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Appropriate high-quality equipment always helps in the photography world, but by no means guarantees success. Basic requirements are a good DSLR, preferably chosen from a system such as that offered by Nikon or Canon, and a good-quality long telephoto autofocus lens with a large maximum aperture. The DSLR should be the best affordable option and should ideally feature a fast continuous frame rate and a short shutter lag. The choice of lens inevitably depends to some extent upon price, but a good lens is worth its weight in gold. A 600mm Nikon f/4 VR lens may cost around £7,000 but will deliver stunning crisp sharp images. Shorter 400mm and 300mm lenses are also useful and cost less than the very long focal length models. Lenses having a focal length of less than 200mm are likely to be somewhat limiting. A solid and very stable tripod is also an essential item of equipment.

Having acquired the necessary equipment it is necessary to learn how to use it without undue delay. Birds tend to move very rapidly, particularly the smaller species, so valuable opportunities should never be wasted while a photographer fiddles with settings and adjustments. Practice at home with the relevant equipment and learn how to change exposure modes, shutter speeds, apertures, ISO setting and focus without taking the eye from the viewfinder.

Experience teaches which modes and settings are the best in particular circumstances. Fast-moving action may be best captured using a high frame-rate continuous autofocus mode. The best results when photographing flying birds may be obtained when using automatic AF point selection provided a reasonably uniform background is present. In more confused surroundings it may be necessary to reduce the AF area to a size smaller than the bird itself. Take spot-meter readings from the birds themselves where possible.


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