15 Tips for Better Bird Pics

Guest Blogger Mark McCulloch is from Thunder Bay Ontario and is an outdoor enthusiast that enjoys all that Ontario has to offer. You can find his blog at photopaddler.com

Northwestern Ontario is known for its colorful skies, clear waters and the boreal forest’s abundant wildlife. I am fortunate to live in an area that has all this beauty literally out my back door. Spring time up north offers a big welcome to colorful vegetation, open waters (free from ice) and the return of waterfowl to the inland lakes. It sure is enjoyable to see life and color after a long winters gray palette. May and June are the months that many waterfowl lay their clutches and incubate their eggs. It is amazing to watch these week old fuzzy little yellow goslings swim in a row while Mom and Dad protect the way. Nature at its finest.

A couple of my favorite past times are photography and kayaking, how convenient that they both complement each other so nicely. My kayak can get me to many amazing places that my feet cannot; giving me more photo options and a better chance at spotting wildlife. If you have the opportunity to rent or borrow a canoe/kayak it’s a great way to capture unique photos, get some exercise and have fun all at the same time. Here’s some tips to get you started:

15 Tips for Better Bird Pics

  1. Use a canoe or kayak to look for birds, better chance of you gliding up on them rather then them swimming up to you
  2. Keep your gear waterproof and dry, I use a pelican case and dry bag, the work excellent
  3. Early morning and later evening are best times to spot wildlife
  4. Be quiet with non-startling movements when birds are near, they will stick around longer for you to enjoy and photograph, a lot of the time you can sit amongst nature peacefully with birds swimming about
  5. Have your camera gear ready, that includes a couple test shots to check for exposure and proper focus
  6. Use big zooms if you got’em, I like my 18-200mm VR Nikon in these situations, one lens with variable zoom levels is handy when you are moving in and out of range for different perspectives
  7. In the Menu settings under shooting options set the camera up for continuous shooting, so you can take multiple images during action scenes
  8. I use manual mode, I can choose what type of depth of field I want, exposure levels, shutter action (faster or slow) and iso settings. If you are a little unsure of manual mode use “A” or “S” modes
  9. For crisp and clear photos use the fastest shutter speed possible while keeping a low ISO speed
  10. Adjust ISO speed slightly (no more than 400) for faster shutter speeds
  11. Bigger aperture settings (smaller fstop numbers) will help with faster shutter speeds, but will have less depth of field (less in focus)
  12. When photographing moving birds slowly pan with them snapping continuously like you are the paparazzi
  13. Adjust your camera settings, try different fstops and shutter speeds for different effects
  14. Try to fill the frame if possible, if you can’t zoom in any closer. paddle closer
  15. Take gigs of shots…. More is better

Like all things it takes a bit of skill, the right equipment and luck to get’ter done.
Have fun and play it safe when on the water.

What are your tips for wildlife photography?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anita Mac says:

    Great tips and stunning photos. I am with you on the pelican box and dry bag. The only thing I find is the seal on my pelican box is too good! I prefer to get my camera out in advance as the noise of releasing the lid is enough to startle the birds! Otherwise – brilliant box for keeping my gear dry while out on the water.

  2. Really enjoyed this post.

  3. J Franz says:

    Beautiful pics! And I wholeheartedly agree with #15 as I’ve changed my shooting style to almost always have multi-shot capability since there’s essentially no cost and as a result I’ve captured some incredible “on the fly” shots I would otherwise have missed. We recently stayed at Carriage Hills with the family (btw a great deal through Suitelife Vacations) and took the camera everywhere, which is an additional tip since you never know when an opportunity will arise … BUT water and cameras don’t mix teaching a valuable lesson – consider getting a waterproof housing or at the last camera show in Toronto at the Congress Centre I saw a couple of nice, inexpensive, Panasonic and Nikon units (non-DSLR) that were waterpoof to a meter or so.

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