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By Clement Faria   Published: June 1, 2016  



Singing A Melody: F 6.3   1/400sec   ISO-400   375mm

Bird photography can be a fun and rewarding experience for a Nature photographer or enthusiast. This photo is one of my favorite bird photos that I have taken.  I love it because of the effort that was taken into capturing the shot and the whole experience while doing so. This particular photo was also awarded a medal at the NIFCA Photography Competition in 2014.

The Yellow warbler is a beautiful bird from the warbler species. It is small and yellow bird that sings a very distinct sweet sounding melody. They are becoming more widespread in Barbados as of late. 

I first encountered this bird in 2014, while I was focusing on shooting wildlife and birds. I saw the warbler in a distant tree that was too far, even for a telephoto lens to get a close up shot. Since it was a new bird species that i saw, I was facinated and determined to get an decent photograph of it, and add to my collection of other bird photos.

After some thinking, I realized I had to find a way to get closer to this bird somehow. The next few days I saw the warbler again. I noticed it again at the same time, the following days after. I observed that the Warbler would appear early every morning and late in the evening, following the same route while foraging for food. I knew I had to position myself close to an area where the bird would most likely perch or pass by. I found a few positions that were much closer than before, but the background was always bad. I got some photos of the Warbler, but they were always distracting elements like tree branches and stems in the frame.

I came to a realization that this was a lot of work and that I had little control over the situation. That is when the idea hit me. Instead of running around behind the bird, I should try to get the bird come to me. I thought what if i got a copy of the warbler's melody or mating call, maybe the sound might attract it. 

I searched the internet for any sounds and calls that the bird might make and found a few. I loaded them onto my mobile phone and returned to the area that I saw it last. I set myself in a good position and waited. In no time i heard the familiar melody of the Yellow Warbler, and played the sounds on my phone.

To my amazement the warbler came and perched close to me on the end of a fig tree, while singing more vibrantly than before. It thought the sound coming from my mobile phone was a potential mate, and it came searching. I managed to get some great photos that evening with my favorite being the very first shot that i took that day. 

I used my best lens that i had for wildlife, the Canon 100-400mm that never lets me down. I took the photo in AP (Aperture Priority) Mode, with my ISO set to ISO-400. The focal length was set at 375mm and the aperture was set to f6.3.  I used spot metering for the metering mode, and -0,3 step exposure compensation. These are my initial go to settings when shooting wildlife. These settings are often changed depending on the subject and conditions.

I have listed the reasons for my setting choices below.

Aperture Priority 
This mode was chosen mainly because it is the most convenient mode for me when I am taking wildlife and bird photos, using a tripod. If I don't use this mode, i will use TV (Shutter Priority) Mode instead, mainly for hand holding. I also chose AV Mode because my subject was a bright yellow subject. Once I lock onto it when focusing the camera will expose for the bird, which gives me very good chances to get  good photo.

F 6.3
I usually shoot at the widest aperture when taking nature photos, but I decided to stop down  by one stop to increase my chances of  sharper photo. It is said that each lens has  sweet spot, which takes the sharpest photo. It is said to be 3 stops down from the widest aperture. I used one stop down so I can get a tad bit sharper but still keep a relatively shallow depth of field.

ISO-400
I chose this ISO because it was late afternoon and the light was not bright. To have any chance of a fast enough shutter speed, I needed to sacrifice minor quality loss by increasing the ISO.

Spot Metering
I always use spot metering mode when taking wildlife photos. I like to expose for the subject which i lock onto using the focusing points in my camera.

Single Focus
I used single focus in stead of continuous focus, mainly because I wasn't tracking the bird in flight but nor taking a portrait of it while it was perched.

375mm
I usually zoom out from 400mm just a tab bit in order to gain some extra sharpness. It is said that some zoom lenses take slightly softer photos when zoomed out to its full length.  

The photo did take some slight editing but nothing major. Mainly exposure and contrast adjustments and some dodging and burning. I also cropped the final image a bit to my liking.

Since then I have used this technique again and on other birds with varying success. I have gotten lots of photos of birds that I couldn't get close to using this technique. I hope you can take the information and tips from this article and apply it to your next attempt at bird photography.
 
Sometimes you have to Think, Plan and Execute in order to get the shot. 

 

Yellow Warbler:  f6.3  1/320sec   ISO-400   400mm




Clement Faria is a Barbadian based Landscape and Nature Photographer. He likes to take photographs of the nature found on the island, and can be often found on the coasts or in the fields taking photos. He has finished a book called "Bugs of Barbados" which is a collection of Macro photographs of insects found on the island. More information can be found on his website www.clementfaria.com.
 
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