Birders or photographers new to birding sometimes ask me how I get some of my bird photos. Sunday was a great example of one tool I use! It’s not the camera. A LONG, expensive lens is definitely a huge asset in bird photography, but no matter what lens you’re using, the challenge is to get close enough to a wild bird for a frame-filling photograph. With “only” a 400-mm lens (the lens that 99+% of my bird photos have been taken with), if means I typically have to be about 15-20 feet away from a songbird for it to fill a large portion of the image. How does one get close to a wild bird that’s often skittish and shy around human beings?
Hide yourself. Often for me, that’s meant using my car as a blind, but on Sunday when I was shooting shorebirds, that wasn’t an option. The shorebirds were all foraging in the shallows in a portion of a wetland that was far from the road. In the back of my pickup I always have the perfect piece of equipment to help in a situation like that…a chair blind. It has a low profile and doesn’t spook the birds once you’re set up, and it’s actually quite comfortable inside. In this case, as I approached the shoreline, all the birds scattered. No worries…set up the chair blind, make yourself comfortable inside, and after a little while, the birds will forget you’re there and will come back.
The photo below is one a birding friend took of me and my chair blind on Sunday. Note shorebirds are calmly foraging in the shallows RIGHT in front of the blind. They were actually too close for my camera to focus on many occasions (my 400mm lens has a 12-foot minimum focusing distance). A great tool, and one of many ways to get close enough to birds to get great photos. For more help on how to get great bird photos, click below to check out a “Bird photography tips” page from my main website: