How to improve your bird photography, part 1 composition

All anyone really gets to see on my blog, is my best shots of wildlife and landscapes.
I don’t normally keep, let alone post my mistakes and failures for all to see , that is until now.
Some examples are intentional for this series, others are just plain bad form.
In this series of articles we will look at some of the most common mistakes we make that, all though for many, may not  completely ruin the image, certainly detract from what it could have been had we been more careful and been PATIENT.

Everyone makes mistakes  and in this first series we are going to cover 4 common mistakes  we need to correct if we want to excel at our art.

1. Bad composition.

2. Bad posture of your subject

3. Bad timing

3 Unwanted distractions

Part 1  Composition. 

First up we will look at  composition, from how we position ourselves for the shot to the aspect ratio or how we crop and frame our finished image.

The Photographers posistion

The ideal position in most cases for birds is going to be lining the camera up on your subject at the same height  level as the head of the bird.
This often means getting down low when shooting over water and sandy beaches.

This often means getting a wet bum.

Below Steve on the right and I on the left have chosen this washed up log to use as a rest for 3 reasons.
1. Keeps our bums off the wet sand while giving us a low profile .
2. Puts us low to the ground
3. Gives us a semblance of cover.

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Steve used this log to break up his profile to kind of conceal himself and scored a back rest at the same time lol.

Tara the White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata)

 
If you cant find cover  do what ever you have too, to get down low.

Not every one can get down onto the ground and get back up and its getting harder for me as each year passes .
May I suggest to purchase a small but stable unfolding stool to sit on.

Me laying down on the job.

Tony-3955

 
This is not the way to do it and wont work on many birds 😀

Lake Rotorua-1422-Edit

 

Cropping and positioning .
The composition of this Male Wood Duck is pleasing, the viewer is looking right at the bird.
I was down low to take the shot initially and then in the processing stage I cropped the bird so that the eye was in the top third of the image.
The early morning light on the bird add impact to the shot as well.

Male Wood Duck

 
pāteke or Brown Teal

pāteke or Brown Teal-9987-Edit

 
If for some reason you cant get down low  it may be possible to raise the bird up to eye level, in this case I asked my new assistant to raise the bird up, it helps if it is fluffy and cuddly  as Louise shows, she’s more than pleased to oblige me lol.

Lousie the duck cuddler

 

Next week we will look at the birds posture.

Finally with winter here, its full speed ahead for my winter workshops on birds and landscapes in the greater Wellington area.

For INFO  check out my workshop pages here

 

 

 

December on the run.

December is always my busiest month of the year birding wise with it ending with our epic annual Christmas sojourn.
So much has happened this year that I have decided to write a separate article later covering this Christmas away.
December started in much the same way it always does each year …..namely on the 1st day of December, same as last year.
All was relatively quiet with Steve and I concentrating on  our Spotless Crake hunting abilities, until the word came in that there was a ruru, or Morepork family living in a patch of bush an hour’s drive away.
This caused no small amount of excitement for the local birding enthusiasts, myself included, so it was no surprise I found myself with a mate Chris Helliwell, stalking through the bush looking for these ruru or New Zealand Night Owl.
By the way just out of interest, in case you have noticed when I use maori names I don’t use capitals as the maori language does not use CAPITAL letters.
Anyway back to the rurus, after some effort we were deep in the jungle, Chris and I  were ruru-less and I was starting to think we would not meet up with the birds, when I spied a fantail nest ahead of me.
In my haste to investigate the nest, I failed to notice a young ruru perched in the tree right next door to the nest and it flew feet from me only to land in the perfect spot to be photographed.
The focus was now firmly transferred from Fantails to ruru and the session commenced with the sound of shutters clicking , trees were  being used as makeshift tripods because the light although good for in the woods, it was quite  slow even for ISO 1600 on the 1DX.

For a bigger image just click on the image

The rather bemused young ruru

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After we  got enough shots of the juvenile ruru we left it in peace with a bemused look on its face and went to investigate a pond that is in the same area.

First in the viewfinder was a pair of pango pango or scaup resting on a low flax stalk just high enough to be out of the water.

A pair of pango pango resting on a flax stalk.

pango pango or scaup--5
I love these birds, soft colours, always looking happy little chappies , they seem to cheer me up.

Next up was a close up of a friendly little shag.

little shag-
We spied a female Grebe using a man made structure to stand on and entice her hubby to go forth and multiply.
It worked they now have 2 fine youngsters to feed and look after.

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Up the Kapiti coast we went where we found a mother pied shag feeding her ravenous youngster on the water.

As you can see the young shag is a real mouthful for the poor mumma.

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Next up a Black Fronted Dotterel and the day was looking like a ripper.

