Sunday, November 28, 2010

Backyard Kestrel

 I have checked Malden Park a few times since last weekend for another look at the Shrike with no luck. I did not scour the grounds, but rather did a quick 20 minute walk along the Northwestern Quadrant of the hill where I originally saw it. Today's walk just had the regulars BCCs and a few Downy Woodpeckers. The one above looks like he was in the midst of making a duplex.

While working in my backyard today, I was shocked today to see a raptor like bird glide across the sky and land in a neighbor's tree about 5 houses down the road. I could not tell what type of raptor is was, but I knew it was a raptor because I noticed large talon reach out to the branch as it landed. I grabbed my camera and walked down the road to discover a beautifully perched American Kestrel!
Av / F11/ ISO 200
Av/ F9.5 / ISO 400

I've been wanting to talk about 'Digital Workflow' for a while now. Basically I 'm trying to find the sweet spot for my lens to get as much detail as I can when I photograph a bird. I use Aperture Priority when I shot and typically set the ISO to 800. Lately, I have been realizing that maybe I should set my ISO to 400 or 200. When I see a cool bird though, I don't really have the mindset to try different settings and look at what gives the best outcome.

Has anyone ever experimented with the similar birds in similar lighting conditions and changing the ISO settings and Aperture settings?

I've been running with ISO 800 and F/9 as my typical starting point (in Av mode). If the lighting is low, I might open up the aperture to F5.6 and move ISO to 1600. Do any readers mess around with manual settings on their cameras? Or are you in a simple Portrait or Automatic mode?

This site discusses this discussion much better than I am doing ( and section 6.1 is really where this is touched on. My problem is that I feel like the settings I've been running with are not the most wisely selected.

Any thoughts?

Good birding,


  1. If you're looking to have some readily available settings in the field, you might want to read this post:

    I found it helpful.

  2. I've been meaning to figure out optimal settings too, but have never taken the time to do it. unfortunately I'm still using a really cheap 70-300, and since I always try to shoot at iso400-500 max or lower, that pretty much means I'm wide open @ 300mm/5.6. If it's really bright, I'll try to open it up or bring down the iso. Conditions don't often seem to allow for this though!
    If you've spent more on a lens though and have more flexibility than I do, it would definitely be worth it to figure this out. Optimum tends to be somewhere around the middle (f8).
    I shoot A-priority too, with compensation for when I'm against a bright sky.



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