Using Props Section 1
Besides feeders, props add some realism to your shots and can be found almost anywhere. Whenever I venture out into the woods or a refuge, I keep a good eye out for some cool looking props. When using them, try not to go overboard and use the same one repeatedly. Rotate through them and no one will notice. I have about 4-5 nice branches and a really cool rotten tree stump I cut down.
On the prop above, I manually focus on the small branch that extends out from the main stump. TIP: focus just a smidgen past the branch to get the bird in focus right before it lands.
Depending on the area the bird fly’s in from will determine where to focus. Again, by watching and observing the flight path the birds take in your yard, you’ll soon be able to predict from which point(s) they will arrive.
Once you establish that, focus behind the prop, or to the left or right of it. Unlike the feeders where we don’t want them showing in the final image, we want to see the prop, or some of it. The stump I have is large, way larger than the birds, and most of the birds are small. We don’t want to have an image where most of the frame is the prop and a small bird, so crop accordingly. This normally is not an issue with a tree branch.
A couple of notes here. You can place your prop near a feeder and the birds will naturally land on it, or, you can use only the prop. If you choose to just use the prop, you will have to cut or drill small pockets that can hold bird feed.Or you can simply screw some small Tupperware cups to the back of the prop.
As I mentioned earlier, you can either get a shot of the bird landing using manual focus or BBF, or, after the bird lands quickly switch to AF and try to get one or two shots as it flies away. The latter is easier because the bird is already there.
Heres a shot of a spade bit. Very convenient when drilling ports in branches or stumps.
IF you are using only a small branch, you will still need a food source. I normally place the feeder somewhat close to my props because the birds will fly back and forth from the feeder to the prop.
TIP: I place the feeder closest to the Sun. Most birds will land on the prop first, then stare at the feeder. So now the bird will be flying into the Sunlight. A side note here: If you place the prop too close to the feeder, the birds will only “Hop” off the prop and land on the feeder. The caveat is if the prop is too far away, more than likely less birds will land on it, so you’ll have to figure out what works best in your yard.
So now the bird is on the prop, when will it leave? Who knows, you’ll have to be ready. I normally start shooting as the bird lands on the prop, is facing the Sun, until it’s out of frame.
TIP Place the feeder or the prop at different heights, this will alleviate the “hopping”. For example, if the prop is lower than the feeder, the birds will be forced to “fly” up towards the feeder or vice versa. Again, experiment and see what works best for you. Speaking of experimenting, every time you go out to shoot try to find new ways to photograph the birds. It’s fun, challenging, and rewarding.
BTW, Don’t spend a lot of money on expensive or fancy feeders. We’re not photographing them. I bought the basket in the image below at Target for a few dollars and it works great. Just make sure water can drain from the bottom.
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