Tuesday, June 05, 2007


"I myself have never made a dead set at studying Nature with a notebook and fieldglass in hand. I have rather visited with her. We have walked together or sat down together, and our intimacy grows with the seasons. What I have learned about her ways I have learned easily, almost unconsciously, while fishing or camping or idling about. My desultory habits have their disadvantages, no doubt, but they have their advantages also. A too-strenuous pursuit defeats itself. In the fields and woods more than anywhere else all things come to those who wait, because all things are on the move, and are sure sooner or later to come your way."

- John Burroughs

I think this excerpt from The Gospel of Nature reflects the essence of my philosophy of nature photography – or rather what it has become. When I first began taking pictures of birds in the wild, I would run around willy-nilly trying to capture as many images of different bird species as possible. Within a year or two, this became very tiring (and expensive) and made photography seem more like a job - I felt defeated. It wasn’t Burrough’s words that inspired change to my approach, but a natural and gradual settling into a relaxed pace. More recently, perhaps having taken notice of a decrease in production, someone commented that I should photograph more bird rarities around Wisconsin. In my reply I included, "The bird that’s in front of my lens is the one I photograph, whatever it happens to be." The grasslands and meadows of Pheasant Branch Conservancy will reach an apex of color in a few weeks. There are Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Willow Flycatchers, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds and more. The colors present last summer when I took the above photograph of an Indigo Bunting were breathtaking. I spent hours on end just sitting on the hill admiring the busy birds zipping around fields in full bloom. Eventually, the bunting was before me.

Indigo Bunting image © 2007 Mike McDowell

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