Bird Brain Photography Workshop, May 28, 2013


Who knew we had such talent? For me having been with the LPA for just a year, it was an impressive presentation of beautiful bird images and the skills needed to capture those images.

Sue Craft, Sue Liberto, Doug Jensen, Tina Crowe, Holly Peskin, Nan Carder and Don Bennett pulled the presentation together.
Christine Wilkens, , David Wilkens, Marv Brimer, Arliss Dawson, Bruce Cable, Dale Ware, Eugene Duley, Bill Liberto and Paul Craft also contributed photographs to the slide show.

Key tips from the presentation:

  • Patience – Birds do what they do when they want to do it. The perfect “shot” may take many attempts over months. Ahh… but the thrill is in the hunt.
  • Planning – Know the locations you are visiting. Do some online research ahead of time. Check in with the locals for the bird activity in the area. Know the bird’s mannerisms so you can anticipate the movement.
  • Timing
    • Early morning or late evening is best
    • Spring and Fall migration
    • Best plumage in spring
  • Lens – The right lens for the shot varies by the photographer and the situation at the time. Generally, the consensus was a variable zoom lens up to 300mm is appropriate.  Fixed lens of 400mm and 500mm can be effective as well.
  • To Tripod or not to Tripod… that is the question. Once again, it depends on the photographer’s preference and the specific elements of the shot.
  • Binoculars – Spotting the birds first with binoculars can be very helpful. 
  • Lighting – Shooting with the sun at your back whenever possible will help assure good lighting on the bird and capture that coveted “catch” light.
  • Focusing
    • Focus on the eye. If possible keep the beak and the eye in the same focus plane.
    • Use the “back focus” button to be ready for the next shot.
  • RAW – Shoot in “RAW” or a large JPEG mode to allow more flexibility in post production.
  • Drive Mode – Shoot in continuous drive mode as opposed to single shot to help keep up with the action.
  • Metering – Spot or center weighted metering will help assure the right exposure for your bird image.
  • Depth of field – Use shallow depth of field apertures like f/4.5 to blur out the backgrounds. Go to higher F stops when greater depth of field is required.
  • Backgrounds – Watch for backgrounds that are cluttered or distractions from the bird image.
  • Shutter Speed – Moving birds require high shutter speeds of 1/1000 or more to freeze the action. Slower shutter speeds can be used effectively when panning with the bird’s flight path.
  • Hummingbirds & Orioles
    • Feeders - Many styles and shapes available at local hardware stores.
    • Nectar Recipe – 4 cups of water to 1 cup of sugar…no red dye!
    • Clean feeder regularly
  • Tips for S4C and PSA competitions
    • Show birds behavior…feeding, singing, flying, fighting
    • Show birds in natural habitat
    • Tell a story
    • Capture the catch light in the birds eye
    • Keep the eye and beak in focus
    • Show detail in blacks and whites
    • Side shots generally work best
    • Keep backgrounds uncluttered
    • Competition images should be unaltered with cloning, etc. No manmade objects in the image
    • No images with wings clipped or too close to the edge of the photo

Reference material:

The Bird Photography Field Trip Guide by David Tiplin

Bird Photography Apps for Smart Phone:  Audubon Birds, Birdlog, Ibirdpro  Dr Yorke of AVC

A Beginner’s Guide to Wildlife Photography by Moose Peterson at: http/

Local Birding Spots

Piute Ponds – ,Apollo Lake, Elizabeth Lake, Placerita Nature Center & Walker Ranch in Santa Clarita, Sepulveda Basin, Los Angeles Arboretum, Bolsa Chica Wetlands

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