Capturing Bird Photographs

My local library had a display of Missouri books out as the state approaches its 200th birthday. I took home one called “Missouri In Flight” by Mundy Hackett about capturing bird photographs.

capturing bird photographs takes planning
This flycatcher had nested in the nearby tractor shed. It commonly used the gate and fence as a landing spot from which to launch to grab nearby insects. Knowing a particular bird’s habits lets you set yourself up for a good photograph, one of the hints from Mundy Hackett.

Hackett is a professional with cameras and equipment I don’t and never will have. He has time to travel to good places to see birds, time to sit and wait for that great photograph. His photographs reflect this with birds so close, so real, so ‘want to reach out and touch the feathers’.

I am an amateur who loves to take pictures. My camera is a good one, but with one lens and lots of settings of which I use very few. Although I own tripods, I rarely carry or use one. I do not travel or have time to sit and wait for birds to show up.

use telephoto lenses to capture bird photographs
I had read to avoid using the zoom feature on my camera as much as possible, to get close to the subject. This is not good advice when it comes to birds as they tend to leave when approached. The problem with magnifying the bird is that it magnifies any movement blurring the picture. But using magnification allows for getting bird photographs not otherwise possible.

But those spectacular photographs inspired me to try capturing bird photographs of my own.

I am lucky. As “My Ozark Home” shows, I live in a place with a wide variety of habitats and lots of open land. This year the brush cutter has not visited yet. (Dance for joy!)

wild turkey feeding
This year two tom turkeys are feeding in the pastures. They have gotten a little used to having me around, but still stay far away. I set my camera on the top of a gate to steady it to take this picture. It was one of several pictures and the only one I kept as the turkey moved around and sometimes gave a good shot and often didn’t. That is an advantage of using a digital camera. You can take multiple shots and review them immediately to choose the ones you like best.

My first obstacle was to get over trying to not use the zoom much on my camera. As Hackett mentions in his Introduction, the greater the magnification, the larger any movement is to distort and blur the image. If I don’t have a tripod set up, how can I stabilize the camera? For shots out across the creek, I use the top rail or the gate. For other shots I sit down and use my bent knees. In desperation I plant my elbows on my chest to create a tripod (Remember: don’t breathe until after taking the shot.).

ground squirrel
The same techniques used for capturing bird photographs can be used for other subjects. Luck is part of getting a good photograph. This ground squirrel is living on borrowed time as a fox family lives near the yard. It stays on the alert and near cover.

Even when taking photographs of wildflowers, the hints and suggestions Hackett makes turn out to be helpful. But the big pluses of the book “Missouri In Flight” are admiring the amazing photographs and the inspiration to go out capturing bird photographs of your own.