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Bird photography tips: Flash setup for birds

I have often been asked about the flash setup I use for bird photography, this is a question that is often followed by remarks such as, “it seems cumbersome”, “what is the right setup?” “It seems like a lot of work to setup” and so on. The purpose of this quick post is to introduce you to the basic setup for flash photography on birds and show you the various photographic tools that are necessary to execute proper flash use. This post is not about how to use flash as I have written a beginners introduction on flash use on my blog. I assure you that by the end of the post you will know all the setup requirements and you will realize that it is neither time consuming to setup once you get to know your gear nor as cumbersome to carry. While giving Bird photography tips, I often talk about the importance of fill flash, being prepared with the right tools and setup will provide you with successful results consistently.   The above image shows how the flash setup appears once it is assembled and properly mounted on the lens and camera. The camera and lens are setup on a tripod and are reinforced tightly so they do not swing and move around as you install the flash and related accessories. While there are multiple ways to get setup, I prefer to have the camera and lens on the tripod before I mount the flash and other accessories. Following accessories are needed for the setup: Canon 580 EX II flash or similar Better beamer Vello TTL Off camera … Continue reading

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Bird Photography trip – Fifteen hours in Bharatpur

I’m finally back and blogging again after a long break. I would have hoped to start of the first blog of the New Year with an exciting story about my first bird photography trip of the year, a trip to Keoladeo National Park in Bhratpur, land of birds. You would probably be scrolling down by now to quickly have a look at my new images from KNP before settling into reading this post. Well, this post is neither very exciting nor filled with images of the colorful birds, as you would have expected. Do stay with me on this as this may be worth your while.  Barely fifteen hours after I arrived in Bharatpur, I was already on my way back to Delhi. The car ride was emotional for me, the unfortunate streak now extended to six. Six is the number of consecutive photography trips that I have failed to either start or finish in the last four months. To start the year with a failure is not what I wanted, but then I have become accustomed to failures, they have become my friends and we go together every where. When you have a debilitating health issue that causes your body to not function normally, then everyday is a challenge. Regardless of whatever goals you set for yourself, the potential for failures is high. When your body is ravaged with pain from within day in and day out, it is easy to loose hope.   Back in Bharatpur, when I arrived in the afternoon it was cold and foggy. I only had birds on my mind and the rest was … Continue reading

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Bird Photography Trip – Paradise Galapagos.

Frankly speaking, I was not sure weather I was nervous or excited for this bird photography trip to Galapagos. It has never come up in a conversation, at least not that I can recall that I don’t know how to swim or that I don’t care to be on cruises. I remember well, my only cruise was that on a giant ship with ten restaurants, and I was seasick the whole time and couldn’t splurge on the daily giant buffets. I was a kid then and imagine my dilemma! Today, I’m a bird photographer and I travel the world for my love of birds. In July I traveled to the Galapagos on the seventy-eight foot long boat named Samba, visiting fourteen Islands in fourteen days and making over fourteen landings in small zodiacs. The fear of water was always there, but I had to step out of my comfort zone and get over that fear. For there was paradise on the other side of it. A single blog article cannot to justice to the beauty of the Galapagos Islands which in my opinion is a paradise for bird photography trips. In this article I have put together images I felt compelled to share with bird photography enthusiasts, with each image their are some bird photography tips and my thought process behind them. I suggest that as you read along do click on each image to see a larger version. The Galapagos Islands are located in the eastern Pacific Ocean and are roughly six hundred miles east of Ecuador, the country to which they belong. The Galapagos comprise of eighteen main … Continue reading

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Bird Photography Tip: Be smart, Sharpen like a Pro

