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Introduction
A Journey of a Thousand Mile Begins With Single Step - Confucius
I started my blog Nature Photography Simplified with this very quote in my Coming Soon page on December 2013. I have
started my journey as a blogger with one article at a time. I know it is a long process to get noticed in this crowded internet,
but I am sure I will succeed if I take baby steps...yes, baby steps!
If I start beating up myself everyday to get thousands of visitors in a day, then I am sure to be frustrated. It may probably
force me to quit blogging too. But if I keep sharing very good content every time, then slowly and steadily I will be able to
build a loyal audience like you and you may spread this word far and wide to reach my goals faster!
Hold on...but why am I saying this to you? how does it ever make sense to you?
Believe me, it does! You are starting off to a thousand mile journey of becoming a great bird photographer...dont you? And
I am very happy that you have taken the first step by reading this ebook.
But remember, it is not different in your case. You have to take baby steps as well. You have to take it easy, one step at a
time. Understand each of these incredible tips one at a time and put them into practice. Make one wonderful bird
photograph at a time, then share it. Your friends and family members will start to notice your improvement and start
sharing your work! You will be on your way of becoming a great bird photographer slowly and steadily.
Good Luck and Happy Reading...
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Camera and Lenses
Bird photography is by far the most
expensive of all other photographic genre.
One of the most debated topics is about
camera and lenses.
The reason is simple, birds are almost
always very far, which dictates for telephoto
lenses, and hyperactive, which dictates for
faster AF performance. But everything
comes at a greater cost.
I would like to tell you that I got my first
and very favorite of my bird photograph,
Seagull Landing, with Nikon D60 and kit
lens Nikkor 18-55mm lens! Believe me...I
did.
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Seagull Landing on a Lamp Post
I made plenty of successful photographs with my Nikkor
18-200mm lens as well for 4 straight years. I should
admit that I learnt most of the photography concepts
with lens alone.
Later I did use Nikkor 70-300mm lens and I was blown
away with its performance with D300s and
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D7000. It was more than sufficient to get most of my
best photographs with that.
I have won several appreciation for the Great Egret
photograph I took with Nikon D7000 + Nikkor 70-
300mm lens.
Wide Spread Wings of a Great Egret
I have used Canon 5D Mark III + Canon 100-400mm lens for 1
year and had reasonable success it too. The left photograph of
Great Blue Heron with a fish is made with Canon.
Now, I own Nikon D7100 + Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens, after more
than 5 years of photography experience. I am definitely able to
make sharper and more detailed photographs now. Most of the
photographs in this ebook are taken with 300mm f/2.8 lens.
Whichever camera or lens I have used, it is always
been the patience, perseverance and the love of
photographing those beautiful creatures, which has
made it possible to capture beautiful moments
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Great Blue Heron with Red Fish
I want you to always remember these lines:
It is not just the lens or the Camera you use,
which makes you a good photographer. It is
the passion to capture those beautiful
creatures, that inner drive to go out and wait
for hours to get a live their life, is what makes
you a wonderful photographer
Start with a good entry level or semi-pro DSLR camera
and a decent telephoto lens like 18-200mm or 70-
300mm lens preferably with VR (Vibration Reduction)
on Nikon lenses or IS (Image Stabilization) on Canon
lenses.
Start taking pictures of bigger and easier to approach
birds like Ducks, Geese, Seagulls, or Swans. Learn and
apply each and every concept that I describe in the rest
of this e-book. Master them all.
Create some kind of a bond with a bird by visiting it
often and just watching it without ever scaring it away.
It will open up a new possibility in your life to
communicate in silence!
I was fortunate to make bonds with a Juvenile Blue
Heron and a Green Heron, the one in the cover page. I
have been watching them for over 6 months and they
have given me so much joy that I cannot express.
Try it...You will know it!
There will be a time, when you realize that you are
passionate enough to pursue this hobby more seriously.
That is the time when you will consider buying more
expensive gears if necessary.
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Bird Photography Settings
There are many options to use for bird photography,
depending on the needs and what suits you the best.
I will try to explain some of the most widely used bird
photography settings here. These are the settings
which I use in my daily bird photography.
Remember that, no matter which settings you use, the
photography composition and the concepts remains
the same.
