Saturday, February 19, 2011

Photographing Birds: Equipment

I recently read an interesting book called National Geographic Photographing Birds.  The book was basic but inspiring.  To my disappointment, the book did not include a flow chart on how to create bird photographs.  I thought I would do so in a short series of blog entries.  One caveat: these are not necessarily the best or only way to produce photographs--just how I make them.  I will be happy to hear of better or different ideas from other birders.

Before you can take a bird photograph, you need a camera.  I use the least expensive, best camera I could find (I do have a budget)--a Canon EOS Rebel XSi. Other cameras may be just as good or better.  I am pleased with my camera.  It takes photos with 12.2 megapixels, which I think allows you to blow up  far away subjects better than with cameras with fewer megapixels.

I use two lenses.  One is a Leica spotting scope with an adaptor for the Canon
Camera.  Undoubtedly I could take better photos with a fancy, image stabilizing, Canon lens along with a large flash attachment. But I can not afford those.  The Leica scope gives me about 800 mm magnification.  This size lens gives me great results.

One  drawback to this setup is that the scope can not be hand held.  I must use a tripod (find the lightest, most durable you can) or a car window mount.  (My hybrid car, with a motor that cuts off when stopped, makes a great blind/four-wheel tripod.) You might notice that the scope I use has a straight eye-piece.  A bent one would be almost impossible to use from a car window.

Finally I use two cameras.  One is dedicated to a 55-250 mm lens, the other for
the spotting scope.  The advantage here is that you do not have to fumble with changing lenses while a bird flies away.  Generally speaking Erika takes photos with the smaller lens of close-by birds and wildflowers.

My next post will cover camera settings.

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