Vol. 11: Spin The Birdie

Get awesome avian photos by moving your camera closer to the birds -- and rotating them for the perfect pose.

By Larry Cotton

Photos by Sam Murphy, Larry Cotton

Illustrations by Timmy Kucynda

+ Downloads & Extras:

Tips on Experimenting with Your New Shutter-Release System

(as referenced on page 120 of MAKE, Volume 11)

At this point, you can experiment with a bit of bird photography. Run your new cable, mount your camera on a tripod, mount the tripod on a piece of plywood, and C-clamp that to a stepladder, if necessary, to get the correct height.

Temporarily hang your full bird feeder (not rotatable yet) and position your camera rig 6'-8' away. If you need to buy a feeder, the type shown in the photos works beautifully.

Climb the ladder, aim the camera where the birds feed, and turn it on. Either pre-focus the camera (on the feeder) or let it auto-focus. If possible, set it for a fast shutter speed, which will not only stop motion but will give you minimal depth of field (which calls attention to the bird with the background blurred).

Turn the LCD screen off to conserve battery power. You won't be able to see it anyway.

Move yourself well away (but so that you can still see the feeder) and wait. Eventually a bird will show up and you can take its picture.

By now you may have noticed a few drawbacks:

  1. Those camera batteries don't last long, do they?
  2. The birds are often in shadow or behind the feeder.
  3. You don't know if you've really taken a picture or not.

In this project, we'll use the R/C servos and a photocell to solve all 3 problems.


MAKE: AMENDS Errata for This Article


Correction for page 118
On p. 118, the illustration of the ratchet assembly is wrong: the pawl doesn't go through the hole in the top of the pivot screw and the ratchet spacers don't go over the pivot screw. However, Figure 12 (linked above under Guides) correctly shows how it all goes together.

Join the conversation -- every MAKE article has an online page that includes a place for discussion. We've made these RSS and Atom feeds to help you watch the discussions: subscribe.