Bird Photography

Day 1: 5 Days of Bosque del Apache Images and Tips

It's Day 1 in my series: 5 Days of Bosque del Apache Images and Tips. I'm running this series in preparation for my 2015 Bosque workshop (full) and 2016 Bosque workshop. Click here to see all my 2016 workshops.

Feel free to drag my images into Bridge or Lightroom for Metadata.

Today's Tip: You snooze you lose.

Plan to arrive on site by around 5 AM so you can get a good spot to set up your tripod and gear. In November and December (the best times for The Blast Off) there will be many other photographers on site, all wanting to get great shots of the birds in flight.

About The Blast Off: thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes take off at about the same time and fill the sky with action. The Blast Off usually happens around daybreak.

Always have your wide-angle lens and telephoto lens handy – as opposed to having them tucked away in your camera bag. That way, you’ll be able to take photographs that will tell the story of your experience. I keep my camera with a telephoto zoom lens on my tripod and my camera with a wide-angle zoom on a neck strap.

Use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000th of a second to stop the movement of the birds’ wings – if that is your goal.

To catch The Blast Off you need to arrive on site in the dark. Use a head-mounted flashlight so you can easily set up your gear without having to hold a flashlight.

Also make sure you have gloves that will let you operate your camera in the cold. In November and December, it’s often below zero before the sun rises.

Hand and toe warmers can be a godsend. However, at most shooting locations you are never more than a few minutes from your car.

Slightly underexpose an image to get a more dramatic silhouette.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is located about 9 miles from the small town of San Antonio, which is south of Socorro, New Mexico, where birders and photographers book hotel rooms. Most folks fly into Albuquerque, NM.

The Blast Off happens fast, so you need to be ready to shoot. The Blast Off is usually over in a minute . . . but it’s well worth it. It’s an awe-inspiring site.

Check your histogram and highlight alert and make sure you don’t overexpose the highlights.

Plan to spend a few days on site, because the sky is different every day. The sky was actually quite dull in this image. I added the color with a Gradual Filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

I hope to see you in Bosque.

For detailed information on photographing birds, check out my on-line class: Master the Art and Craft of Bird Photography.

Explore the light,