Aperture Priority Mode
Aperture Priority mode enables the user to select the
Aperture to control the Depth of Field (DOF) and let
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the camera decide on rest of the settings like Shutter
Speed and ISO to get proper exposure.
This is by far the most widely used mode in Bird
Photography because of following reasons:
You can decide whether to blur the background
completely to achieve most sought after
Bokeh effect or to achieve deeper depth of
field by showing the bird and its habitat
As the birds are very active and always on move,
the light and the background changes drastically,
making it quite difficult to change the shutter
speed and/or ISO in fraction of seconds
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Shutter Speed
Remember that the shutter speed should be atleast (1 /
effective focal length) to avoid any kind of camera
shake.
If you are shooting at 300mm on a Crop factor camera
(1.5x) then the effective focal length is 450mm. It means
you need shutter speed of atleast 1/450th of a second to
reduce the camera shake.
Whereas, in case of Full Frame camera you can use
1/300th of a second.
VR (Vibration Reduction) / IS (Image
Stabilization)
I strongly recommend you to go for a VR (Nikon) or an
IS (Canon) lens. It is not always possible to reduce the
camera shake in the field, since the lighting
conditions and aperture settings may not allow us to get
higher shutter speeds.
VR or IS system compensates for any camera shake
normally due to slow shutter speeds. Depending on
whether you have VR/IS (first generation systems) or
VR-II/IS-II (second generation systems) you will get
close to 2 stops to 4 stops of exposure compensation.
Which means, if you are using VR/IS and if you are
shooting at 300mm in a cropped sensor, then you can
avoid camera shake with shutter speed of (1 /
(effective focal length /4)) which is 1/112.
Note: Each stop is typically multiple of 2.
Shoot in Burst or Continuous Mode
This is no-brainer I think. More frames per second you
have, better it is. You do not want to miss that next
unexpected movement of the bird.
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Use the high continuous burst speed always.
Focusing modes
Use single point for perched or static birds. This will
allow you to focus on the bird which is off-centered and
get a composition in the field itself.
However, as you are aware, it is generally not easy to get
a bird to sit obediently. Especially true in case of small
birds. They will atleast be moving their head to check
their potential threats. Larger birds like Herons and
Egrets are generally not that threatened and can sit still
for a long period of time.
Most of the times you have to use cross-point focusing
points like 9- or 15- or 21-points. Or sometimes all point
focusing.
I would recommend you to use the cross-point focusing
points if you can, as they are very responsive and can
quickly achieve the focus.
In general, smaller the number of focusing points
greater will be the chance of achieving focus.
But dont stick to one or the other. Try using all the
focusing settings and check which one you are very
comfortable with and then stick to it.
As a general rule of thumb, use focusing
points which covers the entire body of the
bird and some surrounding space
This way you will ensure that you give enough focusing
points to the camera to achieve focus.
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Spot Metering Mode
The spot metering mode will be the best bet in bird
photography since we want to perfectly expose for the
bird always as opposed to its background.
Of course, it is important to get the right exposure for
background too, but there may not be enough chances if
you miss the exposure on the bird.
Spot metering will also be very helpful in
getting the right exposure for white birds like
Egrets and dark birds like Crow or Grackles
However, use evaluative or matrix metering for birds in
habitat since you are interested in the background too.
Try using all the other metering modes that you have
and see which suits the best for a given scenario.
Shoot In RAW
Always shoot in RAW mode. Apart from its obvious
advantage of having complete control over the
processing, this will allow you to keep Auto White
Balance in the field.
If you get the white balance wrong in the field then you
can correct it in the post.
But if you are shooting in JPEG, then there is no way to
fix it or probably very hard if there is any latest software
to do so.
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Light
If there is no light, then there is no photograph.
Photography is all about light
Light has quality and direction. Quality of light is as
important as the direction of the light.
Quality of Light
Quality of light can be broadly classified as Soft light
and Hard light.
Soft light is generally the early morning light, generally
2 hours post Sunrise and late afternoon light, generally 2
hours before Sunset.
Hard light is usually all other times of the day.
3
Based on the geographical location, season and weather
conditions, you might have difference in the duration of
time you get soft light and hard light.
You may have more soft light during early spring, late
autumn and winter months. Or you may get soft and
well distributed lighting conditions during cloudy days.
