Light is the single most important thing that photographers need to understand and how much of it to let in your camera is essential for good photography and getting a great image. But given this, I would say light is closely followed by getting the sharpness, focus and clarity in the image as the next most important thing to get right. In my pursuit of trying to capture birds its been the single most frustrating thing to look at in the edit suite at the end of a shoot. The bird you have spent minutes, hours even several days following in the case of a local Kingfisher, to try to get that perfect shot can be spoiled by the image not being perfectly sharp. Understanding the basic settings of your camera can be key to getting successful action or still bird shots.
To begin with, knowing a birds behavior and having a feel for the environment you are in are hugely important for getting that perfect shot of your subject in focus and lit so that the image is properly exposed. All birds behave differently. Some will flee at the sight of you others may look at you curiously and potentially see you as a food source. Others will just go about their business high above you. So your proximity to the bird during its behavior can be the biggest benefit to the type of shot you want. Too close and the bird may scare but also the bird may suddenly spread its wings in readiness for flight and a closely cropped image because you’re too close may cut off some of the wing. You may need to back off a little in your proximity so the image has room to breathe. Only in post production edits will you find that in the 10 shots you managed to get of the Swan taking off, the one that is sharply in focus is the one with half a wing missing. So understand the behavior and take time to observe it and judge through experience where its best to locate yourself to give you a framed shot that will work for the location you are in.
I have spent many thousands of hours doing photography and the list of things I have photographed is large. With landscapes for example, the subject conveniently stays in the same place for long periods in order for me to get the shot I want. I can take my time getting the right lens fitted, focus on a spot that I want to highlight, go to live view on my camera screen, select manual focus and zoom in so that the image is pin sharp on my display. All this while the camera is resting on a steady tripod and using a timer or trigger to release the shutter that removes all movement.
As I first began photographing birds, I quickly realised most of that technique was being thrown out of the window! When I get to the location I’m shooting in I may not have an idea where the bird is going to be initially, will it be near or far so what lens should I attach. Is the bird going to flee when it sees me so if I do manage to get a shot, are my settings correct on the camera so that the light that reaches the sensor is ample and the shutter has opened and closed fast enough that my hand movement wont be picked up by the camera.
Most birds in flight or their sudden movement will need around 1/1000th sec shutter speed to freeze their movements sufficiently. This needs to be pretty quick to avoid any possible camera shake or blur in the image. Remember I’m not going to be using a tripod as I don’t know where the bird may be. Waiting in a hide maybe one exception to this as there is a small window of direction where you know the birds will visible and using a tripod can be an option here. Some camera set ups allow a mono pod to be attached which can also greatly help reduce movement in all situations.
At around a 1000th second there’s not much light being let into the camera so in order to overcome this I need to make the aperture wide enough to let some more in. The f number on a camera will allow me to dictate the width at which the lens opens to let the light through for our fraction of a second. There’s always a trade off between movement, light and exposure. This is the second thing to remember when in location. Your settings.
Once you have seen the bird then you’ll want to move in closer so ensure the camera is on, an exposure setting is chosen and you are in a position to take the shot. The last thing you want to be doing is adjusting settings as you approach the subject as your movement may frighten the bird. If the bird looks frightened remain still until the bird thinks the threat has gone.
Move towards the bird and begin to take shots and the bird will get used to the sound of the shutter. But remember to always check if your position is the right place for you to be. Use auto focus at first and as you take a few frames, quickly look at the display on the camera to see if there is too much or too little light being let in through the lens. This is where your knowledge of your equipment comes in. The more shots you take in as many environments as possible and learning the behavior of animals as I mentioned earlier is key to being able to adjust settings live in the field to get the shot you want.
The last thing you want to be doing is reaching for the instruction manual as to how to speed up the shutter speed. The moment will be lost. Adjust the settings based on what the screen is showing you. Viewing through the viewfinder will provide you with information based on what the camera can see.
To tackle the issue of sharpness and focus or lack of it in some cases, these are my recommendations. Start with auto focus and have the dots on your viewfinder light up where the subject is as you half press the shutter. This can in a lot of cases be the best option for focusing, but in my experience the camera doesn’t know where or what the object is that you are looking to capture.
