I just love a natural looking photograph, and if necessary, I’ll go to any lengths to fake one! When it comes to bird photography, I would rather capture a photo of a bird perched on a branch than on a fence or a bird feeder. In this post, I show a simple bird ‘setup’ that I constructed in my backyard for the purpose of capturing that perfect, out-in-the-woods bird photo.
Nikon D750, 1/1000s f/6.3 ISO1600 600mm
A bird setup is something you build combining food and water to attract the birds, and a branch or other natural item for a perch. The general idea is to put food out below the perch and hope that the birds will land and pose for you before hopping down to feed. If you use a small enough container for the food, the birds may find things a little crowded, and they will sometimes line up on the branch and take turns feeding!
Above: A male Oregon Junco. I thought the setup in the photo above looked a little sparse. Somehow the single moss covered branch seemed unnatural – where are all the other branches we would expect to see if this were the forest? I set about gathering rocks and moss-covered branches to build a new setup. My idea was that by including a bunch of random stuff, any place the bird landed would have some branches or something authentic looking in the scene. I would then zoom close in and make that perfect shot. The Cedar hedge across the yard would blur out once I was zoomed in on the feeder, and it would make a nice background.
This was all fine and dandy until the lens got heavy…
It soon occurred to me that if I could control the precise landing zone for the bird in advance, I could use a tripod and have the camera zoomed in close and pre-focused. I could even use a remote to trigger the camera! After I lined up the perfect blurry background and framed a precise ‘stage’ for the birds, I sat back with the camera remote control and a good book to read. Four hours later, this little fellow flew in.
Nikon D750, 1/160s f/6.3 ISO1000 600mm
So how did I manage to predetermine the exact spot the bird would perch on? Simple. I hid some bird seed in the moss on the branch where it hopefully could not be seen in the photo. Once the Junco landed on the little stage I had prepared, he stayed around long enough for me to capture the following twenty-three shots which I have combined into a GIF file. If you look very closely, you may spot a bit of bird seed in the bird’s mouth at one point. Enjoy.
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