Recently I took part in a photography workshop on Birds of Prey with professional nature and wildlife photographer Paul Miguel (www.paulmiguel.com ). We had a selection of six birds, a buzzard, (of which type I can’t remember!)
A Great Owl, a Barn Owl, a Small Owl, a Long Eared Owl and a Kestral. This was my first time at this type of workshop, at which the birds are well trained and you have plenty of time to photograph them. It is certainly different to trying to photograph them in the wild, and my initial thought was that it would be a bit tame. There certainly wasn’t the excitement you get when seeing the birds in the wild, however it was an interesting and enjoyable day for two reasons.
Firstly you do get a chance to see these beautiful birds up close and if you’re interested, and ask questions, you can learn a lot about them from their handler. This I saw as a real benefit, as the knowledge gained will certainly increase my chances of seeing them in the wild in the future.
Secondly you get a chance to practice the craft of photographing birds. It seems easy at first, snapping away, and getting full frame pictures of the birds. However I soon realised that something was missing and that to get a good picture you needed to compose the photo carefully. My composition improved when I included the bird’s surroundings, but excluded any tether attached to the bird. It also helped that Paul was good at placing the birds in the appropriate surroundings. Our skills were further enhanced when we had the opportunity to photograph the barn owl in flight.
Despite all the modern technology, this is not as easy as it looks. For those who are interested in having a go I would suggest the following settings;
- Aperture priority, about F5
- Set the ISO to give a reasonable shutter speed.
- Set the focus point to dynamic.
- Set the focus mode to Servo, basically the action setting which will maintain the focus on the subject as you pan to follow the bird.
- Set the shutter release to continuous.
At the end of the day I had increased my knowledge of both the birds and photography.
Finally, and most importantly, I was pleased to see that the welfare of the birds came first, they appeared to be well looked after and get to fly every day. In fact as the handler said, it is essential that the birds fly regularly and are fit otherwise they would struggle in the displays in which they regularly take part.