First and foremost....birds are very difficult to photograph. Besides most of them being in trees where it’s difficult to photograph them, they don’t sit still very long and they are very skittish. The exception being pigeons. They just hang out anywhere and don’t care that you’re photographing them. Speaking of which, most people would say, ‘ugh...pigeons”. To a point I agree. Although the pictures of them all lined up on the light post will always be one of my favorites. But back to the difficulty of photographing birds......another lesson learned through photography:
Photographing birds teaches you patience.
As you can see, I don’t have many pictures of different birds....yet. I’ve become more and more interested in them and hope to have the opportunity to capture more birds. And that may be because of the patience it teaches me. And also, it’s a challenge that I will pursue.
Photographing the geese took several days and many hours each time visiting them. They scatter when they see you so you have to find a place to sit and watch until they eventually ignore you and go back to their normal activity. Although one day I was so engrossed with watching them through the lens of the camera as I walked and they scattered (wanting to get more action shots) I came within inches of stepping off the bank into the man made “lake”. (Another lesson...always be aware of your surroundings!)
There’s a photo here of a goose dipping his beak in the water. Before I was ready I had seen one of them do that and noticed how his reflection in the water made it look like he was kissing himself. I wanted that shot! Approximately 45 minutes later, sitting very still (and now very stiff and aching!) with camera ready, sweating, looking through the lens all that time, waiting for one to dip his beak...I think I got a pretty good shot. In this one not only is the goose reflected but the droplets of water from his beak make a “circle” with the reflection. Patience. Lots of it.
The birds at the river will pull all kinds of antics if you are quiet and have patience. The close up of the gull (where you can practically look down his throat!) was a day, after many days at the river where I was fortunate enough and patient enough to catch one doing a little “crazy, mad dance”. I don’t know what else to call it. This particular gull was off by himself and suddenly decided to throw a little fit. He hopped and danced and squawked. None of the other birds paid a bit of attention to him, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Owl. This owl tried my patience. FOR A YEAR. (Actually a year and four months to be exact.) When I moved in March, 2009, I was always hearing an owl out back somewhere. I’d hear the hooting and go out back and try and track the sound. It never worked. I’d hear the hoot and it seemed as though it came from one place, then the next hoot sounded as if from another place. I could never pinpoint it. One night I thought for sure I had him. I was so excited! I had heard him (her?) and went out back with the flashlight and camera. As I shined the light up into one of the trees, I saw a pair of eyes glowing. I knew I had him! I started snapping away, still only seeing those glowing eyes. Not being able to see, but focusing only on those eyes. When I checked the pictures, to my utter disappointment....it was a raccoon up in the tree! Frustrated, definitely, but not ready to give up. Every time I would hear him, out I would go and always came back in with no photos and no clue as to just exactly where this owl was. One year and four months go by, still wanting desperately to photograph this owl, I left my house late on Saturday, July 24, 2010. As I left to pick up my son, I decided to grab my camera. I had no idea why I would need my camera, but I took it. I walked out of my house and as I went down the front steps a huge bird came flying out of the tree right in front of me. I knew without really seeing him, it was the owl. I ran around the tree and there he was in all his glory....right beside a street light, perched on the electrical wires. He sat there staring at me as if to say, “you’ve waited long enough...here I am”. He sat there simply watching me as I snapped away, taking picture after picture. I stood in the street with a huge, silly, joyous grin on my face. I had finally seen my owl and he was letting me take his picture. After about 30 pictures he up and flew away. I think I still stood in the street with that silly grin for a long time after he left.
Patience. You may spend hours and days out photographing and not getting anything. You may be tormented by a cardinal that perches on your fence...but never stays long enough to snap a picture. Or a bluejay at the park that you track from tree to tree to tree and never get a clear shot. You may spend hours with the geese or the birds at the river and never see them do anything worth taking a picture of.
But if you have patience, you’ll eventually get a picture that makes you smile. Sitting with the birds has not only taught me patience but has given me a sense of “stillness”. A peaceful stillness of the soul and mind.
© Susan Doran Photography