Taking Up Bird Photography!

February 18, 2024

Giant-petrel, Danco Harbour, AntarcticaGiant-petrel, Danco Harbour, AntarcticaAntarctica

Giant-petrel, Danco Harbour, Antarctica
Fujifilm X-H2, Fujinon XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR, 1/2000 second @ f8, ISO 640

I've just returned from 5 weeks down south with Aurora Expeditions and on the last voyage, which included the Falklands and South Sandwich Islands, I re-discovered an interest in bird photography. Okay, so I've always enjoyed photographing wildlife, but perhaps I'm better known for landscapes, so it's tongue-in-cheek when I state a new-found attraction to wildlife - and birds!

There are lots of birds to photograph, but the challenge is to capture an image that is a little different to the 'standard' animal portrait, whatever that may be. It's a bit like visiting Sydney's Opera House and trying to find a new angle. It's probably impossible to find a truly original angle that no-one has discovered before, but it's certainly possible to shoot something that you haven't seen before.

So, when it comes to birds, I'm looking for two things. First, I take the safety shot. I make sure I have a good, competent photograph of my subject, so that if it is needed for a presentation or a photo book, for example, I have it. There is probably no need for me to work like this - call it habit. 

The second shot is looking for something a little different. When we landed at Danco Harbour, I could see these Giant-petrels nestling into a snow bank up above. Their position slightly above head-height allowed me to shoot a 'ground level' angle while standing, where the camera is on the same level as the subject. This is a standard approach for portrait photography as well, setting yourself at your subject's level, rather than looking down from a standing position as we usually do. And working in Antarctica this year was challenging as it was not permitted to sit, kneel or lie on the ground while ashore to avoid the inadvertent spread of Avian flu.

What I liked was the snowy background, so it's minimalist. All I needed was a point of difference and when the sleeping giant-petrel opened his or her eye to check me out, that was the shot. And shooting with a cropped-sensor camera, the 600mm focal length is the equivalent of a 900mm on a full-frame sensor, so plenty of magnification from a safe distance.

 

 


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