BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY! THE THINGS TO KNOW:

Photo of a “Blue Scrub Jay” getting their daily dose of peanuts. This bird has no problem fetching peanuts from a feeder. Whatever it takes, even if it means hanging upside down.

Bird photography is one of the most entertaining types of photography for all photographers. But, there are a few tips that make them look good, and makes the photos seem professional.

If a bird would take the time and pose for you, this would certainly make things easy. But, the cute little animals have a built-in nervousness about them, because they are food for other predators. The predators that usually affect the normal birds we see around our house are also birds: the hawks, the eagles, etc. thrive on eating anything that moves, like smaller birds.

That has been a problem we have had recently as we feed birds in our backyard. Generally, our bird feeders have birds eating all day long, some seeds that we put out in the morning. We have recently gone outside to find no birds there, absolute silence, and they appear to be hiding. As I walk around the yard, I find a hawk sitting in one of the trees nearby waiting for the moment when a smaller bird makes the wrong move. I quickly scare it away so there won’t be any bloodshed in my yard.

However, I will admit, it would be an amazing photo experience to get on a photographic record, the hawk capturing a small bird to have for it’s dinner. I somehow, however, have this over protective feeling for these cute innocent birds, the sparrows, the finch’s, the Chickadee, and even the Dove’s who like to come in hoards:

The Mourning Doves, patiently waiting their turn at the feeders. They are generally such polite birds, unless they are really starving.

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT:

My personal equipment that I use for my bird photography is usually this:

  • Canon EOS Rebel T6, with a 75-300mm zoom lens.
  • Tripod: Zomei Professional Tripod with ball head (I love a ball head and will only use a tripod that has one)
  • 58mm protective filter
  • 58mm hard lens shade ( I have had too many photos that ended up with a light flare on the lens, to not have this. I think it’s a must if you shoot anything outside. And besides, it is something so cheap, but so worth protecting your hard earned good photo.)
Just a note to the above photo equipment: This is one type of photography that can get you by without having to go into expensive camera equipment. I still have my “kit lens” as well that serves for the other type of photography, and other filters for special effects.

CAMERA SETTINGS FOR BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY:

  • I usually want to have only the bird in focus, so, I use a large aperture, usually 4.5 with that big lens. That will make the bird in focus, and the background out of focus.
  • Shutter speed, usually around 1/1000 second, or close to that depending on the light. Just in case the bird moves, it could stop action.
  • ISO setting usually around 100 or 200, or if it’s overcast: 1000.

SOME GREAT PHOTOS OF BIRD PHOTOGRAPHS, FROM VARIOUS ARTISTS:

A CRISIS IN BIRD POPULATION MAKES BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY MORE VALUABLE:

Just found this article that really concerns me:

North America Has Lost 3 Billion Birds in 50 Years

A sweeping study says a steep decline in bird abundance, including among common species, amounts to “an overlooked biodiversity crisis.”

Slowly, steadily and almost imperceptibly, North America’s bird population is dwindling.

The sparrows and finches that visit backyard feeders number fewer each year. The flutelike song of the western meadowlark — the official bird of six U.S. states — is growing more rare. The continent has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades, in an enormous loss that signals an “overlooked biodiversity crisis,” according to a study from top ornithologists and government agencies.

This is not an extinction crisis — yet. It is a more insidious decline in abundance as humans dramatically alter the landscape: There are 29 percent fewer birds in the United States and Canada today than in 1970, the study concludes. Grassland species have been hardest hit, probably because of agricultural intensification that has engulfed habitats and spread pesticides that kill the insects many birds eat. But the victims include warblers, thrushes, swallows and other familiar birds.

mother and her daughters feeding the birds
Photo by Los Muertos Crew on Pexels.com

IDEAS OF CREATING: FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”

Ansel Adams

That said, fine art photography is less about the subject and more about the photographer. Your goal in fine art landscape photography is not to simply to show your viewer what you saw; it’s to communicate how it felt to be there and how the scene made you feel.

It was subzero the morning I made this shot in Yellowstone National Park. I added a blueish tone to help the viewer experience the cold I felt when making the image.

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

Don McCullin

Here are some tips to consider when capturing fine art landscape photography.

Taking a picture of my son out in the Great Salt Lake, was one of my favorites. Because it was twilight, the whole scene seemed like a dream and that is what you want to do when you take photos. To have the viewer feel what you, as the photographer feels.

1. Think about what would make your image unique

Have you ever been making a landscape photo at a location where other photographers are lined up next to you also working the scene?

Most of us have.

The question to be asked is:

How will your photo will be different, unique, special? What is it about your image that will stand out? How can you put your unique signature on the shot?

The choices you make to create an image that is uniquely yours matter. Any cook can follow a recipe, and if a dozen cooks all work from that same recipe, the dishes will be essentially indistinguishable. The gourmet chef making their signature dish, however, will strive to make the meal unique.

