Capturing the beauty and grace of birds through photography.
What is bird photography?
Bird photography is the art and practice of capturing images of birds, often in their natural habitat. The goal of bird photography is to create visually compelling images that showcase the beauty and behaviour of birds. Bird photographers often use specialised equipment, such as telephoto lenses and tripods, to capture images of birds from a distance without disturbing them or their natural environment.
Bird photography requires patience, skill, and a deep understanding of bird behaviour and habitat. It is a popular hobby among nature lovers, bird enthusiasts, and photographers (of all levels) alike.
Acrobatic and Free!
The sense of FREEDOM is what this image means to me. I spent hours watching and photographing these acrobatic Little Wattlebirds hunting insects in this wild place – Myall Lakes National Park, surrounded by massive sand dunes, the ocean and large lakes.
Shot at 1/4000 sec shutter speed on a 500mm lens (150-600mm) with aperture and ISO in auto. Animal autofocus using tracking mode. Brent
Why is learning to photograph birds important?
Learning bird photography is important for several reasons:
Appreciating and sharing the beauty of birds: Birds are beautiful creatures, and photographing them allows us to appreciate and share their beauty with others. Bird photography can also inspire people to learn more about birds and their importance in the natural world.
Environmental awareness: Photographing birds in their natural habitat can increase our awareness and understanding of the environment they live in. By learning about the habitats and behaviors of birds, we can become more aware of the impact humans have on their ecosystems.
Scientific research: Photographing birds can also be an important tool for scientific research. Bird photos can be used to identify and track bird populations, behavior, and migration patterns.
Personal fulfillment: For many people, bird photography is a rewarding hobby that provides a sense of personal fulfillment. Capturing a great image of a bird can be a challenging and satisfying experience.
Overall, learning bird photography can be a valuable and enriching experience that combines art, science, and environmental awareness. It allows us to appreciate the beauty and importance of birds, while also contributing to scientific research and personal fulfillment.
Rainbow Lorikeet Landing
Inspired by my friend Eugene Brannan’s wildlife fine art images I created this concept image. Made the dull fence background totally black, took a bit of work in Lightroom but I think I’m happy with it now.
Settings: 1/3200sec shutter speed, f/6.3 on 275mm lens (150mm-600mm) and very high ISO of 20,000 which meant a lot of noise, so I purchased Topaz Photo AI to get rid of noise and sharpen image and I’m very impressed with it. Shot at my friend Maccas house as these beautiful and noisy Rainbow Lorikeets come in the land at his feeder. I was sitting on the ground shooting up into the air – very challenging because they come in very fast.
A step-by-step guide on how to do it well
Bird photography can be a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. With the right techniques, you can capture stunning images of birds in their natural habitat. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you improve your bird photography skills:
- Choose the right equipment: The first step to taking great bird photos is to have the right equipment. A good camera with a telephoto lens is essential for capturing the detail and beauty of birds. A tripod or monopod can also be helpful to stabilize your camera and reduce camera shake.
- Know your subject: To capture great bird photos, you need to know your subject. Spend time observing the birds you want to photograph. Learn their behavior, flight patterns, and habitat. This knowledge will help you predict their movements and capture better images.
- Find the right location: Birds can be found in a variety of habitats, such as forests, wetlands, and coastal areas. Research the best locations for the birds you want to photograph, and plan your shoot accordingly. Consider the time of day and the lighting conditions when choosing your location.
- Be patient: Birds can be unpredictable, and it can take time to capture the perfect image. Be patient and observe your subject carefully. Wait for the bird to fly or move into the perfect position before taking your photo.
- Use the right settings: When photographing birds, you need to use the right camera settings. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the bird’s movement, and a wide aperture to blur the background and make the bird stand out. Adjust the ISO to get the right exposure and minimize noise.
- Get the right angle: The angle you photograph from can make a big difference in the quality of your bird photos. Get down low to the ground or from a higher vantage point to get an interesting perspective. Try different angles to find the best one for your subject.
- Focus on the eyes: The eyes are the most important part of any portrait, and the same is true for bird photography. Make sure the bird’s eyes are in sharp focus to create a powerful image.
- Practice, practice, practice: Like any skill, bird photography takes practice to master. Take lots of photos, and review them to identify areas for improvement. Experiment with different settings, locations, and techniques to find what works best for you.
