Bird photography: the beginning

I started to become interested in wildlife/bird photography at about the same time as I became interested in photography in general, and from this interest, and the extreme knowledge about birds from Jane, this has led to a sustained and ever growing interest. I can even recognise some birds now - to my embarrassment I didn't even know the common UK garden birds that well.

As part of this development of a hobby, one stimulus was the superb photographs posted by others, often but not always professional wildlife photographers. I could not achieve the same results. The easy solution was to blame my equipment, and be desirous of better cameras and lenses. And, over the following decades, there was a never ending process of upgrades, and jumping from one manufacturer to another; Sigma, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Sony again. The goal is have exquisite feather detail and colour. But this needs light!

There are many ways to get a blurry picture of a bird.

  • Shutter speed too slow, so that the bird moves a fraction during exposure.
  • A lens that has been pushed beyond its performance envelope, so that it cannot resolve detail.
  • Being so far away that the image of the bird covers a tiny part of the camera's sensor.
  • Dialling up the camera's sensitivity to light, so that sensor noise dominates the image.

I have many examples of these failures. And, these are from recent bird trips.
I have deleted most of the bad ones in my photo library, currently just under 80,000 images.

Some seminal moments
Buying a second hand, professional camera body. This was a Nikon D3S. It as 'only' 12 megapixels, but the colours were gorgeous. More importantly, the light sensitivity was superb, and I had no issues taking shots at 12,800 ISO. I would not do that today with my latest full frame body! This camera body was also coupled with my first top notch lens - a Nikon 300mm f2.8 (mainly coupled with a 2X teleconverter).