Tony Beck - Photography, Nature and Birding Tours, Local Birding Excursions

Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Binoculars for Birding

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Birdwatching is greatly enhanced with the right equipment. And, the best place to start is with a good pair of binoculars.

Beginners often make uninformed choices when buying binoculars, sometimes selecting equipment that performs poorly in the field. I’ve watched many frustrated novices struggle with inappropriate optics while others around them easily enjoy the birds they’re viewing.

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Plight of the Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Everyone loves the beach. How can we resist soft sand between our toes, the tranquil sound of rolling waves, beautiful tanned bodies laying on blankets soaking the sun, and cool surf to comfort us from the heat? For us humans, the beach is an extremely popular playground, especially during hot summer days.
But, for the tiny Piping Plover, the beach is a matter of survival. It’s the only place where it can make a nest, raise its young and find food. Without sandy beaches, the Piping Plover can’t exist.
Unfortunately, there are more humans on beaches these days than Piping Plovers. People love the beach so much they use them to walk their dogs, drive their recreational vehicles, play their sports, and have their parties. How can the tiny Piping Plover compete with that?
Fortunately, conservation efforts effectively protect these sweet little birds. Cages are placed over nests to protect them from all types of problems like foxes, gulls, wandering family pets, all-terrain vehicles, dirt-bikes and thoughtless humans while allowing free-passage for the parents to come & go from the nest. A brightly marked barrier of flags and cord is also set up to give the nest further protective space. Although costly, these efforts have proven to be successful. On the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an extremely busy summer playground lined with perfect beaches, and a stronghold of the Piping Plover, their numbers remain reasonably stable. Breeding pair numbers fluctuate from 35 to 53, with success rates reaching as much as 78%.
The sad news is that funding for these efforts is drying up quickly. Economic struggles continue to place pressure on various funding agents, while our appetite for recreational use of beaches increases. To further aggravate the problem, a significant percentage of the human population couldn’t care less about the future of the tiny little Piping Plover.
Without funding, protection efforts and awareness programs will be significantly minimized.
The future of the beach-loving Piping Plover is becoming increasingly uncertain.

Protected Piping Plover Nest Site

Protected Piping Plover Nest Site


Piping Plover on a nest

Piping Plover on a nest


adult Piping Plover protecting its young under its wing

adult Piping Plover protecting its young under its wing

Polar Photography – Dealing With The Challenges

Adelie Penguins - black & white subjects are a challenge for the camera meter

Adelie Penguins - black & white subjects are a challenge for the camera meter

As adventurers, we tend to seek unusual travel destinations. We need to satisfy an insatiable appetite for discovering remote parts of the world. Inevitably, these isolated destinations come with extreme conditions – rugged landscape, unpredictable wildlife, inhospitable environments and harsh weather. Yet the wilderness calls us. And, we answer.
Fortunately, thanks to advances in digital photography, it’s never been easier to document such adventures. Even tiny cameras can produce high-quality images with just the push of a button.
But, extreme conditions come with challenges. Polar regions in particular will test the limits of any modern electronic gadget. Beware of ice, snow, wind, salt, moisture and extreme light.

Here are a few simple recommendations:

1) Cold temperatures eat battery power. Battery life is much shorter in the cold. Keep spare batteries handy – ALWAYS! If possible, keep them warm in a pocket close to your body. When you replace batteries, return the used ones to your warm pocket. There may still be some juice there.

2) Keep things dry / protect your equipment. I use a large, padded, weather-resistant backpack with an additional rain-cover that folds out from the lining. I sometimes also use a solid waterproof Pelican Case. There’s a lot of protective gear available on the market. Search for the right products that match your needs and equipment. At the very least, carry a large plastic garbage bag or heavy-duty zip-lock bag. It will keep your equipment dry for short periods, or during less severe situations.

3) Watch your exposure, especially with black or white subjects – both ends of the visible colour spectrum. In Polar Regions, you can expect a lot of highly reflective snow cover. Camera meters are calibrated to read mid-range colours, and have trouble dealing with extremes like snow scenes. Black & White subjects, like an Adelie Penguin or Thick-billed Murre, can pose severe exposure challenges. I deal with exposure issues later, while viewing my images on a computer. I fix imperfections with a photo editor like Photoshop, Elements or Nikon Capture. However, learning to use the editors takes time. Fortunately with digital cameras, we have the advantage of reviewing the image immediately after exposure. Look at your results right away, and compensate your exposure with your camera’s exposure controls. Try using several different exposure settings (bracketing), take lots of pictures, and review your results as you go. At least one of the images is bound to work. Many new digital cameras have auto-braketing functions.

