Photographing Birds – Capturing Behaviour

Photographing Birds – Capturing Behaviour

Adelie Penguins

Birds are found in every imaginable shape, size and colour, all over the world. Photographing them is a delight but capturing pin-sharp images of moving birds such as flying, diving into water or displaying, can be a challenge. Below are some tips and techniques that I have been teaching my photography workshop participants for the past 15 years.

1. Fast Shutter Speed

One of the most important things when trying to capture bird behavior is to make sure your camera’s shutter speed is high enough to capture the movement. For SLR or Mirrorless camera users, when shooting at a focal length of around 400mm, I generally suggest a minimum of 1/1500th or 1/2000th of second, so as to capture the movement without blur. For fast-flying bird, even higher speeds are recommended.

2. Back-button Focus

Back-button Focus is a feature on many various camera models that works really well when taking action shots. With back-button focus, you use your thumb to focus and your index finger to press the shutter button. Once focus is locked on a moving subject, when used in conjunction with continuous focus, it won’t leave the subject and try and focus on the background, especially if the subject has moved faster than you can track it. Many pro photographers use back-button focus to great effect and I have been encouraging my photography workshop participants to use this method for many years now.

3. Using Continuous Focus

To keep focus on a moving bird, it is imperative that you switch your focus mode to ‘Continuous’, so as to achieve greater focus accurately. Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax etc call their moving subject focus style ‘Continuous’, while Canon call their focus style ‘AI Servo’. It is important to lock focus on the moving bird by half depressing the focus button and keeping it that while following the subject. You can then take the shots whelp not the subject is in the best position. I always recommend using ‘Continuous Focus’ with continuous shutter mode or ‘burst’.

4. Best Focusing Method

If you are new to photographing bird behaviour, especially birds in flight, I suggest using a single focus point in the center of the frame. That way, no matter which direction the bird is flying from, you have a much better chance of capturing the perfect moment. Also, if the sky is blue and there are no distractions in the background, using 3D tracking or similar can be advantageous in helping with the focus locking onto the bird.

5. Preempting Bird Behaviour

One very important aspect of capturing that exact ‘split-second’ bird behaviour moment is to wait patiently until something happens. Recently, while presenting a photo expedition to Antarctica, we had dozens of penguins standing on the rocks near the shoreline. My group waited patiently for that exact moment when they started jumping into the water, then clicked away like crazy!! Carefully observing the penguins and preempting when they were about to jump, helped our photography group in getting great action shots.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Wildlife Photography Tip –  SLR camera versus Compact Digital Camera?

Wildlife Photography Tip – SLR camera versus Compact Digital Camera?

Osprey with fish
As far as a recommended camera goes for photographing wildlife behaviour, it is preferable to use an SLR (single lens reflex) camera. One of the reasons is that you are able to capture a certain behaviour the instant the shutter button is pressed and you can also choose the zoom or telephoto lens you wish to use. With a compact digital camera or a ‘point-and-shoot’, it is a bit more difficult to take a photo at the precise moment when a behaviour is happening. Compact cameras have an inbuilt shutter-lag, which basically means there is a delay from the time the shutter is pressed until the photo is taken. Photographers who use compact cameras often tell me they are frustrated by missing that special wildlife ‘moment’, due to the delay in the shutter button on their camera. If your subject is stationary, you first need to compose your photo then press the shutter button partially to pre-focus on it. Wait for the right moment when a behavior is happening and then press the shutter button to take the shot. It takes a bit of practice and there will no doubt be many near-misses, but once you are used to this technique, it becomes much easier.

