Birds in the Wild
Bird Photography - Before you leave !

It's spring, the birds are signing, and you have a profound urge to express your creativity. The sun is shining and you're about to go out, determined to immortalize the most beautiful birds on the planet. Hold it ! Not so fast ! There are a few little things to consider before you take off on the adventure.

If you are a novice and have just bought your camera, take the time to understand how your equipment works. Read the instructions. Get a guide on basic photographing techniques. Buy a few rolls of inexpensive film and make a couple of trial runs at home. It's better to prolong your initiation period a bit rather than throw yourself prematurely onto the terrain only to multiply a series of disappointing experiences.

Take advantage of this learning period to reflect on the question of "the film". There are two major categories: positive film (the slide) and negative film (the conventional photograph). If you do not intend to publish your photos, or project them in conferences, use the negative film. In the other case, opt for the slides. In both cases, it is important to choose film with a high level of saturation, because the colors will be far more intense. Unless your telephoto lens is of professional quality, use film with a sensitivity of at least 100 ASA. Many even use 200 ASA film. The higher the number of ASA, the better able you are to take shots in dim lighting conditions or at high obturation speeds. However, I don't suggest you go above 200 ASA or your photos, especially your enlargements, will have a granular appearance.

When at last you are ready to take off, don't forget to bring along a protective bag for your equipment. Weather is often unpredictable and photo equipment does not tolerate wetness well. The market offers carrying cases in a variety of models. What's important is for it to be waterproof and shock resistant.

One last thing, I advise you bring along a pencil and note book. As you take a photo, make note of the camera adjustments (obturator speed, telephoto lens opening, etc.). Then, when you receive your pictures, check out your images one by one to measure the impact of your adjustments. It's an excellent way to learn to correct your mistakes.

A photographer's ethics

If you have decided to start photographing birds, surely it is because you like them. Human activities (hunting, cars, communication towers, pollution, habitat loss) already cause much trouble for the birds and they really don't need additional disturbances. When you photograph birds in parks, reserves, or interpretation centers, remain on the paths. Do not get close to nests and do not damage their habitat. Avoid using bird chant recordings in areas where other photographers have preceded you, or will follow you. Using recordings can be extremely damaging for birds, especially during the mating season or when weather conditions are difficult and they strive for survival.

I advise you not to use artificial light (flash). The flash could scare them and the picture will look far less natural.

You must also avoid harassing a bird by pursuing it and making it flee continuously. You will rapidly discover that certain individuals cooperate better than others. I don't know why, but when it happens, enjoy ! Don't forget that your best photos will always be those where the bird is at it's natural. So on your outings, act in such a way to avoid stressing out the birds.

And one last thing, make sure you ask for authorization before walking on private property.

For more information on the ethics of photography, consult "Ethics" on the main menu.

   Alain Hogue