The Great Journey in Photography

Horse and Cart

Great Blue Heron at Bolsa Chica

Great Blue Heron at Bolsa Chica Nest Building

Every now and then I get the horse before the cart. Bird photography tends to be one of those things. You see, in order to make great photos you need to know things about birds. All to often I am looking up details about birds that I have already photographed. That is doing things the hard way. By any measure it’s the hard way and like everything else, preparation is one of the big keys to success. So where do you go to learn about the birds you are going to shoot? Well, no surprise here, I primarily use the internet and mobile applications.

My first stop is always iBird Pro version 6.1. I have leaned on iBird for a number of years now and each new update is light-years better than the previous. It has become the premier source of information in the field. One big drawback though is it is only for North America. In most cases I find it more than adequate but there are times I want to research the more “exotic” birds and they are not available through iBird. It is pricy too at about $30 regular but goes on sale often and can be found for $5 from time to time.
The Peterson Guide is good too but it is only illustrations and in my opinion photographs do a much better job for identification and show behaviors. Here is a little tip–The Peterson guide was free on Earth Day last year and may very well be this year too. Regular price is $15.
On the web I often encounter the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
In their own words

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet.

Cornell is, to be short, a world of birds. Once again devoted to the birds of North America,it goes into great detail about biology and behavior. I do find the photo on the labs pages to be small and of low quality that does tend to make things a bit harder for those who aren’t experts in identification.
Wikipedia is another source of information although it is not as thorough as Cornell. You will also find that Wikipedia can be accessed through the iBird application wrapped as “Bird-a-pedia”.

That is all good for the birds but now you need to learn about the places that birds live in. The United States has a remarkable network of parks and wildlife reserves ranging from the National Parks all the way down to local parks and ponds and for the most part they have websites to guide you through the terrain and inhabitants. Most of these places have one other thing going for them too, I call it the “friends of” groups. They are the independent supporters of a place or animal that go to great lengths to promote their cause. Most of the time “friends of” run their own websites with more up to date information and opportunities to get involved.

So, as you can see there are a few ways to research your subject before you even leave the house. Be a good scout and be prepared.

Thanks so much for stopping by everyone, until next week, be good.


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