Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sparrows and other small tree dwellers

20090308_6647_r0So you're out there with your camera hoping to get some good bird shots, but the skies are empty. Fear not, you may still be able to get a good shot. Just check the nearby trees.

I used to overlook tree dwelling birds, but I've managed to get a lot of good shots of my local sparrow, mockingbird or bushtit by following a few simple rules.

  • Don't try to catch them in flight (if you actually have caught one of these in flight, I'm damned impressed, but for me it's not worth the effort).
  • Get them perched in a tree or other structure. Don't bother shooting them on the ground. You'll want a nice background.
  • Shoot at or near your lens' sweet spot, to get the sharpest picture possible. You'll want to get the texture in those feathers.
  • Get them facing into the light. Bad for portraits but great for birding. If the light's a little off to the side, you'll get some depth to the feathers. Also take a few shots to get the head posed such that the sun glints off one of the bird's eyes.
  • Get as clear a background as you can. Bokeh really makes the bird "pop".
  • Try to shoot in the golden hours when the bird will be lit more from the side than overhead.
  • Extra credit if you can catch the bird eating.

That's about it. Just remember, different birds photograph differently.

You can find product designs decorated with images of small tree dwelling birds in my zazzle store. If you have a product in mind but don't see it, just leave a message on the store wall or product page and maybe I'll design it for you!