Updated: Jul 24, 2021
With the advent of the DSLR, the ability to capture moments has made it fairly easy for anyone. Today's cameras largely do everything for you in the auto mode! In my journey as a novice with a camera, the first lesson I learnt is that just because I have a DLSR, the pictures need not be great!
(The above image has been sourced from the internet)
My graduation in this space has been seeing some awesome pieces of art that people have created. In my opinion, the tool, in this case the camera is just as good or bad as you are. Hence the importance of making a photograph has a lot more to it than just aim and shoot. And these lessons have been learnt the only hard way. My learning comes from seeing fellow photographers, reading up and watching YouTube and following a few good photographers. It took a while that, largely when you see your subject the importance lies in conceiving the final image in your mind, and then making the camera do your bidding. The camera is only a tool...the artist behind it is YOU!
This particular blog is an attempt to put together key aspects when it comes to bird photography. In my experience and journey as a photographer, I am listing out what I found useful and important in making an image.
Having the right gear: We all know what photography is more about your skill than the gear. You are only as good as your camera, so having the best gear doesn’t make you an outstanding photographer. You can make great images with an entry level DSLR, but what you also need is a decent zoom lens. So, ensure you have at least a 70-300 mm lens which offer decent reach. Getting a bigger zoom like a 100-400 mm or a 150-600 mm can come in later. I started off with a Canon 500D and a70-300 before I graduated to a 150-600 mm Sigma lens. I now shoot with a Canon 7D and 7D mark II and a Canon 100-400 mm and a Sigma 150-600 mm lens. I hope to move onto the EOS R5 or R6 in the near future. But this is not a limitation as you can see from the gallery.
Use a tripod: Using a good and sturdy tripod for shooting is a must have accessory especially when you have a big zoom lens in your arsenal. When you need to shoot in low light conditions, and dropping the shutter speed is critical, a tripod is a much-needed saviour. The stability it provides is second to none. Handholding a big lens attached to a camera body for longer stints in the field, apart from the walking or trekking can be a bane for every photographer. You can grab that much needed rest, grab a drink or snack by leaving the camera well and safely rested on the tripod. The picture below is from the Lava trek with all of us having big zoom lenses and everyone of use had the tripod.
The Golden Hour: With light being the most important component in photography, the golden hours play a key role in composing and creating great images. The warm light and its wonderful hues, help make photography very dramatic. Make the best use of opening and closing windows of the day for some memorable captures.
Know your subjects and location: It is particularly important for you to know where and what you will be shooting. The terrain, its lighting, and the subjects you will be photographing make it important to have the groundwork done, so you know the settings you will need for the shoot. Even knowing which lenses to use for the shoot become important. For example, if you are going for a tiger safari, it helps to carry a big zoom and smaller zoom lens which you can use for the captures. Having a bean bag which the camera can rest on is also important, since you may not have the room to use a tripod.
Having patience: A lot has been said about this attribute. You may have to keep going back or waiting long hours, since for a photographer, the perfect shot in his/her perspective is so important. One may not always be lucky to get what they want in the first go. To capture the Peregrine Falcon with its kill took me several weeks. I had to keep going back a few days every week to the hotspot before I could get what I wanted. And yes, it was gratifying to get that wonderful capture (see gallery). Several other pictures in my gallery highlight the importance of patience in photography.
Understanding your equipment: The importance of knowing your gear, how it works, and the ability to make adjustments in your settings are critically important to make a great image. With weather changes, lighting, terrain, everything having a play in your composition, it is extremely important to know your gear well. I can say this with experience of shooting at Zuluk, in East Sikkim, where at the high altitude, lighting, fog and the weather kept changing intermittently, and it was important to make those changes on the fly. And to do this, knowing my settings played a key role in getting good captures.
Shooting at eye level: Good photography is all about those little things that give a better perspective and can tell a story. One of those is trying to get all your shots at the eye level. This helps in getting a great bokeh and also some great foreground and background blur making the image stand out. Unless this is not possible, make the attempt to shoot at eye level either by lying down on the ground or by getting to a vantage point to get the advantage. You can also ensure your depth of field comes into play, which is important.
Maintain optimum distance: While it is important to get closer to fill the frame whilst composing the image, ensuring that this isn’t harmful or perceived as harmful by the subject is most important and an ethical thing to keep in mind. So, knowing your subject is important. Not getting close can also be used to capture the habitat with the landscape can also make your image stand out.
Autofocus: It is important to ensure that you are on continuous autofocus (AI servo on Canon and AF-C on Nikon). This helps with moving subjects. Knowing when to switch between a single point focus and multipoint focus is also important. For example, for birds in flight, I prefer keeping the multi point focus so I can always track the bird and keep it in focus.
Composition: Great photography is all about great composition. While it is true to use the rule of thirds, there are times when one can break the rules to create a new and interesting perspective. So, it’s important to fill the frame, not cut off limbs, use the rule of thirds, get the background right, and use depth of field are some important aspects to keep a watch for. Its important to know the rules, so you can break them by being creative.
I hope the key tips have been helpful and will make for a much better experience whilst photographing in the field.
A short video on important tips is uploaded for a quick view!
Do drop a comment and any feedback, and I will be happy to hear from you!