Small Bird Photography

Small bird photography can be a challenge, as they are very fast when they are in flight and feeding.  I learned how to photograph small birds from the inside of my home to increase the number of quality photographs.

I moved the bird feeder close to the living room window and sat in a comfortable chair inside the house with my Canon DSLR and Canon 70-200mm F4L IS lens.  I have tried using the aperature priority settings on the camera and learned those are adequate once in a while.  After many photos turned out to be slightly out off focus or completely blurred, I switched to the sports setting and used the burst feature.  The lens was set to auto focus and image stabilizer was turned on. I handheld the camera as I was taking the photograph.

Here is the result of the changes I made in the camera settings:

A Dark Eyed Junco has some bird seed on the beak and underneath as it sits in front of a bird feeder near Plains, Montana.

A Dark Eyed Junco has some bird seed on the beak and underneath as it sits in front of a bird feeder near Plains, Montana.

The photo was cropped close to show the bird and the bird feeder in the background.

How often have you seen birds at the feeder and wanted to get close photographs of them?Would you like to see the birds from the comfort of your living room chair?   Have you considered moving your bird feeder closer to a window?

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Comparing Portrait and Landscape Orientation Views

Portrait and landscape are the two main orientation views used in photography.   The portrait has the vertical look with the longer sides being taller than the top and bottom of the photograph and is often used for a single portrait of an individual.  A portrait view is often the preferred one used for magazine covers. The size of the portrait orientation photograph can be as small as a wallet photograph, or full size (often either a 5×7 or 8×10, or larger). The landscape view has the top and bottom of the photograph being longer than the sides and is often used in landscape photography. Landscape view is often used when creating photographs of landscapes, groups, and other other subjects.  Often this view is seen inside of magazines and may be a half page or smaller in size.  Portrait and landscape orientations both show unique differences and can be used on the same subject.

The two photographs in this blog entry are of the same scene and were taken within a few minutes of each other. The first photograph below shows the scene in the portrait orientation view.

A low fog is slowly moving behind Smiley Slough near Plains, Montana.

A low fog is slowly moving behind Smiley Slough near Plains, Montana.

Notice how the top and bottom of the photograph are shorter in length than the sides.  The landscape orientation view photograph below is of the same scene taken within minutes and gives you a slightly wider view.

A low fog is behind Smiley Slough near Plains, Montana.

A low fog is slowly behind Smiley Slough near Plains, Montana.

Notice how the landscape orientation view has the top and bottom longer in length than the sides.

When comparing the two photographs here you can see that there are some differences in how much of the scene was captured.  The landscape view photograph shows more of the fog, land, and water, while the portrait view photograph shows more of the sky and less land and water.  For both of these photographs I used the same lens (a Canon 18-55mm IS 3.5-5.6) that was handheld.  The main difference between the two photographs is the orientation of the camera.  The focal length of the lens; the portrait view photograph was taken at 37mm and the landscape view was taken at 44mm.  The camera was a Canon Rebel XS with the settings for both photographs as follows; ISO was 200, the fstop was set at f8.0, with the white balance at cloudy, the program mode was Aperature Priority, and no flash was used. I used Canon Digital Photo Professional and Picasa software to process both of the photographs in this blog entry.

Which view do you prefer and appears to be best, portrait or landscape?  Are you photographing all of your subjects in only one view orientation, or have you tried to photograph them in both?  How often do you photograph a landscape in portrait view?  Do you think the portrait view should be limited or used  mainly when creating portraits, magazine covers, and wallet sized photos?  Are there other uses for the portrait orientation view of a photograph?

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Bald Eagle near Montana Highway 200

A Bald Eagle sits in a tree near Highway 200, close to Heron (Montana).

A Bald Eagle sits in a tree near Highway 200, close to Heron (Montana).

