I have recently begun a new venture, offering bird of prey photography workshops in the beautiful Shropshire countryside near my home in the UK. The first one took place in June and was a great success and another follows in August. It was a pleasure combining my teaching experience and photography knowledge to help the participants make the most of the experience, with skills levels varying from total beginner to experienced nature photographers.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the benefits of attending workshops where the subjects are captive birds.

Wildlife photography is a skill that takes many years to acquire. Not only does it require a huge amount of patience and time but also field crafts. You need to know your camera inside out so when fleeting moments present themselves you can respond intuitively. However,  actually being in the right place at the right time is the real challenge and to do that you need to understand your subject.

Well run workshops will focus on photography technique and also the bird themselves. Their natural habitat will be considered alongside their behaviour. A huge amount of useful information can be acquired which can allow participants to seek out wild subjects.

Learning how your camera and lenses can be used effectively to “nail” a good shot is fundamental. Being able to spend a day experimenting with different lenses, depths of fields and speeds has been for me in the past a huge confidence booster for the times I have been out in the field with “real” subjects.

Flight shots are a real challenge, especially in the poor light we often get in the UK. Knowing how to wind up your ISO to the limit that is acceptable for your camera is something that all nature photographers must know.

Panning to maintain a bird in frame is yet another skill that needs repetition.

Learning how the background changes the impact of an image and knowing which f/stop keeps the full bird in focus can be practiced as a hundred images can be taken of one bird as you swap camera settings and lenses.

The skills learnt can be applied endlessly in the future. Participants may go away and more confidently seek wild subjects, be more able to shoot subjects in their back yards or maybe be better prepared for the safari they always wanted to go on. Before I went skiing I went on the dry ski slopes so when I hit the real stuff I stood a chance of enjoying the experience more – this is how I view these workshop, a chance to hit the ground running when the opportunities arise without falling on your butt and cursing lack of preparation.

In addition it is always good to meet other photographers and see how different people approach a subject. In my workshop we share images after the event and that is a big learning experience and people can stay in touch so new friends are made.

For more information about my workshops email me at Barnabys@btinternet.com or visit my website here.

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