need to really know your camera – you don't want to be fumbling around with buttons and settings when you only have a few minutes or even seconds to capture an image. Secondly, you need to set your scene up. Yes, we know we're talking about nature photography where some will tut at the possibility of having to set up a scene, but when you need to entice birds out of the trees and into your garden, creating ready-made perches infront of a perfect background is the simplest way to create a great looking picture.
When you're out in the garden, look for a background that will work well with the type of shot you're trying to produce. Hedging is a good option as when you take the picture and blur the background, the colours will look natural. If you don't have a hedge, try hanging camouflage netting over a fence to make it more photogenic.
Once you have your chosen background, start placing your feeders that will help you capture your image and remove any other feeders not in your field of view to increase your chances of a successful shoot.
"Enticing them with good bird food, and a variety of foods is key," explained ePz member Cheryl Surry. "Different seeds and styles of food attract a varied selection of birds. My feeding station consists of two tree stakes pushed into the edge of the lawn and approximately 2 metres from my conservatory window, behind that is a camouflage net hung over the non-photogenic fence to provide a better background."
An important side note is to remember to put all your feeders back when you're finished as the birds may have become reliant on your garden as a source of food.
"I feed all year round, though the kind of food varies in type and quantity through the seasons," explaines Cheryl. "Make sure that any such feeding station is as safe and secure for the birds as possible, for instance, that it is out of easy reach of any neighbourhood cats."
Getting in position
"Some species, such as Crested Tits and Dunnocks are more confiding, but it best to err on the cautious side and remain as hidden as possible."
For pin-sharp images, a tripod is essential and one with a Gimbal or ball head is even better as you'll be able to adjust the camera quicker and easier. A wider aperture will help you blur the background and keeping an eye on your shutter speed can stop you producing static images when you wanted movement and prevent feathers on tail tips becoming out of focus when you wanted them sharp. Also, don't forget about framing. Thinking about where the bird is in the frame in relation to everything else can make a big difference to an image.
When it comes to lenses, Cheryl finds a focal length of 300-400mm works best for frame-filling images. A longer lens will also help with blurring the background and as garden birds are small, a longer lens can help you bring them into frame.
You could also be waiting a long time so putting the camera in place, getting comfy and watching patiently is something you'll have to get used to. A warm drink and a good book or magazine can become essential pieces of equipment when you're outside on your own!
Cheryl says to not let the bad weather put you off either as it can add a creative element to your piece: "Don’t stop shooting just because it starts raining for instance, as with a slow shutter speed of 1/30th – 1/60th of a second the raindrops can be recorded and add to the image."
Final pieces of advice
- Check the background
- Feed regularly
- Shoot in a variety of weather conditions
- Be patient
- Stop feeding suddenly, especially in bad weather
- Crowd the birds