Tips for Photographing at High Altitudes – Part 2

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Continued from… Tips for Photographing Birds at High Altitudes – Part 1

Canon IDX / 600mm + 1.4X / 1/50 sec @ F/5.6 / Common Magpie

Canon IDX / 600mm + 1.4X / 1/50 sec @ F/5.6 / Common Magpie

Composition and Background

Birds in the mountain forests come out into the open for very short durations and then dive back into thick foliage; and when they do perch, they may have branches of trees behind and around them. It’s a goal to always get birds with clean backgrounds behind them, so this can be discouraging. In such situations, think about going wide or shooting a bird perched from afar and showing its habitat. Such images give good insight into how a bird lives.

Canon 7D Mark II / 600mm + 1.4X / 1/125 sec @ F/5.6 / Green-tailed Sunbird

Canon 7D Mark II /600mm + 1.4X /1/125 sec @ F/5.6 / Green-tailed Sunbird

Camera Settings

Make sure that your camera is set to shoot in RAW mode and Adobe RGB color space; these modes give you maximum control over processing your images and provide the widest available color gamut. I mostly shoot in aperture priority or manual mode; however, I prefer aperture priority mode for small and skittish birds as there are fewer settings to fiddle with and I can dial in exposure compensation quickly with a single dial. Set the drive mode on your camera to AI Servo/Continues mode; this allows you to maintain focus on moving subjects. When you look through the viewfinder, you see a grid of squares spread around, often referred to as a “cluster of points”. These are the focus points that assist in locking onto the subject. Today’s cameras offer up to seven auto-focus area selections, I recommend selecting the Single Point or Spot AF for locking focus when shooting perched birds. For tracking a moving bird, the AF point expansion mode is very effective. Start at ISO 800 and increase if light gets worse.

Canon 7D Mark II / 600mm + 1.4X / 1/400 @ F/8.0/ Fire-tailed Myzornis

Canon 7D Mark II /600mm + 1.4X /1/400 @ F/8.0/ Fire-tailed Myzornis

At the End, it’s Your Passion

Whether you are shooting birds, other wildlife, or landscapes, it’s dedication and focus that determines how far you’ll go in succeeding as a photographer. My goal is to consistently push myself to enhance my photography skills, to explore new locations, and to learn about new birds. Always remember to respect nature and your subject; if a situation arises that makes you feel uncertain or leads you or your subject to sense danger, leave it alone. Come back to it again tomorrow with a fresh mind and a different approach.

About Author Gaurav Mittal

Gaurav Mittal is a professional bird photographer and a blogger who grew up with a passion for nature and wildlife in his native birthplace of New Delhi, India. Gaurav migrated to the U.S. at the age of fifteen. After completing his college, he pursued a career in tax consulting in the Washington D.C. area. It was, however the love for the birds that eventually brought the focus back in his life and a determination to follow his heart, to be a bird photographer. Gaurav’s passion for photographing birds began in 2011 in Bosque Del Apache, New Mexico where observing the Sandhill Cranes brought a sense of harmony and a new vision to him. A moment he captured and fondly calls, “Kissed in The Mist” left him with a vision to continue on further and explore and learn about birds and how he can present their beauty through photography. His desire to be a top class bird photographer has led him to places such as Bharatpur, Bosque, Alaska, New York, Costa Rica and Florida.