There is no need to climb mountains or swim oceans to get decent photos of birds, your back garden will do just fine. Even sparrows can look amazing in good light, and they’re excellent for practice, for getting to know birds and your gear, and how to take decent photos. The back garden is the perfect place to learn bird photography.
One of the benefits of having bird feeders in your back garden is that the birds get used to you and allow you to photograph them at close range. This can give you good practice, not just with technical skills, but with composition. Birds are so flighty for the most part, that often it’s a case of point and shoot and hope for the best. Spending time in the back garden therefore, gives you plenty of practice with birds so that when you do have to point and shoot your chances of getting a good shot are greatly improved. It can also improve your eye. The more you practice, the more composition becomes second nature. These two sparrow fledglings were cuddled up together waiting for mum and dad to come back with some scoff, and I had time to compose the shot and move to a position where I could get the leaves trailing into the image. Without those leaves, this photo wouldn’t work.
Taking a photo of birds in the birdbath while sitting at their eye level just a few yards away can produce decent photos. I took around a dozen before I nabbed this one of a male watching a female having a bath. I took a few with just a single bird in the water, but the male standing there gives this image a story.
This little sparrow was chirping away and singing his heart out, but it took a couple of dozen shots to get him with his beak open. The more you practice, the better you become at anticipating shots like this and catching the moment.
I like this one, not so much because of the detail, which is awesome, but because the bird wasn’t pensively watching me, ready to fly off, it was acting naturally as if I wasn’t there.
The more time you spend with sparrows, the more you realise they have sophisticated social behaviours. They are a close knit community and make exceptionally good subjects on which to practice your bird photography skills. Spending time with them can be meaningful and rewarding, and not just with a camera but in being a part of their lives.
Credits - All photos copyright George Maciver - all rights reserved.