Terry’s Blog #3 – How to get great bird photos….. technical stuff.
It is a rainy day today, with a strong wind and rather cool temperatures. But that is what you come to expect for the long weekend in Canada. Since my last blog I have been back to Bees and Blooms Nursery a couple of times, hoping to get more photographs of the birds coming to the feeders (see my first blog). Both trips were quite successful.
I thought it might be worthwhile explaining how I go about getting these shots. The top bird photographers will be familiar with this technique, but many beginning photographers might find this useful. In an ideal situation I would do this in my own backyard, but the small backyards you have when you live in a townhouse are not suitable for this sort of setup.
I look for a bird feeder that has a nice green backdrop some distance from the feeder, so that I get a nice out-of-focus background in the photograph. I have a small, one-man blind that I set up at an appropriate distance from the feeder and in the right location to get that good background. This should also be in a position so that the sun is directly behind you when you are shooting, although ideally you should shoot on an overcast day to avoid deep shadows and highlights that burn out.
Next, I use my handy dandy stick holder to position an attractive branch near the feeder for the birds to land on. I do not want the birds on the feeder, but rather, on a good looking branch with leaves, flowers or mosses and lichens. I have a special tool that makes this very easy to do. It is two short lengths of metal tubing that are welded together in the middle at a 45 degree angle to one another. There is a wing nut set screw in each length of tubing to hold the pole and branch in place. I use a piece of ¾” doweling that it 3 feet long with one sharpened end as the pole. The sharpened end is jammed into the ground near the feeder and then the metal tubing goes over the other end and is tightened with the set screw. I then put my branch in the other length of tubing and tighten it down, positioning the branch close to the feeder.
I have learned that if I am using a branch with leaves and flowers, it is a good idea to attach a plastic bag with wet paper towels in it to the cut end of the branch. This way the branch will get water and the leaves and flowers will not wilt. Once this is set up, I get into the blind and hope the birds land on the branch.
The above photos illustrate what you can do with this set-up. My photos are still suffering from harsh light and burn-out on the white flowers as I have not been able to get a good overcast day for photography yet. Of course, if you are setting up in your own backyard, you might want to select a location for the feeder that is in the shade. You might need to use a flash set-up in this situation though, but that is another story.