Capturing Bird Images in the Wild
I’m going to tackle this subject as if my audience consists entirely of beginning bird photography students even though I know a lot of you have probably been shooting for longer than I have. If nothing else, some of this segment might give the intermediate folks a chuckle or two and it may bring back recollections of some of what you went through yourself when you were just starting out. Either way it should be entertaining or educational depending on your current status as a bird photographer.
Before I got involved in it, I never ever dreamed how much was involved with making good bird images. When I first started out with my Canon XT and my Bigma lens, I was foolish enough to think that I was ready to show the world that I could take bird pictures just like everyone else. I was posting shots to certain bird forums online and wondering why I was experiencing such a shortage of positive comments. Heck, I thought the shots were pretty good! 🙂
But what really put me in my place was what happened after a comment I had made on a popular bird photography forum and ended up making me wish I had never made the initial comment. Without going into too much detail, I foolishly made a comment on this one person’s bird shots that basically suggested how they could improve their shots by doing such and such with the contrast, and so on and so forth. Well, the recipient of my ‘helpful’ comment wasn’t real happy because he didn’t think his shots needed adjustments. He came back at me by commenting on one of my posts making me look like the biggest idiot this side of the Mississippi River. A blow-by-blow email fight ensued between me and the other guy for days afterwards and it was not a fun time.
I finally gave in and realized that just maybe….he was right. I was embarrassed and I guess I deserved what I got even though I didn’t intentionally try to cause problems. Actually, I really thought I was helping! Buzz! Wrong! It turned out that the person whose photos I was suggesting certain changes to was a 25-year veteran bird photography pro that is published several times a year. Later, I carefully picked my wounded pride up off the floor, dusted it off, and got back to reality. I made a huge mistake because of my ignorance on the subject of bird photography. Just owning a big lens and a DSLR does not a bird photographer make!
But, all was not lost because the good news is that after some time had gone by, me and the pro photographer patched things up and became fairly good online friends. In fact, since then I have turned to him several times for shooting, equipment purchasing, and photo critique advice. So this mistake turned into one of my best learning experiences and I got a valuable resource out of it to boot.
Hopefully, I can convince beginning bird shooters reading this to avoid falling into the same trap I did and realize that a reasonable amount of time will need to be spent honing your craft—like say, 25 years or more. 🙂 Well, maybe that’s a little longer than reasonable but no one is perfect–not even the 25-year pros, and I believe we all continue to learn and improve every day and that makes us a little better tomorrow.
Let’s move on to an important decision you should make before you begin taking bird pictures! One of the first things you want to know is which file format you will be setting your camera to shoot. I discuss some of the basics in the next section, Part 10.