Birder's Guide

DEC 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 31 of 43

30 Birder's Guide to Gear | December 2014 Getting the Most out of Your Camera camera and no particular reason in mind (and I often do), but identifying opportu- nities that support a purpose when they arise can help to deliver brilliant results. Fundamentals Modern cameras are amazing in their abil- ity to measure conditions and automati- cally adjust settings for great results. How- ever, having a basic understanding of the factors that affect any given exposure can save diffcult situations when the camera just isn't delivering what you want and/or turn an ordinary exposure into something you're proud of. My frst rangefnder camera required manually setting the focus, aperture, and shutter speed (this of course after select- ing which flm to use). Exposure deci- sions were informed by use of a separate light meter, so the whole process was not exactly blazingly quick. Then the results weren't apparent until the developed flm was returned (sometimes days and often weeks later). When something worked or didn't work, either memory or notes had to be relied on to fgure out why. I have fond recollections of that time, but I love the nearly instant ability of today's cameras to make the same calculations and adjust - ments, with instant feedback available via playback and histogram displays. To evaluate your photographs, make on-the-spot adjustments for tricky situa- tions, and achieve different effects, it is im- portant to understand how the trio of ISO (the sensitivity of the image sensor), shut- ter speed, and aperture (f/stop) interact and affect exposure. Experiment with how manipulating each variable in this creative triangle affects the others and the results of the shot. The other on-camera adjustment I pay the most attention to in my bird pho- tography is exposure compensation. This is usually indicated by a little +/- symbol, and there is usually a dedicated button for it on DSLRs (other cameras may have this feature accessible through a menu). Often, this is the fastest way to brighten or darken an exposure on the fy, as birds usually won't wait around for long if you are twiddling with other exposure settings. Lots of resources about camera settings are mentation of birds is another major pur- pose of my photography. Artistic quality is not the main purpose when I just want to photograph details of a bird to review at home and potentially append to eBird or records committee reports, or just learn more about nuances I may have missed in the feld. Another purpose may be to take photographs for a specifc listing cat - egory. I freely admit I prioritize my pho- to list only one strake below my life list. Supporting and inspiring photos can also elevate the content of your articles, talks, or blog posts. It's fne to head out with a rare birds than of common ones. I realized that, when there was a "good" bird, I'd re- ally invest time and energy on it and often get a picture I was happy with. The same attention paid to "regular" birds can also yield really pleasing results. After all, mak- ing a stunning image of a robin in your backyard or a goose in the park is excel- lent preparation for the next crippler that turns up in your viewfnder. Focusing on a particular species you'd like to do justice to is just one example of a purpose, but there are scores of other possibilities. For me, the study and docu- Modest camera rigs can produce very satisfying results for bird photographers. This splendid breeding-plum- aged Pacifc Loon was photographed with a small mirrorless SLR (Panasonic DMC-G3) and a 200mm zoom. Patience and feldcraft were keys to getting the shot. Barrow, Alaska, September 2010. Photo © Bill Schmoker Freezing the water's motion as this American Dipper emerged from Boulder Creek required a fast shutter speed, a wide-open aperture, and the use of fash. Learning to control the fundamentals of exposure can translate into images that refect your photographic vison. Boulder County, Colorado, November 2005. Photo © Bill Schmoker

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