The word patience is synonymous with birds photography, which makes it one of the most challenging forms of the art to capture the beauties in feathers. A photographer has almost no control over the subject and the lighting conditions. In such circumstances, passion and preparation are the best ways for a good shot. Wildlife photographer Nitin Jain shares few valuable pointers.
Know Your Subject
Both the words – bird and photography – are equally important aspects of this form of photography. To become a successful bird photographer it’s critical to know your subject well. You need to observe the behaviour of birds, their habitat, resting and breeding patterns. In case of migratory birds you should know their migration patterns and their preferred habitat. A good bird photographer can identify and predict location of birds just by listening to their calls.
Arm Yourself Right
Birds are very shy and swift. To capture desired images, a photographer must have at least 300mm focal length of lens. Fast lenses (with wider aperture openings like 2.8) will help you achieve fast autofocus and will also help shooting in low light conditions. While buying DSLR body look at fps (frames per second), high ISO results, AF (autofocus), system’s accuracy and weather seal as these play vital role in bird photography. Invest in a good quality tripod. A tripod without center column can be laid flat while shooting from ground level. Using a bean bag helps a lot in stabilising the lens in various situations.
Light Your Ideas
Best times to shoot are early mornings and late afternoons when the light is angled, soft and its temperature is conducive for photography. It brings out true colour and texture of birds plumage. Morning light with a little cloud cover acts like a soft box. Try to have the source of light behind you and slightly to one side as it creates a three-dimensional effect on the subject. You can also experiment with backlight for silhouette and rim light effects.
Beauty In Four Corners
Try and avoid placing any subject at the exact centre of a photograph. It is much more visually pleasing to see the bird off to one side, facing inward the frame. Also, avoid placing the horizon line in the middle of a picture which cuts it in half. It’s better to frame the horizon in the top or bottom third of your photograph. Read more on the rule of thirds to understand this concept. For composition, avoid unnatural elements, like electric pole, fence etc. in the frame. It’s a good idea to show bird habitat as well. It makes them feel natural and your portfolio non-monotonous. Sometimes using few out of focus elements, like rock, grass etc., in front of your subject also creates aesthetically rich results.
Take The Right Stance
In bird photography, you should look for interesting angles before taking the shot. Eye-level is a preferred angle where you try and bring your camera parallel to the ground and at bird’s eye level. There are many
ways to do this. One of the techniques is to sleep flat on ground and rest the camera either on a bean bag
or on a fully flat tripod. This also allows you to get out of focus background. Another advantage is that if
you approach a bird on foot, it might notice you and fly away.
Freeze The Moment
It’s very important to understand birds’ behaviour so that you can predict certain action and keep your camera setup ready to shoot. It also helps to use remote shutter release so you can see bird coming more easily than from view finder. For birds in flight, you need to shoot in AI Servo mode (AF-C for Nikon) as you need to continuously track the moving bird. If you’re just starting out, then you can practice with larger birds as they move and fly slowly as compared to smaller birds. For perched birds, use manual focus so that it doesn’t shift on click of shutter release button while keeping the camera pre-focussed on the branch. Another important factor is fast shutter speed. Open the lens aperture to maximum and increase the ISO to achieve shutter speed of more than 1000. Set the camera in shooting mode to high speed continuous shooting.
Get Closer To The Action
There are few techniques people follow to get closer to shy birds, like wearing camouflaged clothing, hiding behind bushes, crawling slowly on the ground etc. While approaching birds avoid sudden movements and approach very slowly. Sometimes using blinds/hides (small tent) also works very well. You can create folding hides from mosquito nets which are sold roadside. Reaching on spot before sunrise is also a great idea. You may also use your car as the hide. Shooting from inside the vehicle is fine and easy. You can rest camera/lens on the window of the vehicle using a bean bag. Keep it ready before you approach the bird or else sudden movement of taking out a big lens will fly the bird away.
Make The Best Of What You Got
The most important quality of a good photographer is to make the most of whatever is available. One can try experimenting with creative blurs, compositions with patterns, tight close-ups etc. The key is not to get disappointed with your camera and lenses. But to understand their advantages and work towards it, instead of trying to achieve what that equipment is not capable of.
Be Ethical In Whatever You Do
Birds are wonderful and delicate creatures. When you are taking photos, make sure that birds are not getting harmed. It is advised not to photograph birds near nests. The life of bird is more important than a photo. Enjoy your share of surprises and excitement. But let them have their peace and life.
Published in Issue 18
This issue features Beard Design studio who exclusively work for start-ups. They stay loyal to their own aesthetics while delivering creative solutions for their clients. On the other hand, there is 22Feet Tribal Worldwide, a digital agency who believes digital is beyond the website and try to bridge the gap between offline and online design. We also have few promising individuals from the UI design arena who are fast making their marks. And to top them all, a discussion on the raging issues of digital in the country by few leading names of the industry. So, go ahead