One day in late May over 25 years ago I woke up in the morning and migrating songbirds were all over a blossoming cherry tree in my backyard, like colorful moving Christmas tree ornaments. I always enjoyed nature and the outdoors, but that moment led to the idea that I could share my experiences in nature through photography.
Almost every bird or animal I photograph is aware of my presence and has chosen to trust me for a brief moment in its life or even an extended period of time. Some subjects show more trust than others, and it has been these individuals I always envisioned I would find, even in species that are normally very wary of humans. I found these individuals in time; it took years for many. They accepted me as nonthreatening because I made sure that I was because I felt they would sense it if I was not. If it meant approaching a shorebird on my belly or not looking a hawk in the eye or not wearing bright colors around male songbirds on their breeding territory, and especially not interfering with cold and hungry birds that were feeding, so be it. When those individuals successfully feed in a human’s presence, without any fear whatsoever, they gain a different level of trust and allow many of the best photographic opportunities. I would sometimes leave them as slowly as I approached. That might take 30 minutes. Other birds fly by at high speed and I enjoy the challenge of capturing the moment.
I strive to capture images of good composition, and especially those which include the appropriate aspects of a bird’s (or animal’s) natural environment. Developing an eye for the opportunities which could accomplish that took years. I discovered those opportunities are rare and even more rare – successful results from my efforts. I always keep in mind that if I do not try I am guaranteed to have no results. So I get out there every day possible because nature has infinite surprises awaiting.
My landscape photography often begins with my outdoor excursions during non-ideal lighting conditions to find foreground elements which can be combined with a great sky and using my imagination to envision how they could combine with that sky and great light. Foreground elements constantly change, especially as lake water levels fluctuate, storms reshape shorelines and forests, and seasonal colors peak. I use weather reports to help increase my chances of being able to use a good sky but living on a narrow peninsula often gives me the opportunity to walk a short distance to greatly increase that possibility via direct observation.
When sky, lighting, and compositional elements combine I like to find and frame a scene that invites the viewer to imagine traveling through it, especially with a scene that has multiple options or paths, offering the freedom of many choices.
Freedom is an innate part of our psyche. Birds represent freedom in many ways, but landscape photography can do so as well.