Getting The Bird: How To Photograph Birds With Long Telephoto Lenses

A Passion For Pelicans - Photographing Nature With The Help Of MPB

This month, Will Cheung gets close to nature thanks to a pre-owned lens from MPB.

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A Passion For Pelicans  - Photographing Nature With The Help Of MPB:

© Will Cheung


Bird photography is usually about super-long telephoto lenses, long waits in draughty hides and brief bursts of photography. But not always, as photographer Will Cheung found on a recent trip to northern Greece.

Lake Kerkini in central Macedonia is an artificial reservoir and a unique habitat for wildlife making it a popular destination for bird watchers and nature photographers. It is probably best known for its Dalmatian pelicans. They are large, long-beaked water birds with a wingspan of 3m or so and weigh around 15kg. In winter, with their colourful breeding plumage, are particularly photogenic. It’s these wonderful birds that Will went to photograph.

I'm an occasional nature photographer and while birds as a subject appeal, the need for powerful telephoto lenses puts me off. I decided to book a trip to photograph the pelicans of Lake Kerkini - organised by nature tour specialists Wildlife Worldwide - because here’s the chance to shoot frame-filling photographs with modest focal lengths without having to sit in a hide.

In respect of the camera kit I planned to take, this included my Canon EOS R5 with three lenses: the RF 14-35mm f/4, RF 24-105mm f/4 and RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1.

After some research on the trip and seeing how photographers tackled the subject, I realised I might be missing a trick and the opportunities provided by a fast aperture 70-200mm telezoom. We were scheduled for pre-dawn starts too, so having an f/2.8 aperture lens would be a big benefit. Also, as most of our photography was going to be from a boat, a 70-200mm would give great flexibility without having to swap lenses with frozen fingers.


A Passion For Pelicans  - Photographing Nature With The Help Of MPB:


Canon's RF 70-200mm f/2.8 would be just the ticket, but this lens has a new price tag of £2729, so the pre-owned option seemed to be the way to go. I found one at for £2279 in excellent condition, a considerable saving on a new lens.

My gut feeling proved right and the 70-200mm proved totally invaluable as of the several thousand frames I shot each day, this lens was responsible for a significant percentage and easily justified its presence in the backpack.

The pelicans, used to being fed fish, were waiting for us and we had a good number around us minutes after leaving the mooring; they weren’t slow at coming forward.


A Passion For Pelicans  - Photographing Nature With The Help Of MPB:

© Will Cheung


We were out shortly before sunrise and the fast aperture of the 70-200mm helped to keep a usable shutter speed without having to go beyond ISO 6400. With the motion of the boat and the active subject matter, the shutter speed needed to be around 1/125sec.

As it got brighter, I dropped down the speed scale and used ISO 800 and then ISO 400 when the sun was fully up and that meant I could shoot at 1/1000sec or even faster if I wanted. The focal length range worked out really well too. The 200mm end was perfect for close-up portraits and then zooming out to 70mm was wide enough for birds as they splash-landed a matter of metres from the boat.


A Passion For Pelicans  - Photographing Nature With The Help Of MPB:

© Will Cheung


My other lenses did see plenty of action, too. The 14-35mm and 24-105mm were great when the birds were thrown fish because they move in very close. With several birds vying for food, the wide view allowed for framing flexibility as the action could be energetic, unpredictable and even quite aggressive. I soon learnt to have a micro-fibre cloth very handy to dry off the lens front.

While for more distant in-flight pictures and very tight headshots, the 100-500mm proved its worth too. With its good minimum focusing distance this lens was ideal for detailed shots of the birds too.

I have to say that it was a truly wonderful trip and a great photographic experience, and one I’m very happy to recommend. If you go, though, pack a fast aperture 70-200mm lens.


A Passion For Pelicans  - Photographing Nature With The Help Of MPB:


The Latest News from MPB

Data published in February 2023 by the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) indicated that the demand for new digital interchangeable lens cameras (DILCs) continued to grow in 2022. Despite the huge challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and global semiconductor shortage, the volume of DILC units grew by 11% in 2022.

The digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera type continued to decline with shipments failing 17% in 2022, but higher-value mirrorless cameras continued their upward trend, up by 31%. According to CIPA, the mirrorless camera type accounts for 69% of the DILC market.

Analysis by MPB indicates that if these trends continue the DILC body market will reach a retail value of $13.3bn in 2025, compared with $10.2bn today and exceed the previous market peak back in 2012.

Commenting on the data, MPB’s CEO Matt Barker said: "Building on strong value growth in the market in 2021, it is encouraging to see the market for new cameras continuing on the same trajectory in 2022. The rise of digital content creation will continue to drive growth in demand, particularly for high-end kit capable of producing quality images and video. Although volumes will remain below their 2012 peak, we expect the retail value of the DILC market to reach a new high of $21bn in 2025, reflecting the success of higher-value mirrorless cameras and the increasingly premium nature of the new camera market.

Against this backdrop of a more expensive market for new cameras, we expect to see ever more photography enthusiasts turning to the used market to access the kit they need to pursue their passion."


MPB Explained

  • MPB is a leading online retailer of used photo and video equipment with centres in Brighton, Berlin and New York.
  • Trading used imaging equipment with MPB is simplicity itself and whether you are buying, selling or part-exchanging, the first port of call is its website,
  • If you have something to sell, click on ‘Start selling/trading’ and start typing in your item. As you type the brand name and model details a drop-down list of suggestions appears so just click on the correct item. With many products having similar names, mistakes can very occasionally happen. If you select a lens as second generation but it is in fact first generation, MPB will alert you to this and amend the quote in due course.
  • Most camera models and lenses are covered but even if you have filters, a bag, a tripod or even a ball-head to trade, many popular brands and items are listed, which makes life easier if you’re selling off in an entire system.
  • If the item does not appear, click on ‘I can’t find the model’ and manually type in the item’s name.
  • In either case, select the condition of the kit you are selling. There are five condition ratings and each is clearly explained if you click on the ‘Help me choose condition’ line. If you proceed with the trade MPB might amend the condition/quote as appropriate so the value of your quote can go up as well as down.
  • If you have multiple items just repeat the process until you have everything listed. If you have an eye on a new camera or lens from MPB, this is when you can start the part exchange process, but if not complete the quote. If it’s all straightforward, the quote is instant, obviously subject to final confirmation; if you have unusual items, you will get an email quote within 24 working hours.
  • Accept the quote and MPB will organise a courier to collect your kit on a mutually agreed date, and you’re kept informed at each step of the process, so you’ll know when your kit has been received and that it is being checked over by its expert team.
  • When all this is done you will receive a final quote and even at this point, you can get items returned free of charge if you have a change of heart. Accept the quote and you will be asked for payment details and the money will be in your bank account soon afterwards.


Get A Quote From MPB Today


About MPB

  • MPB is the largest global platform to buy, sell and trade used photo and video kit.
  • MPB are the simple, safe and circular way to trade, upgrade and get paid.
  • MPB is not a marketplace, instead buying directly from visual storytellers and evaluating all items before reselling MPB-approved kit.
  • MPB's dynamic pricing engine provides the right price upfront for all items.
  • Circularity is at the centre of MPB, promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion in everything they do.
  • MPB prioritise inclusive recruitment and supports employees with extensive training and development. They promote inclusive visual storytelling and an inclusive circular economy.
  • MPB's business model is 100% circular. All packaging is 100% plastic free. Their cloud-based platform uses 100% renewable electricity.
  • MPB has served over 625,000 visual storytellers while recirculating more than 400,000 products annually
  • MPB provides first-class customer service. Customers can receive support through their Help Centre or by speaking directly with a kit expert.
  • MPB's product specialists are trusted by thousands of visual storytellers in the UK.
  • MPB is rated ‘Excellent’ on Trustpilot with over 19,000 reviews.
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dhedwards 5 8 United Kingdom
1 Mar 2023 12:20PM
Closer to home, I took this at Arundel WWT last week:

Lovely photo Grin

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