By following these steps, you can improve your bird photography skills and capture stunning images of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
Shot at sunrise on the beach. Got up before dawn, and walked over these vast sand dunes towards the beach looking for the wild dingoes I know so well. Spotted these 2 Pied Oystercatchers hanging out close to the large waves. I got down very low to silhouette these birds against the rising sun. What do you think – leave me a comment below this blog. Brent
How can I photograph birds if I don’t have a long lens?
If you don’t have a long lens for bird photography, there are still several techniques you can use to capture great images of birds:
- Get closer to your subject: One of the simplest ways to capture better bird photos is to get closer to your subject. You can do this by approaching birds slowly and quietly, or by setting up your camera and waiting for birds to come to you.
- Use a teleconverter: A teleconverter is a device that attaches to your lens and extends its focal length. While it won’t give you the same reach as a longer lens, it can help you get closer to your subject and capture more detailed images.
- Crop your images: After taking your photos, you can crop them in post-processing to create the illusion of a longer lens. This technique works best if you have a high-resolution camera that can handle cropping without losing too much image quality.
- Use your surroundings: You can use your surroundings to your advantage when photographing birds. Look for perches, trees, or other objects that can help you get closer to your subject without being detected.
- Practice patience and observation: Patience and observation are key when it comes to bird photography. Spend time observing birds in their natural habitat and learning their behavior. This will help you anticipate their movements and capture better photos, even with a shorter lens.
Remember, while a long lens can certainly help when photographing birds, it’s not the only factor that determines the quality of your images. With the right techniques and a bit of practice, you can capture stunning bird photos with any camera and lens.
Photo BootCamp Magazine
Let’s take a look at how our BootCamp members are able to capture the wings of nature’s beauty with bird photography.
And be sure to check out how you can join BootCamp at the end of the magazine!
Below is a small sample of what’s in this magazine…
JOIN BRENT ON SAFARI
Join Brent and a small group of friendly photographers in Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Inside BootCamp Magazine
Let’s take a look at this month’s magazine. Here is our featured artist of the month, Barbara Gilbert, from the United States.
She took this image while in Botswana last year. The bee-eaters are hard to catch while in flight or while taking off but after many attempts she caught several. This one was her favorite.
Comment: Denis O’Byrne – “Hi Barbara. Great action in this shot. I like how it is framed by the branches, the eye is sharp and crisp and draws me in. Looks very well on full screen.”
This month’s featured magazine cover image is from Andrew Robinson, from Australia.
It has been a long time since he has posted. This was amongst his first attempt at bird photography. This is an Owl he shot when he was on Safari last year with Brent and he was there for the big 5 and didn’t really understand everyone else’s excitement with the birds they were seeing. He eventually started taking bird photos because everyone else was. He is now quite addicted and looking forward to going on Safari again next year.
Let’s take a look at some of our BootCamp members who captures the magnificent essence of nature through bird photography.
Laura Griffiths Cape Sugarbird. These two had settled on the very tips of a shrub in her garden and she was shooting them individually so as to get the correct focus but on one burst. She decided to focus on one bird and include the other in the shot, thinking the second would be a bit out of focus. When it came to viewing on the screen she saw they were both in focus. These birds like our local flora of proteas and leucadendrons. Laura made a habit of shooting birds at this shutter speed if there is enough light, even if they are stationary so that if they fly off she is prepared. There is simply never time to switch from a low shutter speed to a faster one so she paid the price with ISO. She is happy with how this one panned out. She find she’s regularly using Luminar’s ‘noiseless’ edit tool for mild to medium noise in almost any photo as it gives a wonderful clarity to the image.
Comment: Valerie Worthen – “So fortunate you were able to get them both in focus. The composition, the detail, and the soft background make for a lovely shot.”
Next, we have Dave Koh from Singapore. The blue-tailed Bee-eater is one of the favorite subjects for birders to capture actions during this season. They are fast and their flight patterns can be erratic but will most likely back to the same branch after they get their prey (bees or butterflies). While taking them on flight is a challenge, there is a way to get them during landings and take-offs. With a much better camera nowadays with tracking capabilities, they are able to follow the movement of the bird and do a burst shot and choose the best pose in action. This image was taken during take-off, and you can see the intense look aiming for its catch a distance away. If using ISO 2500 with f/8 or 11 would have improved the motion blur on the wings. Heavily cropped and denoised with Topaz with adjustment with highlight and shadow.
