Tuesday, December 04, 2007
"Sno' Birds" photo tips
Yesterday's snowstorm gave me an opportunity to stand out near the feeder and photograph birds as them came in. Here are some images I took with my Canon 1D Mark II camera with a Canon 300mm IS lens with a 1.4 teleconverter (which gives me the equivalent of a 420 mm lens.)
Some tips for photographing the birds in a snow storm:
1. Protect your camera. I put a plastic bag over the camera with a hole for the lens to peek out. I left the bag open in the back so I could look through the view finder on the camera.
2. Stand quietly, move slowly, do not make any quick movements or birds will startle and fly away. Only get as close as the birds are comfortable with. They will go about feeding if they're comfortable. Sometimes they will tolerate you moving closer if you patiently inch forward, pausing each time to let them become accustomed to you. You do not want to interfere with their feeding, a necessity for their survival in this harsh weather. If you have a photo blind, even better.
3. Use a higher ISO on your camera (read your manual, if you have to). Since there is a lower light level during a storm, setting your camera at a higher ISO will compensate for that. I used an ISO setting of 400.
4. Set your camera on AV priority (aperture priority.) This allows you to set the aperture, or F-stop, and your camera will adjust the shutter speed automatically to make the best photo. Set the aperture on the widest opening you can, given your camera and lens combo. In my case above, it would be 5.6. Ironically the lower the number (such as 4.0, 4.5, 5.6,) the wider the aperture opening. A wider aperture lets in more light and allows you to attain a faster shutter speed. The faster the shutter speed, the more you will "freeze" fast moving birds. The photo will be less blurry, hence sharper. Using a wide aperature also gives you a more shallow depth of field, desirable in bird photography. The bird will be in focus and the background will be soft and blurred.
The real fun is just being out with the birds, seeing their beauty, listening to their calls. The bonus is the beautiful photos that capture the moment. The last photo is of the "Phoebe," our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, whose namesake is Phoebe the bird.