Sometimes there’s nothing like sitting and waiting. As a photographer in the news industry a lot of times you tend to sit and wait a lot but that’s different. That can be life or death, or even just someone being unprepared. Really though, sometimes you just want to sit and be lazy, and other times you just want to sit. Sometimes for me I get excited about sitting and waiting for birds actually. It all started with my wife Shannon’s love of birds and how they all have have names. When we both worked at the Indianapolis Star she used to draw birds for me from time to time in a notebook, and to this day there are still a few hanging on the fridge. So sometimes when if I am home on a nice day, or she is busy and I have a moment I go into our back yard and wait that’s what I do. I go looking for birds and then excitedly show her the images later so she can name them. Sometimes the waiting for birds is good; sometimes it’s not.
(Nikon D800, 640ISO, Nikon 400mm F2.8VR with TC20eIII teleconverter to make 800mm@F5.6. 1/1000th@F5.6)
Shannon named that little red dude “Luggage” because of the product that I’ve been shooting for one of my clients that I’ve spoken a lot about the last few weeks. He can regularly be found in our back yard between 6pm and 7:30 every day. Usually with a large grub in his mouth. Yea, in fact I’ve never seen this little guy without a grub in his mouth so that might not be a grub, and just what his mouth looks like… He’s also got a friend whom Shannon named Dirty because…. well… look at him. (Point of fact, no I don’t know if the birds are male or female, however I will continue to refer to them as him or her depending on what Shannon named them).
(Nikon D800, 1400ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR with Nikon TC20eIII making 800mmF5.6. 1/1000th@F5.6)
Our backyard is definitely NOT teeming with birds by any stretch, I just happen to know when to find a few out there of various shapes and variety. We do have a birdfeeder that is literally 3 feet from our front windows as put there for cat entertainment, but it’s hard to shoot through the windows and not get a bit of a soft image and frankly we get more squirrels eating out of it than birds. That’s the part of shooting birds that can be fun though. Sometimes it is just a flurry of crazy activity and other times it’s just sitting outside. On nice days both can be kind of a win yea? Lots of afternoons I’ve gone out there and just stood with the local stray cat rubbing against my leg to feed him. Lots of times he’ll even just sit next to me while I’m shooting like he’s helping, which for all he knows; he is.
(Nikon D4s, 20,000ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR and TC20eIII making 800mmF5.6. 1/1600th@F8)
It gets tough shooting birds though because I don’t always take the proper equipment outside either if I get excited and just run out there thinking I might find one. (Or if I spy one through one of the windows from inside). Generally on 400mm+ you want to take a monopod with you to shoot, but no. Usually I just end up grunting out on the back porch waiting for the weight of my 400mm and camera body to crush me while waiting for one of these birds to take flight. Problem is that honestly it’s such a small window to be able to shoot these tiny birds. I’m still filling the frame as best I can, but gosh, these little things are tiny! I’ve just started shooting some of the bird stuff with a Nikon D800 and I have to admit I’m impressed by the camera. It’s not fast by any stretch, and I venture to guess I won’t get my “takeoff” shot with it but the resolution can’t be beat by any means. Really though I don’t debate what camera to take before I go, I just grab whatever is easiest to put on the 400mm and go as quickly as I can. (As usual, if you are curious about the gear that I use, be sure to check out my gear page.)
(Nikon D7000, 1000ISO, Nikon 300mmAFS-DII with TC20eIII extender making 600mmF5.6) 1/1000th@F7.1)
Shannon even has a camera ready to go to shoot birds although I tend to use it more than she does. It used to sit on the dining room table, but hasn’t now for a while. Of course I also haven’t filled the birdfeeder in a while either so that’s my fault. Will have to put it back for her. It still doesn’t change the fact that in order to shoot birds you really need a lot of lens. Shannon’s D7000 (Lensy) sits with a 70-300VR on it, which takes her out to 450mm with the DX sensor in her camera. The lens itself is really a thing to behold too, especially since for the price you would assume it was made out of broken ash tray glass. It’s super sharp and great for looking at birds! It’s a perfect lens and camera combo for the feeder right through the window, but shooting the birds in the trees I still struggle using my 400 and 2x Extender. No wonder Moose Peterson owns a Nikon 800mmF5.6 lens! For tiny birds you need a lot of reach!
(Nikon D3s, 800ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2 with TC20eIII Teleconverter making 400mm. 1/1000th@F9)
Overall though it’s a nice little time away for 15 minutes here and there. Sometimes I get lucky, and sometimes I don’t. (Mostly I don’t). I’m still looking for more in fight shots, or even some humming birds. Either way, it’s nice to sit and listen to the birds and watch nature, even if we do live only 4 miles from Downtown Indianapolis and honestly it is somewhat noisy with modern day sounds. As you can see by the photos, I tend to do this year round whether it’s good for me or not. “Red” in the above photo is also most certainly not “Luggage” from the photo at the top as these photos were taken years apart, but that’s ok. Maybe they are related, who knows. It’s great fun though and you never know if you’ll get something you like. It just goes with the old Mantra; “if you never try, you never know.” So I guess I’ll keep on trying, looking for more bird photos despite not having any clue what I’m doing. I’m still going to excitedly show the photos to my lovely bride so she can name them, and I’m still going to stash them away for when I finally figure out what to do with them. Until that time though, I’ll leave you with some famous birds. The birds from Neil Gaimon’s Birdfeeder. More Soon.
(Nikon D3s, 5ooISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR with Nikon TC14 Teleconverter taking me to 280mm. 1/1000th@F4)