I made a point of getting out of bed early this morning with the intention of going out for some nature photography, but the sky appeared heavily overcast.
The light is low, so unless it fine’s up a little later in the morning, looks like the outing may not be worth while the taxi fare to get to one of my old photography haunts. I’m not normally a morning person as I try to stay in bed asleep for however long my body tells me it needs rest (to recover from a disturbed night’s sleep which happens 365 days of the year).
To be honest,’overcast‘ is good for bird photography. It stops Australia’s brilliant sun glare bouncing off the bird’s wings and/or flares from the sun creeping through gaps in the tree foliage.
Bird photography using the DLSR and heavy long 150-500mm lens hand-held is not easy for me, but the long months of being pretty much housebound have given me ample opportunity to photograph the birds on my balcony with my left elbow anchored like a tripod on the armrests of my desk chair (or even have my elbows resting on my desk).
I’m gradually learning that the continuous shooting setting does not score me any more shots in focus (than the single shot setting) when it comes to photographing the fast- moving little Superb Fairy-wrens. Other slower-moving birds, or birds that stand still, are much easier for me to capture in focus. Even the smaller juvenile House Sparrows are easier than the Fairy-wrens.
The only way to capture a bird in reasonable focus it to aim where I think they’re going pop up their little heads after each mouthful of food and then…….snap…..press the shutter button at the exact moment they’re upright (before they lower their head down to the food crop again).
I have about a 1/10th of a second in most cases.
I don’t have time to change the camera settings once the birds have flown on to the balcony and/or potted plants. Setting the ISO on Auto to allow for both sunny perches and deep shade doesn’t work either. It takes too long for the camera to assess the light conditions and set the ISO automatically.
The best chance of capturing a shot is to put the ISO on 800, (which is about the highest my cameras will go without getting too much noise in the image), and the shutter speed between 250-320 (for you amateur, or new bird photographers out there). I haven’t tried setting the DSLR on full auto for bird photography.
I’ve just shared what camera settings seem to work best for the tiny fast-moving wrens in my particular light conditions. They may not work for you. Or, you may be a better bird photographer than me. I also seem to get better shots in the mornings before the sun moves over my apartment building. The sun, if its going to be a sunny day, doesn’t hit the balcony until about 2.30pm.
I’ve notice that the English curly parsley is about 3″ lower than the Flatleaf Italian Parsley, so for some reason, that seems to be the Wren’s favoured ‘salad’ meal and there’s one particular juvenile male that’s become a regular grazer. You can see him in the parsley’s green feathery fronds below.
Both Parsley varieties used to be the same height, although I did catch a Harlequin bug crawling up and over the parsley yesterday, so that got despatched by flicking it off onto the ground below my balcony. I can’t quite bring myself to kill pests, but can flick them quite some distance away quite happily. I wondered if it was eating the English Parsley also.
So I took 17 shots at around 9.30am this morning and this is 16 of them (below) to show you how hard it is to get one focal point of the DSLR on to the bird’s-eye through the glass window or sliding door. It’s a bit too chilly to open the door wide this morning, which I normally do first thing on a warm day. I had quite a few emails to read this morning so was reading, eating my breakfast and keeping one eye out for any tiny movement when the birds visited.
It’s surprising how quickly your eyes become attuned to the slightest movement, even on a relatively windy day when the plants, bushes and trees are waving their foliage around quite wildly and you’d think I’d miss the ‘action’.
So it’s a matter of keeping one eye on the parsley, the other eye on the Nemesia flowers and your ‘third’ eye, or intuition, focused on the viewfinder of the camera. 🙂
Anyway, breakfast’s finished and I sense a slight change in the overcast sky, but the speed with which the clouds are moving across the horizon might indicate its a little windier than forecast.
NOTE: Last night I was cleaning my camera lens and filters (ready for today’s intended outing) when I sensed a rattling as I ran the cleaning cloth around the rim. I couldn’t understand where the noise came from. I put the UV filter back on the lens (which I always keep on to protect my expensive long lens) and got my little rubber dust blower out to finish off the task. I’d missed a tiny bit of fluff on the actual lens so took the filter off again and low & behold, a slim shallow ‘ring’ fell off the camera. Not sure, but I suspect its part of the $1000+ lens. Its broken. But the filter seemed to screw back on OK and the lens cap fitted securely.
So I am left with a slim (now obsolete) ring of some kind.
At the moment, I can’t afford to take it in the Repair Department for assessment, buy a new expensive long telephoto lens or a new 86mm Promaster UV filter, so keep your fingers crossed I can ‘limp’ along without the broken ring.