E.J.Wilkins

27 Nov 2008 580 views
 
supporter of
atom rss 1.0 rss 2.0
web browser google del.icio.us digg technorati
| lost password
birth date
cancel
photoblog image Blue tit

Blue tit


Taken through the window, looking into the garden
...

 

Please understand that I don't make any claim to be an expert at taking pictures of garden birds, but it's something I like doing.



Answering some questions

Several people have said it's hard to take pictures of garden birds, it isn't - anybody can do it, but you have to accept that a good proportion will not be keepers. Even so, each time you click the shutter will be a learning experience.

Don't try to chase birds, spend a little time sitting still watching them - and take some pictures at the same time - see what your results are, you'll be surprised. You'll soon learn how much you can move without frightening them away. It's a good way to spend a tea or coffee break.

The way to a bird's heart is through it's stomach, a well stocked bird table, or a selection of feeders will bring them flocking to your garden. Birds visiting out garden enjoy eating peanuts, black sunflower seeds, fat balls (suet mixed with seed), apple - which is partly peeled and pushed onto a nail on the top of the bird table, scraps of cooked pastry or stale bread that's first been soaked in water.


**If you give your bird fat balls please remove the plastic mesh/net first. Birds can catch their legs/feet in them which will lead to injury. Put fat balls in a specially designed wire mesh feeder, which will also make them last longer.**


We also have a couple of bird baths, essential for their hygiene and grooming as well as something to drink. One is quite close to the house but out of view of this window.


Our bird table isn't pretty, it has a branch firmly attached to it that they use as a staging post, sometimes they stop and wait for a moment or two for a feeder to become vacant.

 

We have a cat. I'm not getting into discussions about cats/birds – she spends most of her time asleep these days. She does catch mice, she ignores the bird table, doesn't even use it as a scratching post. She can't approach it unseen.


 

Familiarity

It's important to get birds happy in, and familiar with, their surroundings.

Our bird table has been in the same place for some time, it's carefully placed about 10ft (3m?) from the where the camera sits on the tripod. Any closer to the house the birds seem to become nervous. All birds have their "comfort zone", outside which they will tolerate unexplained movement - such as a photographer.


The camera is just inside small-paned French Windows. The camera is there as often as possible, so the birds are used to the lens looking at them.



Window glass

Some people have commented that our windows must be very clean, they aren't, but because the camera is focusing beyond the glass neither marks left from rain or grimy specks show on the image. Using the widest possible aperture ensures this.


This window faces east.

Our windows are single-glazed. Double-glazing will have its own problems of refraction and/or reflection between the two layers of glass which can affect the clarity of an image.

 

Curtains hanging inside can cause reflections which show on a picture. Taking a picture at 90° to glass could mean the photographer is included in the reflection.


 

Equipment/Focusing/Aperture

The camera used to take this picture is the Olympus E-400, a Europe-only model that's almost two years old now, so not the newest in the Olympus range, but it's more than adequate. Later models of this lightweight dslr are the E-410 and E-420.

 

The lens used for most of my garden bird pictures is the Zuiko Digital 70-300 mm f4/5.6, it's the longest lens I've got. The numbers mean that the widest aperture is f4 (at 70mm) or f5.6 (at 300mm).


Using a lens that goes lower/wider than f4 will give a faster shutter speed - which is why they are called "fast" lenses.


I use Aperture Priority, have recently switched to centre-weighted rather than spot metering, it does seem to work better with less chance of overexposure. I increase shutter speed by changing the ISO - higher ISO means a faster shutter speed.

Using a shallow aperture ensures that only the bird is in focus, the background will be blurred.

Sequential/burst shooting can give a greater chance of getting a single good shot, but doesn't guarantee a good picture.

My camera does not have IS (Image Stabilisation) - but with most systems you don't use IS and use a tripod - because the electronics get confused if the camera/lens aren't moving, and can result in blurry pictures.

