Inspiring Words for Bird Photographers

Roseate spoonbills. Photo by Jorja Feldman.

The 2011 Audubon Magazine Photo Awards are well underway and we love the enthusiasm so far! In case you’re in need of a little inspiration to grab your camera and get outside, take some advice from Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest and writer of the blog “Bill of the Birds.”

In a recent post, he describes how taking pictures of birds has changed how he actually looks at birds. Here he writes about a ruddy duck he watched for 45 minutes:

Normally, when out birding, I might note the ruddy duck, note that he was displaying, say “How cool!” and be on my way looking for other birds. If I were leading a field trip of fellow bird watchers, I might even share some obscure facts about the male ruddy duck.

Rather than note the bird and move on, I did the opposite. Presented with an opportunity to capture images of a nearby bird under ideal light conditions, I stayed to shoot and in the process got to observe a range of bird behavior that I would have missed otherwise. Getting keyed in to the behavior only made me want to stay longer and capture more images of this pretty remarkable display.

Feel inspired? Ready to get outside and shoot?

Here are a few tips for when you do:
- Pack sunscreen, insect repellent, aspirin, a hat, snacks, and some water. As Thompson suggests, bird photography requires patience and spending a very long time in one place.
- Shoot at dawn and dusk. Unless it’s a cloudy day, anything shot in between will have harsh, contrasty light. Also, birds are generally more active in the morning and evening.
- Be quiet and move slowly. If you don’t, you will scare away the birds and be left shooting empty landscapes.

For more information about how to take beautiful bird shots and what the judges are looking for, click here. For complete rules and details, visit The entry period ends Sept. 5, 2011.

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