I can’t imagine a world without birds, nor can most people.
Humans universally agree on few things, but a love of and fascination for our feathered friends is one of them. Birders travel great distances and plan vacations to attend migrations or bird-watching festivals. Birding is a multibillion-dollar industry.
Birds have captured our imagination since the beginning of recorded history and have played significant roles—from a dove leaving a floating ark to pigeons carrying messages in times of war. Leonardo da Vinci’s fascination with birds and flight led to drawings of a flying apparatus 400 years before the Wright brothers made their first flight. Even Jesus spoke of God caring for birds in the gospels.
There are many accomplished bird photographers, true specialists, of which I am not one. I count myself just below an amateur, but I still love the challenge. A goal of late is to photograph birds in flight. I am not alone in this pursuit.
A talented photojournalist friend, Steve Jessmore, captures stunning bird photographs he calls “Birds Doing Stuff,” a term he has even trademarked and uses for exhibitions and calendars each year. Steve often paddles quietly in his canoe, a long telephoto lens in lap, making compelling, eye-level images.
Winner of the National Audubon Society’s professional category in 2021 and the Fisher Prize for most creative approach to photographing birds in 2022, Steve says, “Be patient. Sit, wait and watch; Be curious. Learn about your subjects. Ask questions about what they are doing and what they may do next; Keep your focus—not just literally with the camera but with your concentration.”
He has a no cellphone rule when he is out and constantly scans back and forth and up and down, looking for activity. Photograph, edit, critique your results, learn and try again.
Try photographing birds in flight from above or at eye level. Feeders are excellent environments to capture birds in motion. It is also fun to stand on a bridge or even a rooftop and notice how beautifully different the wings and bodies of birds appear when looking down on them.
Email your best image (just one, please) with caption information, including an explanation of how it affects you, to GPH@pur.coop. We may share submissions on our website and social media channels.