|10/1/2009 10:12:00 AM|
Photographing Birds -
by Don ReimerI can specifically recall the day when I first thought, "Boy, do I wish I had a digital camera!" The date was December 20, 2003, during the Rockland Christmas Bird Count, as I stood with a birding companion viewing a perched female Brewer's Blackbird from a distance of about 40 feet. Brewer's Blackbirds are very rare in Maine at any season and, of course, the sighting was legitimately questioned when I submitted it to National Audubon Society. After a lengthy written description of the vagrant blackbird, my submission was eventually accepted. A close-up photo would have resolved the issue much more readily.
Since those days, birders and photographers have
combined their separate disciplines into a common activity, and today many birders carry some type of camera equipment into the field. There is a full range of photo equipment available and many approaches to getting quality bird photos. For me, the practice of "digiscoping"
works well enough to capture some decent images. This is accomplished by locating birds through my bird spotting scope and then simply shooting that image with a handheld digital camera. Using 20x to 30x power magnification, I can sometimes obtain detailed shots of stationary birds. With the digiscoping technique, there are always the multiple challenges of managing the scope and camera together as a single unit. People are sometimes surprised when I pull out my old Hewlett-Packard camera to begin a "photo shoot."
My friends Keith and Karl use more sophisticated photo equipment to achieve their remarkable images. They are both retired professionals who have found great satisfaction in studying and photographing birds. For them, this is a chicken-and-egg proposition, with the love of birding and photography carrying nearly equal weight.
Keith refers to his substantial, three-legged piece of photo gear as "The Blunderbuss." Like a seasoned golfer with a full bag of clubs, he carries several interchangeable lenses and components to meet a particular photographic situation. For technically minded readers, his photo gear consists of a Canon 1DMarkIII digital SLR, a 500 mm f/4 Canon telephoto lens with a 1.4X teleconverter. The camera has the equivalent magnification power of an 18x spotting scope. Keith's excellent photo Web site is www.krcarver.zenfolio.com.
Karl has an interesting and different photo setup. Using his "Bush Hawk," a handy shoulder-mount device that resembles a gun stock, Karl is able to track birds in flight using a rapid-fire mode that often captures freeze-frame images. As Karl points out, you may need to take dozens of flight photos to get a single "keeper." This principle is generally true of all photography ventures, I think.
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