I’m working on a system of capturing flight in the small birds in the backyard, using what I learned in the Alan Murphy photography workshop in January. So far, I have only enticed the chickadees to use the set-up, and they really don’t like it as much as the birds in Texas liked theirs.
But because I don’t want to sit out in 30 degree F weather with wind chill, I’m photographing the birds from the comfort of my porch, shooting through window glass as the birds fly straight toward me (that means they are out of focus until just before they land — not a great technique!). In addition, the background is rather ugly right now, owing to leafless trees and bushes back behind the stump.
But here are some of the interesting take-offs and landings I captured so far to illustrate Chickadee flight acrobatics.
Let me explain briefly how difficult this is, especially if you don’t have lightning fast reflexes.
- First of all, I shouldn’t be shooting through glass. Second, I should have set up the camera perpendicular to the birds’ flight to the feeder, i.e., in the same plane of focus as the feeder.
- Set up the camera on a tripod, focus on the middle of the stump (where you expect birds to land), hook up a remote shutter release that you hope is sensitive enough to fire when you really want it to, but not when you get excited about birds flying overhead, or leaves flying across your field of view.
- Set the shutter speed for 1/4000, f-stop to 5.6-8 (higher for better depth of field), and let the ISO set itself (AUTO) to whatever the light conditions are.
- Keep your thumb lightly pressed on the remote shutter and your eyes on the birds in the bush. Then start firing the shutter as soon as a bird leaves the bush headed to the feeder. Hopefully, some of the landings are in focus.
- Now comes the tricky part — you have to anticipate when the bird will leave and start firing the remote shutter again as they hunch for take-off. Very challenging for those without those lightning fast reflexes.
I hope to get better at this technique and capture a variety of birds coming to the feeder, but not until it’s warmer weather for sitting outside. If you photographers out there try this and are successful, please let me know how you did.