Friday, June 20, 2014


This week I built a birdfeeder using crap I had around the house--a scrap of fence board, mason jar, florist wire, and a thin sheet of bamboo Ken and I had bandsawed off a cutlery organizer that was a little too long for it's drawer.

I was instantly disappointed by the photos I could get from inside the house, through the patio window. The birds won't come if you're sitting outside, and it's too hot and boring anyway.  And even a 1/1000 shutter won't freeze bird-motion well at all, so you're stuck with catching them sitting and eating. 

Luckily the plan all along was to get tricky and game those birds: 


I need to update this post tomorrow with a photo of my setup and some of the shots without flash.

What I did is put my main flash (Sunpak 383-Super) on a stand on the patio, about 6 feet from the feeder. It fires when the camera's shutter opens, triggered by wireless radio transmitter/receiver. That flash sets off two smaller ones mounted a few inches in front of and below it via their optical sensors. I'm trying to overpower the sun to a currently unknown amount.
The camera is on a tripod about 4 feet closer to the house, and I take the picture from indoors using an infrared remote aimed thru the curtains. Focus is already set manually to cover a zone around the feeder.
Exposure is also set manually to knock down the background levels a stop or two.

Since flashes pulse MUCH faster than typical shutter speeds, they freeze motion more better. Also, lighting something intentionally gives you control over many aspects of how the camera "sees". It's different for sure, and looks cool right out of the camera.

The finch pics were done yesterday, and kept me interested.

This dove shot was from today, and I scrapped the pair of slave flashes 'cuz I didn't need as much light as I thought because of the short distance, and the response delay inherent in optical triggers was giving me a longer duration of flash, although I can't tell if it helps yet.  

I didn't put the feeder and camera stuff outside until 4pm, and that may be responsible for a light turnout. Word hadn't spread that there was a free buffet in our backyard.
We've been getting a nice cardinal couple, and the finch has a wife, too.
Sparrows are like soccer fans--one of them will get on the feeder and sweep a bunch of seed into the grass so his 5 buddies can peck for it.
The woodpecker is a jerk.

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