Winging It: Photograph garden birds on a budget

With a little forethought, perseverance, and determination, you can change your own back garden into a sanctuary to photograph wild birds, on a spending plan, offering you with endless photographic opportunities throughout the year, says Ben Hall

Garden birds are possibly the most accessible of all wildlife topics, however with the rising cost of contemporary cameras and long lenses, it can become hugely expensive. With some mindful thought and cost-cutting procedures, nevertheless, you might be taking fantastic pictures of your garden visitors in no time– all without needing to re-mortgage your house!
Ben Hall Redwig
Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) set down on moss-covered branch backlit. Canon EOS-1D X, 500mm, 1/2000sec at f/5, ISO 1250
Ben Hall blue tit bird photograph

Creating a feeding station for birds

The easiest and most reliable way of photographing garden birds is to attract them into position utilizing some thoroughly situated feeders and natural perches. A garden feeding station does not require to be a complicated set-up– an easy pole with a range of feeders connected suffices to draw in the birds.

Some idea will require to go into the placing to guarantee optimum background and light. The very first indicate consider is the proximity of the feeders to the background. If possible, place your feeders at least ten metres away from the background to make sure that blurred backgrounds are possible when using big apertures.

If you are struggling for room, a large sheet of product can be used to develop an incorrect background. This ought to be coloured to imitate the natural habitat of the birds such as soft browns and greens however experimenting with bolder colours can yield interesting outcomes.

Believe carefully about the readily available light and the direction of the sun. Backlighting can work incredibly for birds, but the sun will need to be near the horizon to ensure reasonably low contrast levels. Perches can be clamped to the pole using a spring clamp. Pick photogenic perches that are in keeping with the natural habitat and switch them for range.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) and chaffinch (Fringilla celebrities) in flight. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, 500mm, 1/2000sec at f/8, ISO 3200
Ben Hall bullfinch and chaffinch bird photograph

Buy used cam gear

Quick lenses that open up to f/4 or perhaps f/2.8 are of course more suited to bird photography, however they are expensive, and by no methods necessary. It is perfectly possible to take spectacular images with more-affordable lenses and cameras, and if you are prepared to purchase utilized and shop around, there are deals to be discovered both online and in shops. Ebay is the obvious place to browse however purchasing second-hand equipment from a shop with a guarantee and return policy will be much safer and afford you more assurance. Consumer lenses such as tele-zooms in the variety of 75-300mm can be purchased for well under ₤ 500, and whilst not being especially quick, lots of can producing sharp images, offered your camera settings are ideal.

Lenses made by third-party producers can also be more cost-effective, such as Sigma or Tamron. The Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM for example can be bought second-hand for around ₤ 500 and, if utilized correctly, can produce great results. One of the primary advantages of garden bird photography is the control that you have. For this reason, I would not advise using a teleconverter if you are struggling for reach. Instead, just move yourself or your feeding station within variety, and manipulate your surroundings. Most garden birds will quickly become utilized to the sound of an electronic camera shutter, even from a close distance.

Redwing (Turns iliacus) among rowan berries. Canon EOS-1D Mark II, 500mm, 1/500sec at f/5.6, ISO 250
Ben Hall Redwig bird photograph

Shoot from an existing building

When shooting from a window, a beanbag will be the most efficient type of cam and lens support and could even be hand- made with relative ease. You will still be able to observe the birds easily through the netting, but it will disguise your movements enough for all however the most sensitive of garden birds.

If you do not have the high-end of shooting from a house window or shed, a low-cost children’s camping tent can be quickly transformed into an efficient hide. Merely cut an opening into the camping tent for your lens, and another to look through and you have a conceal which can be moved around to take advantage of different backgrounds or lighting circumstances. Try to find a camping tent that has a relatively high roofing system so that you can shoot from a comfy level, ideally the same height as your perches.

Chaffinch (Fringilla superstars) in flight. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, 500mm, 1/1000 sec at f/8, ISO 2500
Ben Hall chaffinch

Camera settings for photographing birds

Little birds move exceptionally quickly so you will require to pay cautious attention to your shutter speed. Use your widest aperture to let as much light as possible into the lens and try to keep your shutter speed to a minimum of 1/1000 sec.

Depending on the light levels you might require to raise your ISO setting, or switch to vehicle ISO if your video camera enables. Predictive focus mode will track your topic as it moves however beware to constantly keep your focus point on the bird to avoid it from jumping to the background.

Back-button focus can be a huge benefit, as it will allow you to lock focus by pressing and releasing the focus button. To then track a moving subject, simply hold the focus button with your thumb. With back-button focus made it possible for, you should keep your video camera set to the predictive focus mode at all times however keep in mind to disable the focus from the shutter button or you will combat the effect.

Setting your video camera to the high-speed continuous shooting drive mode will allow you to fire a burst of frames, increasing your chances of capturing the best minute.

Fantastic tit (Parus major) perched on a twig and Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) in flight in heavy snowfall. Canon EOS-1D X, 500mm, 1/1600sec at f/4, ISO 2500
Ben Hall great tit

Observe your feathered subjects

When utilizing more cost-effective video cameras, you may not have the luxury of shooting at over ten frames per second. It is still perfectly possible, nevertheless, to catch action images on slower cameras and lenses. You might need to work a little more difficult and learn to anticipate the movements of your topics to time the shutter release accurately, but these are abilities that every budding wildlife photographer must develop.

Hang out just observing the birds coming and going from the feeders, watch their movements and take down any obvious patterns. Birds are creatures of habit, and you ought to quickly begin to be able to forecast their instructions of flight.

Ben Hall great spotted woodpecker bird photograph


Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *