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on Sep 29, 2011 in Wildlife Photography

Them Feathers are a Flyin!

Ah, the blaaaaas of August are past and wildfowl and shorebirds are starting to hit the area. Another reason fall is a favorite time of year for me. While the ducks, geese and shorebirds are in their fall plumage, it’s fresh, new plumage which makes them great targets of opportunity! But how can we do more then just take a photo that says, “They have arrive” and rather say “Hot dogs, they have arrived!”?

On of the best ways is to change your angle! I’ve become pretty famous for that video clip that shows all to well my poor imitation of a beached whale but getting down low is a must! This shot of a Red-necked Grebe is a classic example. I’m not totally flat on the ground but perhaps 12″ off it, the legs of the Gitzo not totally flattened. I did that because I loved the pattern in the water which is what attracted me to the photo in the first place. Shooting with the 600mm w/TC-17, it was easily to isolate the reflection of the trees on the other shore which you see as simple green breaking up the pattern of blue. So you start to move your images forward by not just plunking down your tripod and being satisfied with getting a sharp image.

You knew this was coming but gotta say it anyways. You gotta greet the sun! The sun hasn’t even come up on these Short-billed Dowitchers still napping into the day. This is important for two key reasons. The first is the mellow light and lack of shadows. That’s important for the second reason, the calm water. The mirror properties is what makes these fall drab plummaged shorebirds spectacular. So, greeting the sun is a must in my book!

One thing I can’t encourage wildlife photographers to do enough is go out shooting when the weather sucks! I’ve been saying it for 30+yrs and still say it, some of the best photography is in the worst weather! Fall is when winter storms start to make their appearance. Before, during and after a storm you can have some incredibly dramatic light like on these Blue or Dark Phased Snow Geese. They didn’t have that single shaft of light on them when I started to pan with them but knew they would fly into it and they did. Click! You and your gear won’t melt if it gets wet. Simple, basic care like a clean, white towel and blotting your gear dry (do not wipe!) and you’re rockin in that dampness. And the photographic rewards of that one magical image will warm you up better then any fire!

The whole trick to all of this is getting out! DO some homework, visit bird hotlines and websites and see where the birds are coming in and then get there! Do you need a 600mm? I’m often asked that question and if you wanna play with the big boys, you sure do! If you’re just starting and learning, you sure don’t! A 400mm lens does a great job and is all the focal length I had for years and started my business with. Never loose sight, it’s the person behind the camera that counts!