A photography tip for photographing birds and bats in flight, or mammals running, is to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the ‘action’. In good light, it is quite easy to achieve a high shutter speed but when lighting conditions are poor, I suggest raising the ISO setting on your camera, which will subsequently increase the shutter speed on your camera. The higher the shutter speed, the better chance of capturing a sharp, focused shot, without blur or movement. Be aware that when using a digital camera, depending on the camera’s make and model, you will experience some “noise” or digital grain if the ISO setting is set too high.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Recommended Photographic Destination – Cradle Mountain, Tasmania – Autumn Fagus Colour Changes

Recommended Photographic Destination – Cradle Mountain, Tasmania – Autumn Fagus Colour Changes

Nothofagus Tasmania
One of the most spectacular natural destinations in Australia is, without doubt, Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. For people who haven’t been before, it often takes their breath away and as a wildlife and nature photographer, it’s definitely one of my favourite locations in Australia to take my camera. I have been to Cradle Mountain countless times, either photographing, presenting photo tours or as a holiday destination. The scenery is stunning and quite majestic and there is so much variety in the types of habitats to photograph.

The end of April/early May is a great time to visit Cradle Mountain with your camera, as this is when the incredible autumn colour changes occur. This is known as the ‘The Turning of the Fagus ’ (short for Nothofagus gunnii, the botanical name for this deciduous Beech trees). This annual event lasts only a few weeks each year and being Tasmania’s (and Australia’s) only deciduous tree, makes this event very special. The autumn colour leaves change and make for spectacular scenery that just has to be photographed! Apart from the ‘Turning of the Fagus’, there are also lush, green forests filled with King Billy and Pencil Pines, which are also very photogenic. Mosses, lichens and liverworts are everywhere and it’s also one of the best locations to photograph a wide variety of beautiful fungi, found in every conceivable shape, size and colour.

For the first time ever, I am presenting a five day photography workshop at Cradle Mountain, in Tasmania, based around the time of the autumn colour changes. My first ‘Cradle Mountain Autum Colour Changes ‘photography workshop booked out in 5 days, with a second one straight after now only having four places left!  If you would like to join me on the 5 day photography workshop of Cradle Mountain, or find out more about this exciting photography workshop, please click HERE for full details.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Photography Tips – The Importance of Research and Practice

Photography Tips – The Importance of Research and Practice

Svalbard Arctic
When I first started photographing wildlife and other nature, 21 years ago, I clearly remember being a ‘sponge’ for information. This was in the pre-internet days, so I did my research and learning in other ways. Firstly, I had a mentor, Glen Threlfo, who is one of Australia’s foremost wildlife and nature photographers and documentary-makers. I asked lots of questions, wrote down the answers in a notebook and then practiced and practiced some more. It was a huge learning curve but I relished all the new photographic techniques I was learning.

I purchased different photography magazines, both Australian and from the U.K. and the U.S.A. and also bought and borrowed books, many which I reread a number of times.

 

Apart from magazines and books, of which there are lots of in the market, we of course have the internet, with a HUGE amount of articles to read, including lots of ‘How To’ YouTube videos. These can be invaluable, but be careful to sort the ‘trash’ from sites with real information.

 

One thing I really enjoyed was finding out about professional wildlife and nature photographers from all over the world, whose work inspired me. I had quite a list of photographers and would spend countless hours researching their work and looking at their images, especially the shooting data. That way I was able to get a sense of various photographers whose work I liked, I could see what gear they were using and what camera settings they used.

 

There are numerous Facebook groups available which deal solely with photography, where members can post images, ask for critique, find out about what type of gear to purchase, ask about locations to photograph etc. Once such group in my very own Facebook group ‘Michael Snedic’s WildNature Photographers’, which you can join by clicking HERE

 

There are also plenty of photography workshops and tours on offer nowadays, but please do your research before you join an unknown one. ‘WildNature Photo Expeditions’ is owned and operated by me and I pride myself on my reputation I give plenty of professional photography tuition at each workshop and tour, imparting 21 years of knowledge as a wildlife and nature photographer and 15 years as a tutor.

