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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Bird Talk 
Thread started 20 May 2009 (Wednesday) 17:29
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Do you camouflage your lens

 
adrian5127
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May 20, 2009 17:29 |  #1

I have recently got into birding and would like some advise.

I have recentl bought a 100-400 which is not the most subtle of lenses. Do you use any cover to camouflage your lens and can you recommend any?

In the same vein do you wear camoufl age jackets?

I have been to Richmond Park a couple of times and my ultimate goal is to get a decent picture of a kingfisher. I managed to get some mediocre shots with my 18-200 a couple of months ago. Went back yesterday with high hopes with my 100-400 but the kingfisher I found was too flighty.

Any advise would be appreciated

Thanks


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davebreal
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May 20, 2009 19:07 |  #2

Lenscoat makes camo for this lens and other telephoto's. Check the online superstores.

I have it on my 500mm, and so do most of my friends.


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May 20, 2009 21:54 |  #3

The kingfisher is notoriously skittish... Quite a challenge!
I sometimes wear camo, it definitely can help, esp in more wild areas. (birds are less used to people). I will be camo-ing the lens, but have done good with it as is. (Its big and white too). When I use a tripod I often put a fern or some-such on it.


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BradM
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May 20, 2009 22:04 as a reply to  @ davebreal's post |  #4

I have a lens coat on both the 500mm f/4 and the 400mm f/4 DO but it isn't too "hide" the lens but rather to add an additional level of protection against nicks and bumps.

Some people will camo up when they go out after birds and such, others like myself used to but don't do so for most subjects anymore. It really doesn't seem to make any difference, however wearing white does seem to make the subjects more skittish. As does not wearing a hat, so when I go out it usually in earth or neutral tones with a hat and no white.

And if your Kingfishers are anything like those in the Pacific Northwest you can't find a more skittish bird, these I have had to use blinds to get decent images. Good luck!


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adrian5127
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May 21, 2009 05:45 |  #5

Thanks for all your help, I will have to try a hat and will look at lenscoat tonight was I get home.

I thought I would set my self a challenge hence going for a kingfisher


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May 21, 2009 06:31 |  #6

I just made a camo from a piece of cloth, painted it with acrylic paint and just fix with a couple of elastic bands. I also have some camo cloth which I use as a hide just drape it over me the camera and tripod then sit patiently.


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mikeivan
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May 21, 2009 06:32 |  #7

Interesting responses to this question. For me, camo makes a difference, I wear it (shirt and cap) and I have a cover for my lens hood. However, many respected bird photographers (Arthur Morris for one) do not wear, use or recommend camouflage. My shirt and cap have the added benefit of being insect repellent (Buzz Off, I think).



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My lens cover is nothing more than an turkey hunters gaiter ($10 @ Bass Pro Shop). When I first put it on over my big white lens hood, I thought I could tell a difference in the reduced number birds I flushed, particularly when photographing from my car. YMMV

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BradM
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May 21, 2009 07:28 as a reply to  @ mikeivan's post |  #8

Birds or any animal for that matter live in a situation we really have no comprehension of, intellectually maybe but as matter of course most certainly not.

And that is the predator/prey relationship they have on a daily basis. They are either food or want to acquire another for food or both.

And having this thought in the back of your mind when trying to capture images of these creatures should be there, are you presenting yourself as a predator or prey or a non-threatening species.

Dressing in camo and trying to sneak up on an animal while it may make you immediately less obvious, to humans mostly, most species are aware you are there. Those that seemingly are not aware have either recognized you as a non-threat or literally have no fear of humans or large moving shrubberies. ;)

Camoflague is most effective when used in a single position, sitting and awaiting a subject, it can make you less obvious but many many species will know you are there already either by sight, sound or smell. These animals know their territories and know when a new object has plopped in their area. Raptors will pick you up much earlier than you can image

They also recognize changes in the "usual" they encounter, vehicles for example. I often shoot at a favorite refuge from the car and have found while the car in and of it self doesn't spook the subjects, a change in the vehicles profile does. That is if I pull up and then run thelens outthe window, or an arm or a head, the subjects will pull back to distance they feel more secure at.

