Song Bird Photographs

and "Photographing Song Birds"

We are actively soliciting  Exceptional Photographs of Song Birds and their nesting environment. These must be Photographs which have been taken by You or Your Family. You will be given submission instructions, and you will get full credit for any Photograph(s) which we post on these pages. To participate:

Female Goldfinch scratches an itch.

This is a priceless photograph! . . . If you hired a team of National Geographic Photographers to snap it for you, it could take them many months, or years, or lifetimes to get this pose in nature. Sometimes Lady Luck is the Photographer's greatest ally.

If you happen to be at the right place, at the right time, and your Camera is aimed, and your Lens is focused, and your finger is on the Button, and you don't blink your viewfinder eye, you just might be lucky enough to come away with a once-in-a-lifetime photograph of a Song Bird balanced on one foot, while a toenail of the other foot relieves an itch.

This Gold Finch had landed above a patch of Foxtail weeds ripe with Seeds, about to get its picture taken. But in that very moment while the finger pressed the Button, and the Camera measured the light, and the digital signal went through the miniature Printed Circuit Board to notify the Recorder to place the scene on the postage stamp-sized Chip;

In that very moment, a Flea decided to bite this Song Bird in the back of the neck, and the Bird reacted by turning its Head, lowering its Wing, and raising its Foot. And the resulting photograph might have been discarded because it was not what the Viewfinder had displayed at the pressing of the Button;

Except that this intervention of Lady Luck had produced a result far superior to the ho-hum photo of a Bird perched above a patch of seed-producing weeds.

"Basics of Song Bird Photography"

If you have a relatively good camera and a lot of patience, there's no reason why you can't take some very satisfactory photographs of your Feathered Friends. We hope you find this short Tutorial to be helpful.

In today's Digital World, it's no wonder that Digital Cameras are outselling Film Cameras by a very large margin. There is no delay or cost of developing. The Viewer will let you check photos as you snap them and allow you to erase or replace them. They will keep clicking shots off as long as you hold the button down, and a postage stamp-sized Chip will hold 500+ photos.

Many stores will print Paper Photos for you, or you can print them with your Computer's Printer. It's a simple matter to put the Photos in your computer and e-mail them to friends and relatives around the world in 5 minutes. Then they can print them with their own Printers.

A Camera with a powerful Telephoto Lens will allow you to get close-up photos without being near the subject. But  a Telephoto setting necessitates the use of a Tripod or other device to steady the camera. Blur caused by moving the camera is increased with Telephoto shots. Some modern Cameras have electronics designed to minimize this blur.

An Optical Telephoto or "Zoom" of  10x or 12x  is very helpful in photographing wildlife. Many Digital Cameras also have  Digital Zoom which is often less desirable than Optical Zoom, especially when the photographs are enlarged. Often there are blocks of color instead of a smooth transition from one color shade to another.

A fast Shutter Speed is also very helpful. It will allow you to capture a half-closed blinking eye without the blur associated with motion.  Old film Cameras commonly used speeds of 1/30 and 1/60 of a second. Newer Cameras will be found with 1/1000 second which will stop a race horse with all four feet off the ground, and minimal motion blur.

Burst Mode allows you to shoot a "Burst" of shots in fast sequence. The Button is held down and the shutter keeps clicking off shots. You may be able to take a shot at the next Family Reunion with all blinking eyes open and all yawning mouths closed.

If you're going to take pictures of Birds, you must go to the Birds or bring them to you. An Aviary may be a good choice. Or a nearby stream which is frequented by Birds. Or your own back yard with its Bird Baths, Bird Feeders and Water Attractions.

Whichever you choose, note the frequented resting perches that Birds use to survey the landscape before they  eat, drink, or visit their nests. They will sit on these same limbs and twigs to make sure the "coast is clear" before attracting themselves or their nests to predators.

A Blind set up with the Camera focused on these resting spots will be more successful than a Camera which is hanging from your neck. A Blind can be your house, or car, or a camo Tarp stretched between Tree limbs or draped over a wash line. (That's where housewives used to hang wet laundry before Dryers and Malls were invented).

Time of day is important in outdoor photography where lighting is hard to control. At high noon on a sunny day, there will be dark shadows under Human hats, noses, and chins. Birds cast shadows, too. And so do leaves. These shadows are minimized on an overcast or cloudy day, but then the colors will be less vibrant.

The best timing may be morning or evening with the Sun low and behind your back, and no wind to move limbs, leaves, and Feathers. This just happens to be the time of day when many Birds are most active at back yard Feeders.

Backgrounds can make or ruin an otherwise great photo. The background should be contrasting but not glaring. Taking a photo of a Crow on a limb against white house siding will likely wash out any details of the Crow, leaving you with a black silhouette. Likewise, a brown Sparrow against brown Leaves may virtually disappear on a photo. So a happy medium is a realistic goal.

Note the Gold Finch photo above. That background is not retouched. It is so far out of focus that the far off Trees and mountains have become pastel blurs which draws your eye to the subject instead of trying to interpret the background as subject matter.

The distance between the subject and the background will determine your ability to "use" the background.  If the subject and the background are close together, it's hard to focus on the subject without including the background in the sharp area. But if they are farther apart you can blur the background making the subject appear more distinct from the blurred background.

 A good rule of thumb is to have the subject half way between you and the background. That will allow you to have the background relatively sharp, or have it slightly blurred to increase the three dimensional effect, or to create an unidentifiable rendition of soft splotches.

The f-stop or Lens opening has a major influence on this intentional blurring. If the subject is stationary like a Flower, you can just open the Lens to f2 or less (smaller number) and focus the lens on the subject to blur the background. But if there is any anticipated motion, or the subject is too bright,  then you will have to "stop down"(smaller Lens opening) and lose some of the blur.

Of course, if your Camera is completely automatic, you can just  click away and hope for the best. Just remember the Professional Photographer's Rule #1: Snap lots of photographs; because like Lottery Tickets - the more you have, the greater your chance that you have a winner.

This Camouflage Burlap Turkey Blind
is draped over a folding Ladder, making it very portable.

Leave any new Photographer's Blind in place a day or two so the Birds get accustomed to it. Place a few natural-looking perches near the Feeders, and learn what time of day the Feeders are most active; this is usually at dawn when they break the night's fast, and at dusk when the load up for the long night. Except during incubation, most of a Bird's day is spent foraging for food.

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