A question for the avid Bird shooters here

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Jeff A

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I have seen the work that you fellow members of this forum have posted here and can't help but be impressed. I doubt that I could attempt to duplicate the work that I see here but as an observer, I have a question. Besides having great gear AND knowing how to use it, could you share what is involved in a successful Bird outing? Is there a lot of stalking? Do you use Hides to enable you to get closer? Please give me an idea of what it takes to do what you do.
 

Gogogordy

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Im as amateur a photog as they come…a lifelong shutterbug mind you, but still an amateur. That said, most of my bird shots are taken in my local, mostly urban area and for those who look, there is plenty of subject matter close as one’s own backyard. That said a succesful bird outing for me is often in my own neighborhood, a local community lake, or park setting. Some outings are as short as an hour, and often not much more. I work from home these days, and sometimes stretch my legs/let the doggie out for 10-15 mins at a time and have grabbed some great shots doing that.
I dont wear any hides (many think I dress funny anyway) and often have camo cargo shorts on with a clashing t-shirt or something Comfortable.

My advice…start close to home and you are likely to be rewarded with more opportunities than you expect.
 

Kevriano

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For me it comes down to visiting known areas or following leads if it's something rare, but for the most part I won't specifically head out for birds, I'm more likely to head out for specific Butterflies or Dragonflies (like I am today), so while I know some people go out in full camo gear (idiots) and portable hides, it's really not needed at all, it's just field craft, being quiet is far more important than being seen, most birds don't bother about you being there as long as you are quiet, though in nature reserves with hide, the birds are well used to noise.
 

Sdawes

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Its a bit of mixture of all the things you have said Jeff , Fieldcraft plays a big part as does real knowledge of your subject matter and knowing likely habitats that they might frequent , I occasionally use my pop up hide to get closer to certain subjects that are often very skittish but more often than not its just going to places and being patient and not chasing your subjects all over the place . Just put yourself in the right place and sit and wait and quite often you will be rewarded . Having said all that I have as many blank days as good ones but that is bird photography for you it just makes the good outings feel even better. Of course RSPB and local wildlife trusts are also great places to visit with specific hides and the birds are often more confiding as they see more people on a regular basis . Last but not least is good old lady luck which plays a big part , the phrase "right place right time" is very applicable to bird photography .
 

Jeff A

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I'm really enjoying your responses, so thank all of you. Equipment wise, is this a hand held sport or are tripods used at all? Mono Pods?
 
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Sdawes

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I'm really enjoying your responses, so thank all of you. Equipment wise, is the a hand held sport or are tripods used at all? Mono Pods?
I guess to a degree Jeff it depends on the weight of the gear , the length of time you plan to be out and personal preference , 90% of my bird shots are hand held as I find it much easier to utilise my hand eye co-ordination to frame and track the subject particularly small fast erratic flyers . I do have both a monopod and tripod but used infrequently . I occasionally use the monopod ( lightweight ) if I know I am going to be in one place for a good length of time eg waiting for an Owl and if I taken by surprise it is light enough to still pick the camera up with it attached but it saves me holding the gear for ages . If I am going to locations where I know more of my shots are likely to be static and the birds favoured landing spots are predictable then I will consider taking my tripod particularly if good light is at a premium as it enable me to shoot at much lower speeds and hence lower ISO.
 

Paul stuart

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Easiest place to start is your garden then local ponds and parks the birds here are used to people so no need to be covert ,difficulties come when you are after a specific shot of a specific animal /bird then you need to be more careful and hides and camo will help if you can access ,setting up a baited situation can be worthy on some raptors ,otherwise just follow some local bird spots and news , photograph from hides and footpaths ,i have used ghillie suits and camo netting but only when i am staking out a subject ,for 90% of nature photography it is not needed your reserve will have purpose hides ,but do not go out wearing bright clothes or red a known warning for birds ,just dull muted colours ,and you always get a sharper shot with a supported camera and lens regardless of ibis and ois ,but not always convenient you will find your own balance ,as far as gear goes it works like this for birds af is king ,reach is key ,subject and light matters.
 