Comment: Barbara Gilbert – “Amazing. Great blurred background and beautiful capture of the bee-eater. The eye is sharp and the bird has plenty of room to fly into. Great job. Absolutely love this picture.”
Eugene Brannan from the United States is next. On a return trip to Sweetwater Wetlands Park near Gainesville, FL USA, in the morning he came away with a couple of good bird-in-flight shots and a seldom-seen shot of a Blue Heron on its nest with 2 chicks. His image is of a Blue Heron in flight with its catch, a good size trout. He was talking with one of the many birders at the park when she all of a sudden, shouted with excitement as this bird picked off its prey and took to flight. He swung around, following the bird as it flew to a more convenient place to eat. He was able to get 5 shots off, 2 of them of the birders head and hat, two of them with parts of the bird cut off and one last one that fortunately was in focus and he had the bird totally in the frame. He was able to get this shot because of several things: his camera was on, the shutter speed was fast enough and all other settings were on AUTO. In post-processing, the background was blurred and darkened slightly to create separation to highlight the bird in flight.
Comment: Sheree Ebanks – “What a fantastic capture, Eugene! Everything is tack sharp, with good action, and background. This is one for the wall! Congratulations!”
Then we have Greg Skehan from Singapore. This is his favourite bird in Sri Lanka, the Painted Stork. It was taken 2 years ago when they visited one of the many National Parks in the South East part of the country.
And next we have Keri Down from Australia. Her submission is this compliant duck. Of all the photos she took that day, she thought she had the best reaction herself to this one. She has purposely overexposed it in the post and it may be too much but she liked the overall picture.
Comment: Sara O’Brien – “Keri, I love this! Great action on the duck and love the unexpected monochrome treatment. It really grabs your attention. Well done!”
Next, we have Kerrie Clarke from Australia. Eastern Spinebill is a small Honeyeater, common in Southeastern Australia. They’re very fast movers, and pause to hover while taking nectar from long, tubular flowers. She captured this one in her back garden.
Comment: Greg Skehan – “Hi Kerrie. I totally agree with all of the comments below. This is an absolutely incredible photo. The fine details, the action of the wings and placement of the beak, and the muted background colours make it a real prize winner. I really hope that you enlarge and print this on the best quality paper/canvas etc and display it in a prominent place in your home. Thank you so much for posting it – truly inspiring.”
And we have Lynton Stacey from Australia. This is a superb blue wren photographed in the Adelaide Hills. Normally they are very active birds, but this one sat long enough that he could take a few images. Edited in LR and Topaz.
Comment: Kerrie Clarke – “Beautifully composed, Lynton. I love the simplicity of this image the creamy background and the nice detail on the Wren. I know how difficult they can be to capture, and you’ve done it very well.”
And last but not the least, we have Peter Dwight from Australia. His next Bird is a Red Wattle Bird who stood very still & proud for his portrait.
Comment: Brent Mail – “Beautiful bird photo Peter! What I really like about this image is the way your wattle bird’s lack of colour and contrast separates it from that green background. Also it’s eye is tack-sharp, and I like the highlights the catch lights in the eye too. Details are excellent and I like how are you have left enough space behind its tail and above its head. The only small little bit of advice would be to increase the shadows a little bit on its head just so that the eye pops a little more. Thanks for sharing.”
- Use a long lens or specialized equipment, like a teleconverter or tripod, to get close to birds without disturbing them.
- Learn about bird behavior and habitats to anticipate their movements and capture better images.
- Be patient and observant, as bird photography often requires waiting for the right moment.
- Use the surroundings to your advantage to get closer to birds.
- Consider post-processing techniques like cropping to improve the quality of your images.
- Bird photography requires a combination of technical skill, knowledge, and patience to capture beautiful and compelling images of these fascinating creatures.
Did you enjoy this article? Check out these related articles, too:
- Capturing the Beauty of Wood
Uncover the Hidden Textures and Grain with Every Click – Wood Photography
- A Retrospective: Our Top Photos from Last Year
Celebrating the moments and subjects that inspired us to pick up our cameras.
- Mastering the Art of Double Exposure Photography
Explore the Creative Possibilities of Layering Photos to Create Surreal Images
Do This Now
Please leave me a comment below – I’d love to know what you think. Brent