Lenses for Photographing Water Birds

Australian White Ibis

There are great array of lenses available for photographing water birds. Whether you are using a Canon or a Nikon there is a great range of lenses available to choose from. Sometimes water birds can be photographed from quite up close. The image above of the white ibis taking a bath has been captured with a Nikon 105mm Micro lens. I find this focal length very versatile has it can focus from infinity to a reproduction ratio of 1:1. There are also other Micro or Macro lenses available for this type of photography. Nikon have an excellent 200mm Micro lens. See our lens review sections for more details of these and other lenses.

Nikon Lens Reviews.

Grey Teal Taking a Dive

On most occasions a longer lens such as a 300mm or longer may be required to catch excellent water birds. The above image of the Grey Teal taking a dive has been taken using a 300mm f/4 lens.

When using longer lenses such as over 200mm, care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no camera movement and quite often I will use a monopod or tripod to help stabilise the lens and camera, a monopod helps you to  be more mobile than with a tripod.

In photographing water birds it helps add more interest to the image if the birds are doing something interesting and natural. In the first image above the ibis is having a bath and showering water everywhere. With the second image the teal is ducking its head under the water probably to catch something to eat.

With water birds, I prefer a lens with a minimum aperture of f/4, there are cheaper lenses with higher apertures of around f/5.6 for instance, but they are not as satisfactory for use in low light. Also lenses with vibration reduction or image stabilisation help to reduce any camera or lens movement at lower shutter speeds. It should be noted however that VR or IS will not help in reducing blur due to subject movement.

In photographing water birds it helps greatly if you try to limit any sudden movements and try to approach the birds very slowly to avoid frightening them.

You will generally find that there are many areas where water birds frequent, such as permanent ponds and streams etc. It can be very rewarding photographing water birds and also keep in mind that it may be handy to carry a wider angle lens to enable you to capture any nice water scenes you may come across.