In my long tradition of writing about things I know little to nothing about, I thought it would be appropriate to briefly recount the fun I have been having photographing the sturdy little birds that have been frequenting the feeders on our deck.
Given the relentless severity of this winter's weather Susan and I
Over the years I have tried to grab occasional shots of the birds visiting our feeders, usually with little success. These little creatures tend to flit in and out spending little time around the
|A Cardinal, Duh|
Still I have much to learn about getting natural appearing images of these fascinating creatures, but I thought I would share a few of my early images. Hopefully, in a future article I will be able to recount more of what I have learned and show better quality images. To date I have seen the Cardinal just once, but frequent visitors have included Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse's (what is the plural of Titmouse?), Juncos, Pine Siskins and American Goldfinch. Or at least that's what I think I've seen. Did I mention that I'm really new at this bird stuff.
|Junco, Fluffed Against the Cold|
For now, I can only list a few early lessons and goals for future work.
Watch the Background
Unfortunately, given the location of our feeders, most of the available viewing angles suffer from background distractions such as the deck railing, the gazebo and the other feeder. I have tried to find narrow angles of view that limit these problems and I used wide apertures to soften the background contamination, but I still find the frequent need to apply some editing to the backgrounds.
|Chickadee in the Evergreen|
Most of the birds tend to be quite high strung and nervous, making rapid shutter speeds necessary to freeze their movement. The quick shutter is also necessary to reduce the effects of camera shake when trying to hand hold my long lens. A wide aperture helps, but I still need to increase the ISO when the light is low. The use of a tripod adds stability, but it also limits the ability to quickly respond to the birds as they jump about.
Focus on the Eyes
As with any portrait photography, the key to proper focus is to concentrate on keeping the eyes sharp. With my subjects incessant movement, continuous focus settings such as AI Servo on my Canon, are helpful to follow the action.
I have to remind myself that the only reason that the birds are there is to feed, but it is easy to become tired of always capturing them with the feeder in view. Not a very natural setting. I have been able to catch a few among the branches of a nearby evergreen, which is a favorite secure roosting place, but I have also experimented with the placement of a number of more photogenic perches around the feeder. Early on it seemed that a branch stuck into the snow made some of the birds skittish, but a piece of tree bark and a old Barn Swallow nest placed on the railing next to the feeder seemed to be more attractive. With time, the branch has also become a favorite perching spot.
|Titmouse in the Nest|
|Goldfinch on the Branch|
Birds in Motion
I found it especially challenging to catch these swift erratic birds in
flight. I needed a shutter of at least 1/2000th to begin to capture
|Chickadee Take-Off, While a Pine Siskin Watches|
The Squirrel Issue
|Please Sir, May I Have Some More?|
|Titmouse on the Bark|
I love the special photographic opportunities that a New England winter provides, but we are reaching the inevitable "Enough is Enough" part of the season. I'm ready for some signs of spring and this year our bird feeders have provided an especially welcome distraction from the record breaking cold and snow. I have a lot to learn, but eventually I may even be able to identify most of our winged friends.
And speaking of avian harbingers of spring, I discovered yesterday that the Eagles are back on the Connecticut River in Chesterfield, NH. They seemed to be focusing on nest renovations, so hopefully we will see some action this year. It is a long reach to the nest on the Connecticut and I've discovered that It is much easier to get sharp images when the birds are only a few feet away.