I try to focus on the bird's face, if possible its eye. If the eye is in focus the rest of the bird won't be, but it won't matter because we always look to an animal's face
.
.
.

Blue tit


Taken through the window, looking into the garden
...

 

Please understand that I don't make any claim to be an expert at taking pictures of garden birds, but it's something I like doing.



Answering some questions

Several people have said it's hard to take pictures of garden birds, it isn't - anybody can do it, but you have to accept that a good proportion will not be keepers. Even so, each time you click the shutter will be a learning experience.

Don't try to chase birds, spend a little time sitting still watching them - and take some pictures at the same time - see what your results are, you'll be surprised. You'll soon learn how much you can move without frightening them away. It's a good way to spend a tea or coffee break.

The way to a bird's heart is through it's stomach, a well stocked bird table, or a selection of feeders will bring them flocking to your garden. Birds visiting out garden enjoy eating peanuts, black sunflower seeds, fat balls (suet mixed with seed), apple - which is partly peeled and pushed onto a nail on the top of the bird table, scraps of cooked pastry or stale bread that's first been soaked in water.


**If you give your bird fat balls please remove the plastic mesh/net first. Birds can catch their legs/feet in them which will lead to injury. Put fat balls in a specially designed wire mesh feeder, which will also make them last longer.**


We also have a couple of bird baths, essential for their hygiene and grooming as well as something to drink. One is quite close to the house but out of view of this window.


Our bird table isn't pretty, it has a branch firmly attached to it that they use as a staging post, sometimes they stop and wait for a moment or two for a feeder to become vacant.

 

We have a cat. I'm not getting into discussions about cats/birds – she spends most of her time asleep these days. She does catch mice, she ignores the bird table, doesn't even use it as a scratching post. She can't approach it unseen.


 

Familiarity

It's important to get birds happy in, and familiar with, their surroundings.

Our bird table has been in the same place for some time, it's carefully placed about 10ft (3m?) from the where the camera sits on the tripod. Any closer to the house the birds seem to become nervous. All birds have their "comfort zone", outside which they will tolerate unexplained movement - such as a photographer.


The camera is just inside small-paned French Windows. The camera is there as often as possible, so the birds are used to the lens looking at them.



Window glass

Some people have commented that our windows must be very clean, they aren't, but because the camera is focusing beyond the glass neither marks left from rain or grimy specks show on the image. Using the widest possible aperture ensures this.


This window faces east.

Our windows are single-glazed. Double-glazing will have its own problems of refraction and/or reflection between the two layers of glass which can affect the clarity of an image.

 

Curtains hanging inside can cause reflections which show on a picture. Taking a picture at 90° to glass could mean the photographer is included in the reflection.


 

Equipment/Focusing/Aperture

The camera used to take this picture is the Olympus E-400, a Europe-only model that's almost two years old now, so not the newest in the Olympus range, but it's more than adequate. Later models of this lightweight dslr are the E-410 and E-420.

 

The lens used for most of my garden bird pictures is the Zuiko Digital 70-300 mm f4/5.6, it's the longest lens I've got. The numbers mean that the widest aperture is f4 (at 70mm) or f5.6 (at 300mm).


Using a lens that goes lower/wider than f4 will give a faster shutter speed - which is why they are called "fast" lenses.


I use Aperture Priority, have recently switched to centre-weighted rather than spot metering, it does seem to work better with less chance of overexposure. I increase shutter speed by changing the ISO - higher ISO means a faster shutter speed.

Using a shallow aperture ensures that only the bird is in focus, the background will be blurred.

Sequential/burst shooting can give a greater chance of getting a single good shot, but doesn't guarantee a good picture.

My camera does not have IS (Image Stabilisation) - but with most systems you don't use IS and use a tripod - because the electronics get confused if the camera/lens aren't moving, and can result in blurry pictures.