And as a fine art landscape photographer, your objective ought to be the same.

Almost everyone loves a sunset photo, probably because of how they make us feel. Injecting feeling in your landscape photos is a large part of what takes an image into the “fine art” realm.

2. Be intentional and deliberate

When the light is rapidly changing, a landscape photographer might need to move quickly. However, most landscape photography can be done at a slow and thoughtful pace.

Rather than simply seeing a scene, positioning your tripod, shooting first and asking questions later, do the opposite. Before even touching your camera, thoughtfully observe the scene. Slow down.

Ask yourself what first attracted you to the scene. How does it make you feel? How can you best compose the shot? What if you moved higher, lower, to a different vantage point, used a different lens? What can you do to best capture your feelings in the frame?

When walking a trail in the high Uintah mountains, I came across this view. I felt like if I kept going on the trail, I would just walk into the sky.

Never be a one-and-done shooter. Take advantage of the instant playback capability of your camera, evaluate your image, and decide what might be better.

Then make a few more shots.

While he’s not a photographer and not talking about fine art landscape photography, famed hockey player Wayne Gretsky still offers advice photographers would do well to remember:

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.

Wayne Gretsky

3. Practice previsualization

You will know your skills are growing as a photographer when you can see your photograph before you even put your eye to the viewfinder.

Eventually, you should previsualize your finished image, have the vision, and then simply use the camera as an instrument to capture that vision.

It’s a beautiful loop:

The more you photograph, the better you become at seeing – and the better you become at seeing, the better your photographs will become.

I had been to this location many times, and so I had a good idea of what I wanted when I went there to make this blue hour image. I helped it a little more with a split-toned edit.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

Dorothea Lange

But while previsualization is important, fine art landscape photography should always be open to serendipity: those unexpected moments when the light changes, the angels sing, and the miraculous appears for a brief moment for you to capture.

There have often been times when I’ve previsualized a shot, got set up, and waited for the light, only to have something amazing appear behind me out of the blue.

Practice working with your camera controls so that, when such a moment occurs, you can respond quickly and get the shot.

I was busy making the first shot, which was nice and even had a rainbow. Then I turned around and there was a second great opportunity. Always be ready for that serendipitous moment.

4. Fine art landscapes aren’t just monochrome

Google “fine art photography,” and you will mostly see black and white or monochrome, Due, perhaps, to its long existence, as well as a good number of early photographers for whom black and white was the only option, monochrome photographs may outnumber color images in the world of fine art.

But that’s not to say that color images can’t also be considered fine art photographs.

Circle back to our definition: Fine art photography is more about the artist/photographer and their vision than the content of the photograph. Whether color or monochrome, the best way to portray a vision will depend on the maker’s intent.

I had already decided this photo of an old snag should be monochrome when I made it. You can see the color version is just okay. The split-toned monochrome shot better exemplifies a fine art image.

“What I love about black and white photographs is that they’re more like reading the book than seeing the movie.”

Jennifer Price

Now, bear in mind the strengths of black and white photography. Without the addition of color, monochrome images rely more on the basics, the “bones” of a good photo: line, shape, form, tone, and texture.

Black and white images are typically simpler, with greater attention paid to the subject. Sometimes, a monochrome image can convey a look or mood better than its color counterpart.

a bridge in the snow
I like both the color and black and white versions of this shot and think either could be classified as fine art landscape photography.

5. Don’t be afraid to alter reality

So is purposely blurring scenes with intentional camera movement (ICM) and using special digital tools to give an image a “Painting” look.

Art is totally subjective, and so is fine art landscape photography.

How you choose to portray a scene is your prerogative, where the “right way” is whatever best communicates your feelings and message.

Photo by Nora Hutton on Unsplash

And trying to do different things with portraits tells a lot about your skills. The people you photograph are going to be surprised as you show them the print of them, in a different light. Usually all of my clients are saying that they didn’t think they could ever look so artistic.


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WE will have more tips on how to create “Fine Art” Photos in the future. This will be a future blog.

Most of this article was written by Rick Ohnsman, and also Lanny Cottrell from 123photogo contributed some photos as well as Rick Ohnsman. Thank you Rick for helping us to understand fine art.

DETAILS OF HOW TO DO LIGHT PAINTING:

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There are many forms of light painting in photography, and all are amazingly creative. As you can see with the photo above, it certainly adds a new dimension to photographs. Of course if the photographer had not done the light painting to this old barn, we would not have been able to see it very well at all in the dark.

The photo above is my favorite way of painting with light, because all you are doing is lighting a subject with your flash, and making it work in a condition that seems natural. And one of my favorite light painting photos is this one:

The photographer put his camera setting for a long exposure (around 10 minutes), went up inside the arch, and with his flash, just lit up the underside of the arch. His image is also on there, but tried not to move much, and only moved his hands to light up the arch around him.

