I ended my last blog, “Old Friends,” with the following quote: “And when confronted by a seemingly alien place, say a desert or mountain tundra, the birds carry me from confusion to understanding.” The idea that birds can carry us from confusion to understanding is an intriguing and powerful one.
Folks have asked me about the “human activity” part of the tagline, which appears on the home page beneath “Elizabeth River Bird Blog.” Though I focus on birds and telling their stories, I enjoy capturing people and telling their stories, too. I took this example a few years ago at Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County, PA. It remains one of my favorites.
Interestingly, I ran into the subject a year or so later and sent him the file. He was happy to get it. I told him how some who viewed the photo thought he looked more like he were holding a fencing foil than a spincast reel. We shared a laugh about that.
Here’s another. This is a gentleman rowing in Pinchot Lake and just feet from where the gentleman above had been fishing. I was shooting @ 700mm, and with the resulting narrow angle of view wasn’t able to get the entire boat in the frame. But that was OK. I got what mattered most, which was the rower. And I got him at a peak moment—the beginning of the stroke.
Speaking of peak moments (and telling stories), here’s a Pileated Woodpecker photo I took in May 2020 at Indian River Park in Chesapeake, VA. It’s interesting how the mind so often turns to birds. The bird was rearing back and getting ready to deliver a blow to a tree that was infested with carpenter ants, its favorite food. I’d been standing still on a nearby trail when it showed up. Since I was partially hidden by brush, I was able to fire off a number of frames without disturbing it. This was by far the best one.
What follows is a similar shot. Here’s a little background. Shortly after we arrived in PA, I discovered a marshy area next to a nature trail near our home. Much of it was covered in yellow-orange flowers, and there was lots of insect activity. There were also quite a few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (no wonder). I visited the area several times and found it was reliable for those birds. They were there every time I came by.
So, a week or so later, I visited in the early morning and stationed myself with my back to the sun and waited. I considered bringing a tripod but decided against it. After about 10 minutes a hummingbird showed up and perched on a nearby stem. Once again, I fired off a number of frames. Thankfully, I was in burst mode or I likely would have missed this one of the small bird calling.
- Opportunities like the above don’t usually happen unless you’re still. I made that point in “Be Still and Know” and “Fieldcraft.” Melissa Groo made that same point in a piece she wrote for Living Bird entitled, “How to Get Close to Birds: 4 Strategies From a Photography Pro.” You could zero in on strategy #2 if you’d like, but I’d encourage you to read the whole article. Melissa really knows her stuff.
- If your goal is to freeze action or capture fleeting moments, there’s usually only one choice: burst mode. Having said that, don’t give up entirely on single shot.
- Visit places that are reliable for the bird or birds you’re targeting. That’ll ensure that you get some good shots.
And This Just In
I’ll be changing the tagline soon to reflect that we’re now in PA. But the blog name, the brand, will continue to be the “Elizabeth River Bird Blog.”
Folks at the American Bird Conservancy refer to the Pileated Woodpecker as the “Carpenter Ant Connoisseur.”
Quip, Question, Quote(s)
“Everything’s got a story in it.” Terry Pratchett
“Photography, to me, is catching a moment which is passing, and which is true.” Jacques Henri Lartigue.
Take a few moments to read Lartigue’s short bio (above). You’ll find it fascinating, and you’ll learn some more things about photography.
Thanks so much for stopping by.