'How-To' Photo Tips

Slow Oystercatcher

Location, Equipment & Settings

Albany,

Western Australia

Olympus E-M1Mark III

Olympus 300mm F/4 IS PRO Lens + 1.4x extender (840mm FFE*)

Aperture:                F10

Shutter Speed:       1/8s

ISO:                          64

 

Manual Exp.

AF-C

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

3 October 2020, 4.38pm

*Full Frame Equivalent

Technique

Low light (late on cloudy day).

 

To create this image, I  first  lowered my ISO as low as it would go (ISO64 on the Olympus). Next, I chose a shutter speed that was 1/8sec. Lastly, I adjusted the F-stop until it showed around minus 1/3  exposure compensation. Depending on just how dark the light is getting, you will have to keep adjusting the f-stop. The lighter it is the higher the f-stop number you have to use (eg F22) to cut down the light enough to enable the slow shutter speed without blowing ouot the highlights. The darker it gets, the lower the f-stop number. If you reach your lowest number (eg f4) and need more light, then you can start to increase the ISO.

To get the same result during bright daylight, you can use a 4 to 5 stop neutral density filter on the lens.

PS: if you don't have a camera with good stablisation, you will need to use a tripod to ensure the bird is sharp.

Framed Osprey

Location, Equipment & Settings

Albany,

Western Australia

Olympus E-M1Mark III

Olympus 300mm F/4 IS PRO Lens + 1.4x extender (840mm FFE*)

Aperture:                F5.6

Shutter Speed:      1/320

ISO:                          1600

 

Manual Exp.

Manual Focus

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

5 December 4.54am

*Full Frame Equivalent

Technique

After getting the standard shots of the bird in the tree, I looked around for other ways to shoot it and found a small gap in the foliage.

 

I tried moved so that the osprey's head was in the gap. I then switched to single (centre) point focus. However, because there was a branch sticking up into the gap, the AF would not focus on the bird, even with just the single point.

I then switched the lens into manual focus (using the handy manual 'clutch' on the Olympus 300mm lens) and manually focussed on the bird. Focus peaking in the electronic viewfinder helped by highlighting the in-focus edges in red. 

You can see that the bird's head still looks sharp even though there is a small twig in the way.  This is why I advocate experimentation because you never really know what is and isn't possible.

The trick to getting this kind of 'framed view' is to make sure that the foliage (or other object) you are shooting through is closer to you than it is to the bird. The closer to the bird it is, the less 'blurred' it will be and thereby more distracting. Conversely, the closer to you it is, the more pleasing it will look.

Woodswallow Wings

Location, Equipment & Settings

Wikepin,

Western Australia

Olympus E-M1Mark III

Olympus 300mm F/4 IS PRO Lens + 1.4x extender (840mm FFE)

Aperture:                F5.6

Shutter Speed:    1/2500

ISO:                          800

 

Manual Exp.

AF-C

Pro Capture

AWB

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

3 October 2020, 4.38pm

Technique

I came across a black-faced woodswallow perched on the branch of a tree.

I switched to Pro Capture Mode (Can't recall if it was High or Low). I then half-pressed the shutter whilst focussed on the bird and waited until it flew off (whilst half-pressed, the camera continuously takes images using the electronic shutter and stores them in the 'buffer'). As it happens, another bird flew in from the side.

I pressed the shutter when I saw this happen, at which time the camera recorded the images to the card, which included the most recent ones it had taken with the electronic shutter before I pressed the button all the way down).

 

In this way I was able to capture this beautiful moment of the two birds with their wings up which I would not have been able to do otherwise (other than by sheer luck) as I did not see the other bird coming in to land until the last moment. This is the beauty of Pro Capture mode.  

Note: Use Pro Cap H for subjects with minor changes in shooting distance, and Pro Cap L for subjects with changes in shooting distance (only this mode has continuous AF).

Galah Moon

Location, Equipment & Settings

Toodyay,

Western Australia

Canon EOS-1D X

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens 

Aperture:                 F18

Shutter Speed:        1/400

ISO:                           1600

Manual Exp.

