Instructables

Backyard Bird Photography

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Picture of Backyard Bird Photography
Assigning yourself a project is a tested method of improving your photography skills. Choose a technique and a process that will concentrate your efforts to improve a particular skill. I decided that photographing birds in flight would be great practice for stop action photography, shooting sports for instance.

I figured birds are quick and random and if I can master them, I won't be struggling with the settings on a soccer field or basketball court. The birds are right in my backyard and I needn't ask them to sign a release. This project eventually became an art in itself.

Please note that I will refer to technical jargon and not fully explain what they mean. There are many free resources on the web to learn these aspects of photography. Try my photography blog for a start at stuartnafey.blogspot.com.

This Instructable has been entered in the Digital Days Photo Contest . Woo Hoo, I won a prize! Thank you everyone!
 
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Step 1: Bring The Birds To You

Picture of Bring The Birds To You
Do the birds flock to your backyard? If not, you want to start attracting these tiny flying dinosaurs and bird feeders are the key. We will talk about your camera in a minute but you want the birds to become comfortable and accustomed to your yard as a food supply. Understand which birds live in your area and which you would like to attract. This will determine the types of bird feeders and food you provide.

Searching the Instructables web site for "Bird Feeder" yielded 16 pages of 'ibles" and photos to get you started.

Google "Bird Watching" or "Bird Feeder" to find everything there is to know on the internet.

Visit your local hardware store. They will often sell feeders and food appropriate to the wild life in your area.

Ask your neighbors that have feeders what they use. You will discover an interest you did not know you shared with them.

I use a Thistle Sock Feeder filled with Nyger Thistle seed. This attracts several different types of fairly colorful finch. Rodents, such as rats and squirrels do not eat this seed and are not attracted.
alcurb1 month ago

Too bad you didn't get a photo of the rare "Thunderbirds". They tend to fly in perfect formation and hang around air bases with air shows. You can recognize them by their glisteny red, white, and blue feathers. Their call is similar to a loud roar to scare off predators. On occasion you hear them squawk at each other to coordinate their flight.

Joking aside, those are very nice photos. Your patience is admirable.

sgmchef1 year ago
If you only want photos of Black Capped Chickadees, try the food in one hand, camera in the other technique...

((Fujifilm S4500, point and shoot)
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mirrorclick2 years ago
This patience, how much does it cost and where can I find it?

joke...

I'll be sure to try this out when spring finally hits, still got tempertatures of -30C something depending on which week :(
sarawelder2 years ago
thanks. very helpful. Wish I had read this a few years ago !
FrozenIce2 years ago
hahaha i love the pic with the cat staring at the bird feeder waiting for an unsuspecting bird to just fly by....
Silence3 years ago
I tried this with Humming birds on my old Olympus E-410 a while back. I figured it would be good practice and cool to catch them in action. I soon learned that i had to use auto focus and freehand the camera to even have a chance at catching them. I was shooting from indoors, we had a feeder on a large window, so I could get pretty close before they got spooked by my movement but the lighting wasn't so great.
Some of my favorite bird shots with my E-410
cory.smith4 years ago
Just got my Nikon D3000, and I found this to be very helpful! One thing that I did to help practice was to head to a fish store. Fish are constantly moving, each tank has its own light environment, and the subjects are pretty! Oh, and they're in a tank, so they won't go too far. =D
ballitin4 years ago
Thanks for taking the time to go through it step by step ,being new to wildlife photography you have answered alot of my questions .thanks keep up the good work

J
unklstuart (author)  ballitin4 years ago
Thanks for commenting and good luck with the photography. I scored another decent owl picture the other day.
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nice wink! hahaha thats cool
muyo194 years ago
Great Instructable! I have to try this someday.
whiteoakart4 years ago
very nice images.  I can make one recommendation.  Make a simple blind to hide behind.  We set up a tent in our front yard, but you can make something very simple out of PVC and some old sheets.  This will encourage some of the more shy birds to approach.
Rob K4 years ago
I still need to learn how to fully use my camera. This took about 30 tries to find the right setting.

Canon Powershot SX1 IS

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unklstuart (author)  Rob K4 years ago
Good start and congratulations, you now know a lot more about your camera then you did yesterday!

It looks like you have a lot of subjects to practice with. Using flash is another art/science that needs to be addressed and is a good technique for capturing hummingbirds in flight.

A tip about humming birds - when they finish feeding, they fly backwards a few inches and then hover for a second before flying away. Time some shots for that "hover" moment.
AndyGadget4 years ago
I like the nyjer feeder - I'll be making something similar. I made the more traditional type last year and found that a coupleof goldfinches or siskins would monopolise the holes and not give theothers a look-in.
Trebawa4 years ago
If you have a Canon PowerShot, you can use CHDK and a motion detection script to catch the birds.
unklstuart (author)  Trebawa4 years ago
Absolutely. And there is an 'ible to construct a motion detector too.

In my case, many birds are flying in the area all around the feeder but I am only photographing a small area next to it. As I become accustomed to their flight and landing patterns, I get good results by anticipating when they will be in the zone.

Good technique for nature photography can combine technology, intuition and experience.
oddstray4 years ago
In general, the VR algorithm is always applied to your photos.  On a tripod, your focus is probably just where you want it.  Applying any algorithm is more likely to 'muddy up' the focus than to improve it.  But, Nikon's VR technology claims to be able to detect that you're using a tripod, so it may be OK to leave VR on when using a tripod.
unklstuart (author)  oddstray4 years ago
Thanks. That makes sense.

The manual for the Nikon 70-300 lens recommends to switch the VR off when using a tripod. I am told Canon says you may leave it on.
Don't steal my photo.

My birds name is Rocky.
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unklstuart (author)  Yerboogieman4 years ago
Nice colors. What kind of parrot is that?
He is a Jenday Conure I got when he was 9. He doesn't talk so he doesn't fit the full definition of a parrot.
Excellent instructable!  I've had to learn most of these the hard way - our backyard attracts some birds rare to my region (mostly due to a running waterfall pond and a nice garden), and we have a resident chipmunk on which I would practice my photo skills.  Although I have to admit it looks rather hilarious lying face-down on the dirt to get a shot of a 'munk or birds feeding in the grass.  For some reason though I never thought about using the remote to my camera when its up on the tripod...
unklstuart (author)  valhallas_end4 years ago
Thanks. Dirty knees are often the price paid for good pictures!
Incredible picture!