As the name suggests, it is almost always required to go
with soft lighting for the bird photographs.
The soft light is more diffused and helps to
bring out the subtle and beautiful colors of
the bird, without casting any unwanted
shadows
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On the other hand, the hard light may cast unwanted
shadows on the body of the birds as it is usually very
directional. It is better to avoid it if possible.
Bird photographers do not have to care too much about
hard light, since birds are very active during the early
morning and evening. Most of their activities seize
during the harsh sunlight when they normally take rest.
Direction of Light
Along with quality of light, bird photographers should
also consider the direction of the light.
The Sunlight is always directional. It can be broadly
classified as: Front lighting, Side lighting, and Back
lighting.
The name of these categories are very much self-
explanatory. However, let us understand how each can
affect the bird photograph.
Front Lighting is when the bird is lit from the front,
which means that Sun is behind you.
Front light is the best lighting condition in the bird
photography for obvious reasons that:
it does not cast the shadows,
it gives the catch light in the birds eye, and
it helps to bring out all the beautiful colors in the
birds feathers
Most of the photographs in this ebook are examples of
front lighting.
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Side Lighting is when the
bird is lit from the side. It is
generally not ideal for bird
photography since it will
cast the shadow on the
opposite side of the bird.
It is better to avoid this
lighting condition and
change your position until
the Sun is behind you or the
bird is front lit.
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Green Heron distracted while fishing
Back Lighting is when Sun is behind the bird and you
are facing the Sun. Back lighting has a unique
characteristic of giving a rim light around the bird
which gives birds feathers a translucent quality and
also helps the bird to stand-out.
Back lit bird during Sunrise or Sunset will
almost always be most wanted bird
photograph due to its orange-reddish rim
light around the birds
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River Tern or Common Tern in backlight
Rule of Thirds
The Rule of thirds is a guideline to compose a
photograph which is visually compelling.
If you divide a photograph with 2 equally spaced vertical
and horizontal lines you will get 4 intersection points
and 9 equal parts.
As per the statistical data, it is said that a photograph is
more compelling or visually interesting if the main
subject of interest, is placed on one of the 4 intersection
points.
In case if the main subject of interest is big enough, that
it cannot be placed on the intersection point, then you
can place the subject either on left or right third (vertical
line) OR top or bottom third (horizontal line).
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The Rule of Thirds is probably the only
photography composition technique that is
necessary in Bird Photography
It is the most simple composition technique to
understand and apply.
The Rule of Thirds photography composition can be
applied to birds portraits, birds behavior, birds in
action, birds in flight or any other type of bird
photography.
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The Rule of Thirds Grid and the 4 Intersection Points
Composition Tips
- Place the main subject of interest (bird in
this case) on one of the 4 intersection points
- Place the vertical subjects, like bird walking
or perching, on either the left third or the
right third line (vertical lines)
- Place the horizontal subjects, like bird in
flight, on the top third line (horizontal line)
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Get Proper Exposure using Histogram
Histogram is a graphical representation of the
distribution of light and color components (RGB) of a
photograph. In digital world, an image is made of
collection of pixels and a pixel is made up of Red,
Green, and Blue (RGB) color components.
You will find two types of histograms in modern DSLRs.
One which is represented in all white and a histogram
for each color component R, G, and B.
The white histogram represents the light distribution
across the photograph that is captured. It just plots a
graph by calculating how each light (or gray) value
ranging from 0 (darkest or black pixel) to 128 (mid value
or gray value) to 255 (brightest or white pixel).
Check this in-depth article on Histogram.
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Same concept applies to RGB histograms, where each
histogram represents how Red, Green and Blue values
are distributed in a photograph.
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Histograms showing RGB Composite (white which represents Light
distribution), Red, Green and Blue components
If the distribution in the histogram is towards left hand
side of the graph, then the photograph is said to be
underexposed or is mostly dark.
On the other hand, if the distribution in the histogram is
towards right hand side of the graph, then the
photograph is said to be overexposed or it is very
bright.
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Great Egret Staring
Blue Heron in Flight
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The histogram showing proper exposure of a Belted Kingfisher photograph
Expose to the Right
It is usually better to avoid the distribution towards the
left hand side of the histogram. The chances are that you
will lose the fine details in the shadow regions.
