A bird in the hand

Marion Grenyer wants to take more en­gag­ing wildlife pho­tos

NPhoto - - Over To You… -

My hus­band and I have a friendly ri­valry, as he uses Canon. We share an in­ter­est in birds. I use ei­ther the Tam­ron 150-600mm or Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 II, de­pend­ing on the light. I am look­ing at pur­chas­ing a 300mm f/4.

I have yet to find how to take good, vi­brant pho­to­graphs more con­sis­tently. I strug­gle with weather con­di­tions – I can set up for cloud and the sun ap­pears just as I press the shut­ter. My cur­rent tech­nique is very raw and I gen­er­ally set the cam­era in what I be­lieve to be the cor­rect set­tings and shoot. I can see dif­fer­ent pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­ni­ties, hence the pic­ture of the gull yawn­ing.

Pho­tograph­ing birds in trees is a chal­lenge. The kit can be heavy and try­ing to lo­cate the birds is frus­trat­ing. Get­ting the pic­ture of the war­bler in sharp fo­cus was rare for me, so I was quite pleased with it.


Marion, you’ve got a won­der­ful eye, and we can see the con­nec­tion you have with the an­i­mals. That pro­vides a per­fect start­ing block for im­prov­ing the tech­ni­cal end of things. You’ve got fan­tas­tic kit, so there’s no need to in­vest in much more. The only ad­di­tions we’d en­cour­age are a cir­cu­lar po­lariser, as it can im­prove con­trast and re­move re­flec­tions when you’re shoot­ing into wa­ter, and a mono­pod rather than a tri­pod as it’ll enable you to stay mo­bile.

Con­sider the back­ground when shoot­ing wildlife, as a con­fus­ing back­drop can ruin an oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent shot. Keep­ing your aper­ture wide to throw the back­ground out of fo­cus can com­bat this, but a clut­tered frame is still to be avoided wher­ever pos­si­ble, so do bear this in mind.

Use your knowl­edge of bird be­hav­iour, and get closer in to your sub­jects. You may need to find a fo­cus point on a branch and wait for the sub­ject to alight. Lock your aper­ture to be­tween f/5.6 or f/8, de­pend­ing on your fo­cal length, and set a shut­ter speed of around 1/500 sec us­ing Auto ISO on your D750. This should give enough depth of fo­cus to cap­ture a sharp sub­ject, but still blur the back­ground.

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