I’ve been inspired by the amazing nature/photography blogs that I follow to take a stab at improving my own wildlife photography. Not intending to become the next David Attenborough — yep, I’ve been watching Nature on PBS — but there’s certainly plenty of room for improvement, so it seems a worthy goal.
Step one: a camera upgrade. I have a little Sony point and shoot, and I’ve been using it so much this past year that the on/off button keeps getting stuck in one position or the other. Contrary to my usual buying method (see an ad, think it looks nifty, and buy it) I actually did a tiny amount of research for this purchase, and discovered that there is a class of cameras called “bridge cameras” for folks just like me who want to take a step up from the point and shoot, but don’t want to jump all the way to a Single Lens Reflex camera. Cool. Research paying off. (And I finally figured out what SLR stands for. Extra cool.) I knew there was one thing I wanted on my next camera: a viewfinder. I don’t know if any of the point and shoot digital cameras have a viewfinder, but mine doesn’t. In the days before reading glasses, this wasn’t a problem. But now…unless the light is just right I can’t clearly see what I’m focusing on without my reading glasses, and I can’t see the actual object I’m focusing on with reading glasses. Life is hard.
It turns out that there aren’t actually that many bridge-type cameras out there with viewfinders, so my choice was narrowed to two. Surprising myself yet again, I did a little more research, and found good reviews for the Nikon Coolpix 510, so that’s what I got.
I wasn’t expecting that it would be that different from using my old camera, but I am so nicely surprised by how much fun this camera is to use. So that is extra cool, as well. I’ve been on a mission the past couple of weeks to start my wildlife photographer career by stalking the winter birds that hang out in central Montana. What have I learned so far? Birds sitting still are easy to shoot, birds flying not so much. What an insight.
For example, it was pretty easy to get a decent photo of this good looking Roughlegged Hawk as he sat on a fencepost:
but a whole other matter to catch him when he decided to fly:
Luckily for my frustration level, geese are wonderfully cooperative when you want to catch them flying. They take a long time to get in the air, and once they’re up they move nice and slowly:
We have a few flocks of cedar waxwings that are wintering in town, and I would dearly love to get a picture of hundreds of them taking off from a tree in unison. That hasn’t happened: I’ve tried sitting and watching them, camera at the ready, but have totally missed it when they do decide to take off. These two are my best waxwing shots so far:
Birds at the feeder are good for practice, but, man – those little guys just move so darned fast! Got a few of them, though:
The other day I did come across some wildlife that stood still for as long as I needed:
If they’d all cooperate like these guys, I’d be a pro in no time.