Thursday, September 28, 2006

More Fall Digiscoping...

White-throated Sparrow

This morning I spent an hour or so digiscoping at Pheasant Branch Conservancy before work. If it's a White-throated Sparrow or Yellow-rumped Warbler that perches on a branch in early morning sunlight directly in front of me at close range, then that's my subject. No matter the bird, I'll give it every bit as much effort in creating the best portraiture I can as I would any coveted feathered gem. The practice of working with the light (it's always about the light) and composition is good experience for honing your field craft. Like anything else worthwhile, the more you do it, the better you'll get.

Though I could see and hear other bird species nearby I would liked to have photographed, I will not chase them down ( I might make an exception for a Fork-tailed Flycatcher!). First light, I'll walk over to a spot near an edge of pre-selected habitat and wait. Naturally, with every outing there will be plenty of missed birds and opportunities. Ones that got away this morning included White-crowned Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and many Ruby-crowned Kinglets. But it was still fun watching them with my binoculars hoping they would come my way.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Nature photography is about patience, patterns and repetition. By increasing the frequency of your outings you'll improve upon your chances of photographing more species. I'll go through a lot of White-throated Sparrows before obtaining a good shot of a White-crowned, and perhaps through diligence and patience, I'll eventually luck out on a Harris's Sparrow. Seldom do I enter the field intent upon digiscoping a specific species. Sure, I've done it, but the vast majority of birds appearing in my digiscoping gallery are ones that came to where I was standing and waiting.

I choose not to play tape recordings of bird songs to lure them in order to get a picture. I know there are bird photographers who do this and their gallery of species are super impressive. I've heard horror stories about a Black-throated Blue Warbler attacking a photographer's gear on account over-playing song recordings. Photographing birds is challenging, educational and fun. Sharing results with other people can be rewarding, but overplaying tapes to the point of stressing a bird in order to obtain a prized shot is a big waste of time and an unethical practice in my humble opinion. Be patient – the birds will come to you, but it will mean there will be some species you'll never get a picture of. That's probably the way it ought to be.

All images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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