 

Above all, make sure you enjoy the learning process and don’t forget my motto: “Practice Makes Perfect”

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Landscape Photography Tips – Sunrise Photography

Landscape Photography Tips – Sunrise Photography

Sunrise Photography

For the past 21 years, I have been photographing sunrises across Australia and the world. Each and every one is different and you never know what type of sunrise will occur on the day. It could be a ‘fizzer’ or it could be one the most mind-blowing sunrise you have ever seen and photographed. The important part is to make the effort to get out out there and take your chances.

Research Your Location

If time permits, I recommended you do a ‘reccy’ and check out your sunrise photo location beforehand. This gives an idea of the terrain you will be in, especially in the dark when waiting for the sun to rise. This is very important in rocky environments or on clifftops, as it can potentially be quite dangerous (i.e. tripping, breaking camera gear) while wandering around in unknown territory and in the dark.

Work Out Where and When The Sun Rises

It helps to know exactly where the sun will rise and at what time. This will help you in setting up in the optimal location to achieve the best sunrise shots. Also, sunrise times constantly change. Even though you may have done a reccy previously and the sun rose at a certain time, only a few months later the time will be completely different.

Get There Early

One common mistake that many photographers have made is to arrive at a location just before the official sunrise time, only to find they have missed the best pre-sunrise colour. I always get to a location quite a bit earlier, as often a magical glow appears in the sky well before the official sunrise time. There are quite a number of Apps available on the market that show you exactly where and when the sun will rise – I use the ‘Photographer’s Ephemeris’ which is very user-friendly.

Always Use A Tripod

No matter how good your camera’s ISO capabilities are, you should always use a tripod when photographing sunrises. That way you can choose a low ISO setting (no camera ‘noise’), plus a smaller aperture such as f16, without getting blurry images. I strongly suggest using a sturdy but light tripod, such as carbon fibre. Using a cable release or remote will also minimise the chance of camera shake.

Foreground Detail

Depending on the location, I try to place some sort of foreground detail in many of my sunrise shots, such as rocks or plants. This can give the image a bit more ‘interest’.

Seascapes

When photographing seascapes, I regularly use a Graduated Neutral Density (ND) filter. This helps to reduce the glare in the sky and lightens a dark foreground. Brands such as Lee, Nisi and Singh Ray are three brands that are of the highest quality and ones I can recommend.

Yes, it can be hard work getting up at some crazy hours but once you are out there, it’s always so rewarding. Not only is it enjoyable to be out in nature early in the morning, witnessing a sunrise, but the bonus is that you may end up with the shot of a lifetime!

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Landscape Photography Tips – When To Use A Circular Polarising Filter

Landscape Photography Tips – When To Use A Circular Polarising Filter

Horseshoe Falls - Tasmania, Australia
One of the most beneficial filters to use when photographing landscapes is a Circular Polariser and this is one filter I would never be without. Below are some of the benefits of using one.

Getting Rid of Glare

I predominantly use a Circular Polarising (CP) filter when photographing in rainforests, as the filter helps reduce glare shimmering off the water, rocks and greenery. Some CP filters have a dot or triangle on the ring, which when pointed at 90 degrees to the sun, are perfectly positioned to reduce glare. If there is no dot or triangle, simply turn the ring until the glare is reduced the most.

Increase Contrast and Reduce Haze

A CP filter filters out polarised light. A polariser minimises scattered light and allows for greater contrast (i.e. white clouds and blue sky) and also helps to reduce haze.

Milky Water

Photographers often try and create that ‘milky effect’ when photographing waterfalls, cascades etc. A CP filter can reduce your shutter speed by 1.5 to 2 stops of light, slowing down the water.

Saturated Effect

I have never been a big fan of over-saturated images. By using a CP filter, your images will have a bit more of a saturated look, but not over-the-top.

Don’t Buy Cheap!

When looking to buy a CP filter, I strongly advise you not to but cheap, online ‘no name’ brands. Brands such as Singh Ray, Lee and Nisi are all recommended and are of the highest quality.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

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