4) Bring two of everything. You never know when something will fail, break, or even disappear. Although doubling your camera inventory isn’t always practical, if you have the capacity, it might save you in time of need. I always travel with two cameras, and several lenses. But, even a little compact camera will work as a spare. It may not replace your DSLR. But, it’s better than nothing if your good camera expires.

5) Memorize your owner’s manual. At least, bring your manual with you when you travel. Most digital cameras have a myriad of functions and features. Your manual will familiarize you with them. It should also inform you how to deal with extremes such as snow and cold.

6) Take lots of pictures. Bring plenty of memory cards. And, don’t ever hesitate to press the shutter release. You can always delete the bad pics if necessary.

You’re about to travel on the trip of a lifetime, a place where few have dared to venture. Be prepared, and you’ll capture all the beauty, drama and joy to share later with the world.

Polar Bear - another tricky exposure challenge

Polar Bear - another tricky exposure challenge

The immaculate beauty of our vast polar regions are waiting to be discovered

The immaculate beauty of our vast polar regions are waiting to be discovered

Humpback Whales from the Zodiac - be prepared to capture the excitement

Humpback Whales from the Zodiac - be prepared to capture the excitement

Birding in Eastern Ontario & West Quebec Part One – The Four Seasons

male breeding Northern Parula

male breeding Northern Parula

Gray leafless trees glisten under a clear northern sky. Rising above the southeastern horizon, a big yellow sun transmits an amber glow across delicately textured snow cover. Our trailing footprints circle each shrub, our steps crunching through a thin layer of icy crust – We’re looking and listening for signs of wildlife. From a thick clump of young conifers comes the chatter of angry chickadees. I recognize the sound as one of alarm – the chickadees unleashing their fury upon a potential threat. And, there it is, tucked away inside the cover of dark Jack Pine needles – a Boreal Owl. Casting your eyes on a bird like this can make your day. For some birders, it’s better than winning a lottery. Yes, we’re very lucky here in Eastern Ontario. We’re blessed with a great selection of natural wonders. Some, like the rare Boreal Owl, attract birders here from all around the world.

If a birder glances at a map of North America, Eastern Ontario seems insignificant – a small triangle of land lost in a vast continent, featureless, boring, and ordinary. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Time, geography and the workings of our planet, have created a unique area, full of diverse habitats. We experience four distinct seasons each causing dynamic changes to our rich environment. Primarily flat and productive agricultural land, the St. Lawrence lowlands are covered with ten thousand year old sediment left behind by the ancient Champlain Sea. The region is flanked by the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers, and surrounded by primordial hills and lakes – the Canadian Shield and the Appalachians. Sprinkled throughout are various wetlands, forests, grassland, barrens and urbanized settings. Our waters drain into the Atlantic. However, for many birds traveling between Hudson Bay and the Atlantic, the Ottawa River, and connected lowlands, act like a migratory corridor.

For the birder, this makes for great entertainment, and throughout the entire year. Each season and each habitat comes with a parade of different characters. This blog briefly describes birding trends during Eastern Ontario & West Quebec’s seasons. Look for future blogs describing our best birding hotspots.

WINTER: The Ottawa area can be among the most bitterly cold places in the world. Yet, wildlife is well adapted to our extreme conditions. Several hardy northern birds, at the southern edge of their wintering range, make Eastern Ontario their home for part of the year. Although each winter is different, we consistently find creatures like Iceland Gull, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Bohemian Waxwing, Hoary Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak, and other northern birds. What gives Ottawa an edge is that it provides birders with relatively easy access to view these species.

SPRING: My favourite time of year, this is when our hills, fields and gardens erupt with life. Spring happens gradually, and in two general stages. The first migrants appear around the end of February with the arrival of Horned Larks to our farm fields. Shortly after, typically with warm weather systems, come adult Ring-billed Gulls, various blackbirds and a trickle of waterfowl. By April, we have large numbers migrating through. They pass by quickly, determined to reach their breeding grounds. From late April right through May, we see the next wave of migrants. These include shorebirds, warblers, flycatchers, other insect-eating songbirds and high-Arctic nesters. The last spring migrants are observed during the first week of June. Besides the large flocks of waterfowl, gulls and blackbirds, some of the star attractions include male wood-warblers in breeding plumage, often on territory singing their hearts out. Among them we often see Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager and Indigo Bunting. Late spring is very exciting in the Ottawa area. This is the time when birds like Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackpoll Warbler, Arctic Tern and Brant pass through. With luck, we sometimes find shorebirds along the river or in lagoons.

