This is my first attempt at bird photography for my trip to Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2012. The gear that I used consisted of the Sony Alpha A77 DSLR with 300mm f2.8 lens and Sony NEX 7 with 18-55mm kit lens. I’ve learnt a lot from this trip, so here are some tips and tricks to share with you.
How to choose your gear
- Bring a long range lens, preferably one that can reach a minimum 300mm lens zoom range, because even at 300mm, a tiny bird will often still look tiny in the shot. It’s rare to encounter big birds or birds close to you. If not, you will be spendiing a lot of time cropping your pictures and lowering the resolution after the crop.
- A big aperture lens will help in getting a clear and bright shot of your subject at fast shutter speed. Smaller apertures works too, just that you will need more light falling on your subject to get a good clear shot.
- Bring along a decent light-weight secondary camera for wide angle shots if you are using a single focal length lens, like the heavy and bulky 300mm f2.8 lens that i piggybacked through my trip. The secondary camera (I used the Sony NEX 7) comes in handy to take scenic shots of the landscape, saving you time on switching lens during your hike in the forest.
- Use a Monopod to minimize shakes when taking a shot. A tripod may be too slow to set up, as birds seldom stay still at one spot.
How to get a good shot
- The best time to capture the birds on camera is right after sunrise and a couple of hours before sunset. These timings are when the temperature is cooler and the birds are more active, making it easier for you to spot them. With the sun rays coming down from an angle, you will get a prettier profile shot of the birds.
- Look around and keep your ears to the ground to see and hear where the chirping is coming from. Remember not to make too much noise while sneaking closer to your subject and waiting for that right moment to snap, lest you scare the birds away.
- A static portrait shot of the bird can be boring, so wait for the bird to carry out a set of actions and your shot will come alive.
If you are first time bird watcher like me, having a bird expert as your companion will help you in spotting the birds from the tall trees and dense canopy of the forest. As always in nature photography, it’s all about Patience and Luck. So if you still can’t get your shot or come across a nice subject after a couple of hours, remember to remain optimistic and treat it as a hike in the forest - who knows, you might just get your perfect shot at the next tree.
Here are some shots taken with the Sony NEX 7 and 18-55 kit lens:
Dennis from SUPERADRIANME