The Great Journey in Photography

Flash for Bird Photography II

West Coast Anna's on a branch

420mm f4.0 320iso 1/320sec

I have not seen any evidence that a flash disturbs birds in any way with the exception of hummingbirds, even then, it was when the  intensity was way to high. Under normal usage I have never seen a bird flinch or react to the beam of light. Don’t confuse the flash with shutter noise please, I see birds react to that all the time. It makes sense too, birds see flashes of light frequently in nature and are not harmed by it. Call it lightning. Noise on the other hand indicates something is approaching and that spells danger. Animals react to that.

Photo Mar 13, 9 38 59 PM


Photo Mar 13, 9 44 01 PM

The photo above is the set up I use when using flash and it is about as inexpensive at it can get. The thing that sticks in my craw the most is the apparatus that hoists the flash device above the camera and a bit off axis of the lens. It is important to have because as always getting the flash off the camera makes a better picture, it adds more dimension and eliminates red-eye. They are also brush catchers and if you do any kind of hiking in wilderness you may regret having one because you can do damage to your gear. What sticks for me though is the price. In general I think most of these devices are either very flimsy or priced at 2-3 times their real value. I am lucky though, I work with metal on a regular basis and it was a minor chore for me to build my own. You can also mount your flash in the camera hot shoe or strap it on the front of a very long lens, it works, but is not as good.

I also use a cheap flash sync cord, I think it is a Nikon brand but I found it on eBay for just a few dollars. It has been a while  and I honestly don’t remember if it was new or used, the point is you can find one on the cheap. I tried a number of wireless units and the built-in Nikon Brand “Power Commander” mode and all of them occasionally fail to fire. I like having the peace of mind knowing that I have a cord that works all the time every time. The flash device is an old Nikon brand SB600 that I purchased years ago refurbished for under $200. I chose the 600 because it also does TTL in Power Commander mode and high-speed sync., a feature I no longer use in bird photography. Other parts of my decision was size, weight, and price.

That thing that you see attached to the flash is the Visual Echos “Better Beamer” Flash X-tender and as you can see it is a magnifying glass or to be more specific a Fresnel lens. It magnifies and concentrates the light and throws it far beyond its normal range. Of course that band of light is very narrow and it is important that you adjust that beam to hit your target. Every time you set up run some test shots to dial it in which can be impossible when shooting on the fly. Sometimes you have to guesstimate and hope for the best. It is important to read the directions carefully and follow them or you will be wasting your time. Also, make sure you know when you need the Better Beamer, not every situation requires an extender. Make sure you understand the inverse square law, you can learn more about that here. You can buy a Better Beamer at many places so I don’t need to recommend one, and as far as I know there is only one manufacturer so all of them will be the same product. It should cost about$40.

Thanks for stopping by gang. If you have any questions about using a flash or anything else post a comment or send me an email and I will be happy to help.

We are going into the last few days to download my free iPad application WildlifeHD.



One response

  1. That is a really neat setup. I am having a bit of lens envy but hey that comes with the territory.

    March 15, 2013 at 9:21 am

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