My name is Glenn Bartley and I am happy to be here for today’s “Ask Me Anything”. Feel free to ask me any questions that you might have and I’ll do my best to answer them.
For those unfamiliar with my work, I am a Canadian wildlife photographer specializing in birds. Over the past 15 or so years I’ve spent countless hours searching for some of the most unique and beautiful birds throughout the Americas. My travels have taken me from northern Alaska all the way to Tierra del Fuego and everywhere in between!
I am probably most well known for my intimate portraits of birds from the Neotropical realm and especially my portfolio of hummingbird images. In fact, earlier this year I finally published a book on Hummingbirds with Princeton University Press.
Throughout the year I also lead several tours to the countries I am most familiar with for keen bird photographers. I pride myself on leading the best bird photography tours out there and over the past decade have really enjoyed sharing my love of photography and birds with many others.
When I’m not out photographing birds you’ll likely find me making sawdust in my garage workshop. Furniture making has become a second artistic outlet for me and my goal is to make all of the furniture for my house.
Please only ask one question by replying to this topic a single time, using the yellow Reply button at the bottom. It’s also helpful to scroll to the bottom while reading the topic to make sure nobody else has asked the same question first before you ask.
Please don’t ask more than one question so everyone gets a chance.
Please do not reply to anyone else’s post. The only purpose of replies on this topic is to ask the author one question. Please create a new topic if you’d like to discuss a related topic in more detail.
Posts not following these guidelines may be removed by moderators to keep the Q&A flowing smoothly. Thank you!
Turn Off Notifications for Events
If you prefer not to receive notifications about future events, please click here to modify your notification preferences. You can remove any tags you do not want to be notified about under the Watching First Post section. These are broken down by genre, so if you only want to get notifications about landscape, macro, etc., you can do that here.
I have admired your work for some time and thank you for doing this AMA. As an aspiring bird photographer I am curious how often you use a tripod or monopod vs. handheld - and under what circumstances?
Thank you, Bill
Thanks for your question and kind words.
A tripod is definitely the norm for me as I am usually using a 600mm f/4 lens. So I’d say 90% of the time I use a tripod. I dont use a monopod at all.
I almost always hand hold when doing flight shooting or if I need to be extremely mobile sneaking up on a bird.
Great stuff and thanks for participating in the AMA. My question is about higher ISOs and noise. There are times when I regularly shoot at 4000 ISO or even higher in order to have a quick enough shutter speed. I’ve used software eliminate the noise, but the image sometimes comes out soft/fake/too processed. I’m wonder how you solve the high ISO issue. Thanks
I have been photographing eagles for awhile and would like to know what you do to keep the head from whiting out? I use a Nikon D500. When the sun is bright, I use EV at about -1.3 but that makes the rest of the bird very dark. What do you suggest ? Thanks
Hi John, You’re doing the right thing. All you can do is expose for the brightest parts and not blow them out.
They key for you will be to try to shoot in more even light when there is not so much of a difference between the darker areas and brighter areas. That way the camera can handle the dynamic range better.
But ultimately just “expose to the right” and throttle your exposire to not blow the highlights.
Glenn, congrats on the hummingbird book! I realize it took a looong time to plan and execute that project, but do you already have another subject in mind (or at least something you dream about doing) that you’re hoping to tackle in the next book? Obviously, you’ve covered a lot during your exploration of the Americas, so there are probably several options for you…
Hi Glenn, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. I’m in CT and love to photograph all the species that spend their time along the shoreline…osprey, great white egrets, blue herons, bald eagles, and many others. So I’m trying to set my camera’s (DSLR) custom buttons for birds and I thought having 2 separate ones, for stationary and flying would be good. What settings do you suggest I use, especially shutter speed, aperture, and ISO?
To be honest I’m not really a fan of this “set it and forget it” style of camera set up.
Instead what I would suggest is to consider the subject you are after and the needs of the shot. For example if shooting a stationary shorebird you can get away with a much slower SS. If you are going for flight shots you probably need to be shooting wide open and raise the ISO.
For me I use AV mode 95% of the time. I can get things dialed in in 3 pretty simple steps:
1 - Do I have enough light to stop down at all?
2 - Decide on any compensation needs - e.g. white egret on dark background would require significant negative exp comp.
3 - Dial in ISO to give acceptable SS for action required.
Thank you for taking the time for AMA and sharing your knowledge. I have your hummingbird book. It is awesome.
I’m considering moving from crop sensor bodies to full frame for birds and wildlife. I currently have a Canon R7, 400 DO IS II, and 1.4x extender III. Any advice on pros/cons to making this move and any additional gear I would need?
For me cameras like the R5 are such an awesome “best of both worlds” camera. I love switching back and forth between the 18 MP crop mode and 45 MP full frame mode when in the field. Hopefully we’ll have even more MP in the future and could maybe even have a 2x mode.
Overall the R5 is a much nicer camera to use IMO than the R7. Eye tracking works better. IQ is better, etc etc.
I really wanted to like the R7. But I just knew that I’d never reach for it over the R5.
Hi Glenn, thanks for doing this AMA! I am extremely new to bird photography–I am mostly shooting in my backyard, and at this point I’m happy to just get a bird in focus in the frame. My question is, what do you think are the most important elements of a good bird photograph? For example, do you prefer to have a bird in action, in an interesting environment, in an interesting pose, etc.? Thanks!
Hi Glenn! Thank you for participating in the AMA session. I do a lot of bird photography as well and I would like to ask you about your editing approach. Do you do a lot of local edits to make the bird really stand out? Examples would be to blur, darken, and desaturate the background and brighten, sharpen and saturate the bird. Thank you in advance for your response.
Good question. My editing starts with converting the RAW file using ACR. There I am basically making global adjustments to the file, trying to get the white balance, brightness and contrast right, etc.
Afterwards I convert the RAW into a Tif file and head over to Photoshop. In PS I have developed an action that walks me through the most common adjustments that I am likely to make to an image. Each of these steps in the action also allows me to layer mask as needed.
Finally I target any local adjustments, unwanted branches, dirt on the birds feathers, etc etc. Anything that catches my eye and detracts from the image.
I then have another action set up to prepare my files for sharing on social media and my website.