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Bird Photography for Beginners

March 18, 2012

I am intrigued –and delighted- by the enthusiasm of beginner bird lovers who spend days on end preparing for a “trip” to do Bird Photography in the wild. They get books, read the latest articles, and make intricate preparations before they venture out. And there I am, dying to tell them a thing or two that would save them a lot of frustration. Naturally, I always leave them to it, for fear of dampening their enthusiasm.

What I would tell them though has nothing to do with the intricacies of photography and everything to do with bird-watching. You see, birds are birds, whether on the slopes of Kangchenjunga, or on that pine tree behind the house. And before venturing out with a backpack full of lenses and accessories, it is important to acquire basic knowledge of bird behavior, as well as basic knowledge of Bird Photography. Doesn’t it make sense that the hit-and-miss nature of the learning process be undertaken from one’s porch rather than from an exotic destination?


Ashy Prinia, Canon ID Mark IV, Exposure: 1/320sec, F/8.0, Lens 800mm

There is plenty to practice on for those of us who live in cities like Delhi, for example, without venturing away from our homes. We have several year-round feathered friends who have taken well to life in the city: chirpers like Sunbirds, Bulbuls, Doves and Prinias. These and the occasional stray birds would love to keep coming back to their favorite spots on the nearby shrubs or trees and be photographed.

Red vented Bulbul, Canon ID Mark IV, Exposure: 1/1250sec, F/5.6, Lens 800mm

Red vented Bulbul, Canon ID Mark IV, Exposure: 1/1250sec, F/5.6, Lens 800mm

We do have to encourage though, with the following moves:

–   They love to bathe, so we would keep a bird bath for them, cleaned and filled on a regular basis. Once they trust the set-up, they will love to frolic around the bath, providing you with plenty of opportunities for interesting shoots.

–   The same with a feeder, except that in this case we would need to devise a way to keep squirrels away –not an easy task. I like to provide a diversion for squirrels by providing them with nuts and scraps in another area, hoping that they would not go for the feeders.

–   When pruning shrubs, you may want to let some branches grow tall. As you know, birds like to perch on high ground as a defense against predators.

–   Letting some stems and branches grow tall also provides us with great backgrounds for good shots. I know that personally, I am always looking for clear and attractive backgrounds before I set up for great images.

Laughing Dove

Laughing Dove, Canon ID Mark IV, Exposure: 1/1000sec, F/8.0, Lens 500mm

Developing trust with the birds that share the space around your home is a great hobby for anyone who loves birds. You will notice a gradual increase in trust among the birds, which will encourage them to keep returning and becoming part of your home’s backdrop, also giving you endless opportunities to sharpen your Bird Photography skills.

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