Photographing Birds at Take-off
by Nate Swick
Bill Schmocker is the photo guru around these parts, and his posts are required reading for anyone looking to improve their bird photography (I know I think about his advice nearly every time I go out in the field with my camera). It's always nice, however, to seek out as much information as you can, and try out as many strategies as you can when you're looking to master a skill, especially one with as many variable as photographing birds.
I've recently found Utah-based photographer Ron Dudley's blog, Feather Photography, and found it to be a great resource. His recent post on strategies for taking great shots of birds taking off, is chock full of great tips and stunning photos.
Photographing birds at take-off is very different from shooting them in flight, for a variety of reasons. In fact in some ways it’s more difficult. First, I’d best define what for me is a take-off shot. I think it’s a take-off and not a true flight shot when any of the following conditions are met: a.) the bird’s feet are still touching the perch, b.) the feet are still extended down or behind the bird from the effort of pushing off the perch and not tucked up against the body in an aerodynamic position or c.) it’s obvious from the flight posture of the bird or the presence of the just departed perch in the image that it has just taken off. I realize that this is an arbitrary definition and that technically as soon as the bird has left the perch it’s in flight but that’s how I’ll define it for this discussion.
Even though I'm barely a hobby photographer, I'm really looking forward to putting these tips into practice.