In our latest DIY Photography Hacks post we show you a simple way to bag frame-filling pictures of wild birds from the comfort of your car’s bucket seats. Find out how you can ditch the uncomfortable hides for good!
One of the most frustrating things about photographing birds is finding a way to get close without scaring them off. However, a tried and tested technique is to use some kind of portable hide, and what could be more portable than your own vehicle?
Using your car as a mobile hide is perfect for approaching many bird species and has the advantage that you can change position easily, quickly move on to new locations and have a warm, comfortable place to wait for the action to unfold!
So what do you need? Well a top of the range 4WD would be nice! But any vehicle will do just fine. The important thing is the support for the camera.
It’s possible to simply rest the lens on the glass of the open window, but this won’t provide much stability.
A beanbag (or perhaps a bag of lentils!) is a much better bet, or you can splash out on a purpose-built window mount with a tripod head to attach the lens.
This has the advantage of keeping the lens in position while driving. It can help to drape some camouflage netting over the window and lens barrel to conceal your face and hands.
There are some road safety issues to consider with this technique, so only attempt it on quiet roads where it’s safe to pull over.
It’s much better and safer if someone else is driving so you can concentrate on photography, with the added benefit that you can have your lens ready on the beanbag to start shooting as soon as the car comes to a halt.
How to photograph birds on the move the DIY photography way
Use a beanbag to keep your lens steady and prevent camera shake. One that looks like two bags sewn together (www.wildlife watchingsupplies.co.uk) is ideal, as these have a gap that drops snuggly over the glass to form a solid platform to rest the lens on.
Be prepared to shoot
Before you approach, set your camera up. Set the exposure in Manual mode by taking a meter reading from a nearby midtone. An aperture of around f/5.6 is ideal, and use a shutter speed of 1/250th sec or faster to stop unwanted blurring.
Make your approach
To stalk roadside birds, reduce your speed to a crawl, and as you get closer, turn off the ignition (to prevent vibrations and noise) and coast into final position. Ensure you stop at the right spot, as starting your engine again may frighten the bird away.
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