To preserve the fine details, it is usually better to push
the histogram towards the right hand side without
overexposing the photograph.
You must have
realized how the
histogram should look
like for a proper
exposure. It has to
be distributed well
within the extreme left
or the extreme right
side.
Its All in the Eye
Have you ever wondered why some photographs of
beautiful birds seems to lack the charm? Everything
seems to be correct in such photographs but something
important will be missing.
That important thing is:
The birds eye is not in focus
There is no catch light in the birds eye
Birds look charming and lively only when their eye is in
sharp focus and there is a catch light in their eye.
When you look at the photograph of a bird, your eye
goes straight into the eye of the bird. It acts as an
anchor point for your eyes to rest, after scanning the
entire photograph. We always strive to make an eye
connection with the bird. So, it is very important to get
the bird eye in sharp focus.
6
But how about the catch light? The light indicates life.
Without the light in the eyes, the bird look boring or
lifeless. It is always very important to get the catchlight
in the birds eye.
Catchlight simply means a spark in the eye. It can be
produced by any light source like Sunlight, reflected
light, flash light, etc.
Since birds are found outdoors, it is not tough to get the
catch light in their eyes. As you already are aware, you
will always have to try to photograph a bird in the front
lighting, which will make sure that there is catchlight in
the birds eye!
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Peacocks Portrait
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Behind the Scenes
The peacock was probably few feet away from me in this
instance. It was actually perched on a fence making it
easier for me to try out few compositions.
Since the subject distance was quite less I had to choose
a smaller aperture leading to greater DOF that gets the
birds entire body in focus of course with the sharp eye
and catch light.
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Important Tips
- If the bird is perched or static, then choose
single point focus and focus specifically on the
eye
- If the bird is in action or in flight, then choose
an aperture value of f/5.6 or f/8 to make sure
that eye is always in focus
- Check for the catch light in the eye. Make sure
the bird is front lit
- Use Rule of Thirds by placing the birds eye on
or close to one of the 4 intersection points
Shoot at Birds Eye Level
A most common mistake among the beginners is that
they photograph the bird from their eye level!
Most of the birds are very small and stands only few
inches to few feet on the ground. If you take
photographs from your eye level then you are looking
down towards the bird. This makes the bird to look
dwarf or intimidated in the photograph.
Instead, if you photograph the bird from
birds eye level, then you will be able to
transport the viewer in to birds world!
This is the most important factor in bird photography. It
is about birds and their life. You should strive to portray
that in the best possible way!
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Initially you may feel bit uncomfortable sitting down or
lying down in the outdoors. Every bird photographer
would have faced this when they started taking an eye
level shot.
To be honest, I am really very shy when I am outdoors
while taking bird photographs. I usually photograph
birds in my apartment complex where the lakes are
surrounded by apartments.
I will be photographing birds in some crazy styles sitting
down or lying down or sitting for hours sometimes.
Sometimes I think what might people think about all
this...but then...very thought of getting that next
beautiful photograph makes me forget everything!
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If you pre-visualize how you want to photograph the
bird, then you will be so involved in watching the bird
that you might not notice what is happening around
you! You will be amazed how involved you are in
photography. This will be an indication that you are
becoming more passionate.
The most important advantage of shooting
at eye level is that you will get a beautiful
bokeh effect in most of the cases. Which is
probably another driving factor for bird
photographers to photograph at birds eye
level
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Red-headed Sparrow
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Behind the Scenes
This beautiful red-headed sparrow was having its
breakfast one day as I was on my everyday morning
photoshoot.
It was like a red dot in the green playground. As usual I
was standing still for few minutes until the bird started
ignoring me and continued to enjoy its breakfast.
I lied down to get an eye level shot with focusing points
set to 9-points and focused on the upper part of the body
to get the bird in sharp focus. Used the maximum
aperture to throw both foreground and background out-
of-focus by making the bird standout.
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Important Tips
- Always try to get an eye level shot of the bird
to create an intimate photograph
- If possible, try to use single point to get perfect
focus on bird.
- If you have to use more focus points because
bird is moving, then try to focus on the upper
body of the bird
- Use maximum aperture to throw everything
out of focus except the bird
Fill the Frame
One of the most widely used composition in bird
photography is to fill the frame with the bird. Which
means, the bird takes anywhere between 50% to 80% of
the frame giving very little amount of space for the
background.
