And now that the weather is improving, early morning is where it’s at for photography. Birds are busy in the morning, and if you can get yourself out there with them, you may be rewarded with beautiful lighting.
Full sun conditions can be great for capturing the vibrancy of brilliant plumage and illuminating darkened forests. But bright sun can also produce unacceptable glare on reflective surfaces, high contrast and backlighting when the subject is facing the wrong direction. Full sun can also produce strong shadows that play havoc with your composition. Filtered sun or flat lighting conditions like overcast days are often more conducive to good photography.
While it might seem easier to photograph in the middle of a bright sunny day, more often than not you will be disappointed with the final images you download to your computer. Bright sun produces high contrast photos with deep shadows and areas of light that have blown out all color. Reflections and bounced light can ruin the shot, and colors will be less saturated.
Make the effort to photograph early and late in the day. Birds are more active in the early morning hours and often late in the day as well. Get out on overcast and even drizzly days. This can often be the best light because it is even. There are fewer shadows, less reflective light, and the colors will be much more saturated. Make specific trial shoots in these different conditions in the same place and see for yourself.
Birds are often very active before, during and after storms. This year’s surprise 28” snow storm is a good example. Needless to say, here in Virginia, both we and the birds were ill-prepared for it. The birds in our yard never stopped feeding throughout the day and we kept going out to clear off the feeders and replace food for the ground foragers. But as the snow subsided and the sun came out, the photos were glorious.
Bottom line; to dramatically increase your success photography birds, get to know your birds, their habitat, and the environmental conditions where you can best capture them. And then get out there!