Friday, 24 March 2017

Bird photography - Red Kite

I got  a telephoto lens at Christmas with intention of doing some bird photography. I've now discovered that that this requires a whole new set of skills. The subjects are typically too far away to get a usable image. And when I do get close enough they don't sit still. If I do get close there is usually little opportunity to work the scene. Bird photography is forcing me to think more about exposures and shutter speeds; the camera settings must be right before the opportunity for the shot arises.

I'm fortunate to live in a part of the country red kites have been reintroduced. There are plenty of photo opportunities, but most of the time the bird is out of range for my lens. (I'm using a 100-400mm lens on a full frame camera.) This means I have to be very close to the bird if it is to fill the frame. I've spent a few weeks driving around to learn the good locations for shots.

I finally got lucky with this shot. I was driving in an area where red kites can be seen every day when this bird flew across the road in front of the car. It landed in a tree about 50m from the road. The bird was well hidden by branches but I could see movement and it seemed to be tearing at something that it had caught. After a few minutes the bird rose out of the tree and flew straight towards me. It then made several circles directly above me. If you look carefully at this image you should see that it is still carrying the remains of its lunch.

Both shots were taken with the camera in manual mode with with lens at 400mm, and settings f/5.6,
1/1250s and ISO 1250. The white background is the result of the sky being filled with cloud and blown out. The sky is is white, but the bird is properly exposed and sharp. Those few minutes while the bird was in the tree gave me the chance to check my camera settings.

To get a sense of scale - a red kite is 24 - 28" long and has a 69 - 70" wing span (Wikipedia). The reintroduction programme involves attaching coloured tags to the wings. Most kites have tags on both wings, but this has only one, a purple tag on left wing bearing number 35. It also had a ring on its right leg.

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