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Learn insider tips and tricks from a professional wildlife photographer on how to photograph woodland birds.
Tags:Photographing Woodland Birds,andy langley,animal photography,go wild tv,how to photograph birds,how to photograph woodland birds,peter cairns,photography tutorials,wildlife photography
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The fallen dead woods has become recognized as a vital component in forest ecosystems, this fallen tree here which has been left to decay will support a vast array of insect life and its soft decaying interior is perfect for birds like Gray Spotted Woodpecker. Here you can see the work of Gray Spotted Woodpecker‘s very much forest engineers and you can see here they’ve been pecking away this soft decaying timber to get at the insect life inside, although in recent years, Gray Spotted Woodpeckers has started visiting garden bird feed is increasingly, this is their natural habitat, broadly ford land. And here in the (--) National Park we have an abundance of species of birch and older, which woodpeckers absolutely love. So here we’ve taken a windblown birch log, cut it up, plant it here, and what we’ve done is drilled the side of the log with holes. Into those holes we’re going to put food which will hopefully attract the woodpeckers in. So this is a mixture of peanuts, fats and bread, and we’ll just roll it into tubes and pushing it into the holes, now these holes are sufficiently deep to prevent birds like Chaffinches and Tits taking the food. We’ll just push it in and make sure that it’s well pushed in and that we remove any surplus so that doesn’t encroach on the photograph. Okay so we’ve got the stage, the prop in place in the form of a log, we’ve got the log fed up, baited up with fat and we’re ready to go. But this has not been put in place randomly; this is set precisely at the distance for 500mm lens, which is going to render the bird full in the frame. Also an important point is that we set the log against the distant hill which will provide a nice clean muted background. Okay so the hide that we’re going to use today is a wooden semi-permanent two-man hide, it’s been sat here for probably two years now so the birds are completely accustomed to it and this provision made to keep the rain off the front the of the lens if the weather’s bad, changeable conditions today’s scroll of showers coming through, so we’re all set. Okay the gray Spotted Woodpecker is essentially a black and white bird and we’re going to be trying to photograph it in very changeable conditions, sometimes over cast which is good, cast a nice, even elimination, sometimes in very sunny conditions which is more difficult, so we have to be very, very careful with our exposure. We’re also photographing the bird on our, effectively a white log, so that makes the task even more difficult. O on e one hand we have to ensure an adequate shutter speed to arrest the movement of the head but we also have to make sure that we don’t over expose the shot so that the whites on both the bird and the log are burnt out. Usually bright conditions, we’ll be using something like ISO 200, maybe ISO 320, fairly wide aperture f4 or f5.6 and hopefully that will give us a shutter speed somewhere in the region of about 1/500th of a second, so it allows us to stop the movement of the woodpecker’s head as it feeds. Okay so we can look at the back of the screen to see what we’ve got and as a tame weather, it looks okay and indeed it does. But I think we need to just check the histogram just to make sure that the exposure is within the parameters of the scalar and we can say that it’s a nice evenly distributed histogram, absolutely spot on. The problem with using a long telephoto lens like this one and you can see the length here, is that any camera movement is exaggerated, so it’s important that we keep the camera absolutely rock solid. To do that we’ve got a nice sturdy tripod here supporting the weight of the camera, wedged against the front of the height and what we’re going to do in addition, is put in this beanbag so the camera is supported in twp positions, and that’s really, really tight and that’s not going anywhere. Okay, now that was a really, really good session, fantastic; we had changing conditions, some really, really nice light, beautiful muted background, two woodpeckers coming regularly at one point both on the low together, so really pleased, good session, I’m happy. Gray Spotted Woodpeckers have become regular visitors to garden bird feed as in recent years providing fantastic opportunity for anybody and everybody, and to get really striking images of these handsome birds. That said and another bird, I think, that is particularly easy to photograph that you can go to work quite hard creating an authentic stage for the bird, good background and authentic tree, one that it would ordinarily use either for food or for excavating a nest chamber. So when we did the shoot for Gray Spotted Woodpecker specifically onto the use Silver Birch, now Silver Birch, being essentially a white tree has its own problems in terms of lighting, and that was the main difficulty during the shoot, the fact that the sun was in and out form behind the clouds, when it hit the bird stomp, there was a huge amount of contrast between the effect with the black of the bird on the white of the Birch. So my only shots really that there were savable with the ones when the sun was behind the clouds and the light was a little bit more diffused. And this is probably one of my favorites, a vertical shot and the bird is in a nice position just standing away from the log a little bit and plenty of detail in the side of the bird and just that lovely inky-blue diffused background. In this second image which was taken form the same hide, the same viewpoint, same background just as slightly different log, but again a Birch log, and there’s little bit more impact in it, a: because of the position of the bird, it’s little bit more of the dynamic position, but really the shot is made by the fact that it’s frost and crusting the birch stomp and a little bit of backlight, and so over all I feel that the lighting and the composition is slightly better in this shot that I did in the previous session. As I said earlier on, Gray Spotted Woodpeckers are perhaps hard to do a little something different with, and this third shot that I’d like to show you perhaps demonstrate how you can take a slightly different approach. This may look to you like a Gray Spotted Woodpecker in its birch woodland habitat which is effectively the impression that I want to create, but the various stomps here, the various trees if you like have all been put in put in place by myself so it gives an over-all impression of the birch forest, the bird, being small in the frame just becomes a bird in its habitat, a bird in context. So personally I feel that this last image is the most pleasing of the three.