Recently I got a chance to accompany some photographers on a trip to a nearby forest. They were planning to photograph birds and so I thought of en-cashing this opportunity. It has been quite sometime since I did bird photography. I am not a long lens guy but for this trip I carried an old Nikon D200 with Sigma 150-500 mounted on it.
(Bird in flight, carrying grass and twigs for building nest. Nikon D200 with Sigma 150-500mm lens, 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO -200, optical stabilization switched on)
Once we reached the vantage point to observe the birds, I was impressed. There were birds everywhere. Small and large. Some which I had frequently seen as visitors to my house and others which had migrated thousands of kilometers to reach here. Weather was perfect. Breeze carrying the smell of early morning mist and moist earth was serenading me and the view of these beautiful birds was delighting me. What more could a person ask for the first day of a new year?
I took out my camera and clicked a few pictures of a nearby bird, later I learnt that it was a type of heron. One of the persons in our group happened to be an accomplished ornithologist and he gave the complete name for the bird. I do not remember it now. After clicking a few more snaps, I checked the preview for exposure correctness and to set any compensation if required. Horrors! The images were underexposed. On closer examination of the settings I realized that the metering mode was set to center-weighted (Metering Modes) and I was clicking images with water in the background reflecting bright light. The exposure compensation from yesterday’s photo-shoot was still set to -2/3. I had made the most common mistake of not checking my camera settings (5 Common Technical Mistakes). Better late than never. I corrected the settings. Switched back to 3D Matrix metering and switched off the exposure compensation. 3D matrix helps in such complex lighting situations but do check the histograms for correctness of exposure.
Once the things were fine, I got a few good shots of the birds there. The lens was heavy and I was shooting hand-held. No tripods or monopods. I had not used this lens for quite sometime now. However I was glad that I had this lens for days like today. I took some pictures of some more herons, king-fishers, some small ducks and a few others which I can not identify. We saw a rufus, magpies and some pheasants too.
(Flock of birds in flight – Nikon D200 with Sigma 150-500, 1/250 sec, f/10, ISO – 200)
Bird photography requires a different kind of mindset, that I got to learn first hand from the group. More important that photography is learning to spot the birds and identify them. Photographing birds is not just about composition but also learning about the habits and behavior of birds. One of the persons in the group could identify more than a dozen birds standing at one spot just by their calls. Impressive!
Another interesting incident – We saw a crocodile come out of the pond and quietly approach some peacocks. The peacocks saw the crocodile and disappeared in the bushes. I took the photograph just to journal the incident and to show to my daughter.
(Crocodile and Peacock – a terrible image but still something to ‘show and tell’)
Today I also saw a pair of black and white kingfishers (Pied Kingfisher). They were beautiful. I took this simple picture of two of them perched on a branch. Another photographer who was with me, was ready with his camera when one of them started to fly and he captured some really good moments.
(Pied Kingfishers – Nikon D200 with Sigma 150-500)