This is one of the reason why the background is almost
always blurred to give emphasis only to the bird.
You do not always need a long telephoto lens to do this.
A decent telephoto lens like 70-300mm will be more
than enough to begin with.
Consider using far end of the telephoto, like 300mm and
maintain the subject distance such a way that you can
fill the bird in the frame.
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The pleasing blur or the famous Bokeh effect is
achieved based on the below factors:
The longer the focal length of the lens, greater is
the bokeh effect or more blurred the background
is
The bigger the aperture opening (maximum
aperture), more the blur is
The shorter the subject distance (i.e., distance
from the camera to the bird), greater is the blur
The longer the distance between subject and its
background, greater the blur
Now you must have realized that longer focal length
alone cannot give you pleasing blur effect. It definitely
increases your chance to get better pleasing bokeh, but
that alone is not the deciding factor.
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Remember to pay closer attention to the
background and the distance between the
bird and the background. You can get away
with beautiful bokeh effect if the bird is far
away from the background and you are closer
to the bird
It may not be possible to always fill the frame with the
bird, but you can do it in the post. Just make sure you
give enough space around the bird so that you can
compose it with Rule of Thirds.
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Juvenile Blue Heron with a Fish
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Behind the Scenes
This is the Juvenile Blue Heron I spoke about. It took
me several months to get this beautiful photograph.
It is a very tough life for the Juvenile Blue Herons and
the Great Egrets as any other predators. If they do not
learn to fish properly, then there is no survival.
I am very glad that this blue heron went onto become a
very skilled fisher! and hopefully will survive for many
more years to come.
In this photograph, the blue heron was probably 15 feet
away from me which made it easy to fill the frame just
with the bird and its prey.
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Important Tips
- If the background is not that great, then try to
fill the frame just with the bird
- Try to use maximum aperture to throw the
background out of focus
- Try to get an birds eye level shot
Show Bird in its Habitat
Several times you can make a bird photograph more
compelling by including birds habitat.
In such scenarios, the bird acts as a main point of
interest covering 25% to 50% of the frame and its
habitat (or background) acts as a secondary point of
interest.
You have to pay more attention here because you want
give only small portion to the bird as oppose to its
habitat. Which means, you need to compose the
photograph with much greater attention.
Just by including its habitat does not make the
photograph any better rather it will make it worse if you
do not compose it properly.
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How do you compose it then? Follow either or all of
these to get compelling photographs:
Make the habitat slightly blurred by choosing the
right aperture value. For instance, if f/16 brings
both the bird and its background in clear focus,
then try using f/11 or f/8 until the background
becomes slightly blurry
Wait for the perfect light conditions, when bird is
slightly better lit than its habitat. This will
usually yield amazing results
If you cannot do either of the above, then use
wise judgement to include only portion of the
habitat which is not asking for too much
attention
Essentially, your focus should be to make sure that bird
is quite visible and well focused compared to its
habitat.
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Blue Heron pair in their Natural Habitat
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Behind the Scenes
On this occasion, there were several blue heron families
building their nest for the breeding season. I was
photographing their flight for almost 2 hours but could
not get a family photograph.
The female in the photograph (standing) was in the nest
peeping its neck outside waiting for the male. I was
keeping an eye to see if the male arrives.
After an hour, the male arrived and took over the nest
while the female got ready to go!
With beautiful sunset light illuminating the subtle
feathers of the birds, I had a chance to take couple of
memorable photos.
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Important Tips
- Use minimum aperture values like f/8 or f/11
to get both bird and its habitat in focus
- Wait for perfect lighting conditions to make
the bird pop-up
- If the birds habitat is too intrusive, try to
throw the background a bit out-of-focus by
playing around with aperture setting
Capture Birds in Action
Birds are always on the move and ever active subjects
which makes it challenging to photograph them. More
challenge it is to photograph, more interested we will be
to photograph them, since we love challenges!
Though birds in action may also comprise of birds
behavior and flight, I have kept them as separate topics
to have more focused discussion.
Here is simple difference between action and behavior:
Behavior is reflex of the bird due to external stimuli
and Action is the activity of the bird done consciously.
Bird in action is always preferable to a bird perching or
sitting quietly. Aim for photographing the bird in action
like preening, walking, turning around, hanging upside
down, etc.