I try to focus on the bird's face, if possible its eye. If the eye is in focus the rest of the bird won't be, but it won't matter because we always look to an animal's face
.
.
.

comments (29)

Lovely stuff Ellie: and bravo for the painstaking description of how you go about this
EJWilkins: I could probably explain it better, hope it helps somebody
  • Ginnie
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 27 Nov 2008, 02:16
All that wonderful information, Ellie. No wonder you've "mastered" your garden birds!
EJWilkins: You should see how many pictures end up in the bin!
  • Ray
  • Thailand
  • 27 Nov 2008, 03:42
Well...this shot suggests you are good at it, Ellie.
EJWilkins: You know as well as I do Ray, that the "keepers" are vastly outnumbered by rejects wink
  • martie
  • United States
  • 27 Nov 2008, 04:00
I just LOVE his little fluffy chest feathers! (And I'm delighted to think your windows aren't any cleaner than mine!) This is wonderful, and thanks for the tips!
EJWilkins: As you can guess Martie, I was pleased with this particular picture. I like everything about it from the way the light catches the side of the bird's head to its' almost thoughtful expression.
Ellie, your nature pictures are truly fabulous. Excellent sharpness and details and all beautifully composed.
EJWilkins: That's a truly generous comment John, thank you so much
  • FLOOG
  • The valleys of contentment
  • 27 Nov 2008, 06:07
As always, stunning, and a masterclass on how to tackle such shots.

Superb smile
EJWilkins: Gulp, not quite a masterclass Paul, but I hope it helps
  • Frida
  • Sweden (swe)
  • 27 Nov 2008, 08:14
Cute little fellow. I'm sad to say that my apple tree outside the kitchen window was cut down last week. So now I have no place to hang the bird food during the winter. It's sad because I like to sit and watch all the birds.
EJWilkins: That's such a pity Frida, can you get a bird table or something else to hang your feeders from?
  • anniedog
  • United Kingdom
  • 27 Nov 2008, 09:30
He looks a little ruffled! You are right about focusing on the face as that is where our eye is naturally drawn. He is delightful.
Ingrid
EJWilkins: I'm glad you agree about the focusing Ingrid, it gives me a bit of credibility.
Another delightful bird shot Ellie, and thanks for the tips.
EJWilkins: Hope they help a bit Janet
he looks sky
EJWilkins: Yes, a bit shy, a bit thoughtful perhaps?
I so appreciate the information, Ellie. With the weather getting colder, I will be moving indoors to the windows in front of the feeders at the nature center. Your information will help me strive for the best results. BTW delightful image today!
EJWilkins: I hope it helps, and look forward to many more of your own pictures smile
  • Tracy
  • Staffs Moorlands England
  • 27 Nov 2008, 12:18
Ellie This shot s stunning, I like the stray feathers on the left.
Your information is spot on. Your have taken alot of time to explain. I would like to thank you for your trouble, but the windowlene is still waiting for you as I hate cleaning my windowstonguetongue
Great capture smile
EJWilkins: I don't use Windowlene Tracy! Bucket of water with a few drops of washing up liquid and a capful or two of vinegar - still doesn't make it any more enjoyable, the tiny panes make cleaning the windows a real pain! (pun - geddit?)
I like much how you have composed the image. The tail of the bird drawing a diagonal in the picture. Good work, Ellie! These photos of the birds are really pretty!
EJWilkins: Estoy contento usted tengo gusto de este cuadro José Angel, gracias por explicar porqué usted tiene gusto de él. smile
Continued beautiful bird pics.
EJWilkins: Glad you like them Nigel
Wonderful Ellie, both the bird and the lesson. Saved for future reference. Thank you.
EJWilkins: It might get added to at some point Sheila, it won't vanish though. Thanks to you too smile
I sat in the garden one summer's day and pointed the camera on the tripod with it prefocussed on a feeder on a tree frequented by the birds and waited.....not a bird landed. I shall have to try in the winter!

