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Tips for bird shooting

Discussion in 'Birds' started by JerseyJay, May 13, 2005.

  1. I haven't done much bird shooting and photographs that I took, were unexpected quick shots. What would you recommend for new bird shooter.

    Camera settings etc...

    Thanks in advance.
  2. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005
    Well, as a novice at bird shooting I would start honing my tracking skills with small birds or large birds with the 70-200. Once you have perfected that you can move up to longer focal lengths. I have had to go to shorter focal lengths as I have been out of practice.

    I have been using the 70-200 lately while at the pond and find it a lot easier to shoot with but it definately lacks the reach needed for birding mallards etc.

    Good Luck. I'm sure Frank and Harris can give you some better answers.
  3. Well, I don't know about the advice that Frank and Harris will give you, but MY advice will be much better for the price you will pay :lol:

    First off, don't get frustrated that your birds look really small with the 70-200. Find somewhere local with larger birds that don't spook easily, ducks, geese, gulls, whatever, and make sure that you enjoy trying to follow them as they fly. And even though you don't need it, try it off a tripod for practice, just to feel the difference.

    Then if you have a good rental place, or a nearby friend with some longer glass, rent/borrow/beg/steal, but get a chance to give it a go. And at this time REALLY don't get frustrated at how darned difficult it is to acquite a moving bird with the smaller angle of view. And, worse yet, how hard it is to keep focus as you try to track the bugger.

    Once you have done this, and found yourself hooked just like the rest of us poor fools, hide every single credit card you have, at least for 2 days :lol:

    Don't forget that when you move beyond the 300mm range or so that the support system you use becomes even more critical, and without good support the rest just doesn't work very well.

    And lastly, practice then practice a lot more, then go out and do it more. And expect that all your shots won't be great, or even good, but you will notice as you continue how quickly it happens that a higher percentage passes that "doesn't suck" stage :lol:

    Good luck, and ask away if you have more specifics.
  4. Steve S

    Steve S

    Feb 1, 2005
    SE Florida
    For birds in flight,

    Get that shutter speed up to probably double that of your focal length. Obviously, AF-C will be used. I greaa with the tripod idea if your going to do much in-flight shooting. A wimberley Sidekick is good on a ballhead. What lens and cam combo are you going to use?
  5. drueter


    Apr 24, 2005
    Southeast Texas
    I agree with all the other posts above but would add a couple of points. I prefer aperature priority and adjust based on lighting conditions/depth of field desired and to get shutter speeds up as much as possible. Occasionally will go to shutter priority. Use Matrix or Center weighted metering and adjust EV based on subject (white birds and birds with even small white parts in bright light are most difficult to avoid blown highlights). For birds in flight, I usually shoot at 4-5 fps (and end up deleting a lot where the bird moved out of the focus area or moved erratically).

    Like others have said, it takes a lot of practice and there's always a lot more to learn! Start out taking photos of birds at rest to get accustomed to their quick movements. And, as noted above, the longer the lens the harder it is to track them in flight. Your 70-200 is a great lens to start with, but don't get disappointed when you have to crop a lot.
  6. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    Every one of these posts have excellent advice, and I won't repeat it. What I will do is give you some idea about what to expect from the standpoint of number of keepers.

    I went out shooting with forum members Greg Giesing and Chris Knight last Saturday morning and with Patrick on Sunday. Between these two days, I took approximately 850 shots. Of those, I would consider about 50 - 60 as 'not crappy', and about 15 - 20 as real keepers (some of the non-keepers were just a little too far away, some were slightly over / underexposed, some chopped a part of the bird off....;-), etc.).

    Some may say that the good shots that I got were a matter of luck, and that anyone that shoots 850 pictures with the equipment that I use could achieve similar results. They might be right. Someone like Ron Reznick might take 60 shots and get the same results. I don't know. What I do know is this; a year ago, I could have taken 8,500 pictures and not gotten the results that I got last week-end.

    My point is that this is a difficult area of photography. Tracking birds flying at 35 - 60 mph, coming from any and all directions, against bright sky and dark water, is not as easy as one might think. The payoff is getting back to the computer and seeing those few perfectly exposed, sharp as a tack, centered in the frame shots. It's just like Patrick said. It's addictive, and more exciting than juggling chain saws.... :lol:

    The only way to get decent at it is, as Bill said, is to shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. 8)
  7. Frank makes an excellent point here, and I'd like to expand on it just a bit. I find that my "keepers" really depends on what and where I am shooting. For example, the Heron Rookerie I posted the other day. I shot an even 100 images that day and I am happy with 70-75 of them and REALLY happy with 25-30. That is at least double my normal "happiness" ratio, and it is easy to understand why. Most of the shots were motion at the nest, a very nice fixed point. My percentage of those was REALLY high, the in-flight, in-the-air-behind-the-trees-in-the-barbed-wire, Sheriff station remember, were much lower. Point is, don't be at all discouraged when you seem to have a low keeper rate. I even find that my keeper rate gets much better as the shoot goes on. It takes a bit to "get into rhythm". Oh, yeah, don't forget, shoot, shoot and shoot some more :lol:
  8. Greg


    Apr 5, 2005
    Fayetteville, TN
    these guys are the experts. My 2 cents...memory is cheap. shoot-adjust, shoot-adjust, shoot some more. In these times for many of use the opportunities come rare so we try to capture as much as possible and make adjustments in the field if possible. Fine tune later. Frank has this down to a science....no, make that 2nd nature.
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