By Shelley Pearson
Fairy-wrens are beautiful photogenic birds and a big hit with most of us. I have compiled some suggestions and tips which may assist you to increase your chances of capturing competition worthy shots. It’s important to look at other bird photographers’ images for inspiration and what appeals to you in their photo, as this will provide some ideas for when you go out into the field.
Based on behavioural when observing the White-winged, Splendid and Red-winged Fairy-wrens they are very habitual creatures. They frequent the same locations repeatedly during each day. They feed on insects and bugs searching cobwebs for them, frequently flying to perches usually climbing to highest point of bushes and sticks. At times they cuddle together in a group preening each other and it is quite a gorgeous sight. They appear to be full of energy, as they consistently jump and fly about, working their way around their territory.
It is ideal to position yourself in a spot the Fairy Wrens frequent, making sure the light is in the direction where you will get great exposure and composition, and then you must wait. You can follow them quietly, but it is better to get their natural behaviour without disturbances. I watched a family of fairy-wrens noted their favoured perches where they often cuddled together. After a few mornings and only on some of these mornings I was able to get shots of them cuddling on their favoured perch. Patience is the key!
Do your research. Allocate some time just observing fairy-wrens you want to photograph whilst noting their behaviour, territory covered and the habitat they live in. Choose a family of wrens where the habitat is favourable for photography. Look for low bushes, minimum large trees, and natural perches with nice backgrounds. Study the light direction and best times to shoot such as when spots are shaded, etc. Some areas are morning locations and not so good in the afternoon. Though do not discount afternoon if you wish to do backlit shots. Use that beautiful light to your advantage to highlight our beautiful fairywren/s posing, playing or interacting with each other.
Lighting is crucial, experiment with all types of light angles. For example, with the Sun behind you (your shadow
directly in front of you), if your shadow is small it indicates light is harsh. Side lighting is incredibly beautiful and creates atmosphere. Backlight requires lots of experimenting, getting that rim light without overexposing the bird. Shoot in low light, as shadows are exceptionally soft and do not have hard edge like when shooting in strong light. Do not discount shooting in different weather conditions, I love shooting just after rain as everything is so crisp and pretty. Keep trying and experimenting, as your aim is to get something with that wow factor.
Anticipate the fairy-wrens behaviour and be ready to take the shot. They often bounce across the bushes, stopping to look around, sometimes calling and they sure do pose. You can get these moments; all it takes is following with your camera. Pre-focus on the perch where you think the bird will go next, it gives an edge in quicker focusing on the bird. I tend to shoot with both eyes open to catch movement from the side for those special moments.
Know your camera and keep a check on your settings. Monitor your histogram and highlight alerts. I shoot in manual mode. Settings used when in good light are around F7.1/F8, 1/1000 or higher and ISO between 400-1600. I favour higher shutter speed to capture movement if it happens. Low light/overcast is quite different and takes more effort, so it’s essential not to underexpose to avoid noise in your image.
Final tips for determining whether you have a competition worthy picture of fairy-wren/s:
· Catchlight in the bird’s eye
· Angle of the head towards you creates intimate contact (the eye and head sharp)
· Eye level with the fairy-wren
· Tail feathers on full display
· Behavioural such as cuddling or eating a bug
· Show their beautiful colours, especially the male
· Know the basic rules of composition, although you can break the rules
· Compose a wow shot so the viewer stops and looks
· Pleasing backgrounds no distractions
· Minimal cropping meeting competition size requirements.
Remember this is a guide only and when in the field, reality is working with what you have, so relax, concentrate and the shots will come. Never give up. I spend a lot of time in the field to get those shots.