I tried my hand at taking a few shots of the birds in my garden this weekend and I have a few things to share;

 

To start with: RESPECT to anyone who does this on a larger scale. I am not the most patient person so lying on the grass waiting for something to come close enough for my measly 250mm lens to pick up decently was painful, both physically and mentally. Then, to finally have a LBJ close enough to me for a half decent shot only to have the little bugger not stand still long enough to get focused, started raising my blood pressure. To top it off, just as it all comes together, my son opens his sliding door and scares the little winged devil away before I can squeeze off a shot. Cue several expletives as I check the screen of the camera to see lots of grass and only a pair of blurred feet at the top of the frame as any evidence at all that I had actually not been lying on the lawn taking a nap.

 

Time for a beer to steady the nerves.

 

However, within a short time, I was back again and after watching without the camera for about three quarters of an hour, I started noticing the pairs, the patterns, the behaviour with other birds, what spooks them  and what does not. With that it dawned on me that this was a little like fishing in that there is a lot more to it that simply casting your equipment in the right direction and hoping for the best. Observation and knowledge are the most important tools in the kit.

 

I did give it another shot and out of about 300 attempts, I may have one or two half decent pictures to show for and afternoons work, although I can definitely confirm that 250mm is only good enough if you have the power of invisibility and are made of birdseed!

 

Anyway, I am not sure if I will try this in a hurry again without a longer lens, but I did learn quite a bit and at least it got me out the house, if not off my property.

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Comment by Chris Jones on December 12, 2013 at 11:02

Just came across this blog - some good pictures and advice on bird photography

http://www.photodestination.co.za/top-10-tips-for-improving-your-bi...

Comment by Kevin Richards on November 28, 2013 at 8:37

Thanks for all the feedback Pietman!

I was quite pleasantly surprised at the interest this blog entry generated. Very symbolic of everyone's passion!

Thanks All.

Comment by Pietman Muller on November 24, 2013 at 10:05

Kevin, you need to work within the limits allowed by your gear. You need to find ways to overcome this in order to fill the frame and get rid of the clutter and manmade elements in the background that Robbie mentioned. If you do not have access to a longer high quality lens you need to find ways to get closer to your subjects.  Starting out with the birds in your garden is a good idea and you should find ways to get close enough and in this patience is the key. Chris mentioned the problem of busy backgrounds in his garden so take note of the advice given by him and the other Chris and head for the water. The bird hides at Austen Roberts in Pretoria and places like Rietvlei dam are good places to start. Check out the web reference Chris gave you, study this and other literature on the subject as well as the work of others and your potential subjects and then be patient and practice a lot!

Austen Roberts - 200mm

 @ Robbie, fortunately it is also possible in certain instances to get near the so called wild birds and the amateur need not be discouraged. Patience is the key, however. 

Taken at night from a 5m hide erected near the nest @ 250mm

Taken from a collapsible hide on the banks of the Crocodile river near Hectorspruit. Lighting a black and white coloured bird in very low early morning light in the dense canopy of a tree was extremely difficult and I had to totally rely on flash with the problems associated with it. The bird were at one stage about 3 meters from the hide and I had to be very quiet and still. Taken at 155mm

Taken in Northern Kruger park @ 150mm

Nandoni dam - Venda @ 200mm

Northern Kruger park @ 190 mm

Kevin know your equipment and its limitations and find ways to work around it. Remember that it is always the photographer and his ability and creativity first and foremost that makes a winning image and that the equipment is only there to assist in achieving this goal. Denying this is like telling the award winning chef that his success is all about  a good stove! 

Comment by Kevin Richards on November 22, 2013 at 13:03

Thanks Chris. I will definitely check it out. 

Comment by Chris Jones on November 22, 2013 at 12:35

Kevin I found this free book on the internet a while back I found parts of it quite useful with some good sugesstions and ideas.

http://www.digitalbirdphotography.com/1.1.html

 

 

Comment by Danie Bester on November 20, 2013 at 15:48

They\re all weavers if I am not mistaken, but lets leave it for the serious guys to help you with ID....

Comment by Kevin Richards on November 20, 2013 at 15:24

Hi All.

Officially, 598 shots! Only 3 even remotely worthy of an edit. Due to limited lens I had to crop quite a bit. But here they are. Not sure what birds the are so an ID would be appreciated.

All feedback, both positive and negative will be appreciated immensely. Thanks again for the interest in my blog entry!

Comment by Pietman Muller on November 20, 2013 at 4:44

To minimize the risk of being misunderstood I would like to add that I do believe that a very long lens is necessary if one wants to be a serious bird photographer. I am even of the opinion that 600mm is the minimum requirement and not 400mm. I have a very good friend that is a serious bird photographer and his equipment have double the reach of mine. On most occasions when we are in the field together I don't even attempt a shot, especially on the smaller birds. My argument is that you may be able to fill the frame with your bazooka and you may even succeed to get some shots that will qualify as illustrations in a bird guide BUT without patience you won't bag a lot of winning shots that will draw a WOW from viewers. Patience is the most important weapon in the arsenal of any nature-, wildlife- or bird photographer, and equipment can never replace that. Most of the time it is patience that creates the opportunity!

Thanks for the blog Kevin, I really enjoy your writing and yes you can make yourself invisible and then your 250mm is not made of birdseed anymore! The best camera is the one in your hand, use the equipment you have, improvise, be creative and you will produce some winners. The most important part is, like Bruna said,  to have fun!  

Comment by Bruna Mentrup-Nortje on November 20, 2013 at 0:20
I really enjoyed reading your blog! It reminded me of all my attempts and frustration in the beginning with my short lenses. But I also agree with Pietman, you will be able to get closer to them once you understand their behavior and by getting to know how they tick, they sometimes allow for you to get a little closer to them and thus into their space. Long lenses will obviously make it easier for you but they also come with their own line of things to learn and master first. Have fun and keep up your challenge!
Comment by Pietman Muller on November 19, 2013 at 20:15

@ Robbie - I am not a bird photographer but I still maintain that patience is more important than a long lens. Yes in certain circumstances a long lens will get you the shot where someone without the focal lens will be frustrated, but there are ways to overcome the obstacles presented by shorter focal length.

Taken in the garden this morning @ 260mm. Other settings - 1/500 @ f7.1, ISO 2000.  So to all photographers out there without the necessary focal length, be patient, learn as much as you can about your subject, plan your shoot around feeding and other habits, let them get used to your presence, use a hide to conceal yourself and enjoy!

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