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A bush or tree near a bird feeder will allow the birds a place to rest when they aren’t feeding.
A bush or tree near a bird feeder will allow the birds a place to rest when they aren’t feeding.
With practice, catching a bird in flight is possible. Just remember it’s going to take a lot of shots.
With practice, catching a bird in flight is possible. Just remember it’s going to take a lot of shots.
Wide open apertures on a lens will help with two things – high shutter speeds to freeze wings in motion and a shallow depth of field to blur the distracting background.
Wide open apertures on a lens will help with two things – high shutter speeds to freeze wings in motion and a shallow depth of field to blur the distracting background.
Pre-focusing on a spot where birds tend to land and being ready when they do will help accomplish more good shots.
Pre-focusing on a spot where birds tend to land and being ready when they do will help accomplish more good shots.
Sometimes it is difficult to separate an animal from distracting environmental elements, so watch for a pose that puts them in the clear.
Sometimes it is difficult to separate an animal from distracting environmental elements, so watch for a pose that puts them in the clear.
Keeping feeders and other man-made objects out of the frame will provide a more natural portrait of an animal.
Keeping feeders and other man-made objects out of the frame will provide a more natural portrait of an animal.
Backyard wildlife tends to be fast-moving subjects. Being ready for anything that may happen is the key.
Backyard wildlife tends to be fast-moving subjects. Being ready for anything that may happen is the key.

Backyard Wildlife

Dec 27, 2011

This time of year my thoughts go not only to holidays and family, but to photographing the wildlife in my own backyard.

I live in town, not out in the wilderness where you might expect a lot of critters roaming, but I’ve found with a few bird and squirrel feeders it’s easy to attract animals right to your camera.

With a little research you can learn what kind of feeders and food will bring what kinds of birds and animals. Squirrels tend to like corn, nuts and sunflower seeds. Different varieties of birds like various seeds.

Photographing the wildlife can be done through the windows where it’s easier to hide and not scare them away. Wearing dark colors and keeping the lights off inside the house will help as well. If you’ve got a window that opens toward the feeders your images will be clearer and sharper, but even shooting through the window glass can provide decent photos.

I realize everyone isn’t going to spend the money on the equipment to do it, but I’ve had fairly good luck setting up a remote-controlled camera on a tripod outdoors and then sitting inside to watch and fire the camera with the push of a button.

One of the tricky things is that these smaller animals tend to move quickly and not sit in one spot for too long. This makes photographing them good practice for shooting other action activities like kids’ sports or rodeo. Choosing higher shutter speeds to freeze motion and working on your reaction to interesting poses helps capture fun moments. 

Birds in flight almost always make great photos, but tracking them, keeping them in focus and catching just the right position of the wings can be tricky. Practice, practice, practice! Digital photography makes it easy to shoot many photos and simply delete the bad ones. So don’t be afraid to keep trying until it all comes together in that one spectacular shot.

Another fun tip is to make sure your bird feeder is next to a bush or tree with handy branches for perching on. After you’ve watched a while you can begin to guess where the birds tend to land before approaching the feeder. Pre-focusing on that spot will give you a head start on getting a good photo. I have a small branch attached to one of my feeders for that purpose.

Have a great holiday season and if you aren’t traveling far from home for photo opportunities, take a look in the backyard!

 

Chad Coppess is the senior photographer at the South Dakota Department of Tourism. He lives in Pierre with his wife, Lisa. To view more of his work, visit www.dakotagraph.com.

Comments

06:44 pm - Thu, December 29 2011
Christian said:
I like your shots of the Blue Jay. I happened upon one in Game Lodge camping area of Custer State Park last week but he would only show me his tail feathers. Do you get Cardinals in your back yard as well?

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