Bird Photography During a Gloomy Covid Winter

Bird Photography During a Gloomy Covid Winter

by Ron Long

I’m an old dog, and I have been a photographer for over 60 years – but I’m still learning new tricks.

I have lots of birds coming to my feeders and to the special photography perches that I have set up outside my kitchen. During warm weather I sit at the open patio door and happily snap away. But what to do when it’s too cold to sit at an open door?

Conventional wisdom tells us not to photograph through glass – Wrong. Frustrated by this dictum last winter I began shooting through the double pane patio door. The pictures were so sharp I could make out fine hairs on the birds. As long as I avoid reflections the glass has no effect on the photos.

Conventional wisdom even more strongly emphasizes that we must never use flash when shooting towards a window let alone through a window. Once again – Wrong. Last week I was again getting frustrated, this time by the dull weather that was forcing me to set the sensitivity level on the camera far too high. Ordinarily I would use flash to avoid this problem but now I had the window in the way. So, I tried the flash – and it worked – perfectly. Certainly, the flash reflects in the glass but I’m using a telephoto lens and the reflection falls outside the field of view of the lens while the light from the flash reaches the subject with no problem.

It is possible that this technique may not work with all equipment i.e., a built-in flash. For more information, please contact me at rlphoto@shaw.ca.

For those who think flash will disturb a bird’s behaviour, I have this to say. The Varied Thrush is among the most sensitive of birds to disturbance. Any tiny movement will send them off. The photograph below was made through the glass, at a distance of only seven feet and the bird didn’t even blink at the flash. And this is consistent with all birds.

Varied Thrush ©Ron Long

If I was looking for photographs to enter into the Nature Vancouver photography competition, I would need to look no further than my kitchen. How about you? Just avoid showing feeders in your pictures.

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