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06-10-2011, 06:39 PM   #1
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Any tips for photographing birds?

I'd like to try and shoot some birds in my yard. I have a Quantaray 300mm zoom lens that is long enough I think but I'm having problems getting anything sharp. I'm using a monopod but I still feel I'm getting some shake. Camera is K-x.

Any tips for getting better shots when using the extreme end of a lens? Any recommendations of a better lens if needed?

Thanks

06-10-2011, 07:09 PM   #2
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Bird seed.

300mm in your yard should do it.
Up the ISO until you get more practice. This will allow you to shoot a faster shutter speed.
06-10-2011, 07:20 PM   #3
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Bring the birds closer to you, and use a shorter lens and crop. That's not always possible, though. I hear good things about the DA(L) 55-300.
06-10-2011, 07:23 PM   #4
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I have a feeder and a bird-house right in front of a window that I can open. I open it up, set up the tripod and sit there very still and wait. This way the birds are close to me. I still use a 200mm lens though.

06-10-2011, 07:50 PM   #5
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Bird Seed and pixels.

Until the subject matter has a lot of pixels it won't look sharp when you crop. Distance is the trick. Shoot in open light not the shade if possible.
If you think shooting stability is your sharpness problem up the shutter speed (1/f or more). That means higher ISO/wider aperture. That 300mm lens, backed down to about 250mm, aperture about f8, shutter 250 or faster, ISO as required for the exposure, will help until your technique is mastered. Lighting, distance, and bird seed


BTW, a cardinal is full frame with 800mm @ 20 feet.
06-10-2011, 08:10 PM   #6
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I would recommend he DA55-300, It's a great bang for the buck lens, a better lens will cost a lot more.



06-10-2011, 08:14 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by kinsale Quote
I'd like to try and shoot some birds in my yard. I have a Quantaray 300mm zoom lens that is long enough I think but I'm having problems getting anything sharp. I'm using a monopod but I still feel I'm getting some shake. Camera is K-x.

Any tips for getting better shots when using the extreme end of a lens? Any recommendations of a better lens if needed?

Thanks
Lenses and autofocus are better in the center, so try putting the bird in the dead center, then crop later for a more interesting composition. At 300mm you'll probably have to crop some anyway.

Try not zooming to 300mm, maybe 200-250mm instead. Inexpensive zooms are not great at all settings because the designer compromised somewhere. So you might find that 300mm is bad but 200mm is better.

All lenses get better when they are not wide open. It would be great if you could stop down to f8 to f11, but then your shutter speed may become a problem. A tripod helps with that, with its own problems.

If you do hang a bird feeder and get a backyard setup, you can set up a flash too. I was strongly considering this when my wife installed the bird feeder in a deep shadow. But I procrastinated until the sun moved. The flash could be remotely triggered, in a box so it's out of the weather. A proper flash setup can solve some shutter speed issues.

If you look at your photos really carefully, you may be able to tell whether your problem is motion blur or a soft lens. It's harder to get blur with a tripod so you could try that to see if your photos instantly improve.

Geese are a really convenient size, and larger birds are cheaper than longer lenses.
06-10-2011, 08:19 PM   #8
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thanks everyone, some great ideas. we do have a birdfeeder but as soon as I was in the yard the birds disappeared
I'll try a tripod instead of the monopod. Also back off the zoom as well and crop later.

06-10-2011, 11:05 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by kinsale Quote
thanks everyone, some great ideas. we do have a birdfeeder but as soon as I was in the yard the birds disappeared
I'll try a tripod instead of the monopod. Also back off the zoom as well and crop later.
Try setting up a blind close enough to use your lens at the optimum focal length. Put out some bird seeds, get yourself behind the blind and wait until the birds become used to you being there.
06-10-2011, 11:23 PM   #10
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Robert Capa, an important combat photographer famously said "get closer"..


Robert Capa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
06-10-2011, 11:28 PM   #11
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good recomendations
06-11-2011, 04:09 AM   #12
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You could always use the Audubon method:

John James Audubon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
06-11-2011, 04:36 AM   #13
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You should be able to get quite close at this time of year (northern hemisphere at least) because the fledglings aren't too keen on moving, and can't catch food for themselves, so you get lots of baby birds sat around whilst the parents desperately try and catch enough food for them as well as themselves, so they have to be bolder too.

Birds will get used to you too - the wild birds in places where lots of people go are less wary than in other places, so stick with it - eventually they'll get used to you being near.

This rather charming fledgling sparrow that was hanging around near the café at a butterfly house near me is an example of both these things - sitting around a lot being fed, and use to humans being near.




If you have room you might want to consider getting a tent or hide so you can get a different view point. I don't have a garden currently but I used to do bird watching from the shed when I was a kid.

Feed them regularly, let them get used to you, and try and get as close as you can.

You might also want to try trap focus is you have a MF lens. This was taken with a 25 year old Tamron Adaptall zoom. Not the greatest photo ever, but it shows it works, which was the reason I took it




EDIT - sparrow shot at 160mm (240mm in 35mm) to save you looking at the EXIF. The Robin was 210mm (315mm).
06-11-2011, 05:05 AM   #14
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The background is usually a problem in the back yard / garden - too busy / ugly. We had lots of snow last winter which helps a lot. This was taken through the window, and was hand-held but I was resting both elbows firmly on the top tier of the cat's scratching post. It uses the 55-300mm lens, I was zoomed in a little (focal length 210mm), ISO 200, f8 and 1/250. It's been lighted in post-processing - the bright snow caused the camera to underexpose a bit, and i wanted to be able to see the beautiful winter plumage.

Apart from the snow the other vital components were that the birds were hungry, and I had crushed a fat ball and scattered the bits on the snow so they were digging away for them. This has been cropped top and bottom but not at the sides, so the original has enough pixels to print at A3.



06-11-2011, 05:11 AM   #15
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Having five cats may, of course, put the birds off, Sal
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