How to improve your bird photography Part 3. Timing

The art of timing .

Timing is everything” so they say, this is true of any kind of photography, but is especially true of wildlife and landscape photography.

This photo below looks simple enough, but it took a wee bit of patience to get what I wanted.
I could see the burst of sunlight shooting downwards through a hole in the cloud and I could see a triangle shaped stack of drift wood on the sand  in front of me .
I could track that sun burst and  knew if if the cloud did not close over, it would shower down behind the stack setting it apart from the rest of the image, so I waited for more than a few moments to get the shot.
Putting some thought into the shot and being patient  can really give the photographer a great deal of satisfaction. The result  speaks for itself.

Sun Burst  

waikanae sunset-900

For landscapes the rule is get there early and prepare to stay late.
Sunset and sunrise

 

Bird Action .

I consider bird photography the most challenging of all photographic disciplines, esp small birds that never sit still for long .

Here is a perfect example  of one such species of bird, the Grey Warbler or riroriro.

Small, flighty, jittery, hardly ever still and in one place for more than a split second , very quick  off the mark, these birds demand your total  %100 concentration .

Whoops too slow on the shutter this time, the birds head is facing away from the camera, no score Tony.

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I timed it right and nailed  this one .

The Grey Warbler,  or riroriro.

 

Way too slow.

Well yes  this is  a lovely image of a stalk  but not much else , bad , bad boy, Tony lol

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This Time I was on to it , good boy Tony.

The grey warbler or riroriro

 

So how do you prepare for birds like the Warbler.

1.  pre-focus  your lens to where you expect your bird to most likely sit. This way the lens doesn’t waste time hunting  for the bird.
With little birds you expect them to be close so set your long lens 300mil and longer to focus on the 2-3 meter setting most lenses have.

2. get the light right, you want it coming from behind you over your shoulders, this can really help speed up the focal system to lock onto your target.

3  Don’t muck around with your shot. As soon as you know the focus system is locking on to your bird  fire off a burst of images at high speed.

Watching the light through the view finder.

Lying flat on the ground I was tracking this Wood Duck (below) in the early morning light.
The bird was moving and I was locked on to the bird keeping it in the frame and focused. Click went the shutter
The profile was awesome, the focus was perfect, but I had failed to notice that the birds head had moved in the shadows.
The light was now falling on the body of the bird, but not on its head.
Without light on the birds head this image is destined for the recycle  bin .

Wood Ducks-1520

 

The bird did an about turn and came back and I tried again, this time I got the lighting right but the birds posture was not as dramatic.

Oh well you cant win them all I guess.

Wood Duck

 

Once again I timed this shot wrong , not only did I not see the floating bird, but the focus locked onto it instead of my intended target.

red billed gulls--3

 

I stayed on the bird and tried again.

This is how we roll.

red billed gulls--4

 

 

Tracking and staying on target.

We have all seen the classic English Spitfire vs the German Messerschmitt 109 sequences at the movies.
The hero in the Spitfire hunts for his target , finds it, tracks it, locks onto it , fires away and eventually blows it out of the sky.

Photographing small flying birds is not that much different.
The trick is to get that bird in the centre of the view finder and let rip and keep shooting  while trying to keep that bird dead centre.
Just because the bird moves away from the centre  and goes out of focus, don’t give up, don’t just stop, keep firing and try and re-acquire the bird.

Below is a sequence , I lost the bird , a small Cape Petrel as it flew past very close but I stayed with it  shooting all the way,  until it landed, or in this case crash landed on the surface of the water.

Just wing it but dont give up.

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As the bird swung round the end of the boat I kept shooting,  catching up with it as it crash landed , had I not stayed with it, I would have missed out on this very amusing image.

Cape Petrel--2

 

When things go right because you pre-empt .

Getting to know your target species can give you some real advantages .
These four last images are a good example.
Ducks when washing  will dip their heads and backs completely under the water 2 -3 times before rising up and wildly flapping their wings.
When you see this behaviour you can get ready for the shot.

Here goes the dip.

Wood Ducks-0799-Edit

 

Now we are ready for the flap.

Wood Ducks-0771-Edit

 

Once again I saw the dip and prepared to catch the coming eruption.

Wood Duck

 

My timing was perfect with this female Wood Duck

Wood Duck

I hope this has been helpful  to you peoples out there.
Photography can be a very richly rewarding hobby or obsession, its a journey of discovery and most certainly  one about ourselves .
How we go about that journey and treat other people that are on their journey says a lot about who we are  as people.  ❤

Up coming events :
Cook Straight  Albatross adventure

We still have a few seats to fill for our pelagic trip out of Wellington  on the 12th of November.
$150.00 per person,
Max 12 people on board, per trip.
7am – 2pm  , 7 hours on the water with the birds
1 hour steaming out and back with the birds chasing us all the way back in.
Roast Chicken lunch provided .
Snacks and tea on board on demand.
Deep sea fishing also available  for an extra $30.00.
This is a wonderful opportunity  to sea Albatross and a variety of deep sea birds right up close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July Monthly report 2017

July is mid winter here  in New Zealand , this means our  Rugby Season is in full swing and our national team the All Blacks are  furthering our designs on world domination.

While most of our country is in a fever pitch, warm at home in the comfort of their lounges, screaming at thier television sets , some of us more hardy souls venture out in the weather, tasting what nature has to offer, while trying to squeeze it all through our lenses and record it onto our digital sensors.

This July past, was no exception, the month started of for me with a Father and Daughter team workshop, at Staglands Wildlife Park.
Corinne, (Wren)  and her Dad, Adam, (The Blade), , had booked a sunny but freezing cold day with me .

Adam is a saw doctor, hence his nick name (The Blade) , thats saw, not sore doctor lol .

The Saturday morning  started out warm enough in the Staglands cafeteria.
We were parked up beside a large roaring fire, with cups of coffee resting on a warm wooden table.
All was very cosy as I drew diagrams of cameras and explained their mysterious workings and how we could go about fooling them into behaving for us.
It didn’t seem very long however before I ran out of words, coffee and diagrams and we forced to head outside to face the cold head on and try and put into practice what I had just been teaching  them.
This was not our first time out together as this dynamic  father and daughter duo had booked a workshop about the same time the  year before  and they got right down to business building on what they learnt last time.

Wren keeps her eye on her target, in this case a Kea .

Wren 2-

Mr Mute Swan  is always a popular subject for my clients  and he was next up.

Mute Swan--3

 

Sometimes I do take photos  of non birds, these mushrooms  grabbed my attention.

Mushrooms--2

 

Next on the agenda was Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
Ive become quite good at coaxing him out of his warm nest box,  up on the hill  above the track . Most times I can get him to come  down for a few treats, where he can be patted and made a big fuss over.

Wren and Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Wren and Rocky 2-

Once Wren and Rocky ran out of conversation we went off in search of something else to challenge us .

Mr Peacock has been slowly growing his tail feathers  for mating season in a few months time.

Peacock-5434-Edit

 

A visit to the Mandarin Ducks  was next on the agenda.

Mandarin Ducks

 

Soon it was lunch time so we filed back into the warmth of the cafe for a bite to eat  and then put in another hour before calling it a day.

This peacock was posed just too nice, to pass up on.

Peacock-5742-Edit

 

Mrs whio looked a bit grumpy as it was getting colder by the minute as the light was fading, so we packed it in and headed home.

whio-

 

Mid winter at Staglands is a real challenge for any  photographer, there is not a great deal of light available for most of the  day, however during the summer  the sun floods in all day long.

As we drove away we were being watched by a Silkie chicken, his hairstyle is very similar to mine lol.

Silkie  chickens --3

 

Thus ended a wonderful day out with Wren and Adam and as they had already booked for yet another adventure in 3 weeks time and  I was looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Pelagic Paradise. 

The highlight of the month was to be our pelagic trip out into the Cook Straight.

The boat launches from Seaview in the Wellington Harbour and is the only boat that I know of  that caters for Bird photographers.
In fact I think its an unbeatable deal for those living in the lower North Island  wanting to photograph Birds that inhabit the Pelagic zone.

What is The Pelagic Zone 

Twelve people turned up besides myself, for our event out on the wild sea.

The trip  lasts  for 6 hours, One hour steaming out and one back with an amazing  4 hours  where we would meet up with birds that never come ashore  save for breeding which is in the sub- antarctic regions of the Southern Seas.

This trip was going to be the highlight of the year for me personally and as it was the first event on this scale I have ever undertaken to organise, I was more than a little nervous.

