How I Shoot Birds (With my Camera)


I have been asked many times about how I capture my images.  Well, to begin with, I no longer use the big Canon 500mm that you see in my photo at the head of this blog.  That camera and lens set-up got to big for me after using it for about twelve years.  At 82 years of age, there are times that those heavy lenses are to much.  (However I still wear a camo cap.)  I like to keep that photo, though.  It makes me look macho, don’t you think.

For my bird photography, and other wildlife, I basically use a Tamron 150-500mm zoom lens.  With it attached to one of my two Canon EOS 7D Mark II cameras, I get comparable photos to what I got with the 500mm.  I either use a tripod, or when shooting from my car, my favorite way, a SafariPack bean bag on my window sill.  When I want to walk or hike, to make things a bit lighter, I use a Canon 100-400mm lens in place of the Tamron, sometimes carrying a monopod.

When shooting, I go against what a lot of purists would do.  I seldom shoot in Manual mode.  Why in the world, would I do that when I have a high dollar camera that is designed to figure the exposures for me?  That’s why I paid the big bucks.  When shooting wildlife, lighting situations change by the minute.  There is no time to make quick decisions or I lose the shot.  I use Manual mode for flowers, landscapes, etc.  My subjects are not constantly on the move then.

But make no mistake, I don’t use AUTO either.  With my set-up I have found that what works best for me, with my Canon 7D Mark II, is to shoot Shuttter Priority, that’s Tv on your camera dial.  Depending on the time of day, or lighting, I generally set the shutter anywhere from 1/1000th or 1/2500th of a second, I use auto-ISO, and auto-white balance. The camera generally gives me a large aperture at those settings.  I like to shoot in high-speed bursts.  I use spot-exposure.  I usually use spot-focus, but I am ready to toggle the button to go to zone-focus if I need to acquire a fast moving bird or animal that is in the open.  Oh, one more thing.  As I shoot, I always have my thumb on the back dial, so I can quickly adjust the Exposure Values on the run, should all of a sudden the bird is backlit, or deep in the shade.

I am not recommending that you use the same set-up.  I am only saying what works for me with my own camera/lens combination.  As you can see, by looking at my results on this blog, I have been very sucessful with it.  I will say that I tried using Aperture Priority, (Av), and my results were mixed.  Not as consistent as I have gotten with Shutter Priority.

Perigrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

I photographed this juvenile Peregrine Falcon as he was lifting off to begin flight.  Exposure was 1/1250 sec @ f6.3, +0.3 EV adjustment, because of it was slightly backlit.  ISO was 125.   Click the image to see an enlargement.

If you have any comments or questions, I would be happy to hear from you.

Happy Shooting!!

 

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10 thoughts on “How I Shoot Birds (With my Camera)

    • Thanks, Dwynn. I am going to try more often to give the EXIF information and other details. I know that several people have indicated that they would like me to do that. I am glad you like it.

  1. That photograph is very…I’m not sure how to describe it.
    Tactile?
    It’s those claws. I can’t seem to stop looking at them. Quite a unique shot, Bob.

    • Thanks for commenting, Sherry. Interesting to hear different methods of acquiring our images. I don’t use back button focus, as I like my thumb on the big dial for instant EV adjustments. I do use single point most of the time, switching to 9 point zone when tracking birds in the air.

  2. I have found shutter priority to much more desirable for photography also. I also went to auto nearly everything on my little cameras also. A lot of my shots are made with me standing on a significant slope or in wind and never with a tripod. I am too lazy to carry one around now days. I am a few days younger than you but I have found in the last year I wobble or quiver enough to need/want the faster shutter speeds all the time. Rick (Gumo) led me to your blog.

    • Thanks, OFM, for commenting. I like to hear how other shoot, too. I hate carrying a tripod, too. 95% of my shooting is done from my car. I need to thank Rick Gumo for telling you about my blog.

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