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Photographing Birds in trees

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Peter_West
12 Nov 2012 - 6:50 AM

Hi All. Please can you give me some advice, struggling to photograpgh birds it trees with clear sky in background with out them being in silhouette, please can someone offer advice on camera setting, i'm trying to stay on manual or AV mode, Thanks Pete

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spud159
spud159  12 United Kingdom
12 Nov 2012 - 7:20 AM

Its all about metering. Your camera is metering for the brightness of the sky and not the brightness of the bird - have you got a spot metering option on your camera - if so, try using it, it should the exposure a lot closer. There are lots of other options but it will be all about understanding metering.

Peter_West
12 Nov 2012 - 7:39 AM

Hi Sorry should have said, canon 600D and a canon 70 to 300 lense. pete

rhol2
rhol2  3273 forum posts United Kingdom1 Constructive Critique Points
12 Nov 2012 - 7:41 AM

As spud159 suggests, try spot metering on the bird. If spot metering is not available or not effective,in AV you need to use positve Exposure Compensation to counteract the underexposure. eg. try +1EV upwards. Otherwise in Manual mode you can simply overexpose by a stop or more as needed.

The background is likely to be burned out but the subject should be better exposed.

Shooting in Raw rather than Jpeg could give you more control over exposure, if you're not doing so already.

Last Modified By rhol2 at 12 Nov 2012 - 7:46 AM
kevcampbell
12 Nov 2012 - 9:29 AM

i am also interested in this subject and may have asked something myself like benreb one day, now there is no need to with the usual fantastic help of others on this forum

so thanks to benreb for asking about this, and thanks to the other 2 for helping as it will also help me i am sure as i would not thought about using different metering modes, my p510 has spot metering and a couple of others, i need to learn about them though and what each metering mode is used for, like spot metering, matrix metering etc

thanks again

mikehit
mikehit e2 Member 45758 forum postsmikehit vcard United Kingdom9 Constructive Critique Points
12 Nov 2012 - 9:34 AM

I would say you need between one and two stops overexposure depending on cloud cover, position of the sun and the amount of scy in the frame. If yo go out specifically to practice, you can quickly learn to recognise the conditions and apply the right level of compensation automatically

There are other tricks such as metering off your hand: extend your arm towards the bird, turn your palm to face you and meter off that - you should have about the correct exposure, but should ideally reduce by about half a stop. You ca either apply these settings in manual or use your exposure compensation until you have the right combination. This relies on your hand and the bird being in about the same level of lighting so if your hand is in shade and the bird in the open (or vice versa) it will not work properly.

Another old trick is the 'sunny f16' rule - this is useful where the bird is well lit, but the reflection/glare from the sky still confuses the meter: if the bird is reasonably lit, then at f16 the shutter speed is one divided by the ISO (ISO400 gives about 1/500 sec). I have used this successfully where the bird is lit well in front of a dark background or on bright, hazy/cloudy days. If it is heavier cloud it would become the 'sunny f8' rule

MikeRC
MikeRC e2 Member 83464 forum postsMikeRC vcard United Kingdom
12 Nov 2012 - 1:32 PM

...bookmarking.

User_Removed
12 Nov 2012 - 3:14 PM

....and, if you can get close enough to the bird, don't forget the value of fill-in flash.

Also, pictures of birds in trees taken from ground level rarely work well (you are in essence "looking up at the bird") but if you can get your own position upwards (or if the bird is very low in the tree), then the sky may not be such a problem. If your "bird tree" is in a wood, could you climb the adjacent tree to get a higher vantage point?

With all wildlife photography, it is often possible to get an advantage by using fieldcraft rather than simply long lenses.

lawbert
lawbert  71639 forum posts England15 Constructive Critique Points
12 Nov 2012 - 3:56 PM


Quote: ....and, if you can get close enough to the bird, don't forget the value of fill-in flash.

Also, pictures of birds in trees taken from ground level rarely work well (you are in essence "looking up at the bird") but if you can get your own position upwards (or if the bird is very low in the tree), then the sky may not be such a problem. If your "bird tree" is in a wood, could you climb the adjacent tree to get a higher vantage point?