However if I pull up with the lens, head, arm or whatever already out of the vehicle it is not as threatening and the images can be captured. Be ready before you are close and you can get closer.

Being stealthy or sneaky can be preceived as behavior of a predator and the subjects will react very much the same as if a predator were really there, you see this in your backyard where the birds would normally sit through just about whatever you might be doing but if you suddenly appear in the yard everything takes flight and the risk assessment is then done by the birds. Often very quickly they are back to feeding or doingtheir bird stuff after recognizing you as a non-threat.

These animals are very much aware or their surroundings and haunts, a good friend attempted to photograph some Kingfishers and went out and setup his blind and then spent the next two weeks on an almost daily basis trying to capture shots of them, whether he went in before light or even spent the night in the blind he could not capture an image of these two birds except as they flew by rattling their alarm call.

After we talked about this it was realized he had set his blind in a perfect position to shoot a particular perch but had placed the blind directly under another favored position and they "recognized" the change in the area. Much like if I decided to photograph some one in their living room by hiding partially behind the couch and partially under the drapes, a change in the room would be noticed. And I probably wouldn't be invited back for dinner.

Understanding the subjects habits will bring more success than just finding the "perfect" spot, he had noted the subjects mate would use the location where he was at on occasion but didn't take that into account and so had a couple week learning experience.

The whole point is to understand the subjects "world view" if you will, if you act as if you are a predator then prey will leave the area, if you act as prey you maybe eaten (which could make for some good images however have a lens handy with a short min focus distance so the images will be in focus.) :D

And knowing the subjects habits, haunts and times they perfer to do certain things like feed, groom, rest or travel. These are usually quite regular for just about every species, things change a bit when there is young to care for but otherwise they operate much like we do on a schedule.

Their schedule though is based on different clock than ours, they use the Sun's rising and setting which changes on a daily basis, getting earlier or later based on the season. If you find an animal some place 2 hours after sunrise and go back a month or two later at the time you saw on your watch and spent a few days you wouldn't probably capture the similar behavior. Because the time of the sun rise has changed.

But if returned at the same two hours after sunrise you would more than likely do so, a lot of species behavior is not based on a daily set of rounds but maybe every couple of days or every week,. A coyote I often photographed Icould count on passing a certain place about every 3 days. These animals range a lot but do have hime ranges and will cover all of it. It just depends on the scale and demands they animal currently has on it.

There is a bit more I could go on about like movement, crawling is often not seen as threat where walking towards the subject is, eye contact or lens contact, ever stand back and look into the lens as seen the animal? With the eyepiece un-covered it can look like a giant eye complete with pupil as light is gathered through the viewfinder.

And some more but the Sun is up and time to go play. Hope this helps a bit.

Bottomline know your subject, don't be preceived as threat and be patient.


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davebreal
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May 21, 2009 08:53 |  #9

Thanks for that info Brad.

I've heard of the hat theory, and have worn one off and on myself. Do you think any old hat makes a big difference?


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jmik26
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May 21, 2009 12:36 as a reply to  @ davebreal's post |  #10

Do an advance search for a POTN member Nighthound. Some of the best kingfisher images I have ever seen. In a couple of his post he describes the practice, technique, and patience it takes to get close. Here is one that I found...Jeff
https://photography-on-the.net …hp?p=7668545&po​stcount=24


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Nighthound
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May 21, 2009 15:01 |  #11

Thanks Jeff for the compliment and mention. Brad's info above is brilliant, he and I seem to agree on many of the important aspects of not only taking the image but the best method for putting yourself in position for better and more frequent opportunities.

