With the proliferation of DSLR cameras for both still and video imaging, and the instant gratification that comes with shooting digital, it’s easy to see why birding is a growing activity. I’m not big on statistics, but I’ve known for many years that the number of casual and serious birdwatchers in the U.S. alone is in the millions.
Last weekend, my wife and I had dinner with friends who had recently come back from a bird-watching trip to Cuba, arranged through The Connecticut Audubon Society. Of course their trip was not just about birds but also a chance to tour a country somewhat frozen in time. Also in the past few days, the Weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal ran a great article about a number of field guides for birding.
Whether in the backyard or on another continent, a lot more people have the tools in hand in make great photos. Of course, it helps if you can afford a high-speed telephoto lens, but not everyone has a spare $4000+ (though it’s surprising how many do).
Since birders typically use long lenses — whether taking photos or just observing through a spotting scope — it’s important to have a good stabilization platform. We’ve been making our Steadybag® for a long time, and it’s used by thousands of photographers and professional video shooters. It really is a great tool for support both cameras and spotting scopes on any surface — less bulky and a lot quicker to set up and put away than a tripod.
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One more quick tip: most new DSLRs have a lot less noise at higher ISOs than they used to. Don’t get fixated on using a low ISO setting if gaining a faster shutter speed (or the depth of field of one more f-stop) will produce a better image. Birds and other creatures (even your kids) have that terrible habit of not waiting around for everything to be “just right.”