Wildlife Photographers –

Don’t dismiss the birds just be because they are tricky

Bird photography can be challenging but it isn’t always as difficult as it first appears – it just takes practice, patience and a whole load of luck.

Here are a few practical tips to help you:

1.Practice, practice practice –
A bird feeder gives you great opportunities to hone your skills.

2.Study the subject –
By watching the behaviour of the bird in question you can anticipate when best to take your shot. For example – pied kingfishers hunt from one perch but eat on another. Knowing this simple fact gave me the choice of the capturing the dive or the catch.

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher, Uganda.

3.Portrait or action?
In Bird Photography decide upon what you want to take and prepare your camera in readiness.
For portraits find a well lit spot and wait. Don’t forget to blur the background and get some catchlight in the eyes if possible.

Stork Billed Kingfisher
Stork Billed Kingfisher
Lilac Breasted Roller, Northern Fischer's Pan, Eastern Etosha, Namibia.
Lilac Breasted Roller, Northern Fischer’s Pan, Eastern Etosha, Namibia.

For birds in flight

4. For birds in flight
Use a fast shutter speed and anticipate the action. I waited 10 minutes for this Greater Kestrel to take off in Etosha NP, with my camera on a bean bag, my neck at a bizarre angle and my nose squashed sideways against the camera but I was lucky and light in its eye was a bonus – well worth the pain!

Greater Kestrel. Doring Drai, Eastern Etosha National Park Namibia.
Greater Kestrel. Doring Drai, Eastern Etosha National Park Namibia.

5. Shutter Speed –
I always shoot on shutter priority for birds and with a speed of at least 1250. That captures most species sharply in flight unless they have a particularly fast wing beat.

Tawny Eagle Pair, Chudop Waterhole, Eastern Etosha National Park, Namibia.
Tawny Eagle Pair, Chudop Waterhole, Eastern Etosha National Park, Namibia.

6. Cropping
Don’t over crop on an action shot – give yourself a chance of capturing the image – you can always zoom in afterwards. There is nothing more irritating than chopping off a wing tip on an otherwise great shot!

Hunting Hobby over a Kentish Garden
Hunting Hobby over a Kentish Garden

7. Take off or landing?
Birds are generally easier to photograph when they are landing as they spread their wings to slow down. However, anticipating the take off can be very rewarding and remember – larger birds often do a poo just before take off so watch out for the tail lift.

Martial Eagle on the road to Twee Palms, Eastern Etosha National Park, Namibia
Martial Eagle on the road to Twee Palms, Eastern Etosha National Park, Namibia

8.Rapid fire –
This can be very helpful with birds in flight but try to limit usage as it is far more rewarding when you get it right without extra help. And even if it isn’t perfect it can still be a great shot ( super sharp branch – slightly soft bee eater!)

Eurasian / European Bee-Eater, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Eurasian / European Bee-Eater, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

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