Friday, June 18, 2010

Drama in the Front Yard

The last couple of days I've been battling a cold so I've been working from home. I got the idea to take the screen off of our front bathroom window and use it as a photo blind to get some shots of our birds. Yesterday afternoon a bird-fight broke out amongst some Starlings.

It got a little intense at one point.  Apparently they don't like to share.

Not everyone was caught up in the foray.

This guy actually looks board.

I've learned some things in the last few days while trying to capture photos of these birds.
  1. Shoot in AV mode.  I usually shoot in manual mode but with AV there's far less to be concerned about.  
  2. Things happen fast so use at least the minimum shutter speed matched to the focal length of the lens.
  3. While photographing birds in RAW+JPEG, a 2 GB card fills up pretty fast.
  4. I deleted a lot of photos from this shoot. (I think I took too many.)
  5. Use manual focus instead of auto. This allows for better composition. Also the auto focus makes too much noise.
  6. Speaking of noise... don't let your big curious Bullmastiff walk in behind you while in your photo blind. She can be noisy.
I'd really like to hear your suggestions!


  1. These are great bird shots! Love the compositions and the action captured in their activities! I almost always shoot in aperture priority. Unless I'm setting up for a timed shot, or need specific settings, I'm AV all the way. I just don't have the telephoto zoom lens to capture the wildlife like I would like. I also always shoot in continuous mode, and take several shots at a time, especially when shooting a moving subject (like birds). I do switch from manual to auto focus depending on the circumstances. And yes, cards fill up quickly when shooting both jpg and raw. But cards are cheap these days - get yourself a few and have them ready. Get yourself FAST ones though - they cost more, but when shooting in both modes, you want to have data writing as fast as possible!

  2. Yolanda,
    Thank you for your thoughts on this. I notice you do use AV. I guess I haven't been able to separate myself from using manual from the film days but I like the way things worked on AV. I too use continuous for kids and action but I always shoot in the highest jpeg mode only. With raw and jpeg I had to wait a couple of times for the card to catch up. :)

  3. No such thing as taking too many, especially with digital. :)

    Nice job capturing the action and the expression from the birds. There is some serious attitude going on here. I swear I could hear that first bird hissing! (Do birds hiss??) A tweet just doesn't sound ferocious enough for that expression.

    The last two look so peaceful in comparison. The soft green background helps the little brown one stand out (sorry I don't know my birds), while the one with red makes him stand out from the foliage. I almost wish you were a little closer on the red. I bet you were already zoomed all the way out...isn't that the way with birds. I also tend to shoot in AV.

    lol - Bullmastiff on a bird photo shoot ROFL!!! You're lucky you got any pics!

    Hope you get to feeling better soon!

  4. Kari,
    Thank you. The birds were making a loud chirping sound and were upset so it was definitely an attitude issue.

    You're right, I wish I could get closer shots. I guess that's always the desire in bird photography. A longer lens is on my wish list!

    Thanks for your comment! I had to look up "ROFL". I like that! I'm feeling better, thank you.

  5. Joan,
    Thank you! I wish I could've gotten closer. It's another lesson learned. :)

  6. Wow - such attitude from hungry little birds!! Great captures - I shoot mostly in AV mode... haven't mastered Manual yet due to shutter speeds. Much practicing needed in that area for me!!

  7. Stacey,
    I should've titled it, "Attitude in the Front Yard"! :)

  8. Bluekat,

    Birds "screech"!


    Neat photos. I'm with you. AV mode works best for me on these kind of action shots.

    It's amazing how fast a card fills, isn't it? When I took all the police training photos I was only shooting in raw. No jpeg. I stil filled a 2 gig card before I was ready.