The Wilson House Birds Monterey VA
The Wilson House birds are one of the main reasons we stay at the Wilson House in Monterey Virginia. As an amateur bird photographer, one of the hardest things to do is find birds willing to sit still and have a great background for framing a shot. Wide open fields make the perfect place to capture birds in the wild on film. The bokeh is great at F8-F9 because the background is so far away. You can use a F8-F9 on a telephoto lens and still get really nice bokeh backgrounds. Unless you can afford a Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM $13,000 lens, you're going to have to figure out how to get closer to birds and to get good shots.
All my bird photography shots are done with a Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro lens. So I have to get really close to the birds to get a good picture. I have found these birds at the Wilson House in Monterey VA to be very accommodating, and don't frighten as easily as long as you bribe them with LOTS of food. Once you sit down for about 15 minutes, they will start flying all around as if you weren't there. I found that they also do better if they don't see your eyes. Every animal I encounter that doesn't see my eyes seems unsure if there is a threat and will stick around, but the minute I come from behind the camera (no matter how slowly), they scurry off after they see my eyes and know I am an animal too. You can peek with one eye when doing birds in flight but never both eyes.
Another good trick is go beyond feeding the birds in just the bird feeders. By putting feed on wooden fence posts and rocks throughout your field of vision, you have enticed them to dine with a perfect back drop for for your photo shoot.
One of the best places to photograph birds is the back roads in Highland County, Virginia, known for its bird sanctuaries. There are so many winding farm roads with no one on them. You can go all day and see only a handful of people. We like to drive around running and gunning shooting photos of birds on posts for entertainment. A good trick to capture a good photograph of a bird on posts is to just drive down the back roads and keep your windows down. Just stop your vehicle quickly before they fly off and grab a quick photo. Be sure you check your rear view mirrors every now and again just to be sure no one is coming up behind you when you slam on your brakes for a photo. With so many roads and so many farms and fence posts in Highland County, Virginia, you will have success. I guarantee it. You will be assured a few chances to photograph a deer eating, standing or running. We were lucky enough to catch a photograph of a Golden Eagle sitting in a tree after we caught a few deer running in the same field.
One of the hardest birds to catch is the Eastern Meadowlark. They don't sit long so when you pull up and stop fast you get about two seconds to focus and shoot. I shoot photography with a Canon 7D, so I set my camera up to use the Back Button Focus. I have it in AI Servo mode, so if you stay on the button, it continues to focus. When I am running and gunning out of the truck for bird shots, I switch my focus points to a AF Expansion instead of Spot Point AF; which I use for birds that I am feeding. When you are shooting bird photography in a run and gun situation, you need way more focus area which is why I switch to AF Expansion. I also shoot on high speed. So I can get 10 frames per second on my camera. It's more like 8 frames per second on full RAW. You will go through a lot of pictures, but you need to shoot very fast when birds are flying.
If all goes well this year, I will be back again and hopefully with a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens for a little more to reach out and capture with. One thing is always true when it comes to cameras, put your money in the glass. Be sure to check out the Bluejay collision picture, the woodpecker ruling the roost, the army of Gold Finches, and the amazing pictures of the Red-winged Blackbird in action.