Click on any photo in the blog for a larger view.
No, I haven't taken up bird hunting. In this case I was shooting perching birds in the backyard with my 400mm zoom. These little guys are a challenge to shoot because they fly so fast and are so small it hard to catch them in the frame and in focus. Those big egrets are a breeze compared to these little speed demons.
Today's bird blind was the kitchen. We have a bird feeder on a post in the backyard. I opened the kitchen window and shot from the inside out towards the feeder. My old Sigma 80-400 does not focus near fast enough for these birds and there is no way I could follow them in the view finder. I set up on a tripod and pointed the camera at a point just to the left or right of the feeder where I could catch them in their flight path. I guessed at the focus using the feeder as my reference.
I learned that the Depth of Field (DOF) of a 400mm lens on a Canon 7D at f/11 focused at 25' is just over 6". Most of the time it wasn't bright enough to get that large an f-stop and I had to make do with 5.6 - 7.1, which gave me a DOF of 3" - 4". That means the bird had to fly through a space less than 4" deep and about 2' wide.
Most of the time it was cloudy and when the sun did come out it was behind the birds, making them a dark silhouette against the bright green field behind them. I got out a large reflector and propped it up to bounce that sunlight back towards where I hoped the birds would fly. I later discovered the birds used the reflector for target practice.
I found the birds were most active at the feeder when the sun was behind the clouds and it was too dark for a good shot. When the sun came out the birds were no where to be seen!
I was able to get one decent shot of a Purple Finch (above) and a few of the Pine Siskins. There were also Gold Finches, Towhee, Chickadees, Cardinals, and Tufted Titmice but I didn't get them today.
Watching these graceful little creatures has a calming effect. It's a good thing because this was an exercise in patience. There was a lot of time standing and waiting for the birds to fly to the right spot. When I loaded the results on the computer 90% of them were out of focus, only part of the bird was in the frame, or there was no bird at all.
The title of this blog hints at one of the key factors in wildlife photography - patience. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23. You can't rush wildlife photography. Patience may be the biggest contributing factor to getting decent wildlife photos.
When shooting wildlife it's good to remember this saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson - "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. "