With all wildlife photography, it is often possible to get an advantage by using fieldcraft rather than simply long lenses.

Some quite dubious advise aboveTongue

Be carefull with flash as it will scare the bird...which isnt really a good thing to do at any time of the year but most importantly in spring when they have young.

I do use myself flash quite a lot on small birds but it is exceedingly low powered and thier confidence has to be gained.

Climb a tree by all means but be prepared for a long wait (take a flask...maybe even a camping stove but do be carefull not to set fire to the tree whilst cooking a bacon sarnie)

There is also the possibility you may fall from your excellent vantage point (either by falling asleep from the long wait or needing to pop down the shops to refuel the bacon for the sarnies) so having a paramedic on standby is a must...also a camera repair man may be of use on site to repair your equipment....and possibly a second paramedic should you land on the first one.

If the field craft needed by climbing the tree (I would personally buy a longer lens and live to show the pics if there is an absolute need for a skyline image) isnt your thing then...........

Apply a little common sense....Birds eat food....they have been doing it for countless years as far as Im aware.....feed a small amount of food so they dont become dependant on your food and they will come to you.
TongueSmileWinkTongueWink

User_Removed
12 Nov 2012 - 5:48 PM

pointing your camera skywards at bird in tree doesn't work so well. Even if you compensate for exposure to avoid silhouettes something is going to be over exposed and fuzzy. Not to mention that you are working from a funny angle and you don't get those nice all important shots of the eye at the right angle (apart from other bits being at the wrong angle too). as tempting as it is to give it a try I'd keep trying for those harder but better shots where the bird is more at your level.

As for this ... GrinGrinGrinGrinGrinGrinGrin


Quote: ....and, if you can get close enough to the bird, don't forget the value of fill-in flash.

Also, pictures of birds in trees taken from ground level rarely work well (you are in essence "looking up at the bird") but if you can get your own position upwards (or if the bird is very low in the tree), then the sky may not be such a problem. If your "bird tree" is in a wood, could you climb the adjacent tree to get a higher vantage point?

With all wildlife photography, it is often possible to get an advantage by using fieldcraft rather than simply long lenses.

Some quite dubious advise aboveTongue

Be carefull with flash as it will scare the bird...which isnt really a good thing to do at any time of the year but most importantly in spring when they have young.

I do use myself flash quite a lot on small birds but it is exceedingly low powered and thier confidence has to be gained.

Climb a tree by all means but be prepared for a long wait (take a flask...maybe even a camping stove but do be carefull not to set fire to the tree whilst cooking a bacon sarnie)

There is also the possibility you may fall from your excellent vantage point (either by falling asleep from the long wait or needing to pop down the shops to refuel the bacon for the sarnies) so having a paramedic on standby is a must...also a camera repair man may be of use on site to repair your equipment....and possibly a second paramedic should you land on the first one.

If the field craft needed by climbing the tree (I would personally buy a longer lens and live to show the pics if there is an absolute need for a skyline image) isnt your thing then...........

Apply a little common sense....Birds eat food....they have been doing it for countless years as far as Im aware.....feed a small amount of food so they dont become dependant on your food and they will come to you.
TongueSmileWinkTongueWink

But you forgot one all important thing .... the collection of colourful phrases you need for when the bird you have been waiting for all day stuck up the tree, having run out of bacon and gas and can't even have a restorative cuppa, spots you and flies off making loud noises at the intruder! And doesn't come back!

Last Modified By User_Removed at 12 Nov 2012 - 5:49 PM
User_Removed
13 Nov 2012 - 10:16 AM


Quote: .
Climb a tree by all means but be prepared for a long wait (take a flask...maybe even a camping stove but do be carefull not to set fire to the tree whilst cooking a bacon sarnie)

There is also the possibility you may fall from your excellent vantage point (either by falling asleep from the long wait or needing to pop down the shops to refuel the bacon for the sarnies) so having a paramedic on standby is a must...also a camera repair man may be of use on site to repair your equipment....and possibly a second paramedic should you land on the first one.

If the field craft needed by climbing the tree (I would personally buy a longer lens and live to show the pics if there is an absolute need for a skyline image) isnt your thing then...

