Bird Photography: An Expert’s Guide

How to Photograph Garden, Wildfowl, Waders and Birds in Flight

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  • Skill Level: Advanced

  • Course length: 4 weeks

  • Next start dates: 6th December 2014 & 3rd January 2015

  • Course price: £145 (Approx. US$232)

David Tipling is widely regarded as one of the best bird photographers in the world.  This course will reveal the secrets to capturing that perfect shot as practised by one of the world’s leading bird photography experts.  David will give you tips on bird photography, accompanied by advice on the best bird photography lenses and a full length course peppered with examples of some of the best bird photography in the world.

Achieving Your Best Bird Photography

Birds are all around us in our daily lives. Whether it be waders on a windswept estuary or tame ducks in a city park, photographing wild birds is an art that has to be learnt. Good technique is important and will be covered in detail from lighting to creating eye catching compositions. We will explore how different focal length lenses, the best bird photography lenses, your positioning and angle of view all change the feel of a picture. We look at the best ways of supporting a long bird photography lens and how to use a short lens even a compact camera for taking eye catching results.

Often the difference between capturing a great shot as opposed to something that is acceptable, but no more, is having the knowledge of how shutter speed and aperture selection can influence the end result. Where in the frame should the bird go, should I shoot in portrait or landscape format? Bird photography however, requires more than just good technique, it needs field-craft.

Bird Photography Tips

You will learn to spot certain signals a bird gives off before take off, how to approach a wary species, positioning of hides, attracting birds to the garden and tips on likely locations that you can try visiting in your neighbourhood for a successful shot.

These and many more questions will be answered as we delve down into how to photograph three different groups of birds. We finish with a master-class on capturing birds in flight, and the ability to put some of what you have learnt in the previous lessons to good use.

Learning Outcome

On completion of this 4 week course you will have learnt good basic fieldcraft, along with the ability to consistently capture well exposed and creative images of birds. You will also have the knowledge to successfully shoot birds in flight.

 Course Content

Lesson One : Garden Birds

We first discuss the ideal all round equipment for photographing birds and take a brief look at the basics of exposure and choosing both appropriate shutter speeds and depth of field.

We then look at attracting birds to a garden or indeed woodland feeding station. The best way of siting a bird table for light and backgrounds, concealment, hides or using a garden shed or your home as a hide and the props you need to make natural looking images. We examine how to encourage a bird on to a particular perch and then how to frame your subject. Finally we look at manipulating the light and techniques for making striking images that go beyond simple portraits.

Lesson Two : Wildfowl

Wildfowl the collective name for ducks, geese and swans are one of the most accessible and dynamic subjects on offer to the bird photographer. They generally inhabit open environments, are often very approachable or gather together outside the breeding season in spectacular flocks.

This lesson will look at reading the signs these birds give off whether they are about to take flight or exhibit some other form of behaviour. We will look at how your angle of view can dramatically influence the feel of an image, and delve into how perspective can change depending on the focal length of lens used. Flocks can offer all sorts of creative opportunities from freezing action to experimenting with motion blur.

Guidance will be given on seeking out great places to photograph wildfowl and being creative when your subject is tame.

Lesson Three : Waders

Many species of waders or shorebirds as they are commonly referred to in the US travel vast distances, migrating across oceans and continents to and from their breeding and wintering grounds. Some species can be approached by careful stalking, others require more planning with the provision of a hide.

Various techniques for photographing waders will be discussed including tips on stalking and the pros and cons of wearing camouflage gear when doing so. Roosting flocks such as Knot can offer exciting opportunities and we look at using the landscape around our subject as a key feature of the composition.

Finally we investigate how some images of waders can work best when converted to black and white.

Lesson Four : Birds in flight

Successful flight photography other than when an opportune moment presents itself, usually means being in the right place at the right time. Our final lesson examines how forward planning and anticipating an opportunity will reap rewards. We look at how depth of field and shutter speeds are crucial to securing a well executed image.

Tips are given on which species offer the best flight opportunities, and we look at how birds can be manipulated to fly in front of the camera. This final lesson will also draw on much we have learnt in the previous three sessions that when used together help secure images of birds in flight, the most challenging aspect of bird photography.


 Online Course Benefits

  • Weekly 1-2-1 tuition and feedback from, and access to, some of the best tutors in the world.
  • Weekly video tutorials, allowing you to revisit lectures again and again.
  • Weekly assignments which are critiqued by your expert tutor - most students find this feedback one of the most valuable aspects of the course
  • Magazine style downloadable transcript (your own four part ebook of the course)
  • All this is done within 'MyClassRoom' - your own virtual, community based global classroom
  • Vibrant social network communities
  • At the end of your course, if you successfully complete your course, you will receive a certificate of completion and an online badge (available to download from your classroom)

To understand more about how it all works, go to the 'How it Works' section!

 Requirements

This course will involve some travel to different locations, so before you book it, please make sure you have allowed enough time in your diary.  Each week you will be asked to submit 3 images of different types of birds. Week one is the easiest for most people as it covers garden birds. Week 2,3 and 4 will involve travel to various locations to photograph the different bird varieties.  For wild fowl and waders, you you will need to find a suitable pond, river, mudflats or  estuary to photograph, or alternatively a zoo or farm, where you can photograph captive birds.

Required

DSLR or Compact Camera with good zoom lens

A Tripod

You will also get advice on the best bird photography lenses

Bird Photography Courses

Bird Photography Course:  You will Learn How To Take Sharp Well-Focused Shots

Firstly, be aware of the basics of bird photography so that you know what you’re aiming at whenever you’re out photographing birds. Then learn how to take sharp well-focused shots.

When you can take a photo of a bird with pin sharp focus on the eye, it goes a long way towards getting a shot that will impress. I can’t emphasise this enough. Take the time to read this article and master the basics.

Bird Photography Workshop:  Lighting, Composition and Exposure

Once you’re confident that you can take sharp well-focused photos you should master lighting, composition and exposure. Taking your photo with the best lighting, the bird framed correctly and keeping detail in the shadows without blowing the highlights is the final ingredient for a perfect shot.

Bird Photography Tutorials:  Know Your Birds

OK, so you know how to take the picture but where and when do you take it?  Knowing your subject will help you to get the best photos by being in the right place at the right time. If you don’t know where to go to find them or don’t know how they behave then you won’t get a good shot.

Once you know everything about them, you need to know how to get close.
There are three ways to get close to birds … attracting them, stalking them and hiding from them. I use all three methods all of the time.

Birds In Flight

One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of bird photography is to photograph them when they’re doing what they do best … Flying.
Many photography skills will need to come together at the same time, so take a look at our birds in flight section and you’ll soon have some great images of them framed and hanging on your wall.

Bird Photography Ethics

Finally, I’d like to briefly mention ethical photography. This is something that is very important to me. Wherever you go and whatever you do when photographing birds it’s important to be ethical:

  1. The welfare of the bird is far more important than the photograph.
  2. Don’t disturb them.
  3. Don’t do anything that could cause them stress.
  4. Don’t harm their habitat.