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Birdsong

Working on BGs

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Looks like you're on the right track. One thing that has been suggested to me is that if possible try to use something dark as a background. Best case scenario is a well lit subject with a dark or shadowed background. Good luck!

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That looks great! What do you have in the Bg,if you don't mind me asking?

Uh-oh--I'm in trouble now! Okay. Confessions of an amateur photographer: It is X-T's photography blind set up in my backyard. Instead of sitting in the blind like he intended, I sit in the kitchen and shoot toward the blind. Not so sure I can get him to dye it darker for finnbay's suggestion, however. I have very little that works in my yard for bg. Lots of deciduous trees and shrubs. I do have a couple small evergreens and yews. I'll have to try setting something up now that it is getting warmer. Was fun while it lasted, though.

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Sorry, I didn’t mean for you to let your secret out. I am surrounded by garages and trees and need to figure out some sort of BG myself.

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There's nothing wrong with "manufacturing" a background. It looks good. If people manufacture a perch to make it look more natural then there's no reason you can't do what you did. It looks good. Another thing you could try is to buy a piece of camo fabric that's darker. You could hang it up on a clothesline or cover XT's blind with it. Just a thought. I like where you're going with this though.

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As Mike said, the right kind of camo fabric is a good option. Also, the closer to the camera the perch is and the farther away the background is, the more buttery the BG will be.

If you can't get it too far away, you'll want a camo pattern without white and a lot of branch/pattern in it, so best would be the old-fashioned brown/green camo we always used to see 30 years ago instead of all the fancy stuff today. Also, there are some modern patterns that are very dark with little or no white/bright to them.

With my 400mm, if I set up the perch just beyond the lens' MFD at 11 feet and the BG is 40 feet away, a normally very busy winter BG of sticks, tree trunks and shrubs comes out very buttery and a rich brown/russet color. In spring/summer/fall it's even easier because the BG is leaves. I also have a bank of spruce branches on one of the neighbor's trees that yields a nice deep green. In winter, be sure to knock off the snow. Aperture for sure plays a role here, with the wider apertures producing shallower depth-of-focus and a more buttery BG at shorter distances, but I'm shooting at f5.6 or f8 most of the time for this, and at the distances I mentioned the BG is very smooth and watercolorish.

Also, the smaller the perch the easier it is to make sure the BG is where you want it if you use fabric. You'll need to anchor fabric somehow. If it's left dangling it'll flap around in the wind, not only scaring the birds but also pushing it out of position. Also, the shorter the perch the less chance there is of birds landing on it outside your viewfinder. I'm always using a tripod when shooting this way, with the ballhead set up tightly enough to keep the camera/lens from flopping over but loose enough that I can deflect it slightly depending on where the bird lands. Long perch = location uncertainty and sometimes too much time to get camera/lens into position. Short perch = less uncertainty and more keeper images.

If you're setting up a perch associated with a birdbath/feeder, remember to put the perch on the far side of the attraction, because the birds generally will perch looking at where they're going, not where they've been, and they're going to the feeder/bath. If you set up a perch between you and the attraction, you're going to get more bird butt shots that you'd like. I generally use those dirt cheap metal spring clamps to clamp a perch to the side of my wooden tray feeder.

I have three separate feeding stations in my yard, but when I get ready to shoot birds, I take two of them down and leave a single perch near the third one so the birds only have one place to feed and only one perch to use next to the feeder.

Once you get your setup dialed in, bird-on-a-stick is pretty much cookie-cutter stuff, but it is a LOT of fun to pick perches and get birds in different poses as well, and for people who love birds it's very cool to sit that close to them and watch their activity.

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Sorry, I didn’t mean for you to let your secret out. I am surrounded by garages and trees and need to figure out some sort of BG myself.

No worries. I was just having fun with it, things have gotten kind of slow around here--both my birds and our posters! I'm glad you asked. All of us newbies have gotten some valuable information from the experts! I have a nice yew tree that is always in the shade. I never thought I would be able to use that as a bg. But if I interpret finnbay correctly, it could work as long as my subject is well lit in the foreground. Might be a little tricky right now. There seems to be a photo blind frozen to the ground in front of it! Thanks to all for your suggestions. My preference is still to be out walking somewhere and find the birds by chance. But shooting at home is great practice in preparation for being aware of my surroundings and settings when I am out there.

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Steve I think you are going to get to top heavy and fall over with all those great tips you carry around in your head, might be time to dump them into a book. I can see it now, papers read

'Man found head down frozen in the snow, with no boots on. It's seems he put his camera in one boot and lens in other to keep them safe.'

There are many people who visit this site with great tips and grade A photos. I would like to thank all.

Steve.. ah...if I find you first would it be ok if I replace your white lens with my black one before I call it in?

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Personally, I don't think one bg can be ideal for all birds. In the case of lighter colored birds,such as Siskins, the dark bg makes them really stand out. However, in the case of a darker bird, such as the finch with the dark red, a lighter bg works better for me. It's similar to a studio environment when shooting people. You want the bg to compliment their clothing, so why wouldn't the same principle work for birds?

This is my opinion anyway.

BTW, great shot.

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