My Garden Bird Studio Setup

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2,179
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Neil
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#1
The birds I photograph will have threads of their own for each bird type, I'll keep adding extra pictures to those threads and share links to them here.
Follow these links for the bird photographs

White-throated Munia
Grey Francolin
Striated Heron
Little Green Bee Eater
White Cheeked & Red Vented Bulbul
Graceful Prinia

After relocating to Dubai with work last July, I've not had chance to follow landscape photography like I did tried to in the UK.
The main reasons are time, not knowing the locations and generally not being inspired by sand!
I'm therefore looking into other areas of photography that I can regularly and easily do.

We are fortunate to live away from the high rise metropolis of Dubai and enjoy life in one of the more established villa communities.
Our villa backs onto a lake, albeit a man made one, but it does attract plenty of birds and other creatures you would probably associate with such an environment.
I've therefore decided to capitalise on this rich abundance of interesting birds, waterfowl and insects and shall gradually tweak my kit to suit.

After the purchase of my Sigma 150-500, the next expense has been the investment in a bird feeding station to attract our feathered friends to a convenient spot just outside my window :)


Feeding Station
by Kinvara Photography, on Flickr


Armchair Photography!
by Kinvara Photography, on Flickr

So far the station is working a treat and is attracting many birds such as the Red Vented Bulbul, Laughing Dove, Grey Francolin, White Throated Munia, White Cheeked Bulbul, Parrots and the humble House Sparrow. I've managed to get a few shots of some of these birds that I'm happy with, but the others have evaded the lens and not given me a suitable pose!

There are other birds in the area that I see around the lake, but as yet they've not called in at the feeding station; these are the Eurasian Hoopoe, Little Green Bee Eater and something I think is of the hummingbird family. Then there are the various Bitterns Herons and other waterfowl around the lake, but I doubt we'll get these in the garden! Butterflies and Dragon Flies are also on the radar and hopefully I can encourage these to visit the studio.

As I go, I'll be adding various items to the studio, either to encourage the different bird species, or to add props to make the shots a little different. I'll add more pictures to this thread as the studio evolves.


I'd also welcome any suggestions or tips for attracting the birds to the garden and for photographing them.

Thanks for reading to anyone who follows my journey of Bird Photography!

Neil
 
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Jeff
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#2
looking at this and your photos so far i'm very envious ,good birds ,VERY GOOD light ,good set up .i would possibly dump the curtains as you will be more aware of general movement outside .i.e we don't have curtains in bird hides .if your using the sigma on a tripod i hope you have turned off the i/s as it will slow down your focussing .and in the light you have there i would be inclined to dump the tripod entirely .
the inclusion of a bird bath ,water feature of some kind will bring in a lot more birds some to drink ,some to wash .all make for good photos .with a bit of thought if done at the right height it can be a desert pool ,or a woodland dell with some camouflage .something as simple as a black rubber dustbin lid upside down can be turned into an effective moveable pool .
hope this helps and gets your brain ticking
 
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Neil
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#3
looking at this and your photos so far i'm very envious ,good birds ,VERY GOOD light ,good set up .i would possibly dump the curtains as you will be more aware of general movement outside .i.e we don't have curtains in bird hides .if your using the sigma on a tripod i hope you have turned off the i/s as it will slow down your focussing .and in the light you have there i would be inclined to dump the tripod entirely .
the inclusion of a bird bath ,water feature of some kind will bring in a lot more birds some to drink ,some to wash .all make for good photos .with a bit of thought if done at the right height it can be a desert pool ,or a woodland dell with some camouflage .something as simple as a black rubber dustbin lid upside down can be turned into an effective moveable pool .
hope this helps and gets your brain ticking
Thanks for the comments Jeff,

I'm not sure the wife will appreciate me dumping the curtains!
As it's going though, this isn't causing an issue, or not that I've noted; the birds appear to be used to the house and its curtains and providing I don't move the lens too much nothing is startling them.
I did thing of putting a camo net in front of the window, but I may be able to get away without.

Shooting from the house is very handy as I can do other things in between visiting birds rather than going back and forth to a hide in the garden, but I do intend to buy a pop up hide or camo netting
The problem there though is they don't appear to be available in Dubai; I have found a hunting hide though.
Ebay is still cheaper so it looks like our next visitors will be bring on over with them!

Generally the IS is off and I'm using the shutter cable with mauual focus set on one branch, but from time to time I slacken the tripod head and follow the birds around so I have the IS on setting 1 for that to prevent any shake from my hands.

Light is good over here, too good sometimes, but I tried the soft box yesterday and was very impressed with the results - most birds weren't bothered by it, but a parrot was startled at first!
I'm using the soft box as the sun light is back-light so it's being used as fill flash, plus there is a lot of tree cover casting shadows.