This Bald Eagles in the tree had been with other large birds on the remains of a deer by the side of Montana Highway 200 near Heron (Montana).  The time this photograph was taken at 1:28 p.m. on March 8, 2016.  As I passed the Bald Eagle we made eye contact for a few seconds.  I found a safe place a few miles down the highway to turn around and drove back. I then quietly parked the car, quietly exited and closed the door without moving to quickly.  The Bald Eagle flew up into the tree in the photograph here and remained there for about thirty minutes, allowing me to capture nine high quality photographs.  (The camera and lens settings for this photo: ISO 200, White Balance was cloudy, F4.5, 1/250 shutter, handheld, lens IS setting was turned ON.)

I had my 70-200mm F4 IS Canon L lens attached to my Rebel XS camera, which is often my main camera and lens combination most days.  I usually preset the following on my camera; 200 ISO, AV–( Aperature Priority), RAW photo mode, White Balance, make sure the battery has a full charge, and keep the memory card either half empty or able to record the maximum capacity based on the card and camera settings.  (I format the memory card often after transfer of photos to my computer.).  With the telephoto zoom I preset the IS to ON, the AF is set to ON, and Mode 2 is selected.   The key to capturing wildlife is to be scanning the sides of the highway as you drive, keep the camera near you, make sure you have the time, be careful and  safely find a place to stop and do the photography so you do not negatively impact the wildlife and traffic.

What wildlife do you enjoy photographing?  Do you have a favorite telephoto lens that is often attached to your camera? What items do you preset on your camera and lens?  What time of day do you often see and photograph the wildlife in your area?  Is your camera in your car beside you when you are driving to work or other places?

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Waiting for the Right Moment

On Smiley Slough, lone Canadian Goose takes flight past a large flock of ducks.

On Smiley Slough, lone Canadian Goose takes flight past a large flock of ducks.

Waiting for the right moment is a matter of patience and keeping your camera and lens ready at all times.  The photo here was created by watching and waiting for the Canadian Goose to take flight from the lake.  My camera is the Canon Rebel XS, with a 70-200mm F4 IS lens attached.  The image stabiliser on the lens was turned on, along with the correct panning mode (2).  I panned slowly as the Canadian Goose began to move and followed it as the feet were moving on the water.  Surprisingly, the ducks nearby were not startled and did not take flight or move quickly away.  The time I spent watching and waiting for the goose to take flight was many minutes, holding the camera steady and looking through the viewfinder.

(The specific settings of the camera and lens: Rebel XS; F8, ISO 200, cloudy (white balance), 1/640, 200mm, IS on, Mode 2 on)

How long do you wait for the right moment to happen?  Do you ever become tired or distracted while waiting for the right moment?  Have you found the perfect place to be ready while you wait for that right moment? What is the longest you have waited for the right moment?  How did you know it was the correct moment to take the photo?

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New Photography on Redbubble Website

I have recently posted new photography on my Redbubble website: http://www.redbubble.com/people/douglaswilks

The purchases here are going to be helping those who are battling Cancer.  I will donate 5o% of all purchases to the non-profit in Sanders County that helps those who have cancer.  They will be able to get a check to buy medications, purchase gas to go see their doctor, and use it for meals.  Your purchases are so greatly needed and appreciated.  Thank you.

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How I Learned Photography

I began with a Kodak Brownie camera when I was 13 years old.  My mom bought the camera for me and also purchased a subscription to Modern Photography magazine.  Three years later when I moved to Montana I joined the photography club in high school. I learned how to roll bulk black and white 35 mm film then.  I wasn’t long until I was  developing negatives, making contact prints, and learning how to make large prints in the high school darkroom. I began to read more about photography.  I picked up library books, read articles in magazines, and began subscribing to photography magazines. During the time I was reading about photography I was also continuing to practice it when I had a camera and the time.

