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3 Overlooked Items for Photographing Birds in Flight & Wildlife

Written by Thomas C


Posted on June 23 2019

3 Overlooked Items for Photographing Birds in Flight & Wildlife 

Thomas from Alotech
Wildlife Photographer | Former Guide | Podcast Host for the PhotoCast | Founder of Alotech 

Early in my career as a wildlife and bird photographer I overlooked three accessories that could help me take better photos.

I read reviews online from other photographers claiming these accessories are bad, so I shunned away from them until I finally caved in.

Now, using all three of these accessories has made me a better bird photographer and wildlife photographer.

Today, I have integrated each one into my workflow.

If you have a tripod that can be angled inches above the ground, then why do you need Skimmer Ground Pod?

The answer is simple: portability.

When you’re lying on the ground photographing birds you need to be portable and move around to photograph different angles.

You can also anticipate where the bird is going, and then easily slide the Skimmer Ground Pod across any surface from rocky ground to sand.

If you decide to use your tripod, then you are forced to pick up your tripod up each time you want to change angles.

Also, you can have instant access to accessories like teleconverters by placing them in the grooves of your Skimmer Ground Pod.  

Black-Bellied Plover | Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 600mm f/4 IS II, Skimmer Ground Pod | f/4.5, 1/1000, ISO 100

2. Teleconverters

Online you often hear the so called “experts” stating that teleconverters are not sharp, and you should just crop.

This is a bunch of crap.

On the Canon side specifically, teleconverters from the 1.4x III to the 2x III are sharp.

Personally, believe the sharpness issues people often talk about are likely due to camera shake vs. teleconverter performance.

Just like your lenses, you also should micro-adjust the teleconverters to your camera to get the sharpest results.

The Canon 1.4x III teleconverter is a staple in my workflow.

When I start photographing birds or wildlife I’m pretty far from the animal. In the field, I like to start with my 1.4x III converter attached when I’m farther away. Then, I continue to slowly approach the animal. Once I get close enough, then I take the teleconverter off.

Also, I position myself in the field so the animal is walking towards me; as the animal starts to get pretty close, then I attach my converter again so I can photograph some intimate headshots.

Willet | Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm f/4 IS II, 1.4x III | f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO 640

Canon’s 2x III teleconverter is one of the most overlooked accessories for wildlife photographers.

I’m sure you have heard that the Canon 2x III “is not sharp” or “you can’t photograph anything fast because of the slow autofocus”

In my opinion, this is flat out wrong.

Yes, it’s not as sharp as a lens without a converter, but nobody except you is zooming in at 1000%. I have huge photos that have been blown up in clients houses around the world and nobody except me knows I used a 2x III teleconverter. Frankly, my clients don’t even know what a teleconverter is.

I would have missed so many photos if I didn’t utilize a 2x III in my workflow.

For example, when I approached a lagoon, I noticed multiple Ospreys hunting. With my waders, I set my camera up at nearly neck level while I was standing in the water. Even though I was positioned in a great spot, considering the wind and sun, I could not get closer because the water was too deep.

I slapped on my Canon 2x III teleconverter and waited patiently. Soon after, the Osprey perfectly caught a fish and was flying directly at me. I was not only able to photograph the Osprey and the fish together, but as the pair got closer, I was able to photograph a tight photo of the fish in the Osprey’s talons.

Canon 1DX, 600mm f/4 IS II, 2x III | f/8, 1/2500, ISO 800

Canon 1DX, 600mm f/4 IS II, 2x III | f/8, 1/2500, ISO 800

3. Binoculars

This is another overlooked accessory that every bird photographer and wildlife photographer should own.

Personally, I get lazy after spending hours in the field.

If my lens or camera is inside my bag, because no bags have instant access to essential gear ;-), I will not take the time to take off my bag, open it up, take out my camera and lens, attach them, take off the lens cap, just to see what that dot is.

I remember seeing just a spec in the distance that looked like Moose antlers, but it was most likely vegetation. I had my binoculars, so quickly glassed the area. It turned out to be a Bull Alaskan Moose, which turned into being one of my best days I had that season photographing Moose.

If I didn’t have my binoculars, then I would have just kept walking.

Bull Alaskan Moose | Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS II | f/2.8, 1/1250, ISO 1000

Overall, the Skimmer Ground Pod is my go-to mount when I need to photograph from ground level because the portability is unmatched. Teleconverters are a staple in my workflow, and they have allowed me to capture photos I would have missed without them. Lastly, you should consider using binoculars because they allow you to constantly glass a scene for wildlife without all the hassle.

Do you carry these accessories in the field? Comment below to let me know!

Download Your Free Guide to Mastering Birds-in-Flight Photography

  1. Use the wind to know exactly where the bird is going to fly, and always capture the best angle
  2. Precisely predict exactly where a bird will take off by understanding 5 vital behavioral signs
  3. Discover the power of going low and occasionally high
  4. Never take an out-of-focus image again by mastering the 'V'
  5. Learn how to capture the ultimate wing position and body angle