SUMMER: The most active season for observing behaviour, summer is when most birds have established territories, and breeding activity peaks. For the determined birder, a full morning starts before dawn, sometimes as early as 3:00 or 4:00am. The dawn chorus, especially in extensive, undisturbed areas, rings with an abundance of vocalizations – symphonic, ethereal, and sometimes frantic. Our many wetlands, forests and barrens often reveal wonderful birds. Some of the highlights include Blackburnian Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Cerulean Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Grasshopper Sparrow, Clay-coloured Sparrow, Bobolink, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Least Bittern.

FALL: Fall migration is virtually the reverse of spring. The last to arrive in spring are often the first to leave in fall. Unlike spring migration, many fall migrants are less determined to reach their destination. Some linger for days or weeks. Generally, it is less intense. Regardless, fall migration can be very complex, and produce some extremely intense birding. The entire process of southward bird-movement can last from June through to the end of December. The first fall migrants appear on the shores of rivers & lagoons at the end of June. Typically, these are adult shorebirds finished with the breeding process – Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover and others. Throughout July, we see shorebirds, warblers, swallows and flycatchers moving through in small numbers. In August, we see young and adults moving together, sometimes in large flocks. Shorebirds and insect-eating songbirds constitute the bulk of these. The peak of fall migration occurs around the end of August through to the beginning of September. This is also the onset of the next wave of migration – waterfowl, raptors, sparrows, kinglets and Myrtle Warblers. By the end of September, almost all of the insect-eating birds will have passed through. In October, the forests transform from green to red, and bird diversity decreases each day. However, staging waterbird numbers increase, and by the end of November, the first of the over-wintering birds trickle in. By December, most lakes and ponds are frozen, and several over-wintering species become prevalent. Although there are always a few birds just passing through, by the end of December, birders can see a clear pattern for the upcoming winter season.

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl


Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow


Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

To Feed Or Not To Feed

Male Northern Cardinal © Heather Pickard

Male Northern Cardinal © Heather Pickard

It’s a cold, moist winter dawn in Eastern Ontario. A warm pink light rises from the east masking the bitterly cold air. At the edge of a forest clearing, slender bird-feeders dangle from glazed branches while dozens of small finches nibble niger seed from the feeder’s tiny ports. Nearby, a slab of raw suet, secured to a thick birch trunk constitutes a perch for a famished Hairy Woodpecker. Meanwhile, dozens of Blue Jays descend from the canopy like ornate snowflakes, down to a table covered in corn and millet.
In my early years, winter scenes like this helped kindle a fascination with nature, and all things that lived in the wilderness. Observing nature isn’t always easy. So, placing feeders around the yard allowed me to get close to some of them.

Many of us lure birds to our property with free food. Benevolence is important, but not our only objective. We take great pleasure in being surrounded by a diversity of colourful and animated creatures. The fact that we’re pleasing our avian guests with food is a bonus.
But, some argue that if we make it too easy for them, we reduce their ability to adapt, and survive in harsh conditions where food is less plentiful and temporary. Perhaps this is true in some cases.
Another argument is that we sometimes attract undesirable forms of wildlife to these feeding stations. Some people have waged war against squirrels, raccoons and other rodents. Even pigeons and crows often get a bad rap from property owners. In extreme cases, you might attract an omnivore like a bear. You can say goodbye to your bird-feeders then.

A recent activity that troubles me is the incessant feeding of store-bought mice to wild, over-wintering owls. This is a technique used by photographers to get dramatic photos of a predator catching prey. The owl is located, the mouse released, and as the predator flies in for the kill, all cameras blast away. Unlike nomadic and migratory songbirds, there is a danger when large predators become accustomed to humans. Owls in particular are often misunderstood, symbolic in many cultures as the harbingers of ill-will. To make matters worse, after several straight days of being fed live mice by people, I have watched them fly right up to people, and their cars, expecting food. I have even been followed by some of these owls. In one case, more than a kilometer.

