Everyone who follows this blog knows that I recently made a trip to Bosque Del Apache for a bird photography workshop. Many of you may not know that it was my first photography workshop and essentially the first time I have photographed birds outside of California. The gig was hosted by Rick Sammon and Juan Pons who are kind of legendary in the field of photography instruction. If you don’t know who they are-shame on you! Follow the links and you will. They were joined by Chris Klapheke of Outdoor Photo Gear fame. Chris is a remarkable bird photographer. I saw his portfolio several months ago when it was announced the he would be co-leading the workshop, and I was taken back. He also gave a wonderful presentation showing some of the tricks professional bird photographers use to make those magazine cover photos. It seems to me that this team stressed a social aspect to the workshop just as much as technical, which I think is a brilliant approach. I am in general pretty serious about bird photography, I have my goals and my focus and I really try to not let other things get in the way. I may engage in polite conversation on the trail with others but my mind is always somewhere else thinking about my next shot.
I am not too proud to say that when I first saw some of the amazing images my fellow photographers had made I had a twinge of jealousy. I mean really why not me? I might even rationalize by thinking “just one lucky shot-I have a whole card of pretty good shots”. It is an ugly little emotion that has consumed all of us at some time. That all melted away very quickly though. As I was able to meet and talk to the other participants that feeling quickly turned into a genuine appreciation for their hard work. They did great, they deserved the accolades and I became very happy for them. I am not a social creature by any means and I did not sit down and talk to all of the participants in the workshop but many I did. I have been to any number of workshops, seminars, retreats, etc., for other things over the years and I have to say that the group of people who I met at Bosque were the best I have known in a very long time. Every one I met was kind, sharing, interested, and interesting. It was an honor and a privilege to hang out and photograph with all of them.
I had the chance to share with others too. Some of my gear and a couple of tips I learned over the years. Those really obscure things that you won’t read about in forums or on websites. I learned that there is a difference between being pleased and being happy, and that the best way to get to being happy is with the help of others through sharing and camaraderie. When you walk up to a long line of photographers lugging a tripod and long lens and some one always turns around and says “Over here I have some room”- well it just doesn’t get any better than that.
I am an off the trail kind of guy. At my favorite place, the place where I have photographed about a hundred times, I go where I want when I want. I do it in the name of getting a better photograph. Finger wagers be damned, I have probably done as much as any one to advance awareness through photography and donations to the conservancy. I go off trail but I mind my own business and I take care to not disturb anything. After all I own this zip code. But nobody owns the Bosque. It is a highly restricted area where leaving designated area is strictly forbidden. I may have been able to go off trail there but really didn’t even think about it. One of the things I learned is that even at the expense of getting the shot it is more important to do the right thing, to be a great steward of land and life and to set a good example. Anyone who dreams of being the top dog, no matter how unlikely, it is never too soon to start setting a good example. The better you get the more people there will be watching you and you simply have to do the right thing by observing the rules. It may take longer to get the shot but you will get there and when you do it will be with the respect of those who are watching you.
The big take away-There is more to photography than just taking images and the best way to get good is by being good.
Oh, I almost forgot, then there are the actual images I made. I thought I did ok. Good light was fleeting so we all had to do the best we could. I had a few fits of disappointment with images that had too much noise, too slow a shutter speed etc. Not my usual dumb mistakes but rather pushing the limits in order to get clean images. It was challenging but then again it is always challenging. I rented the newest version of the 500mm f4 Nikon lens with desires of buying one soon but was actually rather disappointed. The 300 f2.8 out performs it in every respect and it is very slow focusing with a teleconverter attached. It’s not a bad lens mind you just not up to my expectations and certainly not what I would consider great. When I got back home and transferred all my photos to my main computer with dual displays and all the latest software I like the most I found processing a much more pleasant experience with my satisfaction level going up 10 fold. In the end I am pretty happy with the images I made. I had the time of my life though and that makes the pilgrimage priceless. I will be there again next year I hope, maybe with a sophomore jinx, but I will still have a time of my life, and if any of those great folks I met happen to be there it will be that much better.
As always-Thanks so much for reading.
You can see more of my Bosque images here.