This shot of a Grey Heron in the reeds for example looks amazing, (see a larger version here) but the only thing that auto focus may see are the reeds in front of the Heron making the bird blurry in the background and that isn’t going to look good. This is where manual focus (MF) comes in. Click the switch on the lens to MF and turn the front of the lens until you can see the bird clearly in the viewfinder this will make the reeds in front then become out of focus. Start to shoot the image.
There is no problem in taking 5, 10 even 20 images of the same shot, micro adjusting the lens as you shoot each one. I really dislike the term spray and pray. This is where some photographers have to take 50 shots and pray 1 will come out right and some form of photographic derision extends from this in some quarters. Yes that might be true but 45 may also come out right and have the bird in different actions. It can only be a win win in my eyes.
So lets take a moment then to consider the focal length of the lens that you are using. You are going to need around 200 - 800mm to be in with a chance of getting a good shot in the wild and even on a bird feeder. You may get away with something lower if you are lucky enough to be at an aviary for example or bird sanctuary that have animals close by. But an extra investment maybe needed to get a longer lens if you want to try to get into the shot without the bird seeing you.
OK to continue, try swapping from Auto Focus (AF) to manual (MF) as you shoot and see if this can help get the shot. But remember to not make sudden movements and to slow down your approach to the situation. Each shot situation will need a quick assessment of the conditions and the reaction the camera is having through the view finder. Again being familiar with your cameras settings and knowing where exposure compensation buttons are for example is essential in this situation
If you are using a DSLR type of camera try choosing the mode that allows the shutter speed adjustment. This then allows the edit wheel to click between your thousandths of a second stops and this may influence the light and shot you are after. Once in the edit suite you will then know which one has worked for you.
At the end of the day you could always hang a bird feeder in your garden, sit with a window open and a cup of tea and shoot whatever comes along but there can be no substitute for getting out there and trying it in the field. Getting a shot of a duck on a quiet lake is very different from shooting diving gannets from a boat so gaining as much experience as you can in as many situations as you can manage is essential to good bird photography. If nothing else it always going to be a life enriching experience that can only be gained by being in nature.
Check out some other birds and animal shots of mine here.
Canon EOS R -
Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera with an all-new EOS RF lens mount!
Just managed to watch the live feed from Maui from Scott Kelby on the new products just announced.
The EOS R is available to pre-order from 12th September 2018 and available to purchase from 9th October 2018. The breakdown of pricing is as follows:
Basics so far...
Two new EF lenses - MUCH lighter than ever before - the lightest big lenses on the planet! Whoo Hoo!! (said every sports and wildlife photographer).
Canon's Elliott Peck - says you're not switching to the RF-mount and Mirrorless - you're adding it to what you're already using, because of its support for the EF lenses you already have (using their adapter).
Four new lenses for this new RF mount for Mirrorless. 35mm f/2 IS UM
"The new full-frame mirrorless EOS R camera provides gorgeous results, with four RF lenses re-imagining Canon optics and three optional Mount Adapters helping to ensure you can bring your EF and EF-S lenses along. Advanced features and compact designs, all in the brand-new EOS R system that’s designed to take today’s visual storytellers into tomorrow."
"Marking a new chapter in the history of EOS, the EOS R system is built for imagemakers who demand high-performance capture, a full-frame sensor and excellent ergonomics. A 54mm diameter lens mount enables RF lenses to have large rear elements, while a mirrorless design brings them closer to the sensor for bright, sharp and compact lens designs. A 12 pin electronic connection delivers fast communication between the camera and the lens, facilitating a versatile and powerful system. Plus, with a variety of mount adapter options, it’s easy to incorporate your EOS R system into an EOS system and expand your creative opportunities.
A 12 pin connection between the camera and lens means communication at a higher speed with larger amounts of data transfer, enabling incredibly fast AF, high IS and image optimization. It’s a system designed to expedite operations that’s ready for future expansions. 0.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor that captures gorgeous images, to a Dual Pixel CMOS AF system for fast and accurate autofocus, to impressive 4K video recording capabilities. All this comes in a compact and intuitive design that's compatible with RF, EF* and EF-S* lenses, opening a world of creative possibilities. Ready to capture any number of subjects in many different environments, the EOS R is primed to deliver the stunning photos and videos that photographers, moviemakers and any visual storytellers need to make their stories fly."
