Platform Feeder Method #1
NOTE: This method works best with birds flying in from the side of the feeder.
Platform feeders are the best way to attract larger birds like Woodpeckers, Blue jays, Cardinals etc. These feeders are also the best way to capture birds in flight in my opinion. I currently have two techniques using the platform feeder. Try them both and decide which one gives you the most keepers.
Unlike the tube feeders, platform feeders offer more room and the ability to utilize a variety of seeds. It’s not unusual to see a large variety of bigger birds on this feeder.
Platform feeders are a bit more challenging when capturing birds in flight due to the size, largely because there is more real estate for the birds to land on, unlike the tube feeder. When using a platform feeder, you will need to study where different species of birds land and take off.
For instance, Cardinals in my yard fly from the woods, to my weeping willow tree, and then onto a rose bush near the feeder, then they land on the side of the feeder. I can pretty much predict the flight path and set up my camera accordingly.
When using a platform feeder to capture birds in flight, there is no way to restrict where they will land but you can through proper placement, line the feeder up within a flight pattern. For instance, if the birds land on a fence on one side of your yard, they will probably leave the fence and land on the same side of the feeder. So you should set up your camera towards the side facing the fence.
It’s important not to get a large section of the feeder in the photo because that’s more cropping you’ll have to do. Keep in mind we only want a shot of an isolated bird with a nice wing pose.
There are several ways to mount the feeder but I do not recommend the type that hang. I’ve used those and one of the issues I had was it turning or swinging in the wind. We want our feeder to be stable.
I recommend the pole mounted version. I went a bit further and mounted my feeder on a light stand which allows me to move the feeder wherever I want it depending on the sun, the background I want, or the species of birds using the feeder. (Large or small)
As I mentioned earlier, the Cardinals follow a specific flight path. If I want to photograph a different bird, I may have to move the feeder according to where the bird enters the yard. After a while you’ll begin to notice the different approach areas different species take so you can adjust as needed.
This brings me to another point. When setting up the platform feeder, make sure it’s not too far away, or too close. Too far away, you’ll have to crop the heck out of your images and it will degrade the quality. Too close and parts of the bird will be chopped off in the image.
TIP: Once you get set up on a station, don’t try to chase all the other birds around. Stay focused! (No pun intended)
So now that the feeder is set up and my camera is on a tripod in manual mode and manual focus, I manually focus on the pole that supports the feeder. I find focusing here gets me the highest keeper rate as most of the birds will land on the middle of one of the side boards, or close to it. See image below.
You have to keep a sharp eye out for the birds as they will come and go before you even get a chance to photograph them, that’s why manual focus is so important.
I highly recommend using a cable or radio shutter release. Otherwise you’ll have to keep your finger on the shutter button for hours and that’s not fun.
As a bird approaches the feeder, fire away. After it leaves, take a look at the images. Do you need to adjust the camera height or move the lens left or right? We need to have the entire bird in the image. Are you getting the cool poses or just the Superman poses? TIP: Moving the lens left or right, depending on which side you’re shooting from will capture different poses.
What do you think the poses will look like if your lens was pointed heavily at the feeder? I can tell you, most of the poses will be with bird feet sticking out, or the Superman look, not what we’re after.