I'll be honest, I love this photograph.

It's one of my favourites. Not least because I know how hard I worked to get it.

Birds don't wait for you to fit the right lens.

They don't pose while you faff about with exposure modes and focus points.

They get on with their lives, minding their own business.

That means, you, the photographer have got to do some things right.

Ten rubbish ones before the good stuff

I took about 200 photos on the day this Robin popped in front of me.

I discarded more than half of them.

They were either out of focus, badly exposed or I missed the subject completely.

I was learning, you see.

Those birds were teaching me a lesson. Several lessons, in fact.

The technical stuff

Here's the details:

  • f /5.6
  • 1/500 sec
  • ISO 400
  • EF75-300mm f /4-5.6

The light was perfect. I was sitting in a bird hide and the sunlight was filtering through to the tree stump like studio lighting.

The park rangers (this was taken at my local country park) put the nuts out about an hour before I got there.

I noticed several birds were hopping up for lunch.

But they were quick. And I mean really quick.

Yes, I did end up with several photos of an empty tree stump.

I also started out with some pictures that were out of focus.

Lessons learned

I pre-focussed (manually) on the tree stump. I also took some test shots to make sure the exposure was going to work.

I wanted to use the lowest ISO setting I could, to keep the grain out of the pictures.

But I also used shutter priority mode no lower than 1/500 sec. Birds hop about - quick. And the little buggers fly off when you least expect it.

Here's another one I took during the same session:


This one was also hard to get.

Focus was difficult - forget autofocus it'll never cope.

And the tree was in a shaded part of the woodland so I had to wait for a while before the sun lit it perfectly.

I used the same lens and exposure settings as above. And that's another lesson: once the camera was set right, I could concentrate on taking good pictures.

Nature photography is hard. But the rewards are enormous. Just be ready to apply lots of patience.