How to photograph flocks of birds: 5 ideas for creative images

How to photograph flocks of birds: 5 ideas for creative images

How to photograph flocks of birds: Go back for more

By making repeated visits to a traditional or well-used site you stand a much better chance of capturing interesting behaviour and improving your images

How to photograph flocks of birds: Go back for more

Flock of Starlings. Taken with: Canon 1D Mark III with 70-200mm at 108mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec at f/2.8, ISO800

How I got the shot
During the winter months (November to February) in Europe, large flocks of starlings gather together each evening before going off to roost.

This is one of the great spectacles in the birding world, and a fantastic opportunity for photography.

There are a number of traditional starling roosts around the UK and Europe, some of which can number several million birds, but the technique works equally well for other species of bird, and potentially even bats in certain parts of the worlds.

The starlings begin to flock together about 30 minutes before sunset, so I set up my gear close to the roost site, framed the shot against the most colourful section of sky and waited for the action to unfold.

As the birds massed up, I concentrated on trying to capture the most interesting formations.

SEE MORE: Annoying problems at common aperture settings (and how to solve them)

Key camera settings
By the time the starlings arrived in large numbers the light was fading quickly, so I increased the ISO setting to 800, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/500 sec at maximum aperture – just enough to arrest the movement.

I exposed for the sky using Evaluative (Matrix) metering, which – as with the rooks in Image 1 – rendered the birds as silhouettes.

Field notes
Starlings form their tightest flocks when there is a bird of prey around, which was the case on the evening I took this shot.

When this occurs is a matter of luck, but it’s well worth making several visits to a roost site to capture this at its best.

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How to photograph flocks of birds: Go back for more

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