Photograph New Zealand Birds - Part 2
To be a good
bird photographer it greatly helps to have a sound knowledge of birds,
their behavior and where to find them. It is no good looking for a bird
in the wrong habitat or when a migratory species is not even in the
country. Find out what a particular species feeds on, what its call
sounds like and if it is more active at a particular time of the day -
the more you know about a species the better your chances of capturing
it on film. To increase your knowledge of birds join your local bird
conservation society, get a decent field guide and use every and any
opportunity you can to learn from others.
location with a good range of birds or with a particular species
present is, however, not the end of it. Not all good “birding”
locations are necessarily good bird photography spots. The beginning
bird photographer will quickly discover one thing - birds are small and
you need to get closer than you thought – much closer than with a scope
or binoculars. Even with a 500mm lens and a teleconverter you
will often need to get within 6-7 meters of a bird if you aren’t going
to be saying – “is that dot on my film a bird?”
It also helps if
you can find just the right bird. As all birders know some birds just
seem to like people and allow a much closer approach than others of the
same species do. During my last visit to Miranda there was a very tame
pied shag perched opposite the local fish and chip shop. He allowed me
to approach as close as I wanted to, change lenses and set up my flash.
All the time he never moved an inch.
Setting up a
couple of bird feeders is a great way of getting birds to come to you.
You also have the added advantage that this is something ideal
for setting up in your back garden at home. The main thing here is to
make sure that you position the feeder to give yourself a nice clean
background to your images and so that the light is coming from behind
over your shoulder at the time of the day you want to be working.
In the past I have set up a small feeding table in my back garden, put out some fruit for the silvereyes and just set up my camera close to the table - no hide/blind needed. After a few evenings I had some nice Silvereye pictures, one of which was used as a textbook front cover.With some species you may need to use a hide/blind to get close enough to the birds. With a back garden set up, instead of using a portable purpose built hide, you can use a window from your house, or build a nice comfortable permanent hide. Working from a hide or blind in your back garden also gives you the opportunity to use a shorter lens of 300mm or 400mm focal length.
Recently I have
started to use a hide more and more. Here location becomes even more
important. Once you are in the hide, if you aren’t in the right place
then you are in for a long and lonely wait.
Whilst out and
about I am always on the look out for places where birds hang out. If
the place is tidal then I visit the day before to see where the high
tide point is going to be. Then the next morning I arrive early, set up
near the high tide point and wait for the water to come in and for the
birds to arrive. I have occasionally miscalculated and ended up with
the water lapping around my feet, but I haven't yet been washed out
Whether using a
hide or not I am always on the look out for new locations for bird
photography, and I never discount a spot until I have checked it out
myself. For example, I have found New Zealand dabchick and scaup in
good numbers on a small lake in a housing development where I only
really expected to find mallards.
Finally, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have on photographing New Zealand birds. I am also available for one on one tuition or for group workshops.