Remember that the "golden rule" in most wildlife photography is to shoot from the animal's eye level.

Usually that means getting uncomfortably low but, in the case of birds up trees, it does mean getting up to their eye level. That's why simply shooting from ground level with a long lens is unlikely to achieve satisfactory results. Of course, as is the case in all branches of photography, "rules are there to be broken". But only broken for a particular purpose and by someone who knows what they are doing. For beginners, the rules can be very useful.

lawbert
lawbert  71639 forum posts England15 Constructive Critique Points
13 Nov 2012 - 3:17 PM


Quote: .
Climb a tree by all means but be prepared for a long wait (take a flask...maybe even a camping stove but do be carefull not to set fire to the tree whilst cooking a bacon sarnie)

There is also the possibility you may fall from your excellent vantage point (either by falling asleep from the long wait or needing to pop down the shops to refuel the bacon for the sarnies) so having a paramedic on standby is a must...also a camera repair man may be of use on site to repair your equipment....and possibly a second paramedic should you land on the first one.

If the field craft needed by climbing the tree (I would personally buy a longer lens and live to show the pics if there is an absolute need for a skyline image) isnt your thing then...



Remember that the "golden rule" in most wildlife photography is to shoot from the animal's eye level.

Usually that means getting uncomfortably low but, in the case of birds up trees, it does mean getting up to their eye level. That's why simply shooting from ground level with a long lens is unlikely to achieve satisfactory results. Of course, as is the case in all branches of photography, "rules are there to be broken". But only broken for a particular purpose and by someone who knows what they are doing. For beginners, the rules can be very useful.

There seems to be a very important point that you are missing.

Birds have Wings (Honestly...I know it sounds like a wind up!!)Tongue

This makes them accessible at all manner of heights...but the easiest one which you didnt quote was to put a little food out for them and will come down to your preferred height without risking life and limb climbing treesWink

So if your theory is correct and I want to photograph for example geese in flight at eye level then I need a plane, helicopter or maybe a bird mounted camera.TongueWink

An example of a bird that wants food... in flight...at eye level...tripod used as needed one hand free to eat a bacon sarnieTongue

StrayCat
StrayCat  1014200 forum posts Canada2 Constructive Critique Points
13 Nov 2012 - 5:37 PM

A long lens and be very aware of the background when you're shooting. A long lens will have a very narrow field of view behind the subject, so a branch would suffice if carefully composed, or shoot against a background of trees, a hill, almost anything. If you shoot against a blue sky, you might want to meter off the sky and add a bit of EV compensation. It isn't that difficult.

Denny

lawbert
lawbert  71639 forum posts England15 Constructive Critique Points
14 Nov 2012 - 4:11 PM

I shall try and condense some of the excellent tips given here

A Swallow taken with evaluative metering and a 2 stop exposure compensation to bring out the details in the bird...AV mode...F5.6, Iso 400 (400 can be a bit grainy on my 7d but needed to up the shutter for the speed of the bird)
There are still some shadow areas in the wings but you need to shoot these over a reflective ground...an oil seed rape field early in the season or a ripened cereal crop field....I must try harder next year!!



Someone mentioned fieldcraft by climbing a tree and using fill flash which isnt advisable to longevity of life and it will scare the subject (which should be avoided at all costs...on both counts!!)
Mikehit gave some excellent tips for metering and the same theory can be applied to flash...you fire it off your hand to get the best exposure possible whilst keeping the flash output very low juggling aperture and low iso speed to dull the output of the flash...A speedlite is a must for this.



Birds whatever their size eat food and by feeding them you bring them to you letting you control the conditions more to your liking....Be aware though that if you start to feed birds then it is an absolute must to keep feeding them as they do become reliant on your offerings especially in winter when there is little food and spring when they have young.

Its easier to capture the bird once you know where it will be...This gives you time to experiment with settings and really helps understand the Computer we all buy that we call a CameraSmile



billip
billip  9388 forum posts United Kingdom
8 Aug 2013 - 10:16 AM

Some lovely bird pics there lawbert. Am enjoying catching up with this informative thread too.

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