Birds Outside Your Window
Alok Brahmbhatt takes a look at everyday birds for interesting photographic opportunities.
Nature means everything around us—including the birds that call it their home. These birds are everywhere, so we often take them for granted. We forget that they are as important as the flora and fauna, because they help maintain a balance in the environment.
We also take the beauty of these birds for granted. Their colours and sweet sounds add to the natural aesthetics of the surroundings. Let us explore the opportunities to get good photographs of these birds around us. In fact, even when you are at home, you can look for these everyday birds, just by looking out your window.
Shooting urban birds from a close distance is actually quite an easy task. No special equipment or complicated lens is necessary. Even a simple digital camera can give you good photographs.
If your house is surrounded by a lot of trees, then there is a good chance that you will have plenty of opportunities to shoot good bird photographs. Firstly, choose a window from where you can have the best view of birds. Secondly, you can create an environment that is conducive to attracting them to you—birds prefer a place that is peaceful, safe and has easy access to food.
One way to create such an environment is to make an artificial shelter for them by using a shoebox. Make a hole in the box, and then hang it on a tree, so that it is in full view from your window. Birds will automatically come and make a nest inside the shoebox. You can also keep an earthen pot filled with water outside the window. The pot should be at a height where you can see the bird.
Observe, Then Shoot
Now that you know how to invite these birds, half your work is complete. It will be a lot simpler for you to document their arrival and activities around the birdhouse you made for them. The important step now, is to wait and watch. Observe the activities of the birds before finally taking out your camera. Watch them over a period of time only from your window. Let the birds be aware of your presence—you can spend time quietly, near the area they visit frequently.
Once you have an idea of their routine, you can begin to shoot. If you know the timing and the kind of movements the birds make, you can anticipate an image. Always set the focus of your camera to Continuous mode, and preset an exposure so that you can release the shutter on time.
If you happen to shoot a bird against the sky, it may get underexposed. In such cases, you will need to compensate the exposure accordingly.
Photograph for Identification
Photographs of domestic birds can be used in education and research activities. This documentation will also sharpen your skills and make you shoot better pictures—not just outside your home, but also in the wild.
Each species of birds has its own specific features that help us identify them. The main features are normally the beak, tail, feet, eyes and way of flight. It is very important to capture as many parts of the birds as possible for identification. Some birds have a unique shape too, through which it helps you recognise which family it belongs to.
Common Birds to Photograph
- Indian Robin (saxicoloides fulicata)
- Magpie Robin (copsychus saularis)
- Fantail Flycatcher (rhipidura aurola)
- House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
- Ring Dove (streptopelia decaocto)
- Spotted Dove (streptopelia chinensis)
- Blue Rock Pigeon (columba livia)
- Indian Myna (acridotheres tristis)
- Blackheaded Myna (sturnus pagdarum)
- Common Crow (corvus splendens)
- Jungle Crow (corvus macrorhynchos)
- Redwattled Lapwing (vanellus indicus)
- Whitethroated Munia (lonchura striata)
- House Swift (apus affinis)
- Roseringed parakeet (psittacula krameri)
- Purple sunbird (nectarinia asiatica)
- Tailorbird (orthotomus sutorius)
- Koel (eudynamys scolopacea)
- Crow-Pheasant or Coucal (centropus sinensis)
- Small Green Bee-Eater (merops orientalis)
- Large Grey Babbler (turdoides malcolmi)
- Red-vented Bulbul (pycnonotus cafer)
- Hoopoe (upupa epops)
Ref: The Book of Indian Birds by Dr. Salim Ali
Useful Tips for Photographing Birds
- You will need to be quick while operating the camera and when releasing the shutter because some birds can be quick.
- Try to shoot birds in flight, which will help people understand and identify the bird better.
- Do not disturb a bird or its nest just for the sake of a photograph.
- Think before approaching a bird’s nest. If you are too close, it might desert the nest forever.
Conservation—How You Can Help
Our ignorance towards nature is responsible for reducing a number of domestic birds in urban areas. This is creating an imbalance in the eco-system. To maintain the balance, all it takes is some simple, proactive initiatives. For example, when in the lush green, avoid disturbing or cutting down a plant or tree, just for the sake of a good photograph. Besides, the more they grow, the denser the area gets—which will attract more birds to make their nests. Also, photographs of these beautiful birds allows people to know more about them, which further drives them to think about conservation.
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Better Photography.