Photo skills: How I took this image of a starling murmuration

Wildlife Photographer of Year 2014 finalist Andrew Forsyth explains how he captured this winning shot.

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Murmuration in the Storm by Andrew Forsyth, United Kingdom
© Andrew Forsyth

 

Andrew Forsyth was a finalist in the Natural Design category of Wildlife Photographer of Year 2014 with his amazing photo ‘Murmuration in the Storm’.

The Brighton-based photographer dedicated five evenings every week for four months – accruing approximately 80 hours of photography and 30,000 shots – to capture the behaviour of the starlings.

“Over that time I developed a detailed knowledge of the timings, groups and patterns of behaviour of the starlings. This allowed me to position myself at the right spot as the groups approached and predict their movements before they entered the roost. Knowing where each group would go meant I was always a step ahead,” he says. 

Andrew’s biggest challenge while photographing this 100-strong group of fast-moving birds was securing and holding focus. He says, “The starlings come to roost at dusk when light levels and contrast are low. This makes tracking focus against a background of sea and waves particularly difficult. Locking on to the small birds as they approach is critical to success.”

Equipment specification Canon EOS 5D Mark III + 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 lens; 1/6 sec at f22 (+1 ev); ISO 200.

EXPERT TIPS

  • Use hand-held long exposures (long-duration shutter speeds) in order to capture the birds’ movement and reveal the patterns within the murmuration.
  • Panning with individual birds allows you to keep these sharper within the frame, rather than capturing a single mass of blurred birds.
  • Shoot lots and don’t be afraid to experiment with very slow shutter speeds, the fun starts below 1/30th of a second!

See more brilliant photography by Andrew Forsyth

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