Until now I’ve been writing about birds in general. Now it’s time for a post about a specific type, namely the so well known pigeons. I think they deserve a dedicated article provided that they are some of the most commonly encountered birds. They live in huge numbers in cities but also in wilderness. The domesticated ones are so friendly and hard to scare that one almost steps on them on the street. They can be found everywhere in an urban area: streets, parks, on buildings, wires and so on.
Even if pigeons are very easy to spot, it is still worth taking pictures of them. On the one hand it’s because of their diversity. There are white pigeons, black pigeons, grey, brown ones or a beautiful combination of more colours (like spotted pigeons). On the other hand they are very graceful when walking or flying so it’s a good opportunity to capture a lot of interesting snapshots.
Also as birds in flight they are fairly easy to photograph even without pro-grade lenses. I managed to take several good shots using my 70-300VC Tammy which (as mentioned in previous posts) is not a BIF lens. This is because they fly pretty close to the photographer, their flight is less erratic and their size makes auto-focusing relatively easy. Comparing them with smaller birds like sparrows the mission is way easier!
Let me share with you my findings about photographing pigeons in different situations.
When pigeons are walking on the pavement I usually stay with my camera as close as possible to their level. I prefer to start at a higher distance and put the zoom at maximum so I obtain a cleaner subject separation. Then I progressively zoom out as the bird approaches . After ensuring I have a clean background I take the shot. I continue taking pictures until the bird is too close for a correct framing (an alternative would be some steps back if possible). The interesting thing about walking pigeons is that in many situations their moves resemble dancing or marching. Graceful, isn’t it? One more tip: use a few crumbs of bread to keep pigeons around. It might be very interesting to catch them in large groups, say in a city square. In this case a nice combination of bird and landscape/cityscape photography will arise.
If pigeons are sitting on branches or other accessible places (like rooftops) the mission becomes even easier. Again, ensure that the background is as clean as possible so no elements distract the attention of the viewer. Make more pictures as even sitting pigeons like to continually move their head in certain directions (and they also blink!).
When they are in flight just put the AF on continuous mode, activate burst shooting and wait until they get at an acceptably close distance. They usually do. Ensure there is enough space left in the picture, you’ll most probably have to crop anyway. More details in this post. Last but not least some unforgettable pictures can be obtained by photographing groups of flying pigeons. I warmly recommend you to do this. You’ll notice that even in flight pigeons move like they are dancing … with each other.
To conclude, pigeon photography is accessible even if the budget is lower. For some specific cases one can even use a standard zoom and not require a telephoto. They are friendly birds and even if so common their beauty and grace makes them a good candidate for bird photography. In my opinion it’s a good starting point for beginners but it’s a good opportunity for more experienced photographers as well. So why not grab it?
Take care and … good light!
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