Photographing birds in flight can be challenging, but attempting it on a cloudy day brings a whole new realm of hurdles.
One cloudy day while photographing birds in flight with a photographer friend, I expressed discontent with my images.
“I can’t get an exposure of the bird without blowing out the sky to white,” I told him.
My friend’s reply has stuck with me since that day: “What are you photographing, the birds or the sky?”
“The birds, of course,” I said.
“Then why are you worried about the sky?” That was an enlightening moment.
Cloudy days are an excellent opportunity to create a high key image of the birds in flight.
On a sunny day, you put the sun to your back, set your exposure, and you’re ready to go. (Well, maybe it’s not quite that easy.) On a cloudy day, if you allow your camera to determine the exposure, you most likely will get a blurry silhouette of the bird against an overcast sky. But if you increase the exposure for only the bird, you can create a high key, artistic image, suitable for printing, framing, and hanging on a wall or giving as a gift.
Cloudy days have their challenges, but there can be benefits, too.
Have fun with your bird photography, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Stay tuned for the next Birdtography post, in which Bruce shares five tips for photographing warblers.
See a gallery of Bruce’s photos below!
About the Author
Bruce Wunderlich is the production director and a contributing photographer for Bird Watcher’s Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. Bruce’s award-winning photography has also appeared in many state (Ohio) and local (Marietta) publications. Follow Bruce on Instagram @ Bruce_Wunderlich.