An important bird photography tip about sharpening images like professional photographers is to not overdo it. Most experienced bird photographers will tell you is that an image fails to make an impact not just because of lack of technical perfection, drama, emotion or the story telling but simply because the image was over sharpened, looked crunchy with appearance of sharpening artifacts. When I look through images, I’m able to tell the effort a photographer made in making that image. That photographer reminds me of a long distance runner who ran a great big distance only to go bust just before the finish line. You did all that hard work to make that image but just fell short in post processing and that too at the very end. As a bird photographer, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that your images look tack sharp, this holds true also for other Nature & Wildlife Photography. We are consistently striving to make an emotional and dramatic connection through eye contact with our subjects and as a photographer making sharp and clear images convey and transfer that drama and connection to the audience. In post processing, there are various techniques that can be applied to optimize images for maximum sharpness without over doing it. I use various sharpening techniques depending on the image and how it looks to me. The most frequent technique I use is “Smart sharpen” found in Photoshop. I will go over this technique but before I do it is important to understand that sharpening should be the last step in post processing and should be done after the … Continue reading

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Bird Photography Tips: Use that flash!

The verdict is in. The weatherman says that the monsoon will hit Delhi by the end of June. Soon we will all be able to get respite from this suffocating heat. The birds too have been busy trying to beat the heat by crowding the big birdbath that I have in my back yard, it’s like a swimming pool filled with rowdy kids splashing away!   Recently I saw a Brahminy Myna perched on a bougainvillea in my back yard preening itself after a long session in the birdbath. What really caught my eye was the textures of the hair which looked a bit painterly to me caused by the water, missing was the shine and gloss which would have made the bird look a bit surreal. I was on the wrong side of the light and it was not possible for me to move.  The image above was made with a Canon ID X and a 600mm lens at F/9.0 and 1/200sec, the bird in this image lacks detail and quite frankly I find the dark shadows within the bush quite distracting, moreover the bird is also lacking the glow and shine I was looking for.  Keep reading and you will know where I’m going with this. As excited as I’m about the approaching monsoon, I’m much excited about knowing how to use fill flash in situations where the natural light is either missing or on your wrong side, it is also good to be creative with flash. To work with fill flash on subjects such as birds at a distance you will need some basic knowledge on how … Continue reading

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Bird Photography Tips: Keeping it real in post processing

As I look through many online galleries and portfolios, it is just incredible how much talent is out there in nature & wildlife photography. Images after images I’m left astounded and left wondering, “How did they do that”? The perfect shot that I would be so glad to have in my portfolio is an envy to look at. Sadly, with the growth of digital photography and the advent of software’s like Photoshop, a lot of image manipulation is being done and to a level of perfection which is downright scary. Now, every time I look at an image, I’m wondering more about it’s authenticity then it’s sheer beauty, was an object removed? Was something added? Words like “cloning” and “cleanup” have become part of a photographer’s armor of tools. This is sad because I may be questioning a photographer who might have worked very hard to make those images. Moreover, many authentic images posted on various social media sites receive heavy criticism for being “too perfect” often referred to as being “Photoshopped”. Part of the problem is that many photographers simply don’t post details about the images they present, far from describing the situations and conditions the images were made in even the basic exposure details are missing. Due to these situations it becomes hard to judge what is real and what isn’t. Add to this that many wildlife photographers are using Photoshop for more then the basic corrections, adding or removing from the scene what was or wasn’t there. The world of digital photography has grown murkier and effecting every genre today.   I’m an advanced level Photoshop user … Continue reading

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Nature & Wildlife photography – Shoot with a purpose.

Like most nature & photography enthusiasts, shooting birds in flight is my passion, a craft very close to my heart. When I first started bird photography, like most nature & wildlife photography newbies it was an instant reaction to shoot a bird flying by. My reaction would be, “Wow look at that bird in flight, I have to get that shot”, and then my trigger-happy finger would fire away the camera like a machine gun! A lot has changed since I started out, for one; I started to question the need for shots that all very much looked alike and second, what did I wanted my audience to learn from my images? Whether you are into bird photography or any type of nature & wildlife photography, one thing is certain; you need to shoot with a purpose. Your images should have an impact and tell a story. While this may sound simple enough, but without planning and proper execution, the purpose will remain oblivious and the story will be confusing. I decided to write this post and share my thoughts on what it takes to make story-telling images. The Clutter What you see in the image above represents a behavior that is key in anticipating the action of the Cranes. My reason for illustrating the image above is two folds, besides that it indicates the leaning Cranes is about to take flight, the image is extremely cluttered with a relatively busy background and foreground, the viewer is not sure what they are really looking for. A good photograph should immediately send a message to its audience, conveying the mood and drama. Your … Continue reading

