"Shooting from Water" / "Bay Birding Photo Cruise" / "Photographing Birds on the Water from a Boat" (rev. 14 Jan. 2014)

This page is http://water.photomorrobay.com same as http://photomorrobay.com/water/ - A checklist by "Mike" Michael L. Baird bairdphotos.com  flickr.bairdphotos.com mike [at} mikebaird d o t com (805) 704-2064.
Prepared for Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival http://morrobaybirdfestival.org/  (uses Subsea Tours' Dos Osos boat; Captain Kevin Winfield) (The below uses mostly Canon vernacular).
Join local expert photographer Mike Baird aboard a 34-foot, power catamaran and cruise around the estuary.
Birds are often close to the boat. Mike will give pointers on how best to photograph these water and shorebirds on the water and in flight. Dress warmly. No tripods. Monopods okay. Meet at Sub Sea Tours at Marina Square, 699 Embarcadero # 9, Morro Bay, CA. Easy. Limited.

  1. Use your longest lens ~400-500mm. The 100-400mm lens seems to be one of the favorites over the years.
  2. Leave tripods at home - monopods okay but may not help.
  3. Stabilize camera with posture, breathing, arm bracing (avoid supporting camera on rails of boat if engine is vibrating) .
  4. Image Stabilizer (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR) on and if possible set to panning mode.
  5. Set shutter speed to equal 1/focal-length = 1/mm or faster (e.g. 1/500 or 1/1000 or faster).
  6. Set Aperture to f/8 or tighter (e.g., f/11) for forgiving depth-of-field if possible, while maintaining an ISO suitable for your camera (e.g., <=800 for Canon pro-sumers).
  7. Set image quality to RAW or if jpg to highest resolution and quality.
  8. Burst mode for action shots.
  9. One-shot and single center-point-focus for static shots (focus on bird's eye and re-compose with shutter held half-way down).
  10. Al-Servo or tracking and single center-point-focus for flying birds.
  11. Wait for birds to come to you - be patient (know when not to push the shutter).
  12. Our Captain will drift boat from up current and or upwind to slowly and gently pass at a respectable distance from stationary birds.
  13. If birds look up at you or move away you are too close.
  14. Examine histogram in test shot - look especially for blown out whites - For white birds consider setting exposure compensation to say-1/3 ev; for black birds and sea otters +1/3 ev, depending on scene.
  15. Custom function - highlight recovery set to on.
  16. Battery - charge the night before and bring a spare.
  17. Storage cards - bring formatted spares.
  18. Reset camera settings to preferred default values so you don't inherit settings you used on last session.
  19. For photographing flying birds, stop shooting after birds pass (it is the rare good shot taken from behind).
  20. Polarizer filters - circular - recommended on the water as they may reduce glare and improve images.
  21. Close is usually best.
  22. Angle - low eye-level photos (the bird's eye that is) are often the most satisfying.
  23. Portrait mode composition versus Landscape may be appropriate (note that polarizer, if used, will need re-adjusting).
  24. Illumination - study and exploit light intensity, direction.
  25. Thirds composition says don't always center your subject in the frame.

Share and discuss your photos. Visit PhotoMorroBay.com -- Gateway to our local Morro Bay, CA photographers' Yahoo! Group for discussions, events, polls, calendars, etc., https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/photomorrobay/info
and Gateway to our local Morro Bay, CA photographers' Flickr Group http://www.flickr.com/groups/photomorrobay/ for photo sharing and critique.