Look to the sky
1 Do your research
Find a location that’s known to have flocks of birds, and find out when the best time to visit is. We went to WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, which has thousands of birds, including lapwings, rooks and starlings that flock reliably around one hour before dusk.
2 Fine somewhere to hide
Permanent hides at reserves are great starting points for beginner bird photographers as they are placed in areas where birds gather regularly, they’re quiet and usually have seating. If your location doesn’t have any, take your own portable hide for a little shelter from the elements.
3 Set up your camera
Stick to manual and aperture priority modes for this sort of shoot – especially the latter. We shot wide open at f/2.8 to give us a really fast 1/4000 sec shutter speed, and we used up to ISO450 to ensure we were getting a fast shutter speed.
4 Keep an eye out
It’s easy to get restless in a quiet hide and to fall into the trap of checking your camera to keep busy, but don’t lose focus on the birds. You might miss opportunities if you’re looking the wrong way or down at your Nikon. Nail your settings first and keep your eyes peeled.
5 Keep your distance
Resist the urge to zoom in too close, as it’ll spoil the effect of the birds creating patterns en masse. Rather, set a distance where you can see the flock and some of the landscape. That being said, sometimes cropping closer so that the flock fills the frame will emphasise the mass.
6 Look for patterns
Look out for interesting patterns, especially as the flock turns. As the birds bank they’ll appear larger and darker, and with some interesting clouds behind, the shot will look textured. Keep shooting as new patterns appear (make sure your memory card has enough space).