It’s a Wild Life

I am a paparazzo. Positioning myself in the optimum position to capture the subject while trying to remain hidden so as not to spook it. There have been rumors of sightings. I have actually seen them here before, in this exact location, but this time they are proving to be elusive. I lay on the ground as flat as possible behind a large bush, checking the camera settings; at the ready, finger on the shutter. . . there he is! Snap!_MG_8627birds
It’s a goldfinch! Joining another one for breakfast.

_MG_8625birdsNot unlike celebrities going about their daily lives, birds are difficult subjects – camera shy, flighty, never staying too long in the same spot – downright evasive.


Sometimes you get lucky and are able to catch them at rest.


Giving you more time for focusing and composing the shot.


More often than not though, you will be trying to capture a moving object . . .

hummingbird and sage

When trying to get that shot, and focus on the avian subject, you have choices. You can use auto-focus or manual focus. When choosing, auto-focus there are options within that choice – the options I describe pertain to Canon cameras, so if you have another type you will have to refer to your user’s manual for the exact terms for your camera. The auto-focus options are:  One Shot mode – which is used for still subjects,  AI Servo – for moving subjects ( if the subject is moving and the focusing distance keeps changing the camera tracks the subject) or AI Focus – for switching between the two ( if the subject is still and then moves it will switch to the AI Servo mode from the one shot mode). The auto-focus mode can be nice for capturing active subjects out in the open.Take your camera to a location where you know those celebrities congregate out in the open; perhaps near your local watering hole.

pelicanStart in either the AI Servo or AI Focus modes and shoot away.


Often, our feathered friends choose to hang out in trees or on bushes with a lot of branches. This can create a problem with auto-focus because if the bird takes flight the camera will sometimes try to focus on the branches. The other option is manual focus discussed last week.  If having trouble in auto-focus mode switch to manual focus and see which setting works best for you in your situation.

Sometimes those avians can be very accommodating. . . “I’m ready for my close-up!”

_MG_8552birdsKeeping both eyes focused in the trees.

~ Susan

When using auto-focus there are options as to how the camera handles the focusing of a subject. If your subject is still use One Shot mode, if your subject is moving use AI Servo mode and if your subject will be still at times and then move choose AI Focus mode.

Use auto-focus in each of the three different settings and conditions this week and see how your camera responds. Birds make excellent action subjects but choose whatever you like.

Become a bird paparazzo capturing your subjects by being as unobtrusive as possible so you can catch them acting naturally, or catch them before they fly away!

waiting and watching and wishing and hoping

While doing the morning dishes and looking out the back window lately, I am entertained by the sight of finches using our bird bath. One recent morning, I grab my camera, stealthily creep out to the backyard and stage myself close enough to hopefully allow for an action shot of the activities. Sitting as still as possible with camera poised I wait. . . and wait; for a half an hour, at least, I wait and not one bird comes close to taking a dip. A few days later, still determined to capture the activities, I venture out again. This time trying a new location a little farther away and armed with a 100mm-300mm zoom lens. About fifteen minutes in, my mind begins wandering. Thinking back, many years ago, to when we purchased the bird bath and one of the backyard daughters, Michele, was about four years old. We lugged it out to the carefully chosen spot in the garden, placed it in the dirt wiggling and maneuvering it back and forth to level it and filled the bowl with water. Michele was excited about the new addition to the backyard and couldn’t wait for the first visitors to arrive for a bath. “How will they know it’s here?” she queried. I assured her the birds would be able to find it but she decided to help out and rode around the backyard on her pink bicycle with training wheels and streamers hanging from the handlebars shouting, every few seconds, “Birdbath! . . . Birdbath!” Unfortunately, it had the opposite of the desired effect and eventually we decided to wait and watch from inside the house. Sitting there in the yard, warmed by the sun and the fond memory, I waited once again. This time there were a few birds but they seemed to distrust me and kept their distance and a watchful eye on me and the bird bath.

finch in tree

No birds were brave enough to dive in that day either. Not one to give up easily, I decide maybe third time’s a charm.  Same zoom lens and location, I stake out once again. A few minutes in, there goes my mind again. Thinking of the upcoming holidays and trying to decide when to begin decking the halls, I realize many of the plants in our backyard are festively red and green at this time of year. The pepper tree’s berries are just ripening.

pepper tree berriesAs are the toyon berries.

toyon berries

toyon berries

The only rose bush flowering in my garden right now is the one with the red blossoms.

red rose

Spirits lifted by this unexpected holiday gift, I notice the loud caw of many crows nearby. Looking up, I see a beautiful hawk with a crow in hot pursuit.

crow chasing hawk

Those crows are relentless.

crows chasing hawk

Getting back to bird bath watch, I notice there are more birds in the yard getting closer to me and the bath this time. One is slowly working its’ way over. Finally, it alights on the bath; although it is partly obscured by the foreground plant.

bird bath

It is barely there a second, as I achieve focus and start snapping away, it is spooked and takes off.

bird bath and bird

Photography can benefit from patience, also the occasional  wandering mind to help pass the time and alert the eye to other photo worthy subjects in the area doesn’t hurt. I am not through yet. My spot is waiting and I dare say the birds are becoming accustomed to the occasional visitor. I will be on bird bath stakeout again soon. I want the shot of the water flying as the birds wiggle and splash in the bath and I will get it!

With perseverance, persistence and a bit of meandering,


The Weekend Dish

seagulls on waterEver wonder what type of bird you saw or what is the difference, if any, between seagulls with varied coloring? For the curious and those wanting to get outside and maybe learn a thing or two, and take some pictures too, this weekend is the last bird walk of the year at the Ballona Wetlands. The third Sunday of every month, except December, LA Audubon hosts a bird walk in the Ballona Wetlands.

great egret at Ballona wetlands

On the walk, the guide will help with bird identification while the group observes the  interactions of the various species and discuss the wetland’s ecosystem.

shorebirds Ballona wetlands

The wetlands are teeming with life and thus offer many opportunities for catching some wildlife activity and learning from the knowledgeable guides.


For all the details click here and grab your camera, a thirst for knowledge and a zoom lens, if you have one, take an inspiration break and head to the wetlands for some great birding.

Happy Weekend!


Passing Through and Going On

Sometimes, I like to go out in the backyard with my camera and wait to see what develops. I choose a location, set-up and wait. If I’m lucky a hummingbird or another type of bird will pass through. Other times, I see something happening and run out to capture it. This week, I have a little bit of both. . . A bushtit and hummingbird both made an appearance.

We have been trying our best to manage a squirrel and our apricot tree so that we are able to harvest at least some of the apricots. Whenever we catch the squirrel approaching, we run out to discourage foraging. However, we can’t be on guard every minute and they do get their way with the tree from time to time. Occasionally, one will take up watch on a telephone pole waiting and watching to make sure the coast is clear.

This year, they have begun leaving remnants of their marauding on display.

Lastly, I like to capture the eco warrior at work.

There is much to engage one’s lens; right in one’s own backyard.

~ Sue

The Tide Is Low and the Spirits Are High

A few days ago I did something I don’t do enough . . . went on an early morning walk at the beach with my camera. To my delight it was a low tide which created beautiful reflections at the water’s edge and brought many shorebirds feeding as well.

I was even treated to an appearance by a snowy egret!

Since it was low tide, some areas in the tide pools were a bit dry and the anemones had closed. These two struck me by the possibilities of images they create!

It was an inspirational and exhilarating way to start the day and I am going to do that more often!  One thing I’ve learned from frequent trips to the beach; it’s different every time.