Showing posts with label bird photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bird photography. Show all posts

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Photograph Hawks

How to Photograph Hawks.  A brave title.  Luck is involved.  Timing is involved, preparation of batteries and cards is assumed.  OK, the basics.  YOU MUST have a 400mm or better lens on a fast acting, fast focusing D-SLR.  Image Stabilization is important and "dual mode" stabilization may make the difference.  I use a Canon 70-200 with a 2X converter on Mode 2 setting.  Set on IS Mode 2 to account for the camera swing as you follow the bird.  Mode one assumes you are still and folllowing a still creature with a slow shutter speed. 1/500 is a minimum shutter speed.

Here the hawk, caught at 9:00 am in Staten Island, clutching a thouroughly executed prey bird is headed back to the nest in an arresting sight.

Go at least one stop overexposure compensation to account for the bright sky.  In Photoshop, will need to enhance the feather tone.   Point and Shoot users, sorry you are out of luck for flight, but don't give up hope.

Still, good shots are still possible.  STALKING skills beat shooting skills here.  Knowing bird behavior and a sense for their "spook distance" are critical for getting in range.  Change position.  This is likely the same bird above, hours after the catch above.  While shot with the same lens & Camera combo above, the bottom shot could easily have been taken with a long zoom EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder / Interchangeable Lens) Camera or a PowerShot SX30 IS Digital Camera with its long zoom.

Here is my Bird Gallery.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Photographing La Paz, Mexico

Photographing La Paz, Mexico on the Sea of Cortez, is a photographers delight. Almost as many subjects in the air as in the sea. Birds are plentiful, such as Pelicans, Boobies (Gannets), and Frigate birds.

We were based at Club Cantamar for SCUBA diving. In addition to underwater photography equipment, you should bring your long "Bird Lens." To shoot close Pelicans, you probably need at least a 400mm Zoom lens with image stabilization (IS) set for following them in flight. 300mm will mostly keep you on the edge of frustration with our winged friends. Some IS lenses let you switch IS modes to compensate either for camera shake for a still subject or a moving subject you are following while panning. The image below was captured near sunset in mid flight.

La Paz is known for its colony of 400 California Sea Lions living on the island of Los Islotes. You can shoot them on the surface or of course, from underwater using SCUBA or just snorkelling. I think this is the world's best shallow dive. You can spend over an hour in six to eight feet of water. The Sea Lions here are very used to people and are mostly friendly and love to play.

Reasonable caution and common sense should rule the day, particularly during breeding season around March. You really don't want to get between a 600 pound Bull and its potential mate. Other than that, the guides will advise you on their behavior and you should have a blast. October and November are great months to visit as the pups are now big enough for the "parents" to let thm go out to play without too much attention. More on the Sea Lions, Whale Sharks and other marine life in other posts. Click here to see more from La Paz. Click here to see more birds.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Photographing Birds

When I was a kid, I was a naturalist at heart. Maybe it started at age 6 with impromptu talks the nuns selected me to give to the 8th grade. I used the Powerpoint of the time, a book on Fish. Birds get a bad rap. I have heard people downgrade birds as being something for "old people." How does an entire classification of biology get associated with an age group? What age group are Amoeba associated with?

BIRDS and FISH exhibit the same hard to photograph behavior as individuals and in schools or flocks. True, you need much more equipment and training to photograph fish. But the "eye," focus on behavior, concentration and fast reflexes are the same.

PHOTOGRAPHING BIRDS by Rulon Simmons and Bates Littlehales of Nat Geo fame is a great book. These veterans share their secrets of different methods such as feeding, vs stalking, vs blinds, nesting, flight, etc.

There are sections on using remote controllers and accessory tree limbs on feeders. I shot the Cardinal below using these techniques. This alone was worth the price of admission for me. Some text is still back in the film era, but most is still valid in the digital age because of its concentration on the subject matter: the birds.

You can purchase PHOTOGRAPHING BIRDS by Rulon Simmons and Bates Littlehales here.

See my gallery of birds.