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| p.2 #9 · Which Flash - For Birds? |
In addition, low light wildlife photography can have its own aesthetic appeal if we free ourselves from the "birder" cliche whereby every feather fiber needs to be seen.
While I agree with the thought expressed in the sentence quoted above, a bit of semantic clarification should, I think, be added. There is a significant difference between a "birder" and a "bird photographer". Neither group, in general, has high regard for the other, and those in either group often are offended to be considered a part of the other group.
"Birders" are the people who often are seen with binoculars and spotting spotting scopes. If they take pictures, those pictures are often taken with point-and-shoot cameras and with minimal regard for technical merit. Their pleasure comes from seeing the birds and identifying the birds that they have seen. On the other hand, the "bird photographers" are the ones with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The bird photographers often sneer at the birders for invading "their territory", and the birders are often critical of the bird photographers for their lack of ethics related to their desire to "get the shot" without regard for their impact on either wildlife or the environment.
For the OP, when I started to make serious attempts at wildlife photography, I felt a need to come home with photographs, and my finger was often active on the shutter regardless of light quality, regardless of where the subjects were, regardless of what they were doing, and regardless of how they were posed. The result was that I usually came home with tons and tons of pictures that, at best, would qualify as snapshots. Somewhere along the line, my thinking changed. While I still enjoy coming home with pictures, if the conditions aren't right for taking the pictures that I really want to take, I am more than happy to enjoy being outside and to enjoy being able to watch whatever the wildlife may be doing. Now, I often come home after an outing without having taken any pictures at all. I take fewer pictures, by far, than I once did, but the pictures that I do take are the ones that I really wanted to get, and I enjoy the experience regardless of whether I've taken many pictures or none at all.
I just wanted to say that I fall into the category of person that I'll call a Birding Photographer. There are a few of us. I go on walks with the local Audubon Society and tote around my binoculars AND my $10,000 setup! It is true that many birders that do take pictures take them with "super-zoom" p&s cameras, but I have converted at least two guys in our group to DSLRs. There have been many times where I was able to get a photo of a bird that flew off before we could ID it and save the day so to speak. They just love that haha. I really get a kick out of photographing and identifying all the birds I see.
I found out real quick that using a flash as your main light is an exercise in futility. I tried my flash out in the backyard to get a feel for the thing and found out what others said here: the photos don't look good, and it does affect the birds. I never had any fly away, but they would flinch or jump when the flash went off. After that I put the flash aside and thought things out. I've since used my flash on a number of occasions with much better results. Using it at a fairly low power for soft fill light works great, and the birds don't notice it as far as I can tell.
For the record, I'll side with the birders any day over the guy who will do anything for The Shot, and I'm sure the majority of the bird and wildlife photographers would do the same.