That is probably the last and only time this crab will fly - 400mm; 1/2500 sec; f/4.5; ISO 1250
I hear every so often that you should photograph what you have a passion for. Taking pictures of my family is definitely something that I really enjoy doing. But when I have a chance, I also enjoy exploring other areas like macro, airplanes, landscapes, and animals, specially birds. But what do I find so special about them? Well, first of all, most birds can fly. And I am fascinated with everything related to flying in general. Also, they can be very colorful and pretty, an even when not flying, turn into very interesting subjects.
There are a lot of interesting birds around where I live in Long Island, NY, and I have started paying attention to them. Many of the same photographic principles used when shooting portraits of people can be applied to photographing birds: you want them looking good in the picture, with sharp eyes, using a background that is not too distracting, leaving some "room" for them in the frame, etc.
So I started photographing the birds I see around my house and at the beach we usually go to. And the kids love seeing the bird pictures. But what about their names? I had no idea what were the names of the birds I was photographing. It was when I discovered this web site called whatbird.com which has a huge list of birds in North America. That allowed me to figure the name of the birds in my pictures and understand more about their habits. This in turn, can make you a much better bird photographer. They also have iPhone and Android apps to help you identify birds.
To figure out the name of a bird, you can click on "search" and you can choose the bird attributes from a huge list of options. As you keep on choosing many attributes that describe your bird (common location, shape, colors, size, etc) the bird result list keeps narrowing down and becomes very easy to figure out a bird's name this way.
whatbird.com Attributes search page
Contrary to people, birds will ignore your calls to stay still and will probably fly away as you get closer to them. So having a long lens really helps. And if they are flying, it really helps to understand how the focus tracking in your camera works.
One easy way to take pictures of birds is to install a bird feeder where you live. The following House Finch bird was photographed in my backyard while "surveying" the area where the bird feeder was located.
House Finch - 400mm; 1/800 sec; f/4.0; ISO 640
Other easy way to photograph birds and practice is to just go to the zoo. There you can see (and photograph) so many species that are not seen in your area.
Eagle at the Queens Zoo - 160mm; 1/320 sec; f/5.0; ISO 800
It is possible to use a wide angle lens too to photograph birds if you can get really close to them. On our last trip to California, hungry seagulls were not really afraid of us and were coming after the snacks Lucas and Julia were eating. I guess we should have picked a different place to stop.
Very close with seagulls - 16mm; 1/5000 sec; f/4.0; ISO 640
For years, I have always heard this sound, made by some bird, which really sounded very similar to an own cooing, but I could not tell for sure where it was coming from. Then one morning, I heard the sound again and started to trace where it was coming from. Then I saw the bird below on the roof of our house and snapped a picture. It sang a little bit more and then it flew away. Thanks to whatbird.com, I was able to identify this bird as the Mourning Dove, where you can hear the very interesting and somewhat sad sound this bird makes.
Mourning Dove - 200mm; 1/1000 sec; f/2.8; ISO 100