I don't need to tell you that over the last few weeks, life has been turned upside down and inside out thanks to the Coronavirus. The government's decision to lockdown the country in order to slow the spread of the virus has coincided with the end of my previous contract, so my much anticipated break in order to focus on my photography has gone somewhat belly up. I've therefore had to concentrate any photography on wildlife around the house and around the local area. Whilst this is nowhere near as exciting as what I could've been doing, it has proved a lot of fun and thrown up a few challenges along the way....
Starting with the garden/outdoor area, I've got the fortune of a very large and long stretch of blackthorn right outside my partner's living room so this has been my initial focus. I put some feeders up a while back as there have always been a good number of birds moving about and feeding in the bushes and these attracted a number of species, namely robin, dunnock, wood pigeon, magpie, house sparrow, blue tit, great tit and long-tailed tit. The downside is the hedge is only a few metres away from the house, so any kind of clean background is impossible. This was challenge number 1. The solution was the bring a feeder onto the fence between the house and bushes, but again, this didn't help too much and shooting with a 500mm lens meant the birds were too large in the frame and I would also have to shoot through the window glass impacting image quality. This was challenge number 2, with the following an example (and not much of a crop at all):
I therefore moved the feeder away from the house, on a part of the fence that gave me a line of sight from the living room window when it was open (removing the need to shoot through glass). It also meant the background was much further away too, resulting in a much cleaner background and providing more opportunity to compose my shots. The set-up was very basic, with a fatball feeder tied to the fence/railing, and a perch set-up nearby, as shown below:
This set-up is similar to one I've used when I've had a proper feeding station and hide in place and allows for easy adjustment in terms of position but also means perches can be quickly changed. Given the plentiful flowering blackthorn to hand, I used small branches to start with and had a bit of luck with a few shots.
Blue Tit Blue Tit
I then decided to switch to a perch found on a walk and after some minor tweaks it worked very well. Something to point out with the lighting on the images I've taken is that the perch has been in the shade for most of the day, with the background lit up by direct sunlight. Some over exposure to lift the birds out of shadow results in a lovely golden background and plenty of detail on the bird. Hand-holding my camera and lens hasn't been ideal but it has meant I've had at least some upper body excercise!
Blue Tit Blue Tit
The image (above) has been my favourite blue tit to date though I'm enjoying the ongoing challenge to improve on this.
A robin has also made occasional visits though these are often very brief, with the perch ignored, though I have managed to be at the window at the right time a few times.
Robin Robin More perches to come and hopefully the background colours will evolve as the vegatation begins to grow.
In addition to shooting from the comfort of the living room, I've started taking my camera out on our daily walks and only started doing this after finding a new area which has a decent population of starlings. From a distance, these noisy birds look very plain - almost black - but up close they are stunning creatures blessed with wonderfully iridescent plumage when adults. I've not spent much time at all getting images of these birds as the area they've been seen in is popular for dog walkers / walkers in general, so I've only grabbed a few shots when it's been quiet and the starlings have been down from the trees. Not much to show for my efforts but another mini 'project' I'll be pursuing. Here are a few of the shots I've managed so far:
Starling Starling Starling Starling
As much as I'm ruing what might've been (mainly the start of the butterfly season), it's been very enjoyable focusing on just a couple of common, everyday bird species. Everyday offers the chance to improve and who knows, there might be something a little more exciting to be seen tomorrow or the day after. If there isn't, I'll continue to be grateful that I have got some outdoor space to enjoy as many others will not be so fortunate.
Keywords: Bird Photography, Birds, Blue Tit, Dave Collins, Garden Birds, Lockdown Photography, Nature, Photography, Starling, Wildlife
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