Still, there are many good arguments for maintaining a bird-feeding station.

First, keep in mind that 70 to 90 percent of songbirds don’t survive the first year. “Most birds die through inexperience, for they are constantly at risk from predators, disease, accident and food shortage. Newly independent fledglings are at greatest risk and mortality gradually decreases as the birds become more experienced” (A Dictionary of Birds – Buteo Books – 1985). Once a bird makes it beyond its first year, it has gained much needed skills for survival, and it’s likely to live for several more years. The point here is that a high mortality rate is normal, especially for younger, inexperienced birds.

I also believe most birds do NOT depend on our free handouts. They merely modify their behaviour temporarily to take advantage of our generosity. Throughout migration, birds encounter abundant food sources. They stop to nourish themselves, but their instincts push them to continue migration, leaving behind rich food supplies that might have been adequate for their survival. Around Ottawa, White-throated & White-crowned Sparrows are common during migration, but very rare in winter, even though they can survive harsh conditions where food is abundant.
In winter, many birds traveling through their territory include stops at several food source. If they relied on only one source of natural food, the supply would surely exhaust itself before the end of the season, and the birds’ chance of survival would diminish. Black-capped Chickadees, for example, form small flocks and travel through large territories searching for food. If your bird-feeding station is along their route, they will stop for a visit. If you go on vacation, the birds might continue visiting, but move through your property much faster, spending more time in productive areas.
Many finches and other nomadic species move around constantly during the winter. They’re relatively unaffected by harsh conditions like low temperatures, provided they have lots to eat. They move from one area to the next, capitalizing on their discoveries. For example, a flock of Pine Grosbeaks can finish off a berry-rich mountain ash in a couple of days. Once finished, they move on. These species have successfully behaved like this much longer than humans have been on the planet.
Some species have become more common during winter, in part, because of bird feeders. Since it’s easier for them to “battle the elements” on a full gizzard, they have a greater survival rate. Mourning Doves and Northern Cardinals are two species that have expanded their range northward. Although global warming may be a factor, I’m convinced they are slowly adapting to northern suburbia because of our free handouts. However, we can say the same thing about crows and gulls, two species that rarely come to bird feeders. In most areas, their populations are increasing in winter because they have adapted to our refuse and garbage disposal.
Some birds occasionally wander out of their normal range, or fail to move far enough south in fall migration. These birds eventually become desperate for food since they find themselves in unfamiliar territory or in a habitat that doesn’t suit their normal adaptations. In these cases, when they find a rich food supply (like a bird feeder), their survival might depend on it. If the free handouts suddenly stop, winter’s wrath might take its toll on the misguided, and unprepared bird. A few years ago, my parents had a Myrtle Warbler coming to their feeders. It fed exclusively on suet-cake pieces that were conveniently cut into small chunks for the warbler. Chances are this bird would have perished if it wasn’t for my parents’ diligence and generosity.

But, is this any different than caring for a pet, keeping livestock, or cultivating a beautiful garden?
We all consume nature for our own benefit. When it comes to wild birds, with only a few exceptions, I believe we can feed them without guilt or worry.
Be sensitive, and just enjoy the show.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

White-throated Sparrow © Nina Stavlund

White-throated Sparrow © Nina Stavlund

Beginning Birdwatching

Northern Raven chasing light morph Rough-legged Hawk

Northern Raven chasing light morph Rough-legged Hawk

So, you want to start birding?

You’ve got Blue Jays, Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees and White-crowned Sparrows visiting your back yard – little treasures brightening the day as they frolic through your garden. But, where are all those other birds I see in books, TV, and postage stamps? Do I have to be a part of  David Attenborough’s camera crew to see those?

If you only birdwatch from your back-yard, then you’ll only observe a limited number of species, typically ones that prefer suburban habitats.

If you’d like to enter an entirely new world of birds then you’ll need to travel beyond the neighbourhood. Many species prefer different habitats to urban settings. And, each different habitat attracts different species. In order to see great diversity, you’ll have to visit as many different environments as possible.

Most communities have set aside greenspace for recreational use – walking trails through forests, boardwalks through wetlands, even grassland trails and open space along water edges…  There’s likely several of these within proximity of your home. And, then there are the more elaborate parklands, often federally funded and organized. Take advantage of these whenever you can.

