The Excitement of Bird Photography

Author: Joanne Shipman

I love photographing birds in the wild. There is an excitement in being outdoors to seek out birds and watch their behaviors, hear them call to one another or get a glimpse from a safe distance of a nest.

Nuthatcher - Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains

Nuthatcher – Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains

Snow Geese and Coyote - San Antonio, New Mexico in Bosque Del Apache

Snow Geese and Coyote – San Antonio, New Mexico in Bosque Del Apache

Every experience is different. A group of us were photographing thousands of Snow Geese at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge when a Coyote decided to meander into the area. In another instance, we were photographing birds in Pinal Mountain when we heard loud grunts from a nearby tree and were surprised to see a White-Nosed Coatimundi moving down a tree then into the woods.

Coati - Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains (Not the best photograph, but these guys are elusive!)

Coati – Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains (Not the best photograph, but these guys are elusive!)

For my photos I used a Canon 5DMII and 400mm L prime lens. In many cases, you may not be able to get close to the birds, so a longer lens is essential. Depending on the environment I adjust ISO and aperture as necessary, but typically, my ISO is set higher anywhere from 400 to 1000 to ensure a fast shutter speed. I prefer aperture priority and start with f2.8 to f5-6 as a good starting point. Finally, I use continuous shooting mode to get the most frames per second, especially for birds in flight, and I select a single point auto focus in AI Servo mode.

Willet - Huntington Beach, California in Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Willet – Huntington Beach, California in Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Hopefully you will have an opportunity to go out and challenge yourself with bird photography. For me at least (moment of truth!), not every photo is perfect, but like anything, practice makes close-to-perfect.

Common Black-Hawk - Cornville, Arizona in Page Springs Hatchery

Common Black-Hawk – Cornville, Arizona in Page Springs Hatchery

Be sure to check out the Birds of South Texas workshop scheduled in March 2017, and keep an eye out for future scheduled workshops in Bosque Del Apache.

Joanne Shipman is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

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