Spring or autumn?
Birds keep migrating depending upon seasons. If you are looking for birds during the spring diaspora, take out your camera that very season! Catch some real family bonding between birds- birds mating, or adults tending to offsprings. Get some real nest views on tree-tops. They start migrating towards the south as Autumn starts, and another entirely new flock starts back towards your countryside as summer lapses and winter begins.
Be an early bird to catch the bird!
Shoot early in the morning preferably within three hours after sunrise. The rays will still be mellow giving you delicate hues in the photograph. A little while before sunset is another ideal time for your photography. Get the birds in the best of moods during these hours of the day.
Appendages for your camera
Tripods are indispensable. Keep your instrument steady using one. Have a remote-controlled shutter and place the camera close to the birds, and click away from a distance. So all you need to have is a 10x zoom or a 200mm lens, a Tripod/Monopod, remote shutter release and a lot of composure!
A Single or Digital single lens reflex camera with a 300mm (or more) lens is brilliant for a shoot in the wilderness. Get a Minolta Dimage Z5 and be sure of getting those shots right.
Orient your camera
Place the feeders and their location (a branch or perch) as your primary focus and calibrate continuously or manually from there on.
Shoot with either RAW or make sure you adjust the white balance yourself before setting off. In spite of it if you forget to do it at the outset, or if the exposure wasn’t perfect, use the wonders these imaging editing softwares can do!
Shoot birds in motion or flight by fixing the shutter and exposure manually. If the birds are feeding or resting, or the likes, apply the Aperture Priority Mode as this gives you excellent depth control.
Attract them first. It’s really simple!
* Flora for the Aves: Plant exotic shrubs and grass to attract the certain variety of birds that fly around them or feed on them. Ripe berries of the Chokecherry shrub will have Robins and Cedar Waxwings hovering around them for two weeks. There are shrubs that attract hummingbirds too. Depending on which birds you want in your backyard, find out which plants you need to get!
* Fountains and falls: Birds are easily attracted towards water. A mini waterfall , fountain or even a pond will definitely attract birds from all directions.
* Feeders and seeds: Feeders can be made to look aesthetically pleasing. Instead of having just a feeder as it is, have flowers hanging off the branch of a tree, or have a hollow log of a tree with seeds inside it to give a wild and natural look to your shots. Depending on the feed, have a tube feeder that will attract jays and purple and white finches, or platform feeder that attracts doves. There are nectar feeders and fruit feeders for thrushes and bluebirds. And don’t forget to protect them from assault by scurrying squirrels.
* Poles and roosts – Place huge twigs or branches and give places for the birds to perch on. Twigs with several branch-outs or logs give a roosting zone for tiny birds and you can also arrange huge branches in case you are having bigger birds in mind!
Have you heard of mutual co-existence? While enticing a bird to your backyard gives you your dream photography material, it can also be of great assistance in keeping insects and rodents at bay. Northern Orioles have a fetish for wasps.
Set the stage and find your vantage point
Set the ambience for the birds you want to capture, and position yourself at a place where you get the best views for your snaps. This is how:
1. Tent right there. Get a camouflage tent which will completely blend you with the surroundings.
2. Hide out. Find a wall, or say a broken pillar. Even benches in your backyard can be hide-outs. Lattices and grills are a good idea too!
3. Shoot from absolutely any where- Set the perch or feeder with the ‘attractors’ installed in abundance on them, right outside your bedroom window, or in your sit-out. Stay behind a curtain, or inside a nearby door; or the window next to your set-up and start your shoot. If you are shooting with glass that might interfere with the line of sight, use a polarizer to shoo the rays away.
For birds in the sky….
While it is harder to shoot birds as they are flying because the picture will end up with blurry outlines in the subjects of the photo, you could lurk around a corner waiting for a perched bird to take-off, and after pre-focussing off the runway, set the shutter and aperture off and take a series of shots. Place your camera on a tripod stealthily positioned around a feeder or tray where the birds don’t have much option in settling themselves at any particular angle; and using remote-control you snap them away and get some real shots of those wings having such beautifully symmetric patterns! Don’t be fussy about clicking away because after all we’re talking digital here!
Unleash the ornithologist in you!
You learn to shoot those creatures and you also end up learning that you need to protect their existence. How can such beauty go unseen? Protect the birds. Feed them and keep them around your backyard where you can see some real beauty that Mother Nature has endowed the Earth with. There are databases available online which give you the sort of birds your locality has once you give them your zipcode ( if you are a resident of the USA). There are several species that have been identified specific to locations where you must reach and get some quality shots of birds that are so very rare.
Backyard bird-feeding is great fun! Ask the photographer in you to unleash the hidden ornithologist in you. Repose and experience is all you need. Have you tried it yet?