If you’re thinking about giving wildlife photography a try, our feathered friends provide a great place to start. You don’t have to travel to exotic locations, and all you really need is a telephoto lens, along with the beginner tips you’ll learn in the tutorial below.
One advantage to beginning your wildlife journey with birds is that an abundance of colorful, interesting subjects can often be found in your own backyard. Another option is to visit a nearby park or nature center—preferably in the morning or late afternoon.
And regardless of where you live, the species you’ll encounter varies throughout the year. Instructor Kevin Nordstrom is an accomplished pro, and the helpful techniques he presents in this behind-the-scenes episode are easy enough for anyone to master.
Today you’ll watch Nordstrom photograph marsh birds through the open window of his car. While this may seem odd for a professional, he explains a few benefits of this approach that really make sense. As he says, “What’s really cool about utilizing your vehicle for wildlife photography is that you’re stationary, pretty much hidden, and comfortable”—with all your gear protected from the elements and within reach.
One accessory Nordstrom recommends is a large beanbag that will serve as a very stable support for your camera and lens. Just drape in over the windowsill and you’re ready to go without setting up a bulky tripod on the ground. He also brings along a pair of binoculars to locate and identify the most interesting subjects. It should go without saying that a couple spare batters are essential too.
One of the best things you can do if you plan to shoot at home is to set up a birdfeeder in your yard, keeping it filled with fresh seed. In may take a week or two for local birds to find this “takeout window,” but you’ll soon have a plenty of daily visitors. Adding a simple birdbath for your thirsty subjects will make them feel even more at home.
With the preparations out of the way Nordstrom moves on to technical matters, beginning with focusing techniques for various situations. He also provides great advice on the most appropriate camera settings for different conditions, suggestions for composition, and much more.
As you’ll see, all these variables remain flexible depending upon whether your subjects are stationery or in flight. Some birds tend to be elusive or twitchy, even when at rest; so don’t become frustrated if your first attempts don’t meet expectations. A bit of practice is all that it takes.
After watching this video and taking Nordstrom’s advice to heart, be sure to visit his informative YouTube channel where there is much more to learn. We also recommend watching the tutorial we posted recently from another outdoor pro, explaining how to shoot epic travel and nature photos with a telephoto lens.