Photographing Birds Of Prey At A Local Bird Sanctuary
Guest Writer, Paul Monaghan is a self taught photographer based just out side of Glasgow in Scotland who has has been shooting for the better part of six years. When he first started, he would shoot everything around him from landscapes, people and concerts. Eventually, he found his way to birds.
As a lover of birds, you can imagine how excited I was to find out about a visitors center called World of Wings in Cumbernauld that has a great variety of birds and is only a fifteen minute drive from my home. First things first, I decided to take the family on a day out to visit the venue and witness the birds in action. We had a great time and whilst we were there I looked around for a possible place to set up a studio and also talked to the staff about taking photos of the birds.
Having scouted the place, I knew I could set up in their education hut. Also, while talking to the staff, I knew they’d had plenty of photographers taking images of their birds but not in a studio environment.
I had to make a compromise here as it was a metal roofed wooden hut with a metal roof, in the middle of a field, in Scotland, during winter, without heating. There were icicles on the roof that were dripping from time to time, so I used lighting modifiers that my lights could sit inside to stop the drips getting to the electronics.
The lighting comprised of a Lencarta 200w/s smart flash inside a brolly with a diffusion layer at the front centre up high, two more smart flash’s were used with 60x90cm gridded soft-box at either side. A Metz 50af-1 was also used inside the 60x60cm soft-box on the ground at the front centre (not visible in the photo) to give some fill.
For the shots I used a Pentax k5 with da* 50-135 f2.8, most of the shots were taken at ISO 80, 1/160, f5.6/6.3, with focal length changing depending on the bird and for wide/close ups. The lights were triggered by a radio trigger connected to one light and the rest triggered optically.
Before I start on this section I need to say a big “thank you” to the staff at ‘World of Wings’ who were nothing short of amazing in their hospitality and help. Without them I would never have captured such images of these wonderful birds.
Once my setup was finished and the lighting was tweaked they way I wanted, the staff let me select the birds I wanted to shoot.
Each of the birds were brought in and some were tied to the stand, they had a nice selection of parrots, hawks, eagles, owls and vultures all of which were well behaved. I tried to let each bird settle down a little and do a test flash to see how they reacted to the lights, but at the same time I didn’t want to keep the birds there any longer than needed with the strange situation they had been put in. Finding a balance between these two forces is important.
Here are more of the images that I produced, and I hope that you all enjoy them and that this article can help you on your own journey. Personally my camera has given me lots of great opportunities to see and do things I never thought I would.
For more of Paul’s work visit his flickr account
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