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Wildlife photography

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Tooslow, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. Tooslow

    Tooslow Well-Known Member

    It's hard isn't it? I'm not trying to do anything ambitious, just take a few shots of birds and squirrels on my bird table. I have bought a remote release so that I can set the camera up by the table and shoot from afar. I've got one, barely acceptable, photo so far.

    The photos of the bird table are basically ok but the birds are all hidden behind bits of timber. They're a shy bunch. Photos of the bird feeder are not so good. The wire cage really gets in the way and I need to put a longer lens on. The one half way decent shot is a blue tit sitting on the wire cage as it comes out. The peanut feeder is dragged out of shot by the squirrels so all I have is photos of where the feeder was, not where it is.

    If we learn from our mistakes them I'm learning a lot.

  2. deanolorenzo

    deanolorenzo Well-Known Member

    I very much like wildlife and very much like photography. BUT.Trying to photograph wildlife is infuriating.
    The only advice I can give is, dont give up. What sort of lens are you using?
    If these little so and so's are proving too elusive, why not get some practice in with larger species such as ducks, geese and swans. I've heard people knock images of swans as boring, and seen them all before. Rubbish. A good image of a swan is wonderful, a good image of any creature is wonderful.
    Keep trying, and best of luck.
  3. Fen

    Fen Well-Known Member

    Wildlife photography can be the most annoying, the most difficult and the most rewarding of activities.

    The only way of getting better is not just by practising and taken more photographs, but to study/learn all you can about the behaviour of the animals you want to photograph.

    For example, watching the blue tits you might learn that they prefer certain times of day and what directions they come from. Do they get a seed and eat it at the feeder, or fly into the trees/bushes to a favourite place to eat them.

    Their is a green finch that comes to our feeders and it always gets a seed and flies to the same branch to eat the seed. From watching it, I've noticed that it goes to part of the branch where there used to be an off-shoot. The removal of it left a dimple in the branch and the finch puts the seed there whilst it opens it.

    You might also want to just sit outside in the area of the feeders and get the birds used to you being there. At my parents house the birds are so used to them sitting in the garden that they will even go to the 'bird bath' to drink/bathe which is about 4ft away from their chairs!

    I was able to sit there with my camera and take shots of a blackbird drinking without any problems at all.

    These are a few of the shots I got sitting at the table in the garden. Nothing spectacular, just as examples :)

  4. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    If you are trying to fill the frame with the blue-tits then you are probably too close. The expert full frame shots you see will on all probability be taken from a hide.
  5. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    Similar here.

    I have a sunflower hearts feeder outside the kitchen window and I've noticed that all the finches feed directly on the feeder whilst other species, such as the tits, take a seed and fly to a branch the eat it. Still others, dunnocks, robins etc, wait on the ground beneath for all the fallen bits. Occasionally a sparrow hawk grabs a bird from the feeder but I've not managed to get a shot of that - yet.
  6. Tooslow

    Tooslow Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the encouragement all. I'm using a 16 - 85 mm lens at it's 85mm end. That seems to be enough. Any closer and I'll be trying to fill the frame with one bird which, while desirable, means I'm rejecting a host of images simply because a bird is slightly out of position.

    As you say the answer is simply persistence plus an observation of their habits. At this time of year I'm not sure they have any. Habits that is. The feeders have gone through their summer "not being used very much" period which seems to happen every year and their use is just picking up again, probably with young birds.

    I will persist. I'm looking forward to getting a shot of long tailed tits which only visit us in winter. Taxidermy could be a last resort! :)

  7. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Keep trying! The lens is quite short for the task in hand but the lenses the real enthusiasts seem to use (the 500 and 600 f4s) are mega-expensive. After a lot of reading around topic of "getting started" I settled on a 400 f5.6 which is still expensive but hand-holdable with care.
  8. Tooslow

    Tooslow Well-Known Member

    The lens is quite short for this but I have the camera only 4 feet or so away from the feeder and I'm using a wireless remote trigger so that I can stand (ok, sit) well away.

