Look to the sky

NPhoto - - Nikon Skills -

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).

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