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Seabird masterclass

TECHNIQUE ASSESSMENT Before they got ready to find some puffins to pose for them, Chris checked that Les was all set up and ready to take some great bird portraits.

Camera setup

Chris says: We tweaked a few of Les’ basic settings to get better results instantly. First he changed to shooting in 14-bit RAW, which takes up more space on your memory card but gives a little extra tonal and colour range. Les had his picture control set to Vivid. This is usually used for things like fashion shoots, so he switch back to neutral, as you can always increase colours in post-production.

Exposure compensation

Chris says: Birds with black-and-white plumage can be an exposure nightmare. Check the histogram and make sure you’re keeping detail in the pale feathers – when shooting in sunshine you might need to underexpose by up to two stops. Under overcast skies you can over-expose by 0.3-0.7 stops .

Dynamic area autofocus Exposure 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO800 Lens Nikon AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR

the pro’s Killer Kit #03 Shower cap Chris says… Using a shower cap to protect your Nikon from the rain is an old bit of wildlife photography folklore that actually works. I always steal them from hotels and keep a few in my kit bag for when the weather changes. If it starts to pour down when you’re on a shoot you can easily slide the shower cap over the back of the camera, and it’ll work in conjunction with your lens cover to keep everything dry. You can still use the buttons on the back of the camera through the thin plastic, and you can even look through the viewfinder at

Chris says: Birds aren’t as patient as human models, and may still move around a bit when you’re framing up a portrait. Dynamic area autofocus is a good choice for keeping your chosen puffin in focus if it’s shuffling about or moving erratically. On Les’s D800 you can select different numbers of autofocus points, such as D9 or D21, for your camera to work with.

the pro’s kit

a push. There are more expensive, purpose-made camera covers available in shops, but I don’t mind improvising with a freebie.

Chris totes around his D4s with a D300 as a backup body. His go-to lens is the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 II super zoom lens and he’s also got the following things in his kit bag: ■ Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II ■ Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8 macro ■ Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED ■ Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x teleconverter

August 2014