"Mount adapters deliver seamless connections between the EOS R camera and EF and EF-S lenses with all functions intact. Offering L series level weather and dust sealing, they are even compatible with EF extenders like the Extender EF 1.4x III to extend your camera’s optical reach. With an entire arsenal of EF and EF-S lenses at your disposal, these mount adapters ensure endless creative possibilities for the EOS R camera.
MOUNT ADAPTERS EF-EOS R
Left to right
MOUNT ADAPTER EF-EOS R
Lightweight and compact, the Mount Adapter EF-EOS R connects EF and EF-S lenses to the EOS R camera, exponentially expanding the list of compatible lenses.
CONTROL RING MOUNT ADAPTER EF-EOS R
The Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R adds a control ring like those found on RF lenses, providing the same level of control to your EF and EF-S lenses and supporting the same setting configuration regardless of lens.
DROP-IN FILTER MOUNT ADAPTER EF-EOS R
The Drop-in Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R enables compatibility with EF and EF-S lenses and includes drop-in filter capability for use with circular polarizing filters or variable ND filters. This enhancement enables compatibility with numerous lenses regardless of their front diameter, and makes filter use possible with lenses like the ultra wide EF 11–24mm f/4L USM lens or the tilt-shift TS-E 17mm f/4L lens which cannot accept a filter on the front.
The EOS R camera features a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor with approx. 30.3 effective megapixels for stunning results with incredible detail and clarity, even in low-light situations. It’s powered by the DIGIC 8 Image Processor, which enables an expansive ISO range, enhances Image Stabilization and turbocharges operations across the board for outstanding image quality and impressive performance.
The EOS R camera has a standard ISO sensitivity range of 100–40000 for stills and 100–25600 for video (100–12800 for 4K video shooting). Combined with the EOS R camera’s remarkable low-light AF performance, still and video shooting is possible even in dark situations in a variety of places and occasions.
Touch and Drag AF makes it fast and easy to select a focus point without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. Using the Touchscreen LCD, it’s as simple as pointing to the desired area of focus. The chosen AF point is then displayed in the camera’s EVF for quick confirmation.
The EOS R camera features an expanded range of selectable AF modes to adapt to specific situations and subjects. For example, with Eye Detection AF, when the EOS R detects a human face, it automatically uses the subject’s eye as the autofocus point and maintains focus as the subject moves through the image frame.
The EOS R camera offers advanced recording features such as 4K at 29.97 fps, Full HD at 59.94 fps and HD at 119.9 fps. Helpful functions include distortion correction during recording and Movie Digital IS. Additionally, video can be recorded during still photo shooting by simply pressing the Movie Shooting button.
Canon site for more info here.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro edition is one of the most powerful consumer drones on the market. Reaching speeds up to 45mph, and a class topping battery life of 31 minutes, the Mavic 2 Pro opens the door to creative possibilities that were previously impossible. The camera on-board is made by Hasselblad with a 1" CMOS sensor and F2.8 EQV 28mm lens that captures stunning 4K video and 12MP images.
The other day I came across another of these pay per entry photography competitions.
This time it was Facebook sponsored post connected to the British Journal of Photography ( BJoP). $15 per entry.
As the post was on Facebook it naturally attracted some skepticism from others and rightly so yo might think as there are more and more of these pay to be featured/reviewed/get followers/get in a gallery type 'competitions' floating around the internet.
What I found with this one was a bit of a badly worded offer once you looked at the web site. It wasn't actually from the BJoP but directed you to a site called open walls. The offer was to have your photography exhibited in an exhibition in France in 2019. Not bad you might think... but for $15?? .. sounds to good to be true.? You mean the printing/framing/shipping to France for $15... this was the unclear bit and why people deduced it might be a scam. The sponsored post on Facebook was clearly not monitored and had appeared several times on my feed and had a fair amount of people calling it a scam each time I saw it including 'why bother entering these comps' type of replies, so I decided to call the BJoP and make them aware and to see if it was genuine. The guy confirmed it was genuine but didn't know if it included printing/framing etc
As if by magic, within half an hour the Facebook post had had replies from BJoP. Sadly only directing all the contributors individually to the open walls site again and not actually addressing contributor concerns. One post pointed out that the BJoP had existed since 1854 and therefore must be genuine. Sadly this didn't take into account the quickly written and vague TnC's that are on the site that didn't convince entrants that the weight of history and professionalism might actually come through in a simple competition like this.
