Disclaimer: Before you begin..let me clarify, I am an amateur birder, and the only intention for writing/recommendations here is to promote bird watching as a hobby.
A Little Dose Of Philosophy First:
Nature is unendingly beautiful, isn’t it?
We discover new things in nature, especially when we try & make efforts to be part of it.
Here is something you might reflect on – How often are you surrounded with discoveries? Spend a minute thinking about it. Further, classify them on how the discoveries you come across relate to nature. Sharing a busy lifestyle, its hard for today’s citizen (especially netizens who are reading this) to come across nature discoveries, other than Television or Internet or Movies.
I think, we urban dwellers have lost the thrill of discovery to animations and graphics, which constitutes more than half the thrill we come across in our lives. I do not wish to condemn such thrills. However, you may agree there is a subtle essence that completely differentiates the joy of thrills when coming across nature discoveries than discovering a landscape in movie animation or games.
So, for discovering such thrills, you travel. You try to explore..but does your lifestyle permit you? Often, it may not! But then, would you sacrifice it forever, until when? Is there a middle way out?
Initiate A Hobby:
Tailor-make your hobbies. You don’t need to follow somebody else’s feet. Customize your hobbies, based on your likes and dislikes, and essentially your time! Do you have a balcony or a terrace? Are you able to steel evenings for you on weekends? If yes, then you may just have the perfect recipe to get started with birding.
How to do Birding?
Yes, you may need tools, but no, its not your tools but your patience that may really pay you.
Buy a good pair of binoculars. In fact, there are two kinds of binoculars – roof prism & poro prism. Without going further into much details, I would recommend you buying a roof prism as images are sharper and it weighs lot lighter. If budget is your constraint, go with closed eyes for Olympus 10×50 poro-prism binoculars.
How to Photograph Birds?
After you spend a month or two using binoculars, invest in a descent DSLR. Then slowly on, go for better lenses. There are cheap lenses too..always remember that the cost of lenses is proportional to their F number. For instance, A 70-300mm lens F4-5.6 would cost you much lesser than 70-200mm F/2.8. Further, you need a descent 200/300mm to even think of beginning with bird photography. Your next investment be in TCE (Teleconverters) A teleconverter is like a lens system adapter which fits between your lens and camera body to function as an optical booster magnifying 40%, 70% upto 100% of your lens maximum focal length. A 1.4x TCE boosts 40% likewise, a 2.0x TCE would boost 100% of focal length. For example, If you attach a 1.4 TCE to 300mm lens, then your effective focal length would be 420mm. Of course, there is a shortfall to this trick too, like you may end up losing one focal stop above the designated one..like f/5.6 may become f/6 or f/7 when photographing with such modifications..but in the end, it’s all on light..the more light you get on the subject, the sharper the image.
Always remember the Golden rule – More light on the subject means more sharpness. When photographing with your gadget make sure your subject is well-illuminated with natural light (i.e, subject is facing the sun) If not, change your position as possible as it may.
At times, and especially with smaller birds like sparrows, larks, sunbird, bee eaters, etc., it is very difficult to ensure that subject is lit. In such scenarios, go for shot with least f numbers like f/4 or f/5 (in other words increase the aperture as much as possible) to suck in every bit of light.
Most times, you may end up with dull images. Don’t be disheartened, and don’t delete such pictures. Instead, download Gimp (an opensource freeware photo editor) as well as sharpening scripts (a script is a program written for picking selective pixels in your picture) Make use of smart sharpening, or wise sharpening or warp sharpening (use anyone, don’t use all!) to filter out noise and sharpen your picture. Technically speaking, these script convert your image into negatives to detect edges and perform edge sharpening post gamma blurring.
Ahem ahem, don’t be lost, you may not worry about how the script perform, rather you may pay attention to whether you are happy with the result of sharpening you achieved post processing using them. If not, then tweak a few variables, play-along until you get satisfaction.
Yes, no one expects you to be the next Picasso or the next Nat Geo Photographer. Begin with whatever your tools, and pick up the science of photographing gradually with time.. Yes, you can become the next Picasso, or the next nat geo photographer, gradually as you perfect your skills.
Did I Encouraged you?
The whole intension for writing this stuff was to inspire you. If I have even 10% inspired you to initiate a hobby, I think I have succeeded with my time invested in writing this blog. Thank you for your time:) Keep riding!