I had nothing to worry about  as it turned out, as the quality of the people who came on the trip and the professional staff of the the fishing vessel Seafarer II made it  a very enjoyable excitement filled event indeed.

Most if not all of the people on board knew each other through my facebook page . 

The team for the day, two of which came all the way from the south Island .

the pelagic team

 

As day broke, our team embarked onto the boat, we given a quick safety talk and we were off .

Last year I was invited to go on a trip with 19 other birders out onto the Cook Straight.
I had a ball  but with 19 other folks on board, the boat was pretty crowded and most of them were birders but not photographers .
The trip was amazing, but as soon as I got home I decided I would organise  my own event next time  and  design it just for bird photographers and limit the amount of people on board .

The Birds

I have a gazillion images from the team to post, so what I will do, is post a full trip report in a few weeks time  showing off some of the amazing images  these enthusiastic people captured .

For now Im happy just to post a series of images of some of the species list of what we saw on our trip.

First up a Giant Nothern Petrel cruised past the boat.

Giant Petrel

 

Last year I saw lots of Buller’s and White Capped Albatrosses, but only one fairly weather beaten Salvin’s Albatross.

I really wanted some tidy looking Salvin’s this time out and they turned up in numbers, I was thrilled.

The Salvin’s Albatross. 

Salvins Albatross

 

 

Next up to visit us was the huge Southern Royal Albatross.
This is the heaviest bodied Albatross in the world  and only a fraction shorter in wing span from the largest, the true wandering or Snowy Albatross, by a very small margin.

Still being early in the morning, the light still has a soft pinkish glow to it.

Southern Royal Albatross.

Southern Royal Albatross

The close up

Southern Royal Albatross

 

From the biggest to the smallest bird for the day and another species I desperately wanted, the Fairy Prion.

These tiny sea birds are just stunning and so fragile looking,  yet they live  their entire life out on the open angry Southern Ocean.
To say I was over joyed with this shot would be an understatement, it made my trip. They hard hard targets to track up close on the moving boat, a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

Fairy Prion

 

Next up was the Black Browed Albatross

Black Browed Albatross

The close up

Black Browed Albatross

 

Next the Northern Royal Albatross

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The Northern Royal Albatross has heavy dark coloured wings that remain constant through out their life span , where as the Southern has a dark wing that fades from dark to white, from the leading edge of the wing towards the back, that increases as they age, until very little colour remains

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The cape petrels were next on the list  and these two came round like two little jet fighters on a strafing run.

Cape Petrel

 

Cape Petrel

 

Salvin’s, I just couldn’t get me enough of these birds that day.

Salvins Albatross

 

Albatross often have their wing tips  dipping into the water.
Its become a bit of a challenge to me to catch this behaviour.

Salvin’s  dipping his wing.

Salvins Albatross

 

A White Capped Albatross .

White Capped Albatross

 

These little Fairy Prions were a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

 

The trip was so successful we have immediately booked another trip  for the 12th of November and all ready we are half booked out.

 

That’s it for this month, I will leave the last word  to Mr Salvin’s

Later dudes and dudesses   ❤

Salvins Albatross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monthly report for June 2017

Landscape Workshop Waiakane

June kicked off my winter workshops at Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast, with  a lovely couple from the South Island  that were just starting their road trip up the North Island and back.
Glennys  and her Hubby came to me fresh from the Inter-Islander ferry,  full of enthusiasm and excitement  and were looking for a few pointers to help them get the best out of their new investment (their camera).
The sun was out in all its glory and we set to work, I gave them my  preliminary talk about how the camera works, how it sees and interprets and converts all the information outside the camera into a digital image on the inside and then off we went.

Once out in the field the focus changed more towards  the composition and creative side of things.
We were then blessed with a visit from a local of some renown, a very friendly kōtare or Sacred Kingfisher.

This bird is super friendly and even though Glennys did not have a camera setup suitable for birds, she got images that would be the envy of her mates.

kōtare  or Sacred Kingfisher -3194-Edit

 

 

As the sun started setting  the light became soft  and clikerty click went the shutters as our new friend allowed us to take amazing photos of him in the wonderful soft light.

kōtare  or Sacred Kingfisher -3174-Edit

pa  pango or scaup  were also available.