But, where do you start?

Try Google first. The internet is full of good information about where to find birds in your area.

Use the word “birds” plus the name of your town, city or neighbourhood. Enter them into the search engine and see what comes up. You might find volumes of information there.

Next, make sure you have a good set of binoculars (click here to read my blog entry about selecting binoculars for birding: http://tonybeck.ca/blog/2010/02/19/binoculars-for-birding/ ).

You’ll  also want a good reference book to check your sightings.

The “field guides” I recommend the most for North America are as follows:

1)  National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America  http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=55314C&code=NG90300

2)  National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America  http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=6200330&categoryId=A002

3)   National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=6200331&code=NG90300

4)   The Sibley Guide to Birds http://www.sibleyguides.com/about/the-sibley-guide-to-birds/

5)   The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America http://www.sibleyguides.com/about/the-sibley-field-guide-to-birds-of-eastern-north-america/

6)   The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America http://www.sibleyguides.com/about/the-sibley-field-guide-to-birds-of-western-north-america/

You now own good binoculars, a couple of excellent field guides, and you’re keen to observe new species. Is there a way to observe more effectively and efficiently?
YES! 
Although each of us observes birds differently, there is a general, systematic approach to bird-identification.

Most times, all we need is a quick glimpse of something and we know what it is. A bold colour, a certain shape…  our mind reacts instantaneously to what we see.  And, the more we observe, the quicker we’re able to react.

However, there are other times we need to think carefully before making an identification – the bird might not be familiar, or the bird is not clearly in view.

Here are some of the steps to follow:

* SIZE – compare the size of your bird to other birds you’re familiar with. Common species like sparrows, crows and geese all offer a reference in which to compare a bird you’re unfamiliar with.

* SHAPE – This is critical! Often this is the easiest way to recognize differences between similar species. How long is that beak? How short is the tail? How plump is that bird? Is the tail forked or flat? Is the head round or square? What do the legs look like? What shape are those wings? Even when you can’t see colour or plumage detail, subtle details of shape can stand out.

* BOLD CHARACTER – When we observe birds, some characters are obvious – bold colour, distinctive shapes, bold contrasting marks… Some species have unique characters that stand out. Once you’ve recognized them, your identification process need go no further.

* HABITAT – Every species has adapted to a specific set of conditions. In order to survive, each species needs to associate itself with the environment it’s best adapted to. Otherwise, it has to re-adapt, and that requires effort and energy.

For example: a Wood Thrush is comfortable in a deciduous woodland. It will have trouble surviving in a wetland, or urban environment – habitats they’re not adapted to. A Bobolink requires grassland to breed, and find food. It can’t find what it needs in a forest or swamp. If you know which environment the species prefers, or which species you’re likely to find in the habitat you’re exploring, you are better prepared to make correct bird identifications.

* TIME-OF-YEAR – Birds have wings, and can travel great distances. Birds sometimes breed in different places to where they spend the non-breeding season. Understanding this dynamic will help you identify species. A Chipping Sparrow looks a lot like an American Tree Sparrow. However, an American Tree Sparrow has never bred in my home-patch while the Chipping Sparrow is a common nester. The reverse is also true – A Chipping Sparrow is rare in winter while the American Tree Sparrow is common. Some species are common as passage migrants (spring and/or fall) while some species are here only in the summer . Others are here all year. Knowing what time of year each species is present in your area will greatly enhance your ability to make correct identifications.

* BEHAVIOUR – As unique as a bird’s appearance is the way it behaves. Each species moves in a way that can sometimes assist in revealing its identity. Does it pump its tail? Does it bob its head? How does the bird fly? Does it fly straight, or does it undulate in a rhythmic pattern? How deep are its wing beats? How does it forage for food? On the ground, does it hop or walk? How does it perch – vertical or horizontal? Does it swim, soar, run, swoop, flap, glide… all these things can help in determining its identity.

* SOUND – every species has its own unique language. Some species have a wide variety of sounds it makes. Many have elaborate vocalizations during courtship. Some have simple call notes while others make sounds with body parts. Recognizing the language of each species will enhance your birdwatching experience greatly.

* PLUMAGE DETAIL – finally – after sorting through all the above items, you need to study plumage detail. This is when you need to know the birds “topography” – like studying a map of the bird. You can start by looking at the bird’s head, working your way down the back, side, front, wings, rump, legs then tail… constantly noting colour, pattern, shape, or any other subtle characters. With difficult bird-identification challenges, this is the only way to make a correct bird-identification.