Paul stuart

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Easiest place to start is your garden then local ponds and parks the birds here are used to people so no need to be covert ,difficulties come when you are after a specific shot of a specific animal /bird then you need to be more careful and hides and camo will help if you can access ,setting up a baited situation can be worthy on some raptors ,otherwise just follow some local bird spots and news , photograph from hides and footpaths ,i have used ghillie suits and camo netting but only when i am staking out a subject ,for 90% of nature photography it is not needed your reserve will have purpose hides ,but do not go out wearing bright clothes or red a known warning for birds ,just dull muted colours ,and you always get a sharper shot with a supported camera and lens regardless of ibis and ois ,but not always convenient you will find your own balance ,as far as gear goes it works like this for birds af is king ,reach is key ,subject and light matters.
Also look at some of the top photographers and look at what they are doing ,there is no right or wrong and everyone you meet is a expert and has there own opinions ,me i would rather photograph mammals than birds mainly due to the lack of them in the uk where as birds are a plenty although i do have some favourites big waders ,puffins ,owls ,cuckoos all the raptors and certain sea birds .
 

Kevriano

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I shoot 100% Handheld these days. I hate the restriction of tripods and monopods, and OSS is so good now that handholding is easier, even with big lenses, provided you are steady.
 

liggy

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I am no expert by any stretch but enjoy shooting birds. On YouTube there’s “The Angry Photographer “. I christen myself The Lazy Photographer. :)

95% of my shots are handheld from either my deck which is 2 blocks from a big lake or from the shore of said lake. Eventually I’ll do something with some friends and plan a specific outing for bird photography but right now it’s just opportunity and the kickass af/tracking of the A9II.
 

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NatureBoyOhio

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I have spent a great deal of time on my patio capturing images of local birds visiting my feeding station as well as going afield chasing the migrants and others that I cannot find at home. For me the greatest lesson learned is patience. I utilize social media to find the hot spots each day and over time I have also reduced the amount of gear I haul with me. I am down to a couple of lenses and a monopod now. I have a bad shoulder so the monopod has been very helpful. Currently I am shooting with the A6600 and Sony 200-600 lense.
 

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Doug Herr

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I don't know if I can add much to this discussion, there have been a lot of constructive responses. I use a number of techniques depending on the circumstances. I once was an advocate of hand-held for the spontaneity and this is still a good part of my toolkit but for a fixed location a blind (UK: hide) and tripod are also very handy and enable longer-term observations. I also have a water feature in my yard where I can manage lighting & backgrounds for the mutual benefit of bird and photographer.

The key to any of these approaches to photographing birds is to know your subjects: the habitat they prefer, daily activity routines, what alarms them, what puts them at ease. I'll post a few examples of techniques and the resulting images in the following comments.
 

Doug Herr

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I also walk about with the tripod, which is not as spontaneous but this increases the lighting options for getting the sharpest photos.
 
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Doug Herr

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Often the birds will tolerate nothing less than full concealment in a blind. You have to know where the birds will be in order to place the blind for the best photos.
 
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Doug Herr

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A few from my backyard Avian Portrait Studio where I can manage lighting and backgrounds, some from inside a blind, some without the blind.

The basic idea with all of these techniques is that there isn't a single "right" answer. It depends on you, your tools, your knowledge and of course the birds.
 

Jeff A

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I shoot 100% Handheld these days. I hate the restriction of tripods and monopods, and OSS is so good now that handholding is easier, even with big lenses, provided you are steady.
Those last four words took me out of the equation.
 
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Paul stuart

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I shoot 100% Handheld these days. I hate the restriction of tripods and monopods, and OSS is so good now that handholding is easier, even with big lenses, provided you are steady.
True, good job you never shot olympus kev biblical handholding capabilities .
 
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Aussie

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When I go out birding I am out there in the open. I don't hide from them.
My eyes are looking to see movement and my ears as bad as they are do their best to hear.
I can walk a very long way on a day out.
But I will say when out we will his a as I call it a honey hole and you can spend well over an hour there.
You will follow one bird to the next one and so on. In these patches I have come across about 15 different types of birds in that spot.
While driving along a dirt track out bush it will be slow and if we see birds fly from one side to the other,
we will get out and look to find them. And we will continue this on all day long.
most days we will come home with about 30 types of birds.
But the challenge is finding them. I don't have the patience to sit and wait.
So stop and look the back in the car move up and do it all again.
This is how I do my birding, but there are places where birds are and you just have to be quick enough to get them.
 

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