Monday, June 18, 2012

Camouflage.......Often a Photographers' Dream

      My thirty five years as a bird photographer have taught me all sorts of interesting things about birds and their behavior. Much of the success I have achieved with my photos has come more from my intimate knowledge of birds than from my knowledge of photography. While I consider myself to be a pretty decent photographer, I pride myself in the fact that I have spent a lifetime studying birds. It's this continual study and observation that has allowed me to be in the "right spot" so often, and to capture the kind of images that I find so personally satisfying.
      Surprising to many is the fact that birds are frequently predictable. They like  to feed during certain hours of the day, rest a certain times of the day, and even bathe at given times of the day. Different species have different dietary needs,  and so while some love seeds,  others like bugs or worms. While some species like to keep their nest sites hidden,  others are more likely to build in open spaces. Species like Bluebirds are cavity nesters, while Great Blue Herons build huge nests in rookeries in tall trees or brush.
      Knowledge is,  indeed,  power! For the photographer, knowledge of your subject is the single most important aspect of your success. Regardless of what you choose to photograph, spending the time to increase your personal knowledge of your subject will pay dividends ten fold.
      In the photo above, it was important to know that a female nesting Cardinal only gets a small window of time to feed herself before having to return to the nest. She is especially cautious at this time, as she does not want to attract attention to her nest and risk a predator. Observation has taught me that she is going to stay close by, and she is going to use camouflage as her weapon against detection of her nesting site. She has to feed quickly,  and she needs additional protein during this important time. Nothing better for her than a forest bottom with lots of moisture, where she can quickly gather worms and small grubs. When a bird locates this kind of feeding spot, they will often use it over and over again. I noticed this female Cardinal returning to this log several times, and so I prepared myself for her next return. Several hours passed.....but then she gave me the shot.
      Knowledge is important. It does not guarantee success, but it will increase your percentage of shots. Combining subject knowledge with  time in the field will make you a better photographer. I guarantee it!

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