Right now Colorado is experiencing subzero temps and fresh snow, winter is here to stay. Along with these frigid temps comes winter birds to our feeders. We have a variety of feeders strung out along our back deck which attracts hundreds of birds each day. Nothing like sipping your coffee indoors shooting through a glass window at birds 10 feet away in temperatures hovering around -10 degrees. Backyard bird feeders are a great way to photograph wildlife in your own backyard, and practice techniques you will use later in the field. One technique is bird photography using a speed light.
Often times flash principles apply the same from portraits of CEOs to house finches. Flash will add catchlights, improve color on overcast days, and add apparent sharpness to the shot. Flash allows you to create separation from your background. All familiar principles to a portrait shooter. If you are into photographing wildlife, take a look at bird images in a nature magazine. Look close and you might see many of the shots have just a very subtle touch of fill flash…see the catchlight in the eyes, notice how bright the plumage is? Fill flash can transform a nice shot into a great shot. Since flash adds contrast, feathers look very sharp.
Take a look at this bird image above. Nice house finch, but a little flat. Take a look at the finch at the top of this post. Just a little more snappy, and some catchlight in the eyes…because I added touch of fill flash. And this is one time you can use your speedlight on your camera. I normally use TTL flash mode, shutter priority at 1/250 (my fastest sync speed before using high speed sync). I set my flash to -2 stops to reduce the power output to a small amount. You could use high speed sync if you wanted faster shutter speeds. And since I am shooting birds ten feet away, I don’t need a flash extender or better beamer. Using my SB900 I have plenty of power.