Usually bird photographs are taken from a hide made of some kind canvas, either a portable one or wooden permanent one.
A canvas one needs to be a good tight fit on the frame so as not to flap around in wind. Do not get too close at the start as you can frighten the subject away for good. Garden birds are used to people but wild birds are very susceptible to movement and sound. Start about fifteen feet away, sit and watch to see if the bird is comfortable, move in until you get to about seven feet. If the subject still accepts it, get in and start photographing. It’s always best to have someone to see you into the hide and walk away when you are settled.
Most animals and birds are creatures of habit they use the same pattern of approach to a site and leave the same way. Set up a branch a couple of feet from the bait or nest. They will usually use it to check everything is ok before they finally move in. Situate the branch against a neutral backdrop if possible it saves a lot of work on the computer later.
Camera. Tripod. Good zoom lens to 300mm or to 600mm f4.5 f 5.6 to get depth of field but best around f11. This gives you greater control of the size of the object you are photographing. Zoom in for small stuff and zoom out for larger ones.
Flash guns best set up ETTL to match camera sync and use manual setting on your camera, this stops the pre flash going off and frightening the subject. If you don’t, either you get the tail end disappearing out of the frame or with a lot of birds the wings are above their heads.
Always best to let the subject start feeding etc. before you start shooting. Even if they fly off they will feel confident.
Next time they come in, try to keep your lens movement to a minimum. If you have to move, it do it slowly, if possible, when the bird’s head is turned away from you. Try to remember that all these subjects are prey and are constantly listening and watching for predators. Learn how to interpret the alarm calls of subjects. There is usually one very near and you may get lucky and get a kill by a hawk right in front of you.
You can also use bird song recordings to bring males down to your site. Place your concealed speaker out below a perch. This never fails in the mating season as the males set up a territory and wait to attract a passing female. Another bird singing in his territory is like a red flag to a bull you get some really good displays.
Some birds are protected at or near a nest site under the Schedule One list obtainable from the Nature Conservancy Council. Permission to photograph these birds is very hard to get and the consequences for photographing without a license are pretty severe. Always check the list.
Observe the Countryside Act. Wild flowers are protected and must not be picked. Do not trample crops. Always get permission from the farmer / landowner. Take a few pictures with you to show them and explain what you want to do. They are usually very helpful. Always leave the place how you found it.
5th October 2016