Sunday, May 18, 2014

Caped Crusader

This Red-Bellied Woodpecker was in prime condition and held a perfect pose. Today’s blog gets its title from the appearance of the black-and-white feathers across his back which reminded me of an elegant cape or shawl, wrapped around the shoulders.

When photographing birds and wildlife, you take what you can get and hope for the best. You do your best to put yourself in a good position, camera and the proper lens ready, exposure pre-set, and finger poised to fire the shutter quickly.

This shot was taken from a blind, and the dead stump the bird is on was filled with bird seed and other goodies to attract a wide variety of birds. All the birds were completely wild, but the perches and food were positioned in close proximity to the blind in order to maximize the chances of getting good shots.

You can set up prime shooting areas around your home, even if you live in the city. A few well-positioned stumps or branches, sometimes used to block feeders, filled with the types of food the birds in your area like, will create a prime landing zone. Choose your landing zone carefully so that you can be fairly close to the birds but out of their sight. You can either be in a blind, or position your landing zone so that you can shoot through a window, a doorway, or from a deck or porch.

You may have to fill the feeding spots a couple of times on each day you shoot. Once you have filled them, retire to your shooting area and wait for the action. Sometimes the action is fast and furious, with birds flitting in and out quickly, barely lighting long enough for you to get some shots off. But at other times they will stay put longer, allowing you a chance to get some good shots.

A fast shutter speed of about 1/1000 sec. or greater will enable you to stop their fast movements and get sharp images. Depending on the lighting conditions, a high ISO of 800 or 1600 or higher might be needed in order to get such a fast shutter speed. For this shot, the situation was very different. The woodpecker was calm and was not moving, so a shutter speed of only 1/100 sec. was used. I don’t normally recommend using a shutter speed that slow for bird photography, but it worked fine for this shot.

It is best to use a tripod for bird photography, but some people who are very steady do very well hand-holding their cameras.

Shutter Speed 1/100 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 800. Lens: Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS with 2X extender for an effective focal length of 639mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.”  --D.H. Lawrence

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