'How-To' Photo Tips

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

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

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

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

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

16 July 2017, 10.36am

TECHNIQUE

I was actually at a look-out on Marine Drive in Albany for the view, not the birds, on this day, when I noticed the honeyeaters feeding on Woollybush (their favourite plant in the world!) below me. 

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.

Next, I waited for a bird to land on one of the flowers that was sticking up above the surrounding vegetation so that I would get a clean background. 

Lastly, the secret to this image was that I pressed the shutter BEFORE I saw the bird take off. In other words, 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.  You also need a LOT of LUCK!!!

© 2020 by Georgina Steytler Photography

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