Monday, November 14, 2011

Avian Skills

I began my photographic journey with birds, an old Minolta SLR, and a Sears zoom lens. As a frequent visitor to the J. N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge, it was only natural that I would photograph birds. Eventually I acquired a couple of Nikon cameras, a 300mm zoom, and an ancient 600mm f5.6 Nikkor lens. I became so accustomed to looking through a telephoto lens that the first time I put a moderately wide angle 35mm lens on the camera, it just looked weird to me through the viewfinder. After about a decade and a half of an up and down interest in photography the advent of the internet and image critique websites really whetted my interest. I started working on improving my technique and trying to make better bird pictures. When I switched from film to digital, I also switched from Nikon to Canon because of a particular Canon telephoto lens, the equivalent of which wasn't available from Nikon at the time – the 300mm f2.8L IS, a bird lens par excellence. (All of these images came through that glass.) I became an avid avian photographer and got pretty good at it, winning a couple of contests, selling a few bird photos, and such. I fell in with a cadre of bird photography cronies, some of whom only shoot birds and some of whom are very good.                                                             
In the meantime, my photographic appetites became more diverse – landscapes gradually became my primary interest, along with architecture, urban scenes, portraits, and so forth. My cronies are turning out world-class photographs of birds while I reached an avian plateau. I haven't made an A-list avian photograph in nearly a year and haven't really tried to, other than the occasional drive through Ding Darling, usually after conditions proved unfruitful for landscapes. So yesterday morning, I decided to go back to my old ways, the first time in a long time I've headed out with birds being my primary intended subject. I went to one of my favorite bird photography places a little before sunrise and let myself get back into that comfortable old bird mode. The morning air was brisk -jacket weather- as I wandered across the flats exposed by the ebb tide. My feet were wet, but the chill didn't bother me. In fact, I was completely oblivious – lost in my pastime. I made about 400 exposures in about an hour and a half. I could feel that my skills had atrophied terribly – so many botched opportunities. Reviewing the photographs on the monitor at home, it didn't take much time to delete most of them, almost all of them. But it felt good to be back in the saddle again, so to speak.

So here are a few of the morning's surviving images - a juvenile bald eagle, a juvenile reddish egret, a sanderling, and a coot. To be really good at something and stay good at it, one needs to do it a lot, and really work at it. So I'm not as good as I used to be and I'm not as good as some of my cronies, but it's not like I've lost every habit I ever had.- and it's still fun. 


  1. I am glad to see you back into bird photography. I have seen some of your previous work and it was pretty good. Keep at it.

  2. Thanks, Don.
    I think I will always be a bird photographer, but for the time being at least, it just isn't my primary pursuit. But I definitely do need to keep my skills sharp.