My start in both birding and photograph began in December of 2000. I bought my first SLR camera, and was excited to go out and use it. I headed out on a cold, snowy day, looking for…something…to photograph, when I came across some Canada Geese around the small unfrozen edge of a local quarry. From the start, birds were my most common photographic subject. Soon, they were nearly my ONLY photographic subject.
While I loved shooting birds, for many years, my primary focus when going out was getting photos. Seeing birds was certainly wonderful as well, but I tended to measure success of a trip in terms of how many “keeper” photos I got. Even if I saw a rare bird, I was often disappointed when I was unable to get a photo of it.
Fast forward 18 years. I have photos for most species you could reasonably expect to see in South Dakota. I have photos for many species you would NOT normally expect in South Dakota. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve reached my saturation point for photos for many species, but in the last 3 or 4 years, things have changed. I was a photographer first, birder second. Now, I’m definitely a birder first, photographer second. I spend MUCH more time using my binoculars, scanning that far away bird to see if it’s a rarity. In the past, I often ignored far away birds, as I knew I couldn’t get a good photo. I think that’s what’s so nice about valuing BOTH the birds themselves, and the photography aspect. When you go out on a trip, you’re rarely disappointed.
Here’s a few recent photos…
A curious Yellow Warbler. It’s been a very slow spring so far for migrating warblers, but as always, there’s never a shortage of Yellow Warblers around.
One of my favorite species, a Harris’s Sparrow. They are actually relatively easy to find here during migration.
A Blue-winged Warbler, a rarity in South Dakota. However, there’s one specific spot of Newton Hills State Park where one or two breeding pairs are almost always found.
I have a billion Northern Cardinal Photos. However, when you get an opportunity for these guys, even if it’s a relatively long-distance opportunity such as this one, you can’t pass it up! I’m starting to really appreciate shots like this, or other shots where the bird is smaller in the frame. That’s particularly the case if I’m able to show a lot of their natural habitat in the frame. Here, I just like the simple composition, the pose of the bird, the warm light, and that beautiful blue sky.