Adrian, I admire your quest for a good challenge and Kingfishers are all that. I find the hunt for difficult subjects and applying a good strategy to be a large part of the fun pursuing many wild birds. I'm a big believer in camo and have it wrapped on my 500. I also use a drape and clothing that allows me to blend as much as possible. For times when camo isn't effective I lay down and crawl to approach nervous birds. It's amazing to see how effective something as simple as laying down and moving very slowly can be.

Here's an article I wrote that may contain some helpful info. I wish you the best of luck on your Kingfisher quest, they're magnificent birds. Three years ago I would never have dreamed that I would be seeing and photographing them from so close.

---------------

IN PURSUIT OF THE BELTED KINGFISHER

For years I tried the chase technique with these birds and lost every pursuit. Even trying drive up shots in my truck left me driving away grumbling. So I decided it was time for a plan.

First I had to do some scouting and locate perches that were frequented by the birds. Then decide the best set up spot with the best light and backgrounds.

Next I needed to go under cover. I picked up a section of camo fabric from Bass Pro Shop for $25(4.5 ft. x 11 ft.). I like the dangling leaf cut out style because it provides peak holes and ventilation when it's warm. I'm only 5 ft. 10" tall so if you're less vertically challenged you may want to look for a longer section of fabric.

I drape the fabric at the half way mark of the length across the lens/camera/tripod. Then I use a mini bungee(multi pack-WalMart) to wrap the just behind the lens hood and hook underneath. Next take 3 spring clips and close up the front seam(below lens front). Now you simply climb in the back open seam and you're ready to go. I arrive before sunrise and assemble this by my truck, then carry the whole rig to my set up spot to allow me to quickly get out of sight.

It's a good idea to get into and out of the blind when there are no birds around to avoid the association of humans to the funny looking bush with the large glass eye. Sometimes they'll be at my locations when I arrive so having them fly off is unavoidable. But I have learned that if this location is highly favored by the bird(s) it will return soon enough. Since you'll be under cover by then, you'll be perceived as much less of a threat then when you arrived. In my experience they'll go about their feeding and preening but keep a watchful eye on you.

Once in position, there's most often a lot of waiting time which I spend metering periodically, doing test exposures and of course listening for that familiar incoming chatter. Once a bird arrives there's an overwhelming urge to swing the lens over and start shooting. But it's important to remember that you're disguised, not invisible, and these feisty birds are every bit as smart as they are skittish. They always take long looks at me, so I wait and stay still. When the bird becomes less concerned about me it will either begin looking for fish below or start preening and that's when I VERY slowly pan over, pause to see the bird's reaction and take a shot as a test of the birds tolerance. If you are concentrating on only one perch when the bird arrives then there's no need to swing the lens around and of course that's a plus. It's more likely that the bird will have a few landing perches near its fishing perches and from my experience there's no telling which one will be favored each day.

As I mentioned when it's time to leave try to wait for the birds to leave first if possible. I've waited almost an hour in the past while a KF perched nearby on an obstructed perch. The more you visit a site and shoot, the less alarmed the bird will be when it spots the blind. It'll still be wary but less likely to do a fly by and actually land. Like always it's a good idea to have a spare battery and all needed items pocketed so you don't have to leave the blind and return. And don't forget to pack plenty of patience, it does require a good quantity. Don't be discouraged if you don't have success the first time out or even off and on for no apparent reason. Some days they show and some days they don't, but when they do it's a blast. Good luck and I hope this helps in some way.

---------------

Yes, camo for me whenever possible:
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Good luck and post 'em when you get 'em.


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adrian5127
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May 21, 2009 16:38 |  #12

Steve and Brad,

Thank you both for taking time to answer my query so comprehensively.
I already have one of the key ingredients, patience, so I will have to do some shopping and have some early starts.

Are they more active at any particular time day?

I originally went to Richmond Park to shoot the deer and when I was walking back to the car saw this little beauty. This was shot at 200 and has wetted my appetite!! That was in January. I have since got my 100-400 and went back full of confidence only to have no luck at any photos.

