Filming Robins Under Streetlight

Filming Robins Under Streetlight

In the last couple of weeks I have been filming Robins Under Streetlight.

The robin torch

I searched for ‘Filming Robins Under Streetlight’ in Google and didn’t find much.  Why would anyone want to photograph robins under streetlight anyway? For more information about robins follow the robin link to the RSPB’s information. In the information it quite specifically states that robins will sing at night under streetlight. During the winter I found that they are more likely to sing in the first couple of hours before dawn and maybe a little in the evening.

In the Dark

Robins are all over the place. They are more common where there is woodland nearby, at least, this is my recent experience. Part of the job entailed me finding a convenient and workable filming location. Bare in mind that filming had to take place in the early hours of the morning in an urban area.  Inevitably you  look suspicious carrying around binoculars, a huge camera and a torch at 5 o’clock in the morning, but so far I haven’t been arrested. This is the sort of thing I find myself doing as a wildlife cameraman, but not often!

I found a quiet backstreet where the houses were away from my line of filming and robins were singing fairly regualrly in two bushes quite near to streetlights. Unfortunately they tend to shun the brightest areas of illumination.  Even with the ISO of a Sony F55 cranked up to 8000 in Custom Mode the robins were barely visible in the viewfinder.  I also experienced a strobing effect caused by the orange lights. Whatever I did it wouldn’t go away.

The Torch

The answer was to add some light to the situation. High tech lighting came in the form of a Homebase LED torch.  At the princely sum of £16.99 it was a bargain.  Bright white light was incorrect, so I placed a few layers of 85 conversion gel over the front. In my line of work I haven’t had to use that stuff for years. Additional to the focused beam the lamp produces a general wash light and a flashing red one, which I hope I never have to use.

A lot of power for a cheap torch

I positioned the torch on the ground and propped it up with a camera battery. I pointed it at the vague area where the robin usually sang. The distance between torch and tree was at least ten metres so it’s bright. Perhaps that’s why the robin moved a couple of feet from its usual singing spot. With care I crossed the road to where the torch sat on the pavement and teased it around so that the penumbra of the light was illuminating the bird. Happily it stayed there. For  a while it made the ‘tic tic’ sound that they often make, but it didn’t seem bothered by my presence. In fact it sang a few phrases until a cat stalked underneath the tree and it flew off.


The net result of the shenanigans is a few decent shots of a robin singing under a mixture of streetlight and torchlight. From a wildlife cameraman point of view it’s okay and if any hopeful wildlife cameraman phones me up looking for experience I think I’ll suggest filming robins under streetlight as a challenge.  It has  been challenging. Robins are very difficult to spot amongst foliage at night and that’s true even when the streetlight illumination is quite good. Definitely a good challenge. Ideally you need an assistant but it’s done now so I don’t need one, sorry.