In 1986 I worked in Yellowstone National Park and bought my first 35mm camera outfit. It was a Pentax ME Super, a 50mm lens, a 70-210mm zoom, and an aluminum tripod. I hitchhiked many times that summer in the park with my camera and a cardboard sign that read “Park Employee.” I have many Kodacolor slides from that summer in Yellowstone. I returned to work another summer in 1987 and made many more slides. In 1988 I worked on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, bringing my camera gear. While at the Grand Canyon I sat in on many lectures given by professionals from Kodak at outdoor locations. I also hiked and rode the tour buses as much as I could on my days off of work. I was almost given a ticket by a National Park Ranger for being outside during a fierce storm trying to photograph the lightning. I didn’t get any photos of the lightning, as I did not have the knowledge or the correct equipment.

There were times from 1990 until around 2002 when I did not have a camera, which did not temper or slow my interest and passion in photography.  In 2002 I bought a used 35mm camera from a pawn shop in Spokane and continued my photography.  I have also met and spoke with several photographers over the years I lived in Spokane and Montana.  I learn more by reading and doing, along with some coaching from others who have the knowledge and experience I may not have yet.

Fast forward to 2011 which is when I bought my first DSLR camera with a kit lens. I continue to read as much as I can on photography. I subscribe to four photography magazines (Outdoor Photographer, Shutterbug, Popular Photography, and Rangefinder), read online articles, check out books at the local library, and from time to time buying a book on photography. My skills as a photographer are improving every time I use my camera, as I am looking for new subjects, unique compositions, and much more. In the last year I have bought a professional lens and used it for several events, photographing a model, photographing wildlife and landscapes. My most recent addition to my photography gear has been a muslin background and portable support system, which I have yet to use.
Call to Action: I have many suggestions for photographers of all ages and skill levels. Read and understand your camera manual. That is very important. You have spent the money on the camera you now own. Do your best to know how to use it from that manual. Then for more advanced knowledge read much more, all you can on photography; lenses, cameras, lighting, composition, and photo editing software. Talk with other photographers of all experience levels and ask them many questions. Most photographers enjoy sharing their passion and what they have learned about photography. Practice, practice, and practice even more. Every time you can, you should have your camera with you and shoot anything and everything. You will have some images that did not turn out as well as you had hoped. That is okay, as I have had photographs that did not turn out perfect, great, or to my liking. What did I do? When it was possible, I took the photo again. Now and then I will put the image I am not sure about aside on my computer and work with it later (several times) in the photography software I own. I make adjustments to the RAW file. I try to keep all of those files and then only convert to JPEG when I am well satisfied with how the image looks. (Editing photography will be another blog entry that I will try to not make too complicated or too long.) When in doubt, seek help from other photographers you may know or follow. We may not have all of the answers, though we will do our best to help you and in turn we learn more about photography.

I hope this entry has helped you and rekindled your passion and interest in photography. If you found this blog entry helpful or provoking questions, ideas, comments, or thoughts; please contact and follow me.

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Autumn Raindrops and Fall Leaf Photograph

The photo was a challenging one to create, as an October rain storm had just stopped. I was hiking in a wildlife viewing area that is on MT Highway 200 west of Plains, Montana. There is no clear trail into the area and I spent much of my time carefully walking over slippery rocks and wet grass. The sun was not out very long and I was going to need to use the flash on my camera. I set up my tripod and took several minutes to compose the image you see now. Over the last two years the photo sat on my computer in different cropped versions, none of them appealed to me. I decided to go back to the first and original crop, keeping the blurred background intact. The final photograph is one that I find very appealing and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Autumn raindrops lightly dust a dfall leaf in Montana.

Autumn raindrops lightly dust a fall leaf in Montana.

Here is the information on what I used to create this photo: Canon Rebel XS, Canon 18-55mm IS Lens, one Velbon tripod.  (The EXIF data: 44mm, ISO 200, Auto white balance, 1/400, F5.0).

Do you think the leaf should be in the right third of the frame? Do you find the bright yellow in the background to be a help or a distraction to the leaf an overall composition?  How could the photograph be improved?

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