How many times do you go out to photograph birds and say "Oh, nothing to photograph". Yep, there are times when there really isn't much in the way of birds or wildlife to photograph. When I experience this, and it can be quite often, its time to rethink attitude and your approach, let me discuss this further with you.
I go out most days, like some of us go walking, running, cycling etc. - I go out to photograph birds.
There are reasons why some days are quieter or no wildlife around, stop and think about that for a minute when you arrive at your local spot. Factors that can make a difference on the day:
Time of year,
Change in Habitat,
No food around
Predators including humans
Seriously, I could really write a book about why! Yes its bit of downer as you may only get an opportunity once a week/month because of other commitments.
Think about the day you are going to bird. Can you check spot on the way home from work to see if something has changed. Check the tides (if its a water spot). Check eBird for activity around the local areas. Ask a friend who also goes out birding, they may offer some insights. Have some alternative spots to check close by on the day.
Ok, you did some research and now you have arrived at your location and its quiet. Decide if you stay to look around or move to an alternative location.
Don't lose heart, get that camera out and practise some things. Look at the light and environment and try taking some images of just the light and habitat. You will learn something. You don't always need a bird/animal/person in your photo, even though it is desirable.
Sit/stand, listen and observe. I do this a lot and can be amazing what you do see. Binoculars are such a great tool to have. On quieter days I have learned new creative techniques shooting and manipulating the light in camera. For me its always about learning and hands on in the field provides those opportunities.
Take images of the sunrise/sunset. Study the environment and think about the direction of the light in relation to the sun and potential subjects in your image. What are the possibilities!!!! Focus on a bush and aim to get it backlit/rim light, noting what you did to achieve that, remember the light quality and sun position. Look at the areas and see if you can get bokeh balls! Practise your settings when doing this. Try to work out why you got bokeh balls!
Do you struggle with settings, so take some shots trying different settings.
For instance focusing on a stick, just think if a bird was perched ready to launch, can you achieve a sharp shot? Obviously, high shutter speed is the key factor - so set your shutter speed accordingly, adjusting your ISO and Aperture to expose your image correctly. Did you achieve high shutter speed? Look at the light and conditions (remember), how did it affect your settings?
Another example, shooting in low light... You still expose correctly to get a good sharp shot - experiment with settings, if there is Silver Gull in front of you - try exposing your subject correctly in low light. Play with high ISO and notice what is achieved in really really really high ISO. This helps you gain an understanding of ISO and what your camera is capable of attaining.
Practise tracking birds in the sky, surely some birds flying around, if not maybe a dragonfly. Its amazing the more you look, the more you see.
Often at spots you still see pigeons, ducks, gulls, magpies, raven's etc. Go for beautiful outstanding images of these birds, focus on behavioural shots as well. They can win competitions for you, yep they can!
I will stop now as I could delve deeper into this interesting subject, my intent was to encourage you, be positive and gain some enjoyment on the day. I have had many happy relaxing mornings out birding getting fantastic images or just learning something to try in the future.
Let me know in the comments your thoughts on what you do when the birds are quieter around your spots.
If you would like the opportunity to learn more, I have had two spaces open up on my upcoming workshop on Saturday 18th June. Be quick to secure your spot!