Birder's Guide

DEC 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 32 of 43

31 December 2014 | Birder's Guide to Gear such as sticks that seem to emerge from the bird's head. Perhaps moving just a bit to the side creates a pleasingly clear shooting lane instead of a twiggy mess with a bird in it. Would that circling hawk look better as it crosses from clouds into a panel of blue sky and banks its wings a bit? Does the kingfsher look more pleas- ing with extra room in front of it in the frame rather than dead-centered? In many cases, going from standing to crouching, sitting, or even lying down to get eye lev- el with your subject can make worlds of difference. Watching what the light is doing also greatly affects your composition. Chang- ing your perspective relative to the sun snap away, and hope for the best every time you see a bird that interests you. Yes, I'll usually start that way for an initial take (better to get something rather than noth- ing on a bird I'd like to document, study, or add to my list), but even if I have just a few more seconds of opportunity I'll be thinking of a better angle to try. It takes practice to see the whole frame instead of just the bird, especially when your target is small, actively moving, and in heavy cover—in other words, most of the time! But practice watching for distracting ele- ments, such as twigs or branches, that may be blocking part of the bird. Give thought to the background; look for items that detract from your subject, available, and a good one to start with is Sherrie Duris's treatment in the December 2013 issue of Birder's Guide to Gear. I also really like Photoventure's "13 Camera Set- tings New Photographers Should Know" ( The short version is: Learn Thy Camera. The camera manual is a good place to start, and online resources are abundant. Find what mode and set- tings work best for you, and explore how using different settings in different situa- tions can deliver the image you see in your mind as you frame it. Composition It isn't enough to just point your camera, Earning your chops on common, cooperative birds such as this "Lesser" Canada Goose will pay dividends when something more intriguing, such as this "Gray-bellied" Brant, shows up in your neck of the woods. (Left: Larimer County, Colorado, September 2006. Right: Larimer County, Colorado, November 2013.) Photos © Bill Schmoker Note the minor cropping and subtle adjustment of levels between the original (left) and fnished (right) images. These quick adjustments help to more accurately portray the dark iridescent head and neck feathering and to emphasize the intimate encounter with this curious Common Loon as it investigated the strange appearance of a photographer in a kayak. Burnett County, Wisconsin, June 2014. Photo © Bill Schmoker

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