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Two Red Kites fighting in mid-air

Looking back - Birds #1 - Battle!

Written by: Simon Palmer | Posted on: | Category:

Image Type: Natural Location: Gigrin Farm - Wales, UK

This is one of those images that you either catch or don't. It relies on having the camera pointing in the right place at the right time!

Well, it might be a little more than that, but generally that is the rule that applies. I took this shot a long long long time ago at Gigrin Farm. If you've ever wanted to try this out, then I can highly recommend this location to give you some practice.

There are many ways to shoot images of Kites. However, when you are starting out, you should not panic, take your time, and enjoy the "show". Kites as with any other animal have habits that will give you an indication of what they are about to do. I would always suggest watching the kites to start with before trying to take shots. It's tempting to panic and throw your camera all over the place, hoping to pick something out.

You need to remember at locations like Gigrin Farm, where the animals know when they are going to be fed, that the density of birds increases very close to feeding time. It's not unusual to see 300-400 birds at one feed.

You will notice a few things with these birds. They feed on the wing, so they don't typically land to eat, preferring to fly through and grab the food with their talons, and then go up into the sky to transfer the food to their mouths. They also will watch other kites, and sometimes you'll get a series of birds follow the same flight path to grab food. Some people suggest watching the birds, as they change how they "hold their wings" at the moment they turn into a dive.

This particular shot is a cropped image. At the time I was taking pictures, I only had the 70-200 lens, and a Nikon D700. I was following the bird on the right of the picture (which is a good habit to get into as if you just follow one bird, you stand a better chance of getting a good shot), and it had grabbed a chunk of meat. The bird on the left, tried to take it off the first animal, and that's how the battle happened.

I suggest setting your camera to a high ISO (at least 1600), but remember that the higher the ISO, the more chance of washed out colours and grain if you have an older camera. Relatively shallow depth of field as the background is always better out of focus and less distracting, with a fast shutter speed (in the 1000ths of a second range). I was lucky that day, as it was overcast, so very little work had to be done in post-processing. Metering is matrix. Interestingly, this shot was at ISO 800 and F16!

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