The other type of light painting is more like this:

This did not have to be a super long exposure, just enough to have the someone behind the girl twirl around here a fire source. Notice the boat in the background with a light. That shows as well that it was probably about a 1 second exposure.

THINGS YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE THIS WORK FOR YOUR PHOTOS:

  • A camera that you can control long exposures, probably use the “B” setting on some of them (the Arch’s photo was done on the “B” setting)
  • A tripod to hold the camera still enough during this long exposure. Make sure it’s a real sturdy tripod. The one that comes in your kit is questionable (my camera outfit came with a tripod. Ended up throwing it away).
  • An electronic flash for camera. This will allow you to manually take the flash with you. And when you do this, turn your built-in flash off, on your camera. You must be able to control all lighting, and if you are using a flash 50 feet away from you, you don’t need this built-in flash going off.
  • And finally, be ready to try your photo several times. Every time you use the “B” setting, you may need to make adjustments to light that you are using, or exposure, or something. I think that doing this is always a mystery in how well it will turn out, so, be prepared to try this effect several times until you get what you want.
  • A cable release or remote control for your camera. You have a very good chance to bump, or wiggle your camera when you push the button. A remote or cable release is one tool that allows you to push the button remotely. All DSLR camera have this capability.
Photo by Hative.com. On this photo, I am going to guess that two light sources were used to create this photo. One photo was to light up the men in the picture, and then someone used a flashlight of some source, and was underneath their hands, and just wiggled it through their hands for a second or two. Fun for kids to try out.

LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE SETTINGS ON YOUR CAMERA AS YOU DO YOUR PHOTOS:

Now let’s take a look at the best camera settings for light painting:

  • Mode – Shoot in manual mode, which allows you to set your shutter speed and aperture.
  • Image quality – Set your image quality to RAW, which allows you to capture as much information as possible. (This is not a necessity, but it is an important recommendation.)
  • White balance – If you want to balance out your light source, choose either the Incandescent or Tungsten white balance setting. However, sometimes experimenting with other white balance settings can produce some interesting light effects. Daylight white balance is a good starting point if you want to maintain the original colors of your artificial light sources. Auto White Balance is not recommended.
  • ISO – Use a low ISO as 100.
  • F-stop or aperture – Stop down to f/8 or f/10, which allows you to get more depth of field and enables you to use a longer shutter speed.
  • Shutter speed – Set your shutter speed to Bulb mode (your final shutter speed will be determined by the amount of ambient light in the scene).
  • LCD brightness – Lower the brightness of your LCD preview, because the normal setting is too bright at night and will make your image look bright when it’s actually underexposed.
  • Histogram – Use your histogram to check your exposure. If the histogram skews heavily to the left, your image is going to be too dark.
  • Blinkies – Turn on your blinkies (a highlight warning) to help you determine if your highlights are exposed properly. It is perfectly acceptable for your brightest highlights to be slightly clipped if the rest of your image is properly exposed.
  • Image stabilization – Set this to Off. With your camera on a tripod, having image stabilization turned on can actually fool your camera or lens and cause blurring in your image.
  • Long exposure noise reduction – The recommended setting is Off. This can be set to On, but it will cause your exposure time to double (because the camera takes a second black exposure to help remove noise). If your camera is set to a reasonable ISO, the noise level will be low enough in most cases that in-camera noise reduction is unnecessary. Still, it is a good idea to check your noise levels in advance, and some older cameras may require this setting to be On to get acceptable noise levels.
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HERE’S SOME GREAT EXAMPLES OF LIGHT PAINTING AND THEIR DETAILS:

still life flowers
This vase was backlit with a candle and I painted the flowers with a small penlight.
30 seconds | f/16 | ISO 100.
person with arms raised to the sky
A 30-second exposure at ISO 800. For this image, I increased the ISO to shorten the exposure to 30 seconds, because a longer exposure would cause a noticeable blur on the stars. Light painting was applied from the front of the subject, without letting the light shine directly back at the camera.
1971 VW bus light painting
This vintage 1971 bus was painted using one LED flashlight on the outside, with a second light inside to illuminate the bus interior.

AND FINALLY JUST SOME POINTERS TO MAKE THIS WORK RIGHT FOR YOU:

  • Paint from the sides – Don’t just stand behind your camera and wave the light across your image. Painting flat surfaces from the side will allow you to bring out textures.
  • Use lots of different angles – For instance, when painting the ground, hold the beam low and pan the light along the floor. This will keep the ground from appearing flat, and it’ll bring out all the details of the surface. Also, by adding light from many angles, the resulting image will have an interesting three-dimensional effect.
  • Don’t stand between the camera and your light source – If you do this, you will show up as a silhouetted ghost in the final photo!
  • Wear dark, non-reflective clothing and keep moving – Again, you do not want to appear as a ghost in your image!
  • Don’t shine the light source back at the camera – Otherwise, you’ll create a bright spot in the image.
  • Use a flashlight with a red filter when you check your camera to make adjustments. The red light will keep you from ruining your night vision.
  • Different surfaces are going to react to light differently – Wood surfaces may require more light than shiny surfaces such as metal or glass, because rougher surfaces absorb more light than smooth surfaces.
  • Keep your light moving – Move the beam in slow strokes to add lots of light and make faster strokes in areas where less light is needed.
  • Paint in up-and-down or side-to-side strokes, just like you’d work with real paint.
  • You probably won’t get the shot you want on the first try – It may take multiple attempts to get an image that you’re satisfied with. For this reason, try to keep track of how much light you add to each surface. Develop a plan so that you can make adjustments to each exposure until you get the image you’ve visualized.

CONCLUSION:

This is really a fun and creative way to do photos, and could be a niche that not a lot of photographers try. It might be a great way to earn extra money, if you practice at it enough.

OUR ANNUAL “THE ART OF BLACK AND WHITE” ISSUE WILL BE COMING ON THIS WEBSITE NEXT WEEK! DON’T MISS IT! THE PHOTOS ARE AMAZING!! HERE IS A PHOTO FROM LAST YEAR’S GALLERY OF PHOTOS:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Artemios-Karavas-1024x707.jpg
Photo by Artemios Karavas / The Art of Black and White

IDEAS OF HOW TO BE MORE CREATIVE IN PHOTOGRAPHY

woman holding black flag
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Have you ever been on social media, or magazine, and noticed the amazing creative photos that are on display? And then thought that you would like to explore doing that kind of photography? Or is that all done on photoshop and you don’t want to really change the photo that much, want to keep it more “pure”?

Let’s go over some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. There is a lot of different ideas presented here, but, you can definitely pick which ones you would like to try to make your photography more fun and exciting.

TRY SOME NEW TECHNIQUES:

  • TRY PAINTING WITH LIGHT! This is not something I have discussed or done a blog on this, but, is a real fun thing to try. It involves you using a flash off your camera and lighting the subject from a distance from your camera.
Taking fire and capturing it in slow motion, is a fun way to do light painting.
One of the more recent and popular post of light painting, but doing a night-time photo of The famous arch at Arches National park, and stand underneath the arch and using your flash, you do several shots of flash all over the inside of the arch. That person underneath is actually the person doing the flashing.

INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF PHOTOGRAPHY:

  • If you started to learn more about photography from many sources, (although this one is loaded with ideas) you will undoubtedly learn more, and find some creative things you haven’t tried yet.

USE NEW EQUIPMENT:

  • One of the fun things about photography is getting new equipment. Once you get some new equipment you can try different things with your photography. I remember the time I bought a new 100-300mm lens. I was anxious to try out this lens for some new photography I couldn’t do before. Here is one as an example:
Bird photography is not only new for me, but, now I can do it because I have this big lens.

EXPLORE A NEW LOCATION

If you take the same old pictures around your town, take some time, plan a place that you might think will be interesting. I am not a boat person, and I decided to take a trip to the beautiful “Bear Lake” for some photo opportunities, and found this photo:

Winter time was approaching and all the boats were pulled out of the harbor, and put up in the close parking lot for safety from the waves and ice in the water from winter storms.

REVISIT PLACES:

  • Some places you have been to take pictures before, think of a different time to go back, and try some new pictures there. Maybe even try a different time of day, or go when it might be cloudy or stormy.
One of my usual trips on the way to Logan, Utah. With this trip, you have to go over a mountain range, and I haven’t really done much autumn photography before. I found this area to photograph, because in the winter, there is no cattle because a lake forms every winter. So, this photo is quite different, because there is cattle roaming, and I captured the fall colors in the background as well.

JOIN A PHOTOGRAPHY CLUB OR PHOTO GROUP ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

  • Joining a photography club can be fun, because you mingle with photographers who are all learning to take amazing pictures as well, and you kind of force yourself to enter in the monthly competitions.
  • Joining a Facebook Group, you can share your photos with other photographers, and see the work of other great photographers. Funny, I have started a photo group on Facebook. Here are the details:

GET FEEDBACK ON THE PHOTOS YOU TAKE:

  • There are a few ways to get feedback on your photos. If you post your photos on social media, you may get some feedback from people who don’t really know all about photography, they just like it.
  • But if you post it on a Photography group page, which has photographers on it, you may get better feedback.
  • OR, if you want like a tutor to go over your pictures, I have an email address you can send your photos to. Send your photos to: photos.smartphonesmartphotographer.com
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