As I have posted in the past, both here and on my Facebook page; Orchid Image Photography, I am a photographer and a birder but I am not a bird photographer. Bird photography is a world unto itself with a strong skill set and bank account to match. Lenses up to 600mm are not uncommon, along with cameras that have fast autofocus with good tracking abilities, and tripod/head combinations that can bear the weight of these beasts.
On my shoestring budget I cannot afford the equipment needed for serious bird photography. And if I could afford it, I’m not sure if it is something I would pursue with enough passion to make the investment worthwhile. Although I have to admit to some jealousy when reading the Facebook pages of birding groups I belong to and seeing the beautiful photos of birds taken by the members.
Then I looked at my own equipment and the The old New England adage of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” came to mind.
I decided to try my hand at photographing birds using the equipment I already own. Since my current equipment doesn’t include a lens longer than 300mm I had two choices, crop closely or get myself closer to the birds.
My first attempt was a red bellied woodpecker in some distant trees. It kept moving, but slowly. Even so, without using a tripod I was able to get only one usable image. I repeated this another three times with other birds. Some were closer in, but my success rate was no better than one or two in each group of six to eight images.
My next series of photos I took were done using the same 70-300mm variable focus lens, handheld, but much closer to the bird. I stayed slightly hidden from one of my suet feeders and took a series of images as this downy woodpecker fed. My keeper rate was much higher with this method.
I have done bird images with this same equipment in the past using a tripod. Looking back at those images I can see where I need to combine the techniques of being close and using a tripod.
I won’t let my lack of the “proper” birding equipment stop me from taking photos of birds. I will just be sure that my technique gets the best out of the equipment I do have.