10
All the composition principles have to be followed for
birds in action also. Remember that:
Even if the action is great, but the
composition is not good, then photograph
will fail to impress the viewer
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Juvenile Great Egrets in Action
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Behind the Scenes
As said, Egret is my favorite bird and I never get tired of
taking their photographs.
Fortunately, there were atleast 20 juvenile egrets in a
small pond! for few days giving me enough
opportunities to make some wonderful photographs.
This ballet action shot of two Juvenile Egrets came after
3 visits each of atleast 2 hour duration. These kind of
action are very rare and definitely the one we should
always look forward to.
Aperture Priority, Spot Metering, and an aperture of f/4
did the trick of capturing this moment in a split second.
Because the birds were atleast 25 feet far, aperture of f/4
was more than enough to keep them in focus.
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Important Tips
- Make sure you get shutter speed of atleast (1 /
effective focal length)
- Keep track of the bird and its movement
- Half press the shutter to lock the focus when
you see a slight movement in the bird
- Once bird makes a move, track it for few split
seconds and take multiple shots the moment
focus is locked
Show Birds Behavior
Birds behavior probably requires the most patience
from us than any other type of bird photography.
Why? Because the birds are always on watch. They
watch us and our steps much more carefully than we
watch them!
Once they know that you are behind them to
photograph, they are very much alert and watching you.
They think you are a potential threat to them, which
makes them to be on their toes.
It can take from few minutes to hours to days to really
get the bird feel comfortable and be on its own upto
some extent. Once it starts to ignore you or starts to get
comfortable with your presence, you will get to observe
its actual behavior.
11
The secret is...be patient and you will be
rewarded with never before seen behavior of
the birds, sometimes scary and sometimes
funny!
Most bird photographers live for those moments when
something crazy happens... and they seize that
opportunity to proudly show it to the world.
Remember to keep an eye on the composition. Since you
are not sure when do you get that once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity, remember to have enough space around
the bird to allow for any sudden movements. You can
always do the required composition in the post.
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Green Heron Standing Tall!
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Behind the Scenes
Another favorite buddy of mine in the recent past is
Green Heron. I have taken numerous photographs of
this green heron and I am very thankful to the bird for
all those poses.
Generally, green heron stands with head retracted,
making its neck almost invisible. It only extends to the
full extent when leaning forward for fishing, as you see
in the cover page.
This instance was different. It was standing still with it
s neck stretched completely and observing with utter
attention. It was very clear to me that it is sensing
some impending danger, though I couldnt see its usual
predator in the area, a falcon.
I lied down to get an eye level photograph and also to
give a sense of its real height!
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Important Tips
- Do research and get to know its common
behaviors!
- Be patient and stay still and far from the bird
until the bird ignores you and be on its own
- Wait for the subtle signs of the birds
- If you are attentive, you will get an indication
that something is going to happen, and
probably thats the moment you were waiting
for!
Capture the Magnificent Flight
Birds in flight is the most exciting and probably the most
challenging task a bird photographer faces. It is the most
popular type of bird photography who does not want to
see birds in flight? Everyone is interested to see birds in
flight.
The longer the lens better it is for sure. However,
remember that the high-end lenses are very heavy and
potentially require expensive tripod gears and a well-
built personality. Despite that, it does not guarantee any
better results unless you have required skills to track the
bird with those heavy lenses.
Think about carrying those heavy lenses for hours, even
worst if have to carry those tripods! It is not easy. It
requires lot of patience, perseverance and of course
passion.
12
Most of the birds, especially the big birds, are
reasonably slow in flight and have a known flight
characteristics. The more you spend time observing the
birds in flight, the more you will be aware of their flight
path, their takeoff and landing techniques.
Most of the times, it boils down to how prepared are you
and how knowledgeable are you about the birds flight
characteristics.
Camera and lens comes into play only when
you are well equipped with the knowledge of
birds flight characteristics!
Spend most of your time knowing about the bird and
enjoying the bird in the field. You will start making most
beautiful and appreciable flight photographs that will
get noticed.
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I have taken my most notable bird photographs with 18-
200mm and 70-300mm lenses. Because of just one
reason...I love birds and their magnificent flight.
Just follow these steps to get the best flight photographs.