Recently I have been approached by several people to ask if I would like to be featured/reviewed/published etc for a small fee.
Another example I have was on Instagram from Beautiful Home Inspiration who started off by being very complimentary about my photos and offering me to be featured on their IG page. So I replied asking 'I guess you charge per submission?' What I got back was a copy/paste standard message now I was on their radar offering to be featured to 100k followers. 1 post $35, 2 post $45 up to 10 posts $145 - I'll receive 200-300 new followers per shutout with a handy pay-pal link included.!
Now I dont know when the world started to spin backwards but at one time photographers were paid for their work. All the photographers I know are hard working, dedicated individuals who have taken years to hone their craft and spent countless thousands of pounds on gear and getting out to the wild at dawn to get a shot or working with products or models to get the valuable experience that means that others can appreciate their art. The culture seems to be that we are the ones who have to pay these days or clever sites and groups have made us feel like that unless we pay for exposure, we are never going to be seen or get anywhere with our work.
How are we to trust which competitions and offers are going to lead to exposure/gallery exhibitions etc and which are not genuine?
Is the web now a place that you can't trust if anyone is actually going to further your career?
Should we take things into our own hands and manage our own exposure and online presence?
I'd love to hear any comments on similar experiences.
So I was contacted by a representative of Lumapod, a crowdfunded startup making a new type of tripod that you can see here.
I was delighted to have some positive comments in the email approach.
"We researched various mediums trying to find people who have an abundance of knowledge about photography and think you are the right person! We know you probably haven't heard of us, but we are hoping to get your honest opinion on a new travel tripod we have designed."
So I responded positively asking where I can get one to test and even blog or podcast about.
There isn't much information on the website so naturally its difficult to give an opinion unless I can use it on the top of a windy mountain or a quick setup inside a busy cathedral, something that I find getting gear out can be a bit time consuming or environmentally unstable.
So after some time of waiting I got a reply..
"We would love to send you one and get your opinion. Unfortunately, we have very limited prototypes at the moment and can't send any out because we need to use them for our own internal use… "
OK then... I'm not 100% sure in this case if I can give an opinion from just a photograph of something that at first glance doesn't look too stable to be honest.
The design looks good and compact but to be honest the feet are a bit worrying and I cant see it doing the trick in a challenging situation like an established stable competitor such as Manfrotto.
I'm all in favor of startups looking for feedback but without something that can be tactile and usable i'm not sure there is much point in reaching out for opinions. With no price or availability info available at the time of writing this either, then it's ineffectual and inconsequential marketing that I don't think has helped the startups cause.
I look forward to getting one if the company honor their promise and writing a good review. Watch this space.
Please listen to me being interviewed here on how photographers are not making money from photography in the 1/160 second photography podcast.
500 UK business leaders talk about the truth of doing business outside of London. Have you read the report?
So after only 2 weeks contributing some of my catalogue to Shutter Stock I made 25 cents form someone downloading one of my sunset pics.!
Its not amazing but its a start.!
Get stock images from my portfolio here.
You have to love the internet for the endless amount of opportunities there are now for making money online.
In an upcoming podcast that I was interviewed for I talked about the different avenues I have tried to make money from photography.
I thought i'd share two with you here.
1, Stock Photography.
I have work on Shutter Stock that you can see here. They currently are offering me an opportunity to earn an extra $200 by referring people to their site, signing up and buying not just my pictures but pictures in general. This then means that you will also get the offer once you have signed up. SO if you are looking for stock photography then click this link and we can all benefit from earning something a little extra.
So I have framed art for sale at Spreesy here.
A nice way they offer incentives to make money is on a comission basis.
For you the promoter/plugger whatever you want to call it, there are absolutely no outlay costs at all, its all done by me.
You simply have to promote art with a specific URL and if someone buys it via that link you get a generous % commission.
Currently I offer 7.5% - 8.5% on the work I advertise, so to put that into real money
Art for sale at £199.00
Promoter Commission Per Sale (7.50%)- £14.93
Not bad for just blogging,vlogging or tweeting about it.!
So if you'd like to get involved with this and try to get yourself some social media promoting cash then I go here.