Friday, 22 January 2010

Photographing Garden Birds

There are many ways to capture stunning wildlife images images including sitting in a hide or blind for hours on end freezing your butt off - or alternatively the easy route, attract birds to your garden or terrace with regular feeding, set up a remote camera and sit in the comfort of your home. I chose the latter, but from my studio window!

In between the rain of the last few days we had a welcome day of sunshine. From my studio I have a view of various bird feeders which attract numerous species of British garden birds which I have never taken the trouble to photograph. So during my "break" I set-up my Canon EOS 50D with the 100 - 400 mm f5.6 IS L Series zoom and connected to my MacBook pro with a long USB* lead.
Canon EOS Utilities Showing the 50D Live View Image
with camera outside window covered with a piece of army surplus camoflage scrim net

As soon as you switch the camera on with the USB attached it kicks in Live View mode so that you can monitor with Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP). The thing to remember when doing shots like this is to pick a spot where the birds perch frequently, you can do this with patient observation or looking for signs such as poo deposits on a branch.

Black Cap, female (Sylvia atricapilla)

Alternatively, you can prepare a perch some time before you intend shooting by using an old branch attached to a lighting stand or whatever. Just remember to leave the branch in place for some time in order that the birds become used to its presence.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

The camera sensor was (I guess) about 7 feet away from the branch with the lens switched to manual focus and pre-focussed on the branch. I did tidy away a few stray leaves and twigs to get a cleaner shot. I set the camera to Av (aperture value) and set a stop of f11, which at this close distance gave me enough DoF (Depth of Field) to keep the birds sharp and throw the background out of focus. Set the camera shutter to continuous frames - in this case I set it to high speed continuous.

Gold Finch (Carduelis carduelis)

It's then just a case of waiting. I my case I carried on working with a cup of coffee to hand. But there's nothing to stop you chillin' with a cold beer whilst watching the footie;-) Who's to know any different, that is unless "they" check your meta data?

*Take care when using long USB leads as the signal may degrade significantly. Make sure you use high quality lead such as Belkin or look for a lead with an in-line booster or amplifier when working over long distances. Alternatively, you could look into using On One Software's DSLR Camera Remote app for the iPhone. I'm trialling this at present and will keep you posted.

TTFN

Ian

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