The bird bath is an idea I'll look into that and see what I can find.

Neil
 
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Jeff
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#4
what i was trying to say neil ,is you don't really need the curtains ,the birds will get used to you its only sudden movement that upsets them .another little tip if your doing birds on the grass try lying on the floor for a different p.o.v .bird photography is all about thinking outside the box and applying it . your relations/visitors might be able to get some camouflage netting from one of the ABAKHAN mill shops ,i,m sure they have one in liverpool and definitely chester .

a reflector might be better than a fill flash /soft box to just a idea

would you get different birds in using nuts as bait/food as its there natural food

and you mentioned hummingbirds ,a contact of mine in south america has a pot full of the flowers they feed from to bring them in .probably worth looking up /observing and getting some .
 
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2,179
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Neil
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#5
what i was trying to say neil ,is you don't really need the curtains ,the birds will get used to you its only sudden movement that upsets them .another little tip if your doing birds on the grass try lying on the floor for a different p.o.v .bird photography is all about thinking outside the box and applying it . your relations/visitors might be able to get some camouflage netting from one of the ABAKHAN mill shops ,i,m sure they have one in liverpool and definitely chester .

a reflector might be better than a fill flash /soft box to just a idea

would you get different birds in using nuts as bait/food as its there natural food

and you mentioned hummingbirds ,a contact of mine in south america has a pot full of the flowers they feed from to bring them in .probably worth looking up /observing and getting some .
Sorry Jeff, miss understood you on the curtains.
While I'd be nice and still and he birds would be used to me, my three children don't often do as they are told and keep running around in the lounge and scaring hings away!

I've got nuts out, the Parrots and Bulbuls like them, oddly the parrots don't like the parrot mix, the Munia like that!

Reflectors may be better, either I don't have it set properly or the flash doesn't fire fast enough to freeze the birds in flight - must read the manual again!

I was thinking about flowers for the hummingbirds, but also a feeder to get them in the garden too, obviously the picture will be better with a real flower!
 
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Darren
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#6
Fantastic setup Neil. I have recently added 2 bird feeders to my back garden but as of yet nothing attracted to it so I a keeping my fingers crossed that I will soon see a rise I the amount of birds that visit. will be looking to add more to it in the coming months to increase the chance also so I may well use the sticks setup that you have used.
 

Alan McFadyen

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Alan
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#7
For the smaller birds I think you need to move the set up closer. You also have far to many places for birds to land and the feeders look too high. When you go to photograph remove everything except one or two feeders and use one perch beside the feeder/feeders. It makes life so much easier.
 
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For the smaller birds I think you need to move the set up closer. You also have far to many places for birds to land and the feeders look too high. When you go to photograph remove everything except one or two feeders and use one perch beside the feeder/feeders. It makes life so much easier.
Thanks for the comments Alan.

We have a garden irrigation system here so putting the feeders too low would result in everything being soaked twice a day.
I'll consider moving the feeders closer, but again, the irrigation system pipes are under the lawn and as I didn't install them I'm not sure where they are - wouldn't want to stab one!
You would imagine the pipes would have been installed with some form of logic and would expect them to be in certain places, but logic is thin on the ground in the Middle East so it's anyone's guess where the pipes would be!

The other thing is that I intend on buying a hide so I can move it to different places and get different light and backgrounds, I'd therefore be able to get closer to the feeders current location with the hide.
The current location get's some good light too most of the day.

Removing feeders/ perches is worth a go on shooting days.
I do find myself pointing my lens at different things and then worrying that I'll miss a shot at a different location!

Thanks

Neil
 
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Neil
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#10
Looks like your shooting into the sun :thinking:
Neil B,

Sadly in the middle of the day I am, as the garden is south facing, but early morning and late afternoon are better.
I've been using the soft box to fill the shadows, but I'll probably pick up some large reflectors to bounce some light back in.

The soft box has given some good results as can be seen in these White-throated Munia imgaes

Thanks for looking

neil
 
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#11
The garden set up looks good. You seem to attract a good range of species. The hummingbird like bird is most likely a purple sunbird. Outside the breeding season both male and female are a yellow and brown colour. In the breeding season the males turn a gorgeous iridescent purple all over.
 
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Neil
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#12
The garden set up looks good. You seem to attract a good range of species. The hummingbird like bird is most likely a purple sunbird. Outside the breeding season both male and female are a yellow and brown colour. In the breeding season the males turn a gorgeous iridescent purple all over.
I wish it was those colours, it looks dark though I'll see if I can get one in the frame!
 
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