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  #1  
Old 3rd October 2013
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Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

Today I went to Venus Pools in Shropshire. It is a nature reserve managed by Shropshire Ornithological society. I have never been before but I knew they had several public hides. I was lucky, the third hide I came across was empty. It was in the woodland with several feeders and a very distant veiw of the pool.

I was quietly confident expecting to sit myself down rattle off a few shots and come away with some shots of birds on nice little perches looking all glorious.

How wrong was I!

I took approximately 30-40 shots, only two of which I would class as keepers, not great but too good for the delete button.

Today was dull so it was relatively poor light, not dark by any stretch but dull.

To get any kind of decent shot I had to use ISO1600 and a shutter speed of 1/25. Not fantastic by any stretch, trying to shoot flighty small birds at 1/25 is never going to happen, everything I tried was noisy, dark or blurry.

These are the only shots I've kept
1/25 ISO 1600 f6.3 fortunately this Rook stood still

Rook Venus Pools 03102013 by Tim J Preston, on Flickr

ISO400 1/60 f6.3

Venus Pool selection 03102013 by Tim J Preston, on Flickr

What settings do you use?
Is it worth trying on a dull day?
Any idea what the two ducks are bottom left in the second picture?
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Old 3rd October 2013
Olybirder Olybirder is online now
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

I can't give you any tips Tim, as I am still struggling myself. You got a nice shot of the Rook anyway. Great, rugged looking birds with plenty of character. It is a little hard to tell for certain from the shot but I think the ducks could be female Wigeon.

Ron
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Old 3rd October 2013
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

Most public hides aren't suitable for photography. They're usually situated in the wrong location and a lot don't have openings big enough for a fast telephoto. Some local natural history societies have private blinds that are more suitable. Getting permission to put a portable hide up on private land will give you a much better chance of getting the shots you want.
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

Thanks Ron, it's so frustrating to have birds like nuthatches and chaffinches a stones throw away and not be able to do anything about it.

David, What do you mean by wrong location?
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Old 3rd October 2013
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

Tim, well done on getting the images you did. I have to admit I would probably have given up and enjoyed the show with my bino's instead (not much point in taking the E-510 beyond ISO 800 unless you want grain). I have stared at those two duck for a while and can only think that they are wigeon (whilst doing my staring the other replies came in so came to my decision independently). Hope this helps.

Will
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

They're situated for bird watching, not photography which means they're to far from the birds with no attention paid to light direction.
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

Thanks Willom, they were close enough to the birds, this hide was intended for the woodland birds, light was the issue. The feeders and perches were all within a 15-20ft radius.

I've not seen a Wigeon before, I think that's going to be the advantage of the Bigma seeing things that I assumed would be Mallards. The island was probably 150m away. There were hides right on the waters edge but they were rammed there was a spoonbill present apparently.
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Old 3rd October 2013
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

Hi Tim.

I'm afraid woodland is rather dark for photography at the best of times and especially on a dull day. Our eyes and brains have a greater dynamic range than a camera sensor and can adapt better to low light levels. Even observing birds with binoculars in woodland is more difficult. Birdwatchers with a specific interest in woodland birds will often use lower magnification (7 X rather than the usual 8 or 10 X) binoculars with larger objective lenses to get a brighter view.
It is significant that with your second shot you were able to use a much lower ISO even at a greater distance because the birds were in the (relatively) brighter area of the pool which is not shaded by the trees.

On a bright sunny day you will stand a better chance but will still have to look for birds in brighter patches between the shadows.This is where fieldcraft and an understanding of bird behavior comes in. As David says permanent hides are not often situated optimally for photography.

Don't be put off by this disappointing initial exercise as you have actually learnt something from it. Pick your day weatherwise, look for the best location for both the bird species and the light (probably not a hide) and employ fieldcraft and stealth (and patience ).

I'll give you a practical example.
I had long wanted to see and photograph Treecreepers. I went to a wood in Suffolk where they are quite common. I left SWMBO in the car in the car park and spent ages in the wood without seeing a thing. When I got back she said "did you see them?" Did I*****. " "I've been watching two running up and down that tree over there" she said.

The reason?
The car park was at the edge of the wood where it was brighter, the car made an excellent hide and there was no one tramping about with a BIGMA.


The ducks in your last shot are indeed Wigeon.

Regards.


Edit. Just seen your last post. You should have put up with the crowds and looked at the Spoonbill. They're much rarer, bigger, stay in the open light and and are all white.
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

It depends on the size of the bird but for smaller species anything beyond 10 feet is to far away for me. I've seen Kingfishers from a few public and private hides but all my shots were taken using a portable hide with the bird 6 to 10 feet away.
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

Thanks Peter, especially for the spoonbill advice.

I've considered using the car as a hide and hanging a feeder somewhere on the edge of woodland.

I'd not considered a portable hide David, how do you decide where to situate it?

What I'm trying to do is find somewhere where I am able to go for half an hour or so during my lunch hour. Not much more than a 10 minute drive time from work. Not asking for much am I.
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

When setting up a portable hide pay attention to light direction and that there,s nothing obscuring your view between the lens opening and the subject.

Vehicles can make good hides, the Red Fox in my gallery was taken from a car window. I knew the fox was hunting in the meadow around sunset so parked in a suitable spot.
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Old 4th October 2013
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

The humble garden shed can make a useful blind if you set up feeding/watering stations at a suitable distance and direction. The Robin in my avatar was taken from a garden shed. While waiting for the Robin I grabbed a shot of House Sparrows mating that was used in BBC Wildlife.
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

I've set up a feeding station in the garden today and a bird bath. Have to see what it brings over the weekend. I've got Niger seeds, fat balls, suet cakes, sunflower hearts and mixed seed. Had a blue tit, pigeon and a starling already.
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Old 4th October 2013
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Re: Bird Photography from a hide. Help!

The reserves between Titchwell and Cley are good for Spoonbills. As many as 10 in one spot at times.

Those wigeon look like eclipsing males to me. Rare breeders (getting more common) but they winter in good numbers and often graze on farmland.
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