Learn the proper modes and techniques, take notes and practice, practice, practice. Set your focus mode to Continuous (Nikon) or Servo (Canon) and make sure your viewfinder diopter is set and you can see the focus screen clearly. Make sure you understand how to acquire and re-acquire focus lock-on as needed, I use back button AF on only. Set your lens distance switch to limited range. Set you custom function focus tracking to slow if you have the option. Pre-focus when possible. The bird’s eye should always be the sharpest element in the image.
NIKON D700 and Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM, Handheld, 1/1250 sec at F8, manual metering, flash off, ISO 800.
This is one of the most important factors to success. Start at 1/1250th of a second for a larger bird and move to 1/2000 or faster. For smaller, faster birds you have to go even higher. Utilize Manual Mode to lock in action stopping shutter speeds. Set your ISO high to give you the shutter speed you need, you can minimize any noise in post production.
NIKON D300 and Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM, Handheld, 1/2000 sec at F5.6, manual metering, flash off, ISO 400.
PROPER LENS SELECTION AND DISTANCE
Use the proper lens so that your subject is not too small in the frame. This can make autofocus difficult. I recommend a subject size that fills about 2/3rds of the frame. A teleconvertor or extender can really help when you cannot move closer to the subject.
NIKON D300 and Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG HSM, Handheld, 1/1250 sec at F4, manual metering, flash off, ISO 400.
Fill Flash can really make the birds eye appear the sharpest possible, and it can really help bring out crisp detail in the bird’s feathers. Make sure to set your flash in High speed Sync, HSS in Canon and FP for Nikon.
Always use light to your advantage by placing your back to the light source and aiming your shadow at the subject. Photograph in the best light possible and learn when to stop when the conditions are too harsh or too dark.
NIKON D700 and Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM, Handheld, 1/1250 sec at F5.6, manual metering, flash off, ISO 800.
Remember to keep practicing, even experienced or professional photographers can get discouraged at first so keep trying and don’t give up.
Let me know if there is another nature technique you would like to learn more about in a future blog post. If you would like to know more or to join my free newsletter list please email me Robert@RobertOToolePhotography.com or visit my website: http://www.robertotoolephotography.com