Black Fronted Dotterel-
A brave male Banded Dotterel guarding his nest was next and our day was over.

A proud father to be.

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The next outing saw me shooting a White faced Heron feasting on sea worms

Yummy worms  lol

white faced heron-

Are those really my feet ?

white faced heron--6

Next up was another   crack at the ruru as we knew there was adult birds we had not seen yet, so the hunt was on, this time I was with Steve and we met up with Louise a member of my Facebook group  and we  enjoyed the ruru , this time we saw the parents as well.

I had to climb a tree to get this shot much to the amusement of the ever funny Louise.
Many helpful hints on how to climb through the thick branches  were dished out and I became known as the tree sloth lol

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4981-Edit

The Bigger female ruru

ruru  or Morkepork-4312-Edit
The rather smaller Male ruru

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The growing youngster

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-5074-Edit
I believe the male is the smaller of the adult birds.

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4954-Edit

We also managed to catch a Shining Cuckoo out in the open .
This image is a prime example of colour and how the lack of, can steal the bird of some of its brilliance.
I will do a short article later this year on complimentary colour and how it enhances an image.

The lack of colour from the background kind of steals the birds colour.

Shining Cuckoo-5213-Edit

 

Shining Cuckoo-5226-Edit

Mr kahu  or Hawk was my next subject a week or so later.
kahu get whiter with age so this one is getting on.
Im very pleased with this image.

Mr kahu doing the famous FLAIR that hawks, Eagles and Falcons do when they first spot you beneath them.

kahu the Australian Hawk--2

riroriro or Grey Warbler were up next.
These critters are hard to nail, they never sit still and you need a very fast shutter speed and good light to get a sharp image.

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Good light helps to nail them.

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Yellow Hammers are gorgeous in good light and this one was no exception.

Yellow Hammer-
This action kept us busy until it was time to go up north to really get serious about getting some birds we had been targeting lately and were on the top of our wanted list.
More on that later.
Hope you enjoy the images.
I also hope everyone had a great and safe Christmas break.

All ready this year is looking very exciting .
Ya just dont know whats round the next corner or tree lol

ruru  or Morkepork-4324-Edit

My Christmas and new years message

 

Mr Dotterel wishes everyone a happy and relaxing Christmas and a blessed new year.

Banded Dotterel

Well Christmas has rolled around once again.
For some of us there has been massive changes this time round, some good, some painful, some have big lessons attached, but one thing is for sure, we are here and so is Christmas.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I hate much of what Christmas has come to mean too many.
Rampant commercialism,  an excuse for over indulgent eating and drinking, credit card debt as people confuse the giving of gifts as a sign of ones love for one another leading to over spending at the stores.
Domestic abuse sky rockets this time of the year as the pressure mounts, arrests for drunken and disorderly behaviour, murder, rape and chaos in general as well.
One could be excused for walking away and forgetting about Christmas altogether.
But what Christmas means to others  is a very different thing, a time for family, a time to enjoy a rest and each other, a time to focus on Jesus.

I make no apology for this Christmas message, everything I am and do, flows from the grace of God and my walk with Him.

For me, Christmas is pretty much the same as any other day except Jesus is in the worlds spotlight a little more than normal.
This is a good thing.
Jesus has given us the greatest gift in all of history, Himself by being born a human, by dying on the cross, taking our place on that cross and being raised again from the dead, so we like wise can follow in His footsteps.
But first He had to become a human being in order to live like us and show us the way.
He gives eternal life to anyone who desires it and it and is willing to pay the price of self-denial to walk with Him and do things His way.
Why His way?
Not because He wants to dominate us, but because He does know what’s best for mankind.
God loves us so much He incarnated Himself into His creation and became one of us so He could lead the way by example and by becoming a human He can now walk with us through life, fully understanding our struggles and hurdles, encouraging us onwards towards the goal of becoming more like Him.
That’s what Christmas means to me.
I hope and pray that all of us have a wonderful Christmas doing what we love best; it’s a time of great celebration after all.
I want to thank everyone for making my year, the year it was.
Those people who took part in my workshops
Those I have met through our, NZ bird image share, facebook group.
Those I hope to meet over the coming summer.
Those that have contributed in NZ bird image share.
Thanks everyone for making this year such a great success.
Long may it continue.

So, enjoy your loved ones this Christmas and count your blessings and be grateful for what you have peoples.
For those who have lost a loved one, or are alone this Christmas, you have my sympathy and understanding.
Never give up hope, God came into this world to give us an abiding hope for the future, walk in it.

Being bachelors  and no family commitments, Steve and I will be out and about this Christmas , you just never know where we will pop up next, so if you see these two people this holiday, say hello , we don’t bite .
Steve is on the left, me on the right.

steve and tony-3753

 

God bless all you people heaps and heaps ❤