Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Joy of Wildlife Photography

The Joy of Wildlife (Bird) Photography
March 17, 2020

During the past few years, I have added to my photographic experience bird photography.  I love birds whether they are stationary or in flight.  I particularly get my greatest thrill out of photographing birds in flight (BIF).

To accomplish this I now own a Nikon D500 along with the Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 lens.  As a retire photographer and non-professional on a tight budget, this camera and the lens help to accomplish a lot of what far more expensive cameras and lenses can achieve.  A big, heavy, fast f2.8 or f4 lens is outside my price range, but in decent light and even less the perfect light, the 200-500mm f5.6 performs quite well for this hobbyist.

It takes a lot of continual practice going to places where birds can be seen.  This effort includes going to nature centers, bird sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, zoos, back yards, as well as being on the look out in most any place where birds may be like a local pond or open field. 

To practice, it requires getting familiar with your camera and how to set it up to achieve the best success.  In my case (everyone's camera will have similar controls, but with some different terms, locations and quality specific to their make and model) it requires learning the camera, how to hold the camera and the big lens, as well as learning how to use a tripod and gimbal.  Become so familiar with the controls that you can find and use them quickly. 

In either case, practicing requires that the camera Shutter Release mode be set to Continuous High speed (CH), Auto Focus to AF-C, and Dynamic Area of Auto  Focus be selected depending on size and distance of the birds.  That means fewer focus points are required for larger and closer birds while, smaller and more distance birds will require more focus points.  Meter based on angle of light.  Spot metering will usually be most effective so that exposure is based on the bird and not the surrounding area. 

If hand holding, have Vibration Reduction (VR) turned on and if a tripod and gimbal are used turn of VR.  Maintain Shutter Speed above 1/1000s or higher.  For most birds in flight, I opt to usually lock my camera's minimum shutter speed to 1/1600s in order to ensure a sharp capture and manage Aperture pretty wide open between f/5.6 and f/8 depending on the light and relationships to the background.  I seek the lowest ISO possible, but elect by locking the shutter speed to set the ISO to Automatic and let the camera determine the lowest possible ISO dependent on Aperture selected with the shutter speed.  I almost always shoot Aperture Priority.

I shoot exclusively in RAW and use Auto White Balance so that I can edit my bird images based on the Exposure results. I use Lightroom and Photoshop to adjust for highlights and shadows, color and tonal variations, clarity, sharpness and noise that can occur in changing light and environmental condition.

Practice, Practice and Practice!  Here are few of my image that I am delight in:

I hope you enjoy this blog offering about my love of bird photography.

John D. Roach
March 17, 2020