1. Track the bird by focusing on the bird by half-
pressing the shutter button
2. Track until the focus is achieved
3. If possible, wait until you get reasonably good
background
4. Take burst of shots
It is very important to allow the lens to achieve
focus. If you just start clicking from the beginning till
the end, then chances are that you will get frustrating
results.
The secret is in waiting for the focus to lock
and then waiting for the bird to appear in the
desired background and then going for burst
of shots
By doing this, you will see your bird-in-flight
photographs stand-out in the crowd!
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Sandhill Crane Pair in flight on a Beautiful Autumn Morning
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Behind the Scenes
I cannot express how delighted I was when I first saw
Sandhill Cranes pair dancing in the Sunset, way back in
March 2013.
It took me several months to really get to photograph
these birds. The longing for the bird for several months,
made me visualize a lot about how I will photograph
them, if I see them.
When I finally got to photograph them, I made sure to
turn my visualization into reality.
I love this photograph of Sandhill Cranes pair in the
beautiful autumn morning and their synchronous wings
position. By using the autumn colors in the background,
I emphasized the story a bit more.
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Important Tips
- Make sure you get shutter speed of atleast (1 /
effective focal length)
- Use the lower aperture values like f/5.6 or f/8
to make sure entire bird is in focus
- Track the bird atleast for sometime to let the
focus lock on the bird
- Take multiple shots
Background Makes the Picture
Let us consider the fact that you learnt all the above
concepts thoroughly and ready to apply in the field. If
you fail to get the perfect background, then it can ruin
your photograph.
No matter how you compose, what was the lighting, or
what were the settings used, if the background is messy
or cluttered then your bird photograph is ruined.
I am covering this topic so late in this ebook to make
sure that you wont forget when you go to the field.
Most of the great bird photographs will almost always
have a clear or complementing background.
13
Well known bird photographers always try to get the
pleasing background which complements the bird or
which helps the bird to stand-out in the photograph.
It is the background, not the subject, which
gives the wow factor to the bird photograph
You can check it yourself by browsing your favorite bird
photographs. Most of your favorite ones should be
having a clean, complementing and out-of-focus
background. Isnt it? If you imagine the same bird in a
messy or cluttered background, then probably it wouldn
t have been your favorite.
Even when bird is shown in its habitat, the background
has to be complementing the bird.
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A Green Heron Leaning forward, while perching on a fence, to have a better look at its prey
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Behind the Scenes
As I said, this green heron has given me tremendous
opportunities to photograph. And this photograph is by
far my best.
This green heron was relentlessly fishing on that day. It
was my first photographic outing with 300mm f/2.8
lens. I was extremely happy as I was photographing with
my new lens.
After an hour, the green heron began to perch on the
fence to take a better look at its prey from above. I put
my lens on the fence to get an eye level shot and was
waiting for some good photographs.
Little did I expect the green heron to come so close to
me and then lean forward before plunging into the water
giving me a wonderful photograph to cherish for a very
long time...
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Important Tips
- Always strive for out-of-focus background
choosing maximum aperture value like f/2.8, f/4
or f/5.6
- Try to avoid plain background like white or
pale blue. Wait for bird to assume a different
position until you get a desirable background
which complements the bird
- Remember that background makes or breaks
the picture
Practice Makes Perfect
No matter how much you know about any subject, you
will only master it by practice.
Practice every tip to the best possible extent. Make them
your second nature. You will see yourself using the
camera as an extension to your eye. Your reflexes will
develop really well over time.
Its all about your reflexes when it comes to
capturing the birds behavior, birds in action,
and in flight
You will be rewarded with excellent results despite
the fact that there are plenty of other photographers
next to you failing to see the opportunity when it strikes!
14
One of my most appreciated bird photograph, Great
Egret with its widespread Wings in the beginning of
this ebook, was taken in a spur of moment on a
photography trip with friends.
To my surprise, I was the only person to get that
photograph while my friends missed the action
completely. My passion towards those white beauties
always keeps me on my toes to grab that rare
opportunities.
You can concentrate on the moves of the bird and seize
those rare opportunities only if you have practiced the
techniques to an extent to make them your second
nature.
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Above all, I personally feel that my passion towards
birds is increasing day by day as the years pass by.
