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How to Photograph Tiny, Quickly Moving Birds

Wildlife photographers deploy a range of tactics when attempting to capture birds, and those which are very easily scared and move incredibly quickly offer a particular challenge. This video shows you some tactics to deploy in order to get some fantastic photos.

Wildlife photographer Trond Westby clearly has a lot of experience of photographing the goldcrests flitting around the forests of Norway. At just 0.2 oz (6 g), the goldcrest is Europe’s smallest bird and is found in throughout almost all of the northern hemisphere outside of North America. Rather distinguished in appearance, its scientific name, R. regulus, means knight or king. They certainly do not sit still for very long.

In addition to the techniques shown in this video, Westby has two other tactics: a lot of patience that couples with a good understanding of how the goldcrests behave. Knowing their feeding habits and movement patterns is fundamental to getting the best results.

Obviously, Westby has a serious amount of gear for capturing these images, and you might be intrigued by his tripod. Westby is using a gimbal head to make it easier to manipulate his huge telephoto lens, and like any good tripod head, one of these does not come cheap.

What other tips would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

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jim hughes's picture

Nice work and he makes it look like fun. But the first thing you have to do is get far enough out in the boonies that you won't have people, kids and dogs coming by and checking out your tent . HI HOWYA DOIN IN THERE? YA GETTIN ANYTHING?

Eric Robinson's picture

Nice film well put together and presented with some great shots, but I’m a bit confused about the advice given. My confusion stems from the conflicting advice given in videos like this. Shooting quick moving subjects at a 1/200 at f4 with a 600mm lens! Paper thin depth of field along with a comparatively slow shutter speed for lightning quick subjects! What the hell man! How is anything going to be sharp? I have always been led to believe in a situation like that one would to have a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 and to hell with ISO. bearing in mind he is on a firm shooting platform I’m a comparative novice at bird photography and have been left scratching my head. Now he is shooting with a Nikon, is his reluctance to bump up the ISO to do with the ISO performance on his camera? Ive shot many images with ISO of 3200 which clean up well with Topaz. I alway try and avoid shooting wide open when I can to give that little bit more dof increasing the margin for error. What do others think? He comes over as a lovely guy but would you take his advice? But I love his shots, the detail, fantastic images.
In confusion.

Andy Day's picture

Hi Eric. I think Jan is capturing the birds in the brief moments that they're completely still, hence the lack of motion blur at 1/200th. He doesn't expect to be able to capture them moving as they're simply too fast at this focal length. Otherwise, yes, I would imagine that 1/1000th (and likely faster) would be appropriate.