A Male pa pango showing off his colouring. 

scaup or pa-pango--5

 

I have a very nice place to take sunset photos of Kapiti Island which is a little different from where most  people take photos of the sunset .

I like a foreground interest if possible, just so long as it leads us into the image and doesn’t  compete with the main subject .
The river and plant life in this shot adds an extra  interest, while the river it self, leads our eye through to the back of the image and the sunset and clouds, nothing is lost and all is gain.

waikanae sunset-903

 

Thus as the sun set I said farewell to Glennys and her hubby as they headed north  and I went home and prepared  for my next workshop on the following morning.

Sunday dawned a cloudless winter day, a classic to be out on the Kapiti coast in winter.

I met Louise at the car park and we spent an hour together walking around the place , looking at the birds, taking a few photos and discussing how we were going to tackle the day ahead of us .

The tide was huge and fully in,  not ideal for the start of the workshop, but with 4 people heading our way fast,  we were in with a grin as they say.

waikanae

 

These posts are a feature in the area , everyone it seems wants a picture of them.

waikanae --2

 

Once everyone had arrived, Lou gathered them together like her own little flock and I drew diagrams on the ground of a camera and repeated the information I shared with Glennys  the night before.

Once I was confident the group had understood the basics and they had had, all their questions answered we hit the ponds .

Here is a sample of some of the shots our group got.

First up is Jakes, he was pretty happy with his days efforts.

An adult Red Bill Gull

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Next up is Samantha’s effort.

A young and very obliging Pied Cormorant poses for the team.

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Terry one of our members of our little group is more or less confined to a wheel chair .
The good thing about Waimanu Lagoons, is that we can  cater for those with limited mobility .

Terry locked and loaded ready for action.

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Terry was very pleased with this shot of this weweia of Dabchick , to tell the truth I would be pleased with it too.

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As we made our way around the ponds  Danger Mouse, ever the enthusiastic assistant,  helped Terry out of her chair and assisted her, up close to a family of Black Swans hidden from view behind some flax bushes.

Terry up close and personal with a family of Black Swan.

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At the end of the ponds we made a u turn and  returned to the car  on the opposite side of the  of the ponds for lunch.

After lunch, a trip out to the river mouth along the spit was called for .

This shell like object  became a object of great interest when held up to the light.

shell-

 

Five hours on the trot seems to be enough learning for even the most keen of Photographers, so we headed back to the car and after a debriefing, I  dismissed the group.
I thought they would all head home but how wrong I was .
The real fun was just about to begin, the shenanigans was just starting lol

Louise aka Danger Mouse  and Terry up to no good in the bushes  

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Jake is trying hard to catch them doing something he can post later on face book.

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This black shag cant make head nor tail feathers of anything thats going on .

Black Shag

 

 

The gang  called it quits went home, but Jake stayed on for sunset with Danger Mouse and I .

It looked like an interesting sunset heading our way,  but as the sun descended , the cloud thickened  quite a bit  over Kapiti Island  ,  I looked for the positive and focused in on that.

With the sunlight bursting out from both the top and the bottom of the clouds I saw an opportunity to place some flax stalks within the bottom sun burst to add additional interest .

sunset  waikanae

 

As the sun dipped lower in the sky the top sunburst was gone but a hole in the cloud opened up  providing an opportunity for a strong  light to beam  downwards  and I could see that the cloud moving as the breeze drove it, that the beam of light was going to drift over  a stack of driftwood, shaped in a pyramid like fashion, so I waited and snapped the photo when it happened.

waikanae sunset-900

 

As that say that was about that for the day.

I returned later that week for another crack at the sunset  but alas this time the cloud dissipated.

Please note I have three elements kind of lined up here
the dead branch, then further into the picture a stick and then past that the reflection of the stacked wood.
This line leads us naturally yet quite unconsciously  through the image .
The bright light on the water and the strong colour in the reflection acts like a magnet pulling us into the image as well.
All in all I was very pleased with this image.
It was not the sunset I was hoping for, but Im proud of the image I did get.

Sunsets-

With  another day out planned for the following weekend,  June was a very busy month for me.

A big thanks to those who came on my workshops and to Danger Mouse for helping me and keeping the troops in line and well… for just being  the ever enthusiastic Danger Mouse willing to go that extra mile to get the shot lol

Bless ya heaps  folks ❤
For more info on my workshops please look here