    This morning I've bolted my 70 - 300 on and set it to about 200mm. If I go any closer I'll have to paint feet marks on the feeder and write "pose here" on it.

    It's getting better. The trouble this morning is that the wind is picking up and the feeder is suspended from a tree by a rope so it's rotating. I've got two shots out of many which, as starter attempts, are worth keeping, especially as a Nuthatch was good enough to turn up. I'm going to have to find a way of preventing the feeder rotating, or wait for a calmer day. The other thing I need to work on is focus and dof. I have some photos that would have been good if they'd been in focus.

    Impending rain has stopped play for now.

  9. BikerMike

    BikerMike Well-Known Member

    You might be able to make life easier by changing the type, or position, of the bird table so that it doesn't blow about. Get the birds to come to where you want them.

    Your longer lens will obviously help you to get in closer, but might also give you depth of field issues unless you can use a fairly small aperture - i.e. lots of light or high ISO.

    Can you shoot in burst mode? That can help to catch birds just landing or leaving the table which might give more dramatic shots, especially if you then catch their reaction to the shutter noise (assuming there is a noise?).

    Fen's examples are fine, but notice the very light, distracting background - try to position the camera so that the background is dark. Apologies to Fen.

    Good luck, it is well worth persevering with. :)

    Regards, Mike
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2013
  10. Fen

    Fen Well-Known Member

    No apologies required, these are just snaps :)
  11. Tooslow

    Tooslow Well-Known Member

    Yes, I have rapidly come to the conclusion that I have to "fiddle" in some way with the feeder. As I said early on, the squirrels just drag one of the feeders completely out of the field of view, so I need to plan where they are pulling it to.

    If I photograph birds on a feeder then their position is more defined v the table so that helps with focus & dof. But I need to avoid the feeder with the anti squirrel cage as the cage is distracting. The table presents focus / dof problems but attracts birds that don't go on the feeder but I'm going to have to stop it rotating in the breeze.

    At some point it starts to become as much about the set up as the photography.

    A part of me says this is daffy but these are birds on my feeder in my garden. And they're my photos. Am I in need of professional help, of the medical variety :)

    Excuse me, I'm going out now. I may be a little while.

  12. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    Most Natural History photographers would never take pictures of a bird on an artificial feeder. They reckon it's ugly and distracting.

    After that there's a whole spectrum of dedicated 'birders'. One guy I know spends day after day in a hide just to get a single shot of a particular bird. Even he isn't above 'baiting' a spot to attract, say, an Eagle.

    In the middle there are those who will rig up a log or branch to which they attract birds with food. They will drill holes in the wood and fill the holes with seed/fat/worms - whatever will attract the species they are after. Of course the holes are positioned so that they are not visible from the camera.

    Good luck
  13. BikerMike

    BikerMike Well-Known Member

    Indeed, but there is nothing wrong with that if you want good shots of garden birds. Setting up shots just makes them easier. I would draw the line at shooting and stuffing the birds, though :)

    Not at all. People take photos of all sorts of things, far weirder than birds, and to get well-captured shots of garden birds (as you are discovering) is easier said than done, and very satisfying when you finally achieve it.

    If you like it - do it. You are doing no-one any harm, and hopefully you will enjoy the challenge.

    Regards, Mike
  14. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Indeed this is a way forward as essentially you reduce the size of the "feeder" - worth to try!

    Should not advertise alternative journals but "outdoor photography" has a dedicated bird column. As a mag. it gets a bit repetitive over the years but is worth to look at. Amazes me how AP stays readable as a weekly when the monthly journals get into ruts.
  15. Tom Charles

    Tom Charles Member

    ...or some glue and a couple of nails...;)

    Seriously though, I relate to the frustrations being discussed. I like your decision to use a remote. This can prove very effective when using a wide angle lens for birds and other creatures. Lots of planning involved, and imagination.

    Try working away from the bird table too; add other features, where possible, to the garden, and encourage the birds to use those. Im planning a similar project.
    Also, If you can, keep your backgrounds free of clutter; doing so can help add more impact to the final bird image.

    Main thing is to enjoy the time learning and watching :)


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