Al Servo (AF-C)

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

28 February 2018, ~10.54pm

Technique

Taking a photo of a bird silhouetted in the moon is harder than you think.

 

Firstly, you have to find a bird at night with a clear view, perched at the right height for placing 'in' the moon. 

Next, you have to work quickly because the moon moves surprisingly quickly across the sky (and the lower to the horizon, the quicker it moves). 

The key to these shots is once you have the bird in the moon, use as small an aperture as possible to maximise the detail in the moon. That is, shoot at F18 and higher. You must also be very careful not to overexpose the moon, which may mean applying negative exposure compensation (yep - at night!). 

Note: In post-processing you may want to further reduce moon highlights and increase moon clarity to bring out even more detail. The bird can/should be left silhouetted.

High Key Egret

Location, Equipment & Settings

Technique

High key images are easy to take once you have mastered exposure compensation.

 

I find that they work well with white-on-white subects. In this case, the egret was in a patch of water that was reflecting a lot of light. Crucially, the egret was not as bright as the background.

 

I applied positive exposure compensation to make the image as bright as possible without losing any detail in the white feathers of the bird. If I was using my Canon DSLR I would do this by reviewing each image and checking the blinkies or Highlights Alert. If any part of the bird was 'flashing' I would reduce the amount of exposure compensation (by contrast, we don't care if the whole background is flashing). If nothing on the bird is flashing, I would increase exposure comensation until it just starts. With the Olympus, it is possible to do this through the electronic viewfinder which shows the effect of any adjustments in real time.

What you should end up with is an image similar to this one, with the background completely white, but the bird perfectly exposed. 

Note: This technqiue can be used for any bird where the background is BRIGHTER than the bird (eg see the New Holland Honeyeater photo beneath the egret).  Cloudy days are usually the best to practice this technique with. 

Albany,

Western Australia

Olympus E-M1Mark III

Olympus 300mm F/4 IS PRO Lens (600mm FFE*)

Aperture:                F4

Shutter Speed:     1/1250

ISO:                         1600

 

Manual Exp.

AF-C

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

24 July 7.44am

*Full Frame Equivalent

Nankeen Night-Heron

Location, Equipment & Settings

Coodanup Foreshore,

Western Australia

Canon EOS-1D X

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens 

Aperture:                 F8

Shutter Speed:        1/13s

ISO:                         640

Manual Exp.

Al Servo (AF-C)

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

20 November 2015, ~7pm

Technique

This image was taken after the sun went down. There was a beautiful pink colour in the water (from the twilight sky).

It was too dark for a conventional flight photo so I decided to experiment with slow shutter speed. In hindsight I could have used a lower aperture than F8 and lowered the ISO further and achieved the same image with less digital noise. 

I took about 8 photos in the series as the bird flew across the water in front of me. Of those 8 images, only in 2 of them was the bird's eye in focus. The key to making this work is to maintain a steady pan at the same speed as the bird (make sure you have a good, solid stance and turn from the hip). It's tricky and 99% of the time you will probably fail, but the more you practice the higher your likelihood of success to get a unique image!

Great Crested Grebe

Location, Equipment & Settings

Herdsman Lake, Perth

Western Australia

Canon EOS-1D X 

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens + Canon 1.4x Teleconverter (@840mm)

Aperture:                F6.3

Shutter Speed:       1/6400s

ISO:                        400

Manual Exp.

Al Servo (AF-C)

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

26 September 2019, early AM

Technique

This image is the result of persistance. Every morning (just before sunrise until 2 hours after) and evening (2 hours before sunset and half an hour after) for 5 days straight I went to this lake. Several pairs of Great Crested Grebes were either courting or nesting. I chose a position on the ground where there was good light in an area that I observed the grebes habituated. I ensured that I had a shutter-speed fast enough to capture any action (if light permits, at least 1/2500s). Because the grebes would come quite close to me, and often there were two together, I chose an f-stop of 6.3 to get better depth of field. As usual, my  camera was in Burst (Spray & Pray) mode.

