Monday, June 10, 2013

Learning Some Bird Photography Tips from the Pros and Enthusiasts

At about 4:30 pm, Wednesday, at North Torrey Pines Road. The bridge construction was causing the after work traffic.
North Torrey Pines Road from Guy Fleming Trail North Viewpoint, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

 Welcome to my world. Traffic does not always mean just being stuck on the road, it could be stuck on the trail, learning some things.

The left side in the picture above is North Torrey Pines State Beach, while the right side is Los Penasquitos Lagoon. The picture above and all the pictures below were taken from Guy Fleming trail @ Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Hiking at Torrey Pines (my number 1 San Diego hike) during rush hour is our way of avoiding traffic, getting some cardio exercise, and enjoying nature therapy. At this time of the year, Guy Fleming Trail is busy with bird photographers who flock together to follow one of the most challenging birds to photograph.
Bird Photographers at Guy Fleming Trail
The bird photographers above were following the journey of the baby peregrine falcons which won't be around Torrey Pines that long. Around June and July, the baby peregrines enjoy their discovery of flight. Their parents are also training them to hunt. The 2 adult peregrine falcons who found their home at Torrey Pine State Reserve are raising 4 baby falcons this year. The sky at Torrey Pines is busy because at the moment, it is the babies' playground. They are also training for hunting and survival. Once parents determine their offsprings are equipped for survival they will chase the juvenile peregrine falcons away to find a new home away from the parents' territory so they do not compete for foods, which mostly are medium sized birds. 
Bird Photographers Following The Peregrine Falcons ( the two birds soaring high above )
I am glad I am not intimidated on seeing the bird photographers with super powerful lenses since actually, I did not only learn more bird behaviors from them but I also learned some tips for bird photography from them. The peregrine falcons probably are the hardest bird to photograph because of their speed. It's like in just a blink of an eye, they disappear from your eyesight. They do live up to the expectations of being the fastest animal on Earth, flying up to 200+ miles per hour.

Here are some pictures of the baby peregrine falcons I took that day. Since I only use a 28-300 mm lens (not as powerful as what those bird photographers have), the pictures below from last Wednesday were cropped so I could bring these baby birds closer for viewing and to show the details and features.
 Young Peregrine Falcons, They are so Playful ( like kids, they know how to have fun!)
 Young Peregrines Acrobats in the Air
Happy Young Peregrines ( they do talk, don't they? )
 Young Peregrine Perched on Torrey Pine branch

Let me share with you some bird shooting techniques that I learned from them:

1. Don't shoot with a filter. It's like shooting over less quality glass, and the images will be less crisp and clear.

2. Shoot in shutter priority, depending on the lighting conditions. If it is over cast, shoot with 1/500 and up the ISO to 400 or 500, and over expose by a third. If it is bright, shoot with 1/1000 - 1/4000 ( peregrines are very fast birds, after all, they can't be the fastest living animal if they won't live up to it ), use ISO-100. Shooting birds in flight is best when sun is out and sky is blue to have fast shutter speed.

For slower birds such as pelicans and ospreys- 1/1000 is good enough.

For peregrine falcons, since they are the most difficult to capture because of their speed- 1/4000 would be best.
Juvenile Peregrine Falcon In Flight
However, with the overcast skies we have mostly these days in San Diego, I had not been shooting in 1/4000 shutter speed because I would have to use very high ISO in that shutter speed which makes my picture noisy when I cropped.

3. For AF drive, use AF point expansion

4. Shoot in AI Servo.

5. Shoot away from the sun. In the picture of bird photographers above, they all face East since that was late afternoon, where the sun is in the West, and the ocean below us was so brightly lit that it was just too difficult to get the details of the birds in that direction.

** --- Of course, those tips above are not absolute, it all depends on the conditions. --**

6. Get a fast lens with image stabilization. haha, hope Santa reads this: wishing for fast lens (f2.8), maybe a 600mm lens. But it would cost $13,000, that i doubt Santa would be that too generous. So I guess, I just have to sour grape into saying, I don't need it, IT IS JUST TOO HEAVY, NO WAY I COULD BRING IT IN MY HIKES. :) But truth is, it is too heavy for my or santa's pocket.