If it were too easy there would be no satisfaction when I do get a decent shot:D

I will look at some of your shots and have somewhere to aspire to.

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May 21, 2009 18:36 |  #13

You're very welcome Adrian.

Your Kingfishers are much more stunning than our Belted Kingfisher so I'm very envious. There are a number of members here that have some beautiful Kingfisher shots. Looking forward to your images. Good luck.


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BradM
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May 21, 2009 20:40 as a reply to  @ Nighthound's post |  #14

davebreal wrote in post #7962628 (external link)
Thanks for that info Brad.

I've heard of the hat theory, and have worn one off and on myself. Do you think any old hat makes a big difference?

Dave, I don't think the style makes that much difference unless your birds subscribe to GQ, mine don't but this is a very rural county in the PNW.

We are more of the latte chic look: gore-tex lined boots and Carhartts and a mocha in hand. For hats I will wear anything from a boonie style to a regular ball cap usually in muted colors or earth tones.

Just avoid white, most white clothing and even hats with white have a UV enhancer which fluoresces outside of our visible range but is like spot light to many birds and animals that can see in a wider spectrum.

But I have found a hat will break up your outline enough (or maybe just keep my bald spot from flashing) to keep from spooking the birds away

adrian5127 wrote in post #7965193 (external link)
Steve and Brad,

Thank you both for taking time to answer my query so comprehensively.
I already have one of the key ingredients, patience, so I will have to do some shopping and have some early starts.

Are they more active at any particular time day?

Nice image Adrian, your KF's are just incredibly colorful compared to the drab blue we have up here.

And your welcome, sharing knowledge is one of the primary functions of places like this and if I can help even a bit for someone to get the shots they want, it is all that much better.

When the best time to capture them?... like many answers it depends. I have some that fish for crab in tidal waters so the best time is an hour or two before and after a low tide. Others in places I visit they fish for freshwater schooling fish in a small lake so it depends on the weather and wind where the fish might be. Just like fishing for trout, usually the windward side is good place to start. But the bird follows the prey and you need to anticipate the preys location. KF's are habitually perch users though which helps define a location.

It comes down to observation, often I will go some place with a purpose in mind, camera at the ready but I will sit off a distance, outside the area I think that might spook the subject and just watch. Sometimes that is the whole day, I'll capture some images of something but not what I came for because I want to understand where and what the subject is doing. And coming again on another day pays off so much more.

I've spent 8 days just watching Rough Legged Hawks hunt which involved 3 hours of driving each day to do so, grabbing an occasional shot but it wasn't until the last two that the shots I took were the ones I had envisioned in my head. Missed Thanksgiving dinner with the family doing this but for me it was worth it. Nobody said this stuff was easy, for good reason I think.

And Steve's advice is certainly on the mark, his images bear that out. He captures incredible stuff that makes anyone envious, certainly myself.

His advice about a fabric drape is very good, I have several in differing colors and patterns. But he is a big spender compared to me, I went to Walmart where I bought the camo fabric for a couple dollars a yard and some iron velcro tape. I bought enough to velcro a couple of the 3 foot swaths together to make a drape, a kind of poncho/camera cover or even just a ground cloth I can sit or lie on. They also had the leaf cut out pattern which is nice in the warmer weather but only in a forest green which doesn't work well on a beach for example but other colors and patterns are available.

All the best guys!


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May 22, 2009 17:51 |  #15

The problem with the 100-400 is the push-pull zoom. While I love this in operation, it does mean that it's not possible to cover the whole lens with a Lenscoat. That leaves a glaring white bit between the nicely camoflaged ends.

My solution was to buy a pair of camo tights for a few quid, planning on cutting them up and using a bit of the leg as an expandable camo cover. Trouble is the tights were deemed 'too nice' to cut up.


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Do you camouflage your lens
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