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|Category:||Animals / Wildlife|
Photographing Puffins - Puffins make great characters for portraits so why not head to the coast and spend an hour or two photographing these popular sea birds.
Getting to the Farnes (weather/winds permitting) is easy and there are plenty of boat excursions running from Seahouses. However, it is worth having a plan B for your photography because the weather/wind factor can't be predicted – it can be lovely on shore but if the wind or tide is making it tricky or unsafe to land, then the trips may not run.
Get out to Staple Island and you are in for a seabird treat. In addition to puffins, you will find guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes – and you do not have to go far to photograph them either.
Gear Suggestions:Take a long telephoto (300mm at least) for reasonably frame-filling shots of the birds and a monopod or tripod. A teleconverter is worth its space in the camera bag too. A tripod with a gimbal head or a long lens support is ideal for your long lens because it makes tracking flying birds much easier.
A backpack that's light yet can carry all of your gear plus a packed lunch is a must which makes the Kinray Lite 48BK from Vanguard ideal. There's also room for a pair of binoculars for when you're spotting birds out over the sea.
Exposure And MeteringExposure can be a challenge, especially in sunshine because of the extreme contrast (bright sun plus black & white birds equals serious contrast headache) so use your usual metering mode and check your exposures and histograms carefully to make sure you are not suffering from blown highlights.
The other option is to take control and meter manually, taking a reading from a mid-tone (grass works well) and use those settings – manual metering is advised for in-flight shots where the change in background can upset the meter and cause under or overexposure of the bird. It also pays to shoot RAW format too so you can tinker with shadows and highlights during development.
Shutter Speeds And FocusPay attention to your ISO and set a high enough sensitivity to allow blur-free shutter speeds.
Single-shot AF is fine for birds on land, but switch to continuous for flying birds and track them in the viewfinder, keeping the bird centre in the frame.
Birds In FlightThe knack of capturing puffins in flight is finding the best spot. It pays to study birds coming in to land as you'll soon see there is a predictable pattern so use this information to position yourself in the best spot for side-on or front-on shots.
Backgrounds And ShakeTake care not to get in the way of any fellow visitors and when working on boardwalks, watch out for vibrations caused by people walking past as this can cause shake even when working with a tripod.
Keeping backgrounds free of distractions is important, too. Birds, fellow visitors and light-toned rocks are all potential background distractions so keep your eyes open for them on your shoot.
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