I was going to call this post “tits”, because I photographed a lot of Blue Tits today, along with a load of other birds that I’m not even sure what they were! However, this image of a little Robin was the one that stole my heart, I’ll explain why.
With the sky being bright and clear, and my car still out of action, I decided to stay local today and just have a walk through the woods with my long lens, to try yet again to capturing some decent images of birds.
It’s become a real mission of mine, to capture good images of birds, but I know I’m limited with the long focal length lens I’ve got, and so with the conditions being favourable, it was worth another go.
I’ve got my eye on a lens I really fancy, but I’ll need to do some saving first before that becomes a reality. Also, it kind of feels a bit like cheating, if I got a different lens and all of a sudden I get a pin sharp image of a bird, is it me that captured it or the lens!? I know you need the right tools for the job though of course, so I’m not going to dwell on that for too long I’m sure!
Anyway, when I got into the woods, I couldn’t see any birds but I could hear them, so I followed their calls. When I heard them close I stood perfectly still and kept my eyes peeled. After a minute or two, little flickers of feathers appeared in the woodland scene, and I started to pick out the birds.
There were two or three Blue Tits, playing in the trees; flitting from one branch to another, seemingly chasing each other. I saw all manner of birds, some I recognised but two I’ve never seen before. Again, the depth at which this challenge has forced me to look at the world around me is, I think, the greatest thing I’ve gained, and I’m really thankful for it.
My main problem today was locking focus on the birds as they darted between the branches. With us heading into winter, the “leafless” trees helped, but the branches still made for a busy environment to navigate focus through. the other thing is my long lens need to sit at f/11 if I have any hope of getting an image even slightly sharper than a bowl of porridge oats. That meant high ISO to balance out the fast shutter speeds, and I had to compromise again and stop at speeds of 1/1,000 as an absolute maximum, sometimes even as low as 1/500 in she shadows to try and hold a reasonable ISO.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk though, and because I knew a killer sharp image wasn’t on the cards, it kind of released that pressure, and I just enjoyed watching the birds.
Towards the end of the walk, I stopped at a very open tree with the sun beaming down on it from over my shoulder. It was the perfect spot, should a bird come by and land within focal range.
I was really lucky, and a little Robin did exactly that!
I clicked away frantically, capturing as many images of the Robin as I could before it flew away. These two images here are of that set, and why I liked them the most thanks to the very obliging little Robin.
Learnings – as relaxing as it was, having a short walk watching the birds, I did try everything I could to improve the image quality. I used auto ISO against my “fixed” f/11, and adjusted my shutter between 1/1000 and 1/500th of a second, depending on the lighting. I also set light metering to spot metering, and used the centre focus point, the one the bird would be on. I also used AF Servo focus, to track the bird and hold as much focus as possible when the birds moved.
I really enjoyed it, not just for the photography, in fact, the photography was secondary today, to just watching the birds and being outdoors.