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Capturing Wildlife on Camera

Hi all, I’d like to share with you all something you can do yourself whilst at home and especially at this time we are experiencing in isolation. Since we are at home why not set up a bird feeder and lure some birds into your yard? I have been doing this for some time and many birds frequent such as Rainbow lorikeets, scaly-breasted lorikeets, blue-faced honeyeaters, noisy miners, kookaburras, magpies, crows and many more.

Rainbow Lorikeets – Gail Bryant (copyright)

If you are interested in photography and wildlife you might like to try some photography with a few of my tips.
First of all set up a bird feeder in an open space with a background without clutter. You can also hang a feeder from a tree or make or use an independent feeder in your yard. Please be aware that it may take a couple weeks before the birds trust and spot your food dish. Please offer fruits, wild bird seed or grain. For best results you will need a DSLR camera preferably with a lens around 70-300 or longer as in the 150-600mm or you can use a 50mm lens if you can manage to get up close. I have even used a 100mm macro lens when birds get familiar with my presence and they don’t mind me in their space. It is also best not to make any quick or sudden moves!

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet – Gail Bryant (copyright)

I believe practice like anything is the key and having an eye for photography is a bonus. Get to know your camera, understand your settings, shutter speed, aperture and ISO and other options on your camera. You can achieve action shots as well as still photography by following these examples.
I would advise the following settings as a guide for action bird photography. Set your camera on Auto focus, Continuous AF, shutter speed at around 1/1000 – 2000, ISO 100-400 and f stop around f8 for good clarity. If you start at these settings you can always change and test what is right for your particular camera.

My examples are done with a Nikon Z7 and 150-600mm lens for still images 1/100, F8.8, ISO 400 at 550mm and the action images shutter speed 1/2000, F7.1, ISO 3200 at 210mm. These examples are purely a guide, you will need to test and make your own settings comparable to your camera.
I have learnt in every situation that photography is about getting that balance of speed and light. Make sure you have a good composition with a clear background. Often with action shots you don’t have the time to worry about composition but if you know you have a nice clear space to take images that would be a big help.

I also use a technique called ‘back button focus’ which helps to lock onto a subject and hold focus and continue to follow the subject whilst taking several images without refocussing and losing time for that particular moment. Not every camera has this feature so you will need to skip this step.

I also like to use a single point AF & dynamic-area AF which offers 72 points on most bird images although you can change this setting quite easily to other options and cluster points. It is purely a personal choice and what works best for you. Another tip is to get familiar with the habits of your wildlife and if they return to the same spot or hover etc. To help you focus on a bird returning to a dish or branch try focussing on the dish or branch itself and as the bird enters your frame you can focus from that
point. Often you can lose a bit of clarity and sharpness on the wingtips or tail area but it is quite acceptable if the eye area is in focus. Also it is best to underexpose for birds that are white to make sure you don’t lose detail in your image. A combination of white feathers and a harsh sun can wash out your image losing detail so underexpose in those situations for best results.

Rainbow Lorikeets – Gail Bryant (copyright)

You will be on your way taking photo’s if you also bear in mind some of the following points

  • Your willingness to learn
  • understanding your equipment
  • understand lighting for different situations
  • finding a good composition
  • work on artistic and clear images
  • A lot of practice!
  • having a passion for what you are doing!!

Give this a try over the holiday period and you will be rewarded with birds visiting your home and gain the skills for some great images. It all takes practice and don’t forget to have fun and be inspired by our wonderful wildlife.

Rainbow Lorikeet – Gail Bryant (copyright)

Gail Bryant – Gail’s Photography

1 Comment

  1. Sylvia Hill

    I’ve always loved your photos Gail. They have such clarity and your subjects have such beautiful colour. And Thanks for the tips in your para above.

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