Using flash for birding

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mvanrheenen

Using flash for birding

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:16 am

I'm really getting into bird and wildlife photography and have noticed that the lighting conditions are a real problem in the places I like to shoot. Mostly foggy open terrain or medium dense forrests.

I read some articles with different opinions about using fill flash for those kind of situations. As a nature lover, my top priority would be to not want to disturb nature just to get a good picture.

How effective would using flash be for the kinds of conditions I described above? Has anyone have experience using flash for bird photography and if so, how do the birds react to the flashes?

Thanks in advance.

Mark

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UrsaMajor
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Re: Using flash for birding

Unread postby UrsaMajor » Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:29 pm

mvanrheenen wrote:I'm really getting into bird and wildlife photography and have noticed that the lighting conditions are a real problem in the places I like to shoot. Mostly foggy open terrain or medium dense forrests.

I read some articles with different opinions about using fill flash for those kind of situations. As a nature lover, my top priority would be to not want to disturb nature just to get a good picture.

How effective would using flash be for the kinds of conditions I described above? Has anyone have experience using flash for bird photography and if so, how do the birds react to the flashes?

I am not a bird enthusiast, so I have no personal experience in this area. However, I am aware of an individual who is well known for bird photography and has a web site devoted to the subject, so you might get an informed opinion there. The person's name is Arthur Morris, and his web site is:

http://www.birdsasart.com/

I note that this individual sells an adapter (The Better Beamer) intended to increase the maximum effective distance of a flash, so he apparently feels that a flash is appropriate in some circumstances.

FWIW, in the little reading that I have done about bird photography, I have noticed that the reason commonly given for the use of a flash is to provide a catch-light in the bird's eye when the bird is in an environment such as the jungle, where the ambient lighting might not naturally create a catch-light.

With best wishes,
- Tom -

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Greg Beetham
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Re: Using flash for birding

Unread postby Greg Beetham » Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:47 am

From my experience birds don't seem to be concerned about the actual 'flash' component as much as the associated camera sounds, I have fired test flashes at birds and they don't seem to be alarmed or startled by it that I can see, but it's the click of the shutter at the same moment that gets the reaction sometimes if they are reasonably close. I think it's probably the racial memory of millions of years of being exposed to lightning out in the wild; a flash is a flash is a flash so to speak.
I sometimes use flash fill to try to lift the darker parts when the bird is in bright daylight, the differences here between the sunlit side and the shadow side can be large, the settings are basically expose for the bright side (ambient exposure, a quick an dirty method is to AEL the sky, but not white clouds) and set the flash to a variation of either full flash/ambient balance or – 1/3 or – 2/3rds. Any amount of flash fill greatly reduces the noise component in the darker sections of the subject.
If you are in an area of very low ambient and you want to capture a genuine realistic likeness of the subject colour wise and without noise, flash is a must, but you will have almost zero background detail, the shot will appear to have been taken at night in most cases….unless you can do some basic ambient/flash balancing that is, mainly juggling ISO will get ‘some’ ambient background into play and make the photo look more normal, flash will help greatly with noise control in the subject at high ISO but the background will most likely have plenty of noise. Myself I don’t really care if the oof background has lots of noise if the main subject is good, that’s the part that counts anyway. You will have to learn your camera, how the spot meter reacts and controls exposure so you have a feel for how the size of the target is going to influence the result etc. Also if the light level is low it’s probably quicker to MF than rely on AF as it can bring unacceptable delays in getting that shot, great shots can be missed because the AF went on an excursion right at the wrong moment.
Greg

mvanrheenen

Re: Using flash for birding

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Tue Nov 29, 2011 8:20 am

Hi Tom, Greg,

Thank you for the helpfull info and apologies for the delayed reply.

I had a peak at Arthur Morris' website. That man made some astounding images and has a lot of helpfull inside information to share. Thank you for the link Tom!

As I've ventured into the woods once again, I found myself struggling with exposure a lot. It's hard to track a subject and keeping an eye on exposure! I will consider using a flash, especially now I found out that HSS can be used on my camera and 2 of the Sony flashes.

Mark


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