Starling murmuration Capture a shape
Nature photographer Roeselien Raimond shares how she captured this spectacular shot of starlings
Years ago, I stumbled upon the phenomenon of a starling murmuration, and I was in awe. I had never seen so many animals gathered together. The way this mass of birds managed to move in sync really struck me, and I got hooked. It’s not an easy subject to find, though. Starling murmurations can only be found at certain times of the year in specific areas, and being in the right place at the right time is quite a challenge.
To be honest, I had countless unsuccessful attempts, when the birds just decided to go to sleep immediately; or they did murmurate, but they didn’t create any shapes; or the light was too bad to shoot anything decent. Literally everything has to come together. But when that happens, it is worth every effort. It’s like watching an enormous airshow with thousands of birds creating one beautiful shape after another.
For this particular photo, I went to the same place many times. I knew the time they started their show and I studied the weather forecasts. But it was always a surprise where exactly they would fly.
After a long cloudy period, one evening the sun was finally visible. I so hoped the birds would show up… And they did. As if encouraged by the beautiful colours of the sky, they created the most wonderful shapes. I couldn’t believe my luck when all these birds suddenly flocked together into one giant bird shape. Miracles do happen! All I had to do was set my composition and check my settings, then click to immortalise this incredibly cool moment.
This photo was taken with a wide-angle lens, which was necessary to capture all these many birds in one frame. It’s taken
after sunset, in low-light conditions, which requires a high ISO. This might result in noise, but the birds are moving fast, and I prefer some noise over motion blur. The birds didn’t react to my presence, which let me position myself in the best place.
To take a shot like this, try to find background information about when and where your subjects can be found and what behaviour to expect. Also, don’t forget to look and listen. This phenomenon looks good in photos, but it’s nothing compared to the experience itself!
Photo taken with a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 40mm; 1/200 sec at f/6.3, ISO 320