One of the easiest places to get started with wildlife photography is with the birds that frequent our feeders. This is a good place to get some practice using a telephoto lens. Long focal length lenses, 300mm and up, is very critical when focusing and require a fair amount of "getting used to." These long focal lengths will also demand the use of a tripod. Of course, we want our subjects to be in a natural looking environment and not sitting on the ledge of a feeder. I like to set up a perch for birds to land on near the feeder. We can choose a perch that has only one obvious place for the birds to land so that we have a precise spot to watch and pre-focus. If a stump is selected, we can also place some seed in any hidden crevices atop the stump and a hole can be drilled in the side for suet.
Like all other forms of wildlife it is important to know your subject as thoroughly as possible. Know the birds preferred habitat, song, breeding season, migratory routes, and any other information that can be gathered. A lot of this information is available in Field Guides and on the web. By knowing the songs of the birds you can be alerted to a bird at a distance. Also, it is important to know which season will offer the best opportunity to photograph certain birds.
Hummingbirds are another of my favorite subjects. It's really quite simple; again we'll use a feeder. I prefer a hummingbird feeder with a single tube protruding from the bottom. Filled with a mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, hummers will return time after time. By placing wildflowers carefully, we can hide the tube of the feeder. Unfortunately, because a hummer's wings beat at an amazing 70 beats per second; they require a slightly complex flash setup. This blistering speed makes the use of fine quality (low speed) film with existing light an impossibility. I use 3 flashes, two on the bird and one on a background. Setup in a fully shaded area and then try to overpower the existing light by at least 6 stops. By doing this, you will eliminate blurred, or ghost images, of the bird's wings. Positioning a background of sky-blue or grass-green and lighting it with an additional flash, we'll have a very natural-looking photo. Lighting a background is a necessity and, if this step is left out, the resulting photo will look as though it was taken at night. This is because the flash or flashes used to light the bird will not carry far enough to light the background.
More Photography Tips Below:
Getting Started / Blinds / Getting Published / Finding Wildlife / Bird Tips / Birds in Flight
Duck Tips / Insect Tips / Mammal Tips / Deer Tips / My Equipment / Used Equipment
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