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Photographing Birds

Here's the deal...I heard from two folks about my birds. That's right, only two chimed in and both were gung-ho on bird photography, so because the rest of you remained silent on the subject, birds it is!

Because I was up so early when Bruce left, I could not resist heading over to Greenwood just before sunrise. As the title implies, there will be a few tips on the subject of photographing birds, the first of which is to go where you know they hang out! Simple, but equally as important as the ones below.

Then too,  there is good reason for the saying, "the early bird gets the worm," because that is tip number two. Go early if you hope to see the most bird activity. As such when I pulled up, I was very delighted to find one of the eagles perched in the opposite pine tree, likely scanning the ground from on high for food, after all, there are eaglets to feed!
The sun had barely cracked the horizon so the above shot could have been improved with better light, however, it is the first time I've actually had some action, minimal as it is, it is not just staring for a change! That's tip number three...try to photograph something out of the ordinary if at all possible. More often than not it is not possible, but when you can, it really ups the "wow" factor quite a bit.

Across the section, I saw eagle number two, only in silhouette, again due to the light, but you are able to see the eaglet standing up so that is a bonus.
Number four tip is the golden hour rule, one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunrise, according to most professionals, is the very best time to shoot photographs. Explained in more detail here. Because I love to take photographs any old time, obviously I don't follow it to the letter, but as you will soon see, it can do wonders for your photographs, not just of birds but pretty much everything.

Naturally I had to go owl hunting while I was there; while walking to that section I came across the most unusual grave marker that I thought you might find interesting as well.
Have you ever seen anything like it before? Of course, most of you don't hang out much in cemeteries so probably not! I've yet to see the owl in the cavity again but most of the time when I visit I can at least spot one of them. How about you? Do you see it?
I actually took some closeups, however, you've seen that kind of photograph before so I thought I might give you a little perspective as well as show off the gorgeous tree branches that hang nearly to the ground. By now, as evidenced by the sunlight on the tree, the sun was beginning to shine. Time to get moving. And where to, you ask? Well the other day I met some ladies who love birds, perhaps even more than I do and one of them told me they were on the hunt for Wood ducks. Clueless, or so I thought, she told me they were in the little lake adjacent to the cemetery. Let's do it!!

By now the light was lovely, causing beautiful reflections from the waning Cypress trees to reflect so beautifully in the water that, lo and behold, had some wood ducks swimming around.
Really, just beautiful in person. A little later I will show you a close up of a Wood duck, but for now, let's take a walk around the lake and see what we can see.

Adjacent to the sidewalk circling the lake, I glimpsed a Red Shouldered Hawk on the ground, that once I came into view, flew up into one of the many, mostly bare Cypress trees that fill the park this time of year.
The above looks a little dull doesn't it? That is because that gold light was, for the moment, absent due to some cloud cover. As to tip number five, use cloud cover to your advantage during the middle of the day. Helps so much with harsh shadows! Are you counting the number of birds I'd seen in such a short time span? That would be five so far. Keep reading....
Mallards ducks are not nearly as flashy as Wood ducks, but they still have their charms. While selling photography for so many years, I learned that there are folks who are crazy for certain birds, insects, mammals. You know the type...

Good grief, coming up the steep bank back to the sidewalk, another bird! You probably already know it, but for those who don't quite share my bird enthusiasm, it is a Great Blue Heron.
Just chilling on one foot as they are prone to do! Here's another tip: the moment you spot a bird, take a photograph for posterity before it flies away, because that is something else birds are prone to do, fly away just when you put your eye to the camera! As for composition, that first shot is probably not the best, however, if the bird does stay still, move around it, get closer, find a way to really make the shot interesting to someone who has seen a million photographs and is looking for something new. Aren't we all? When I first began taking photographs like a maniac, I was mostly thrilled that I had either seen it, or actually got a clear shot of whatever the subject might be. Bruce seemed to think I was better than average, and encouraged me to keep practicing and ultimately selling. I learned most of what I'm passing on from trial and error, having never taken a photography class before. While that is not entirely true, it might as well be. During my last semester at Valencia I took a class called, "Art with a Camera" which seemed to be right up my alley. Not so fast....all technical stuff that I did not understand for one minute! I was thinking it would be about composition with a name like that, alas, it was not, and that was the end of my professional training. :)

Blocks away is Lake Davis which generally has any number of birds hanging around, as well as photographers at that time of the day.
Get a look at that lens!! I've lost count of the tips, but here's another one: use what you've got and feel comfortable using. Never in a million years would I want to walk around with a tripod, or back pack, while carrying a gigantic camera. Just not me. I know it irritated folks that I was blessed with success when my focus was on photography, (no pun intended) because I never succumbed to the notion that bigger is better. Using equipment that was at the lower end, that always worked for me. Expensive equipment can help, but it is always the brain behind any equipment that takes an interesting photograph.

Because I knew that fellow was looking for birds I told him to go the few blocks over to Greenwood and man, he jumped in his car as fast as he could! When I mentioned Wood ducks he was thrilled. Go figure?

Shoreside at Lake Davis, there were quite a group of these birds which with some searching I've discovered are American Coots. Pretty sure my first time seeing them.
I learned early on that if you include something in the foreground, like this tree, your photograph will be better, mostly because it creates better dimension in your shot. I included the shoreline as well because it does show how far the water has receded during our dry winter. All of the visible sand will be covered up once the summer rains return. While it is not always possible to use this rule, when it is, do it!

A female Anhinga drying its wings, a fairly common sight, but because it was one more bird I saw I'm including it in this post.
Leaving the house before sunrise, I never expected to see so many birds but believe me, I was grateful. Yup, there's more!
Over at Lake Cherokee, where last week I saw the Wood Storks, although I dislike this type of duck, who can resist ducklings? Not this girl! So, I took any number of shots of these ducklings from the moment I saw them on the sidewalk by the lake, but ultimately, this is my favorite because it has movement. I do wish, however, that stick in the foreground was not there; that's taking the foreground rule to the extreme! Movement is good if you can get it.

Spotting this Heron, a type I cannot identify, my heart was sad...
I watched it drag that wing through the reeds...:(
And then my battery died! That's a big tip...if you plan to take a bunch of photographs, have a spare battery with you! Of course I never expected to find so much to photograph when I left the house, but I should have had a spare nonetheless!

Once home, I charged the battery and was still wanting more...so I went to the peacock neighborhood near our home. I don't know what was going on because during my last visit I saw probably 60 peacocks roaming around. Yup, I counted. This time, however, I saw only about 15. In any case, here's a demonstration of that shoot first, then get busy with composing what you really want.
Not a thing wrong with the shot above, in fact, I personally find it very interesting, however, walking closer I began moving around, trying to use the afternoon light to my advantage, as well as isolating the peacock so it seemed as if it were in the wild rather than a neighborhood off Conway Road! And here you go..
Mission accomplished!

Last week when I shared an owl photograph on both this blog, and facebook, a friend shared it, and that led to a sale to a woman in Michigan. I picked it up yesterday from my faithful printers, and this morning I took it to the post office.
It was kind of fun seeing a print once again. Of course I had my camera so made another quick run over to Lake Cherokee, and lo and behold, Wood ducks were posing for me on a fence!
Thus proving my earlier point about finding something a little out of the ordinary...

Hope you can use some of these tips yourselves and that you enjoyed our little, well who am I kidding, massive bird fest?

yours truly,

Gail

p.s. Just checking who has actually read this far....WE ARE MOVING TO VANCOUVER FOR A YEAR!! Details to follow....
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