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!!