Life is a journey, and so should be photography. From one day to the
next, and from one subject to another, the only thing that need remain
consistent, is the technical proficiency of the photographer, and the
internal data base that they have created.
Bird photography always meant a lot of different things to me.
Sometimes it was the gift of flight that a bird might share with me
and my camera. Other times it was the “ethereal art” that all frilly
things such as birds would “gift to us“. Still other times it was
just the adrenaline I got when I had a brand new (to me) species in
front of my camera.
I remember well the day that a flock of Horned Grebes swam into my
field of view. My hope was to make some sharp, well exposed images of
a species that here to fore, had not existed in my bird files.
Not only, with some persistence on my part, and some help from the
birds, did I add this species to my files, but because of the early
spring day, I caught birds in both winter (top) and summer plumage.
Those were great days to be a photographer.
Every day with a camera does not present itself with a new bird
species. What about when there are nothing but a few grackles to be
found? Even the grackle species I found on this day was you guessed
it, Common Grackles. All grackles are not created the same.
Most bird photographers know that grackles have an iridescence to
them. The sun can produce otherwise not seen colors, if it strikes the
feathers “just right”. The sun struck the feathers just right that
To be fair, the unique coloration was even (slightly) visible when the
bird was in the shadows. This was a “not so common”, Common Grackle.
Bird photography always has its own twists and turns.
For every common bird, there is another one that is unique. Such is
the case with the two Snowy Owls below.
These are two different owls photographed two years apart from one
another. These were birds I had heard about, and I traveled a fair
distance to photograph both of them.
A great species that people like, is a great subject for the camera
even if you only get poses on a dead tree, as was the case in both
instances. Still, there are mediocre poses and great poses and often
patience is all any photographer needs.
Birds often live and travel in flocks, and that fact provides for any
journeyed photographer the opportunity to made images of more than one
bird at a time.
This adult, with mostly grown offspring, is a Tundra Swan who is
mostly likely traveling from the west cost of Alaska, to Virginia. If
they can make that journey without the benefit of an airplane, I
always reasoned that I can drive 100 miles and spend a little wait
time to capture them in pictures.
Wildlife photography is about more than just birds. One of the great
things about photographing furry mammals, is it is likely that the
photographer will add texture to his/hers images, in addition to
Now birds do have texture in their feathers, but it is difficult to
capture in photos without the aid of strong side lighting. Mammals,
especially young ones, have texture to spare. When the animal is a Red
Fox kit, they also have color.
To me, insect photography was another form of wildlife photography.
The journey to capture images was however, often quite different than
with birds, mammals, or even reptiles and amphibians.
Carefully following around butterflies or bees, with camera and tripod
in hand, waiting for those precious moments of rest for the subject,
can be an all day, time and energy consuming endeavor. It is worth
every moment of time, and every ounce of energy.
The Monarch Butterfly and the Bee Fly you see below, were as important
to me as a subject, as were the birds and mammals I followed.
It was usually a great time for reflection and rest, after a
successful insect chase.
When you are in great places such as the Northern Cascades of the
Pacific Northwest, it is natural to pursue images that make a
statement about that location. Sometimes you do and sometimes you
don’t, but my motto was to under all circumstances, create imagery
regardless the statement it made. The image below is moody and not
without visual power although admittedly, it could have been made at
many locations in North America.
A photographic journey is always worth the effort if you understand
the comment you made with your camera. There will usually be another
day to wow the rest of the world. They cannot take away from you what
an image says to you personally.
This image like the last one, began its life on film a long time ago.
This is an ancient Native American ceremonial Kiva in New Mexico. My
first obstacle in creating this image was how to get down that shaky
ladder, with all of my camera equipment (35mm, 120 format, two
tripods, several lenses, many rolls of film and more) as well. Yes I
carried all of it down in one trip as I hate making more trips than
necessary. With that said, I made about three trips back up.
I thought about and rejected, taking a hand full of sand, and throwing
it up into the light and then making my pictures. I just couldn’t
bring myself to contrive the image that way. Every day is a new
journey and I cannot say that on an another occasion, I wouldn’t have
done it. Just not on that journey on that day.
It would make sense for me to end today’s journey with a sunset, but
as usual it is much easier for me to locate sunrise images than
So I’ll ride (or swim) into the sunset (sunrise) and wish each of you
a happy and profitable journey today.