Now you have it… you’re a birdwatcher. The exciting world of birds awaits you. There is adventure around every corner!

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Wildlife Photography Style

Timber Wolves

Timber Wolves

I recently received an e-mail asking for my views on a hot-topic.
The writer was having a discussion with a friend about two opposite methods of capturing a perfect wildlife image.
Is it better to take lots of images with the hopes that one will turn out?
Or should the photographer focus all their finely-tuned energy into capturing a single perfect image?

This was easy to answer since I had a similar discussion with one of my early photography teachers.
The teacher’s style approached each situation with a single 8 X 10 sheet of film loaded into a huge view camera.
I on the other hand, was a young, energetic student, sporting an itchy trigger finger, and a Nikon FG.

I concluded that it’s all a matter of style.
Some photographers like to wait patiently for the perfect photo.
Others (like myself) prefer to work quickly and take lots of images in the process.

I simply cannot sit and wait.
That would bore me to tears.
And, the photo may never happen.

However, some people can’t work quickly, and are more aware of their situation when they slow themselves down. Many prefer to work in a confined, controlled, methodical manner, making certain everything is perfect.

I can only speak for myself.
I knew within my first year of owning a camera which style I was comfortable with.
I work best when I feel the rhythms of my subject, the rhythms of the surroundings, to be in tune with my equipment, and my own rhythms.
I dance with my subject-of-interest. I’m very focused in the moment, with hightened awareness. And, the images happen as the world’s rhythms flows around me.
I find myself in an almost out-of-body state – I get “in the zone”.
Through years of practice, I’ve taught myself to feel all the subtle nuances, using all my senses, responding immediately upon the perception of a good photo happening before me.
I’m subconsciously reading the light (without looking at my meter), I’m checking all my surroundings to see how they might effect the image, I’m studying the behaviours of my subject (when animals or people are the subject), I’m thinking about my camera equipment, and I’ve got a mental picture of the final photographic result in my head.
All these thoughts are happening at lightning speed as the photographic situation unfolds before me.
And, when I anticipate a good photo about to happen… I let ‘er rip!

I find my style to be very efficient, and I have great success with it.
Often, I’ll be finished a good photo-shoot in 15 – 20 minutes when others are still setting up.

To anyone sitting and waiting – I say “good luck”.
You still require fast reaction, full awareness, with an ability to turn-on the speed and energy when the action happens.
However, to be successful at either style requires practice and experience.
So are the two styles really that different?

They’re simply two different ways to accomplish the same goal.

I know what I need to do.
But, maybe I just haven’t experienced being “in the zone” of the sitter & waiter.

adult light morph Pomarine Jaeger

adult light morph Pomarine Jaeger

My Camera Equipment

male Wilson's Phalarope

male Wilson's Phalarope

The question most often asked of my photography is “what equipment do you use?”.
I’ve been a Nikon user since I bought my first SLR back in the early 1980’s.
For many years I used the dependable Nikon FM2, later adding Nikon F4 to the mix. I resisted the change to digital until the end of 2006 when I finally bought a DSLR in the form of a Nikon D200.
I quickly realized the versatility of a good digital camera.
Shortly after, the D300 came out, and everything changed for me.
I immediately became comfortable with a fast and responsive auto focus (I preferred  manual focus up to this point).
With the D300’s clean, high-quality sensor, and the ability to change ISO in the middle of a photo-shoot,
I found myself capturing images under conditions I never would have tried with film.

Now, with Nikon’s amazing D3s (possibly the best commercial camera ever made), I feel unstoppable as a photographer, approaching any assignment with complete confidence.

Here is what I’m currently using for the vast majority of shoots.

CAMERAS
* Nikon D3s
* Nikon D700
* Nikon D300

LENSES
* AF-S Nikkor 300mm f4D ED-IF (two of them)
* AF Zoom-Nikkor 80 – 200mm f2.8D ED
* AF-S ED Zoom-Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G
* AF-S DX VR Zoom -Nikkor 18 – 200mm f3.5-5.6 GII ED IF

* AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II

ACCESSORIES
* Manfrotto Monopod with joystick head
* Various generic gunstock shoulder supports.
* (rarely used anymore) Manfrotto Tripod

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk