I’ll acknowledge, though, that, one time, I got it sort of right. I’d learned that, if you focus on a bird box where chicks are being fed, you have a chance at getting an interesting shot. I got mine one year with bluebirds. I was too far away (I don’t own a spotting scope for digiscoping or a photo blind), but, even so, I did get this:
Mostly, though, my tripod sits on a shelf. So imagine my delight when I came across a story in Living Bird written by real-deal bird photographer, Marie Read, who wrote:
Until a few years ago, I had always used a tripod to support my equipment . . . . But then I got hooked on shooting birds in flight. I soon discovered that when the action is fast and furious, I get less frustrated and have better luck by switching to a short hand-held lens . . .Even better, she went on to recommend against hand-holding “supertelephoto” lenses. “Instead, take my advice and carry a lightweight lens, such as a 400mm f/5.6, for flight photography.” She told the story of finding herself “in the midst of a territorial battle” between two male Limpkins.
My lightweight gear gave me the mobility to keep focused on the fast action and quickly change my position whenever I needed to. I would have missed a lot of shots if I’d been constrained by a tripod.Emboldened by these statements, I set out once more to capture birds in flight. I remain the impatient photographer I’ve always been, with my too-short lens and penchant for arriving at birding sites high noon, the time of day that's well known to be the worst.
The nice thing for the amateur is, it doesn’t matter. You can do whatever you want. And every now and then, you get a lucky shot.
Great Blue Heron:
Credits: Caught in the Act: Strategies for photographing birds in action, by Marie Read, Living Bird, Winter 2011, pp. 16-23. Photograph of tree swallows at the head of the post and all photographs in the post are mine.
Postscript: Speaking of birds in flight, the three writers of Raining Acorns are about to fly off in different directions. In our next posts, we’ll each be writing about that and where we’re off to next.