Originally written Jan 22, 2021
How do you find these amazing things to photograph!?
Jan 22, 2021 - A question to me yesterday day when I delivered my final calendar as a belated Christmas gift to a business I deal with regularly. Flattering? Yes but it made me realize that I’ve had a lot of people ask me this question in the past. Since I haven't been out much lately with much to share, I thought this was a great subject to share about.
As a photographer, a challenge we face is to find the source of our passion and to be able to have the right situations or settings at the same time. Some days I can be out and about for hours, yet come home without having clicked my camera once. Those days can be disappointing but I do try to get something out of my trip. For example, where ever I have traveled, I am constantly scouting and making mental notes of places of possible future sightings or places to return at different seasons.
As we all know, a lot of species migrate south for the winters and although on occasion they can be spotted at odd times of the year, for the most part you need to learn what you should be looking for and to ignore things that just do not make sense for that particular season.
For example, winter is the best season to see birds of prey - owls, eagles, hawks, and the like. Early spring is simply the best time of year to see a wide variety of species migrating back through areas to return to their breeding grounds or to find nesting areas in their summer homes. Prince Edward County has one of the best areas for migrating warblers both in the spring and the fall. There are a huge variety of species who pass through on their way to the Northern Boreal Forests to breed and feed for the summer months. Late spring is great for foxes and their kits as well as coyotes, raccoons, and more. Doing your research to find what you may be looking for is a very helpful tool when you are a wildlife photographer.
Another tool that’s extremely helpful as well as a bit addictive is the ebird app and website. It’s free and can actually be fun. It’s a citizen based tool to record what birds you have seen, manage your lists, photos and more. The data collected from ordinary people is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and provides a wealth of information regarding birds all over the world. It’s a great tool to learn with your family and can lead you to understand so much more about birds than you ever thought you wanted to know. Other things you can do is explore sightings of other species around the world and you contribute to science and conservation of birds. You can also track your hike or drive and keep track of how far you are traveling during a report and so much more. It’s a fabulous tool to check out hotspots near you to see what other people are seeing. If you’re looking for a specific type of bird like a Cedar Waxwing you can see where it’s been around you. Don't get me started on Lifers! I can’t recommend it enough.
Another way I find what I photograph is, if you know me, I talk and communicate, a lot. Meeting people with a similar love for what I love to capture is a large part of my experience. I love to meet photographers, birders and animal lovers all over. I ask questions, I listen and I read posts from like-minded folks. Sometimes the sightings pan out and other times they are just too far away and I enjoy the experience from the other side of my laptop instead. I’ve driven to Holland Landing Sewage Lagoons to capture American Avocets which are rarely seen in Ontario and a friend and I have driven to a Toronto Park way too early in the morning to try to catch a shot of a Silver Fox three times. The latter was an utter disappointment yet we met some great photographers and had an interesting run-in with a homeless man. I drove to Hamilton three and a half times to capture a Red-Morph Screech Owl and the best shot I got was the tip of it’s head. The patience, time and effort put into catching that beautiful photo cannot be explained enough.
Being on my own with no-one to really answer to other than my work and my horrible job as a superintendent, I can basically go and do what I want (when there is no Stay-At-Home order). If I’m going to go out the next day, I can plan my trip before my eyes close for the night or I jump in my truck and I just drive. Sometimes getting lost on a trip is the best thing to happen to me other than remembering great spots to shoot at! Simply packing myself and my dogs into my truck with some snacks and water and I’m good for the day. I’ve had some fantastic road trips that have led to some wonderful hikes on trails I’ve never been on before and have actually caught some great shots that way.
There’s nothing like the feeling of seeing a fox pouncing on the hunt and being able to capture that random shot without knowing you were going to see it happen. Taking a day drive to Wolfe Island can easily lead to surprise shots of a Gyrfalcon or a pair of Bald Eagles, it’s not uncommon to catch a glimpse and possible capture of an Eastern Coyote or horses dancing in their pen.
Amherst Island, one of my favourites, can end with a sad day of only a few sightings or a camera seeming with captures of over 37 Short-Eared Owls flying over your head, Snowy Owls in the distance, Rough Legged Hawks swooping thru Fields, Northern Harriers and even a Red Fox or two. A random drive can lead to a sighting of just about anything or nothing but a relaxing drive. Why not give it a try and see what you end up with?