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Bird Photography for Beginners

March 18, 2012 I am intrigued –and delighted- by the enthusiasm of beginner bird lovers who spend days on end preparing for a “trip” to do Bird Photography in the wild. They get books, read the latest articles, and make intricate preparations before they venture out. And there I am, dying to tell them a thing or two that would save them a lot of frustration. Naturally, I always leave them to it, for fear of dampening their enthusiasm. What I would tell them though has nothing to do with the intricacies of photography and everything to do with bird-watching. You see, birds are birds, whether on the slopes of Kangchenjunga, or on that pine tree behind the house. And before venturing out with a backpack full of lenses and accessories, it is important to acquire basic knowledge of bird behavior, as well as basic knowledge of Bird Photography. Doesn’t it make sense that the hit-and-miss nature of the learning process be undertaken from one’s porch rather than from an exotic destination? There is plenty to practice on for those of us who live in cities like Delhi, for example, without venturing away from our homes. We have several year-round feathered friends who have taken well to life in the city: chirpers like Sunbirds, Bulbuls, Doves and Prinias. These and the occasional stray birds would love to keep coming back to their favorite spots on the nearby shrubs or trees and be photographed. We do have to encourage though, with the following moves: -   They love to bathe, so we would keep a bird bath for them, cleaned and filled … Continue reading

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Karma – The Parakeet Auklet

As the year comes to a close I’m sitting here and reflecting on those moments that defined my progress as a Avian photographer, I had the privilege to visit places that I have always dreamed about and meet some very talented photographers. I have also met some incredibly dedicated pro’s without whom my own dreams would, well probably be just dreams. Alan Murphy and Greg Downing are two such pro’s who made this trip a memorable one. While you may have seen this post on my Facebook page or Google + page, I’m re-posting this as an edit with an uncompressed image. I will be posting images with techniques and pointers in the coming weeks, however this post reflects emotional insight into the desire, effort and the eventual outcome involved in creating an image and how persistence will give you the desired results. Well, here is how it happened! I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. It’s 9:00am and I’m packing my luggage, we have a flight to catch back to Anchorage. I’m seriously bummed out about my failure to capture a satisfying image of the Auklets in flight on this trip to St. Paul, Alaska. To make matters worse, the weather is miserable, cold, misty and rainy. Fast forward to about 3:30pm, we find out that our flight is cancelled due to the bad weather, one more night on the gloomy island but a great group of people to keep company. Walking back to our room, I tell a few folks, may be the weather will clear a bit and we can go out and shoot … Continue reading

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On Sacred Grounds

It is only fitting that my first blog post be about the place that gave me a sense of purpose in life, a reason to go on and discover my passion for birds and photographing them. I have just completed my first year as bird photographer and returned back to celebrate it at a place I consider my holy grail of bird photography, Bosque Del Apache National Refuge near Socorro New Mexico is that place which has so much to offer The wetlands of Bosque attract wintering birds like the Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese and various species of ducks, which are the primary attraction here. Up to a 100,000 birds fill the refuges wetland and agricultural fields. The refuge has two main loops, the North Loop and the South Loop, which are easily accessible by vehicle. The North loop is extremely popular with visitors and photographers alike for it’s spectacular sunrise and snow geese blast offs along the flight deck. As you move along, there are observation decks for viewing the masses of snow geese, ross’s geese, sandhill cranes and the spectacular landscapes. It is a dream for any bird photographer to be able to visit this beautiful refuge and take advantage of the unending image making opportunities available. It is also my hope that the images I made here convey my feelings about this refuge that I have come to love and cherish as sacred. Bosque is a dream come true for any photographer who aspires to excel in flight photography. Depending on the wind conditions, the South and the North crane ponds are the places to be at … Continue reading

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