Ask the Expert: Photographing Birds
This story was originally published in September 2011.
I am very fond of birds and I have wanted to capture some of the birds in flight. I am going to visit a bird sanctuary. I will be using a Canon 400D with the 18–55mm kit lens and a Tamron 55–200mm lens. No tripods or monopods are allowed. Any advice would be welcome.
Salman Khan, Bhor, Pune
Capturing birds in flight is not easy! The most important virtues are patience, perseverance, and knowledge of the behaviour of the birds you are attempting to photograph. You need to know the time of the day when they are most active (usually early mornings and evenings). You will need the 55–200mm lens at the long end most of the time. It will be easier to try to catch them from the side. Concentrate on the ones that are perched upon trees or on the ground.
An effective technique to ensure that your images of birds are sharp is to prefocus at a particular spot where you expect the bird to fly. Set your exposure in advance, so that all you need to do when the bird appears in the frame is click. Be ready to release the shutter the moment it takes off. Your choice of shutterspeed is extremely important. It should be fast enough to freeze the bird in flight, but a slight blurring of its wings can actually help you emphasise its motion.