Dec 052016

I have a request to make of all critters out there: Please, I beg you, stand still when I am trying to locate you with my binoculars to identify you or when I am trying to get a picture of you! Stop hiding behind trees and in the brush! Don’t run away from me!

I know you think that I am plotting to do you some harm, or that I am considering having you for dinner.  I’m honestly not interested in you as a meal.  What I really want to do is take your picture so I can upload it to Facebook and iNaturalist.  Then I’ll go away and leave you alone.

Hey, raccoon! Move closer to the trail just a bit  so I can get a better picture!

Hey, raccoon! Move closer to the trail just a bit
so I can get a better picture!

A few weeks ago I acquired an actual new-to-me camera, and I’ve been playing around with it trying to figure out how it works (I know, I could read the manual, but this way is more fun. Really.)  I had envisioned that what was going to happen was that I was going to take this marvel of technology out into the woods, and all the birds were going to fly around my head as if we were in a Walt Disney movie, chirping gleefully and posing like models while I snapped away.

This is NOT what happened.

I could hear the birds- but I couldn’t actually see the birds.  And when I could see the birds with my eyeballs, I couldn’t find the birds with the camera. Clearly, bird-finding is a skill that will require more practice.  I’m not terribly unhappy about that; it’s another reason/excuse to get outside and on the trails.

When I got home, I downloaded the pictures I had onto the laptop.  My son wandered over to take a look, and the first thing he said was “How come  you took so many great blue heron pictures?”

At least the great blue herons will stand still.

At least the great blue herons will stand still.

Because, unlike sparrows or woodpeckers, great blue herons stand still- and they’re easy to find.

Since the walking around and staring at trees technique wasn’t working out like I’d planned, I thought I’d try staying in one place until the birds came to me.  If I made myself part of the landscape, my thinking went,  maybe all the critters would eventually ignore my presence.  I chose a likely spot and sat quietly, and just as I started getting impatient, a woodpecker appeared nearby and started pecking away.  Just as I had the woodpecker in view, however, my phone rang.  It was my son, wanting to see if he could go to his friend’s house to play Legos.  The woodpecker flew off.

(Naturalist tip #1: turn your mobile device to silent when trying to move stealthily through the woods). 

On one of my practice excursions, I decided to try taking pictures of birds flying.  This was not as easy as other people make it look when they share pictures of birds in flight.  I could see the birds, because they were in the sky.  But they were flying around! I tried to anticipate where the bird was going and get a picture of it that way.  This somewhat worked:

At least I can tell it's a turkey vulture.

At least I can tell it’s a turkey vulture.

And this one isn’t too bad, for an absolute beginner.

Almost centered!

Almost centered!

Taking pictures of birds would definitely be a lot easier if the bird would pose in plain sight and not hide behind some branches:

Could you move a bit so I can see you clearly?

Could you move a bit so I can see you clearly?

However, my time outdoors has not been entirely filled with uncooperative subjects.  The other day I was walking along the trail and a lovely Eastern phoebe flew in front of me, landed on a fence post, and stayed still while I was able to get several pictures. 

Eastern phoebe, just being cute.

Eastern phoebe, just being cute.

Thank you, phoebe, for your assistance in my efforts. The rest of you, cooperate, please!

Editor’s Note: For more of Jennifer’s entertaining wit and wisdom please visit her wonderful bog, The Mom of No, by following this link:

  2 Responses to “Dear Critters”

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one with these struggles. I still am challenged by the birds in my backyard!

  2. Jennifer,

    I really enjoyed reading of your experiences. Insofar as photographing birds in flight, don’t worry, you will get it with practice. Shooting birds in flight is a combination of equipment, focusing technique, exposure and understanding the operation of the camera body and lens. There really are a good number of books out on photography of birds in flight. Once you get use to it, it becomes second nature. Good luck and please keep up with the enjoyable and entertaining articles.


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