Carefully Plot Your Shot for the Best Birding Photos

May 18, 2011
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While many adventurers book nature travel to experience the world, a large number of travelers are interested in expanding their birding “life list.” While birders spend much of their time researching the behavior patterns and physical characteristics of their avian infatuation, many remain clueless when it comes time to take a photo of their feathered friends. Fortunately, there are a few ways to ensure that your photos of the majestic icterine warbler or a resplendent quetzal (pictured) come out perfectly.

First off, there are many suitable cameras for birding, but one all photogs should be carrying an SLR camera. Whether it's a digital SLR or more traditional film camera, travelers hoping to spot birds in the treetops will want the versatility afforded by these cameras, which can swap out lenses for better resolution and zoom.

Lenses that stand out for capturing birds in motion include the Canon 400 f/5.6 and the 100-400 IS, as well as the 80-400 Nikon Lens.

Aesthetically, photographers will want to frame their shot quickly but silently. Focus the lens on the bird itself first, then move the camera slightly of center to add more personality and depth to the photos.

It’s also important to plan your excursions for times when the light is best for photography and the birdlife is the most active. Try early morning or late afternoon to avoid hard shadows and “burn outs.” If your birding excursion takes you into the forest, shooting can be difficult because the light is low and the birds move fast. Be sure to set your camera to a higher ISO in order to achieve a higher shutter-speed so that you get a sharp shot.

Tripods are also helpful. If you have sufficient time to plot your shot, try to set up your tripod in an are where the birds are active…and wait for your perfect shot.


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