Several times I just go out in the early
morning and spend an hour or so just
watching the Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese
and Seagulls
It is quite amazing to see how beautiful these common
birds are and is very interesting to understand their
behavior which may lead to some extraordinary
photographs.
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Juvenile Great Egrets Fighting for the Fish
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Behind the Scenes
I dont want to repeat how much I love Egrets.
I always wanted to photograph an egret flying away with
a fish in its beak. It is not a good idea though... because
they generally dont!
But on this occasion, the pond was filled with Juvenile
egrets and there was a lot of competition going on.
I was pretty sure I will be able to get a decent
photograph with an Egret flying away with a fish. But, as
always, luck favors the prepared. I got lucky with an
Egret flying away with a fish and another chasing it!
I made sure that Egrets are properly exposed using spot
metering.
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Important Tips
- No matter what equipment you have, it all
boils down to practice
- You should know, in a split second, what
settings work the best for a given situation
- Try capturing photographs of the same bird
hundreds of times and you will improve your
skills
Post Processing
Post processing is abused to a large extent after the
DSLRs are getting into everyones hands.
Any photo taken in RAW needs to be processed for sure,
since you cannot see a RAW image, but the idea is to
process it in a way to make it closer to reality!
A RAW image by nature is flat, lacking
contrast and the colors. The goal of post
processing is to bring back the contrast and
the colors that were present in the actual
scene
Sometimes it is fine to make it a little bit more to give
POP to an image. However, it should not be overdone to
an extent that it looks unnatural.
15
Recompose
Most of the bird photographs cannot be composed
perfectly in the field. In such cases, it is necessary to
recompose an image in post.
Use Rule of Thirds composition guidelines to make a
compelling photograph. If it does not work out, then
compose it in a way which makes the photograph
compelling.
But avoid the 9 composition mistakes.
Adjust Color and Contrast
Adjust the color and contrast as needed to increase the
dynamic range and get back the colors.
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Resize the Image
This is probably not followed by many beginners. You
have to resize the image first, based on whether you
intend to share it in the web or display it or print it.
Because, image looks oversharpened when it is
resized to a smaller size. So, if you sharpen it before
resizing, then the sharpening artefacts will make the
image unusable.
On the other hand, an advantage of resizing is that
sometimes you might get away with a slight blur that
you see in a bigger image! Which is definitely more
desirable.
Noise Reduction
Noise reduction should be done with care. If you reduce
the noise too much, then it will soften all the subtle
features in the birds feathers.
Birds feathers being the most attractive ones, it should
always be preserved.
This is a very common mistake I see in many
photographs. The photographs with too
much noise reduction look like a wax statue of
the bird
While reducing the noise, make sure you do it
selectively. Apply noise reduction to the entire image,
then use layers and masks to undo noise reduction on
the bird to bring back the birds features.
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Sharpening
This is the worst mistake committed by beginners and
intermediates!
Oversharpening kills the image completely
in bird photography
The feathers, the subtle textures, the features of the bird
are the most important elements of a bird photograph.
They are generally very soft in reality.
When you oversharpen the photograph, all these subtle
features of the bird will become very rough and halos
will show up around the edges.
This is one of the major difference between a great
looking bird photograph versus an odd looking bird
photograph.
Sharpening should be done with extra care. Most of the
times, sharpening is necessary only for the bird since
most of the photographs are filling the frame with the
bird.
While sharpening the bird alone, remember to sharpen
just enough so that just the bird as a whole looks sharper
in the picture but all the subtle features are still
smoother.
In other words, if the image looks blurry to
your eyes, then only sharpen it!
Check all the images in this ebook to understand how
the images have just enough sharpness. Several times, I
keep it a little less sharp to keep that smooth roll-off of
the edges.
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About Me
My name is Prathap and its me in the photograph.
I am a Project Manager in a Software Company by Profession and a
Photographer by Passion. I started photography from 1997 in point-
and-shoot cameras and mobile cameras, all borrowed from my friends.
I started photography quite religiously from 2008 when I first bought
my DSLR. Then on everything changed in my life, rather DSLR became
my life. Even today I will hear complaints from people closest to my
heart that I am mad. I agree with them completely, but I say it a bit
differently...I call myself Passionate.
Want to see my passion? Connect with me now!
Send your valuable feedback to:
prathap@naturephotographysimplified.com