The rest was up to luck. Rather than move around, I chose to stay more or less in one area. I observed this grebe start to get agitated and knew that action was likely to follow. As I was constantly adjusting my settings for the changing light, all I had to do was press the shutter and follow the bird's movement across the water to get this shot.  Key Tips: Be Patient & Persistant; be Ready with the right Settings at the right Location; and be Observant.  

Great Egret

Location, Equipment & Settings

Frenchman Bay Road, Albany

Western Australia

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens + Canon 1.4x Teleconverter (@840mm)

Aperture:                F5.6

Shutter Speed:       1/2000s

ISO:                        2000

Manual Exp.

Al Servo (AF-C)

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

2 December 2019, late PM

Technique

I was fortunate on this day to go to my favourite spot and find several egrets feeding and that the wind was blowing from behind me meaning that the birds would have to land facing me (into the wind).

As it had been raining that day, I had on a raincoat and rain pants and a plastic sleeve (made from a reseable bag) covering the camera but no covering for my lens. I lay down on the shoreline, close enough to get within range of the birds but not so close as to scare them. After 35-40 minutes of lying in the mud in the rain I was fortunate when one came in to land in front of me. I already had the settings adjusted for the light conditions (low light hence ISO2000 + with positive exposure compensation), and with a shutter speed (1/2000sec) fast enough to capture the action.

 

During editing, I selected the image where I thought that the bird had the most pleasing pose. I then lightened, adjusted shadows and highlights, whites and blacks and sharpened and noise reduction. 

 

You can see that some image detail is missing. This is due to the low light conditions and rain that was falling at the time. If you think about it, every drop of water between the subject and your lens is going to affect clarity.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Location, Equipment & Settings

Avon River, Northam

Western Australia

Canon EOS-1D X

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens 

Aperture:                F5.6

Shutter Speed:       1/8000s

ISO:                        400

Manual Exp.

Al Servo (AF-C)

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

1  June 2019, early AM

Technique

To get an image with those bright golden disks, 'bokeh', with a dark background, you need several things:

1) You need to be in a location where the bird is in the light (in this case backlight) and behind the bird is in shadow. The best locations for this scenario are likely to be rivers or narrow parts of a lake. And, believe it or not, the more 'gunk' gloating on the water, the better bokeh you will get. 

2) the sun needs to be very low - as in just rising or about to sink. That 'golden light' only lasts for a few minutes.

3) you need to position yourself to shoot into the direction of the light, but not so 'head on' into the sun  that you will get lens flare (to avoid this, you also need a lens hood).

4) Then you need to UNDEREXPOSE the image. Your camera will be very confused by all the light and dark in this image so you need to tell it what to do. Basically, set negative exposure compensation, start with -3 stops under, take a shot and check for 'blinkies' (blown highlights). Keep adjusting down until MOST but not all of the blinkies have stopped. This way you can get an image where there is still some detail in the bright spots without everything else being completely black. Just trust me on this. Then in post-processing further reduce 'highlights' to bring back even more details in those beautiful golden disks! Simples!

New Holland Honeyeater

Location, Equipment & Settings

Marine Drive, Albany

Western Australia

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens 

Aperture:             F6.3

Shutter Speed:    1/4000s

ISO:                       1250

Manual Exp.

Al Servo (AF-C)

AWB.

Ev. Metering

Burst Mode (H) 

Handheld.

16 July 2017, 10.36am

Technique

I was at a look-out and saw birds feeding below. I adjusted my settings to capture action (1/4000sec shutter speed) and aperture at F6.3 to get a reasonable depth of field.  The ISO was set at whatever I needed to get those two settings.

I then waited for a bird to land on one of the flowers that was sticking up above the surrounding vegetation (clean background). 

Lastly, I pressed the shutter BEFORE I saw the bird take off. Through observation I could guess when a bird is likely to take off and would start shooting (aka SPRAY & PRAY). To do this, you need a good camera card (fast and lots of space) and to have your camera in burst mode.  If you wait until you see the bird alight, you will NOT get this shot.

© 2020 by Georgina Steytler Photography

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