This is a delightful picture Roz and your tips are excellent
EJWilkins: The birds have only just returned to our garden, they go very quiet from late summer into autumn - maybe for the moult, maybe because there's plenty of wild food around. If we go away, and the feeders don't get refilled, it takes a couple of days for them to notice. Keep trying Bill wink
Excellent capture with a fabulous lighting. I love the attitude!
EJWilkins: I liked it too Richard, thanks
Another great shot Ellie, I have read all your notes and will definitely be having a try from our window at the back, not today though, it is raining steadily out there.
EJWilkins: On a wet day they end up quite desperate, especially towards dusk, because they have to have had enough food to survive a cold night - wild birds don't carry extra weight otherwise they can't fly well.
  • Louis
  • South Africa
  • 27 Nov 2008, 18:59
Some people still think you have very clean windows

[Grin] - your blog seems to be a marked one with all the empty paras.

As a co-birder picturer I can endorse everything Ellie says in the manual. I don't do the feeder thing, as I prefer to hunt them down in nature. That is just a personal preference based on my wish to try and cover all my country's birds - and they won't come to a feeder I have to go look for them. But Ellies is right, why make it difficult if you can have it a bit easier.
The part about centre-weighted metering is good advice.

A manual very well done. You should stick it up on the site where more people can see it later-on.
EJWilkins: Thanks for the support Louis.

"Wild" birding is completely different and tend to need both longer and faster lenses than I've got - unless you strike lucky of course, but I still try!
  • Fabrice
  • France
  • 27 Nov 2008, 19:21
Thank you for those explanations, Ellie. Indeed my research telephoto will cover a 300mn.
The blue tit is even more real than the previous one. Very nice prize. Bravo.
EJWilkins: Thank you so much Fabrice, I appreciate your comment. Will you try to take some pictures of birds now?
An extrovert with additional extrovert tendencies.
richard
EJWilkins: Absolutely right Richard! They're true extoverts
Glorious shot Ellie and just how good does it have to be before you can say your an expertgrin
EJWilkins: Probably from using more expensive "glass" if I'm honest, the resolution and so on would be significantly improved and I might get more "keepers". How many people are actually fuilly satisfied with their pictures?
  • Alan
  • Great Britain (UK)
  • 27 Nov 2008, 22:16
Stunning, Ellie! I love the pose, with the jaunty angle of the head. Wonderful detail in the feathers which the side lighting emphasises to great effect.

Useful notes, too, for aspiring wildlife photographers.
EJWilkins: The side lighting is pure sun, wasn't I lucky! Thanks a million for such a generous comment Alan
  • _Monika_
  • United Kingdom
  • 27 Nov 2008, 22:38
If you are not an expert I don't know who is! smile Great selection of autumn pictures last days: birds, pumpkins, chesnuts and berries - lovely!
EJWilkins: I'm quite enjoying trying to put pictures into groups of six, with a break each Sunday, so I', especially pleased you're enjoying them too.
  • Mike Lee
  • United Kingdom
  • 27 Nov 2008, 22:58
Wow! Superb! Handy hints too... Just don't have the patience!!
EJWilkins: No patience? Rubbish, not judging from your own pictures! But I think you might enjoying creative twiddling more than I do smile
  • Aussie
  • Brisbane
  • 27 Nov 2008, 23:33
Love this one Ellie, he is gorgeous.
EJWilkins: Pleased you do Aussie, thanks
This is a cracking portrait, Ellie. I love the light catching the front of the bird and highlighting those slightly mussed up feathers. (:o)
EJWilkins: It's the light and the stray feathers that I think make this a bit more special, I'm so pleased you agree. Thanks Ros
Eleanor This is a masterpiece, this serie is delightful !!
  • deji77
  • United Kingdom
  • 1 Dec 2008, 14:03
and I must say that you do it VERY well Ellie. Another good one.

Leave a comment

must fill in
[stop comment form]
show
for this photo I'm in a any and all comments icon ShMood©
camera E-400
exposure mode aperture priority
shutterspeed 1/640s
aperture f/5.6
sensitivity ISO100
focal length 252.0mm
Tallinn MemorialTallinn Memorial
ChaffinchChaffinch
RobinRobin

Warning