Think outside the square.
– Paul J. Meyer
Some time ago I read that early mornings and late afternoons are the best times for bird photography. I even read that some professional bird photographers down their cameras in the middle of the day and don’t bother to take photos at all during this time.
There are good reasons for getting up early to take bird photos. Firstly, birds that have fasted all night will be out and about looking for food in the mornings. Secondly, the sun is at a low angle in the mornings and it casts a lovely golden light.
There are similar good reasons for taking bird photos in the late afternoons. Birds – I’m thinking of parrots here – often feed again before sunset. They often move around searching for or returning to roosting sites for the night. Once again, the sun is at a low angle and it casts a strong golden light. Sunset photos can be stunning and evocative.
After reading this advice, I made a point of going out to take my bird photos in the early mornings. In my quest to take better bird photos, I often did the unthinkable and got up before dawn on icy winter mornings. In fact, if I didn’t get up early enough, I didn’t go out at all. I was rewarded for my efforts because the birds were often busy – building nests, for example – and their underwings were lit up by the sun when they flew overhead.
A few weeks ago I decided to try something new and go out in the late afternoons. Once again I got some nicely exposed photos.
But free time and good weather conditions don’t always come together for the bird photographer. Sometimes I’d wake up early, only to see a cloudy sky. Or I’d be frantically busy when the sky was a flawless blue.
So last week, when I looked out the window at lunch time and saw a blue sky, I decided to go out with my camera anyway. Hang the time, I thought!
When I arrived at my favourite place, the sun was almost overhead. I watched two white-bellied sea-eagles chase and circle each other. They flew closer … and closer … . I pointed my camera skywards and clicked away while passing cars tooted their horns (my camo gear does seem to attract interest from drivers, as well as from birds).
Next I saw a pair of whistling kites. They flew over me and one circled around me several times.
Not ten minutes later, I noticed a smaller bird chasing a larger bird. With a gasp, I realised that the larger bird was a wedge-tailed eagle. It also flew over me, closer to me than any wedge-tailed eagle ever has. I’ve inserted a photo of it at the top of this post.
The experience was just amazing. I’ve inserted the uncropped photos, so you can see just how close these birds of prey flew to me (I used my 100-400 mm lens set on 400 mm).
I was out for a relatively short time and when I left I was shaking my head in disbelief at my incredible luck. And as I drove away, I told myself that any time can be the right time for bird photography.