Bird Photography

 

Cliff Swallow in nest, under a bridge, photographed with a long lens to avoid disturbing the birds

Cliff Swallow in nest, under a bridge, photographed with a long lens to avoid disturbing the birds

If you want to add photographs to your chronicles of birds (see A Bird Watching Journal), you will need a single lens reflex camera with a couple of lenses and a solid tripod, a fair knowledge of your subjects, a lot of patience and a fair amount of good fortune. 

Equipment


A "prosumer" quality camera with a zoom lens set at a focal length of 300 mm, mounted on a sturdy tripod

A "prosumer" quality camera with a zoom lens
set at a focal length of 300 mm, mounted on a sturdy tripod


Unless you plan to become a professional photographer, who may spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment, you will likely be satisfied with one of the consumer or "prosumer" digital single lens reflex cameras with one zoom lens with focal lengths in the range of 17 to 85 millimeters and second, in the range of 75 to 300 millimeters. Buy UV filters to protect the front elements of the lenses; lens hoods to guard against unwanted image flaring; and a separate digital flash unit to improve lighting for nearby heavily shaded subjects. You will need a sturdy tripod to steady your camera, especially when you shoot extreme closeups or telephoto shots. 

With this equipment, you will be able to shoot a range of images, including, for instance, wide-angle pictures of birds in their habitat setting, intimate pictures of birds on their nests, close ups of humming birds at a feeder, and frame-filling pictures of birds dozens of feet away. 

With your computer system and the appropriate software, you will be able to optimize digital image color, saturation, contrast and sharpness. You will be able to share images with birding friends by e-mail and blogs. You will be able to produce high quality prints up to at least 8 1/2 X 11 inches and probably larger for your journal. 

You should be able to buy the digital single lens reflex camera system, from the New York photo discount houses, for well under $2000. (You will find their advertisements in photographic magazines.) You may be able to find used equipment in excellent condition for considerably less. 

Duck photographed at a desert wetland with long lens just at sunset, when the light can take on a rich quality

Duck photographed at a desert wetland with long lens just at sunset,
when the light can take on a rich quality

Great Blue Heron, photographed after a quiet stalk

Great Blue Heron, photographed after a quiet stalk

 

Photographic Approach

You can approach bird photography much the same way you approach bird watching, from a sanctuary in your back yard, a blind near a feeding site, or a stalk in the field (see Bird Watching Basics and Finding the Birds). 

You may find that a patient wait in your back yard (see A Back Yard Bird Sanctuary), with your camera pre-focused and your image pre-framed on a seed or hummingbird feeder, can prove rewarding. You will have already gained the confidence of the birds, which may venture quite close. 

With patience, you can also get great frame-filling shots from a blind, which offers opportunities to photograph birds in their natural habitat. Wildlife refuges sometimes provide blinds placed at optimum sites for bird watchers and photographers. 

You can test your skill and patience by stalking birds with your camera, an enterprise that can yield exceptional images or complete frustration.

Whatever your approach, photograph in the early morning or late afternoon light, which produces interesting shadows and intensifies colors. 

Ethics

As you join the ranks of bird photographers, the ethics hold that you should disturb your subject as little as possible, especially at the nest. Indeed, some species, disturbed, will abandon the nest, including eggs or fledglings. 

For information on other aspects of birding, see

Finding the Birds,
A Bird Watching Journal,
A Back Yard Bird Sanctuary

Bird Watching Basics.

For information on nature photography, see
Intimate Landscapes
,
Things to Do: Photography

How to Get Photos of Wild Animals
.

by Jay Sharp

Bird Watching Tips & Interesting Facts about Birds
Bird Watching at the Salton Sea
Wildlife Viewing at Coyote Canyon in Anza Borrego

 

 



 

 
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