 Young Peregrine Perched on Torrey Pine branch
Oh well, I could always crop my pictures to make the birds appear closer. In order to crop the pictures, it is best to shoot images in RAW large format so that there would still be details when cropping. However, you need to convert RAW to JPEG for sharing pictures in social media and blogs, and also, most people may not have RAW viewer in their computers to view the pictures.

Going back to the after work traffic, the road cleared when we went home at 6:00 pm. We had enjoyed our daily dose of physical exercise (hiking), with a bonus: learned some bird photographing tips from the pros and enthusiasts. Not only that, we also got tip where to shoot a family of 5 ospreys ( 3 babies and 2 adults), I will share the story of Osprey Family next.

More of juvenile peregrine falcons and ospreys to come.....
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  1. I am aiming for a Canon 70-300 mm lens.

    Your tips certainly help.

  2. looking forward to more of the baby Peregrines :) It always amazes me to see photographers with those powerful lenses, thanks for sharing the tips you learned from them, I still do not know how to truly manipulate my cam, hehehe, but just enjoying shooting the Joys of Simple life which I learned from you...happy weekend wonderwoman, I wonder where you are exploring this yah!

  3. How fun to watch and photograph the young Peregrines. Nice captures of them playing in the air and perched on Torrey pine branch!

  4. loved the first shot though there is no bird :)

  5. I'll try to remember the bird shooting tips next time I'm out. I could use them sometimes.

  6. Wow! these are breath taking pictures...awesome job :-) I so loved all your photographs. Thank you for the tips too.

  7. Traffic drives me nuts in the morning. I try to avoid the rush hour but sometime its hard to do because of my daughter's activities. I'm not good on shooting birds, I wanted to get that kind of lens buts its too heavy to carry around.

  8. wow those amazing lens! i would love to have them as well but i am not a pro though it would be too heavy for me to carry one myself! those birds looks amazing too! haven't thought getting photos of birds!

  9. Hi there wonderwoman! here again and wishing there'd be more birds flying over our house upon a hill :) There are some colorful birds sometimes hovering in tree branches here but they swiftly fly away :( Actually I have not done nature shooting for several weeks now,this inspires me to bond with my cam again which I have not been using for several days now because my phone is lighter to bring along :) love love those wing shots, makes me wish I could fly! love yah!

  10. Oh... very informative post this is! Thanks for the great tips! My daughter loves taking pictures of the birds but since we only have a point and shoot camera, she just settles with what she can capture. I love the very first picture! Such amazing scene!

  11. Honestly, I know little about photography, what I'm good at is to appreciate excellent shots.

  12. I was once into photography but naku ayun inaagiw na ang DSLR ko kainis.. i have 50-200mm canon lens pa naman.. oh well ewan ko ba bat ako nagsawa nabigatan lang ako sa cam ko siguro .lol... pero i love taking photos pa naman..

    As usual I love your shots esp. the 1st one with the traffic and the Falcon flying high...You really captured its might flight.. and those big lenses are intimidating ha lalo pag p/s lang dala mo hehe..

  13. Wow! The first picture, sa sobrang ganda, I could say parang di totoo! hehe It's really worthy being printed as a postcard. And OMG the cameras, they're very intimidating :))

  14. all great shots, i love the first picture...just lovely to see it! thanks for sharing your tips, photography is something i want and i love to learn. hubby and i both have dslr with d70,28-300mm and d90,18-200mm each but i still don't know how to use mine, i am using it as point and shoot, sad to say! and lately, i've been just using ipad mini to take photos and videos, handy and light although nothing compare shooting pictures with dslr. :) i know you've been good, so Santa might grant your wish, goodluck Ate. God bless your kind heart always! looking forward for more falcons and ospreys shots...

  15. These are all beautiful captures, Te Betchai! You're certainly a pro! The first photo looked like a magnificent aerial shot, hihi! I so miss being here. I feel so lazy blogging for the past weeks and hopefully I could get my groove back in no time :-)