Wildlife 101: Birds

Growing up with an avid birder for a father, I have always paid quite close attention to birds.  While I am certainly no expert on bird photography (partly owing to not having the right equipment), I have compiled a few tips for novice avian photographers:

  • Buy (or perhaps hire) the longest telephoto lens you can afford – a 300-400mm would probably be best, though you would be looking at about R100 000 ($10 000 or £6 000).
  • Despite my previous tip, remember that you can always zoom and crop in post-processing.
  • If you are unsure where to find birds near you, find the nearest bird hide, or even putting up a bird-feeder in your own garden.
  • Avoid sudden movements and noises if you are trying to approach a bird – they can be very skittish!
  • Research which birds can be found in your area before trying to photograph them – knowing their habits not only helps to find them, but also to anticipate their behaviour.

Camera settings for avian photography are very similar to those for wildlife photography;

  • Set your camera to Av Mode,
  • set your shooting mode to continuous,
  • use the widest aperture possible (for both a blurred background and speed), and
  • use the fastest shutter speed possible.

These are some photos I have taken of birds over the past few years:

Next week, I will be talking about the more creative side of wildlife photography.

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