Posted April 23, 2020
Written by Mike Perrin
3 Tips for Bird Photography
Submissions for the Wareham Land Trust 2020 Photo Contest are due May 2nd at 5pm. We encourage anyone with photos of Wareham’s natural landscapes and wildlife to participate. One of the most thrilling yet infamously difficult wildlife subjects to photograph are my favorite animals, the birds! You can follow these easy three tips in your pursuit to capture a shot of our intricate feathered friends that will score big in the Photo Contest. This article is adapted from the article “How to Compose the Perfect Bird Photo” written by William H. Majoros for the National Audubon Society. For over 20 years, William H. Majoros has studied, photographed, and written about many topics related to birds and bird behavior.
1. Be Creative.
Majoros recommends that aspiring bird photographers play around with the shot, shifting between shooting angles and distances. By capturing more of the natural environment, you can place the bird in its natural environment. Including the environment can affect color balance, texture, and mood of the photo. Always remember to keep a safe distance from nesting birds, especially during breeding/nesting season. Encroaching on sensitive nesting bird species like Wareham’s Great Horned Owls and Piping Plovers can disrupt nesting or cause nest abandonment, leaving empty nests or parent-less nests with eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation and weather. For serious bird photographers to keep a safe distance, investing in a large lens will decrease stress for the birds and increase capacity for close-up shots (DSLR equipment can be expensive, but there are cheaper “bridge” cameras with great zoom).
2. Follow the Rule of Thirds.
To introduce more complexity to your camera roll, try to follow the “rule of thirds.” This means avoiding the urge to center the bird directly in the middle of the shot and instead drawing three imaginary equidistant lines in your viewfinder. Some cameras even have settings to help visualize a photo in thirds. By varying where the bird is placed in the shot, the photographer creates more variation and potential for a great shot while in the field. The “rule of thirds” is based on the “golden rule”, which is a mathematical equation found in art and nature that manifests feelings of harmony and balance.
3. Share a Story.
Transporting the audience into the field by capturing a story can connect the viewer to the bird, moment, or location. In the right moment, birds can be quite expressive in their actions and behaviors. By including a reaction to a predator, a mating behavior, a perch spot, or segments of the natural landscape, the photographer can allow the audience to understand the moment and experience the story for themselves. Majoros encourages photographers to ask themselves, “Does this photo tell an interesting story? Does it change my emotional state or influence my intellect? Does this make me want to go birding?”
As someone that identifies as more of a birder than a wildlife photographer, these simple tricks challenge me to go beyond an identification photo and turn my passion and hobby of birding into an art form. Though I struggle with the more technical side of photography (I am looking at you, “rule of thirds”), it is still a rewarding and amusing challenge to enhance my photography skills in the field. One of these days, after hundreds of sub-par yet personally-fulfilling photos, maybe I will strike gold.
We hope that you can take some of these tips and send some of your best shots to Wareham Land Trust for us to share with the rest of the community. To learn more about the Wareham Land Trust 2020 Photo Contest and submit your photos, please visit http://warehamlandtrust.org/announcing-wareham-land-trust-2020-photo-contest/.
Wareham Land Trust welcomes photos of Wareham and our trails year-round, so feel free to send in any photos you would like to share to info@WarehamLandTrust.org.
Here are some of what Mike considers his best bird photographs:
Written by Mike Perrin, TerraCorps Wareham Land Trust Land Stewardship Coordinator