As and artists and creative person it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking of photography as something that has to be very intentional and planned out. I am a photographer. I must have a designated subject, location, event, etc. that I want to photograph. That is great and sometimes it works out perfectly. But what is even better than that is to always be prepared.

Great opportunities for photographs will happen whether you have your camera or not

Being present and having a camera is the number one influence on your ability to create photography. A photograph worthy situation can occur at any time and any place in any circumstance. Keep your camera nearby.

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Female Mallard Photograph

Most of the photography gear that I have and use the most are tools that I have had for a long time. I have chosen these particular tools for a reason. I really like the photographs I am able to create with these tools. It doesn’t mean that there are never times I wish I had other tools available to me.

For my wildlife photography I mostly use a 300mm lens with a 1.4 tele converter. It is the perfect tool for almost anything I want to do. It is especially good for me because it is relatively small and allows me to move around easily which is what I really like to do.

But, there are times I wish I had a bigger lens that allowed me to get a closer look at my subjects from farther away. But would I really ever use that big heavy lens that I would have to lug around? Do I even really need that lens for the type of photography I want to create?

Mostly the answer to that is no.

You Can Get Closer

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Often but not always when I venture out to create photographs I have a subject in mind that I would like to try to capture during my time. In some types of photography the subject will always remain the intended subject. If I plan to photograph a waterfall I show up at the location of the waterfall and I photograph it. The way I photograph it might need to change, that is a discussion for another time, but the subject will still be the intended subject of a waterfall.

In wildlife photography there is always a chance that you will not have the opportunity to photograph your intended subject. And the more specific you are about your intended photography subject the greater the odds that something will transpire to prevent you from capturing your goal image.

Accept the Opportunities You Are Given

wildlife in Upstate New York
The turtle is hiding from my camera
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New York. Birding. Nature.

Every creative endeavor has its own unique set of challenges. Photography is no different. Nature Photography as a subset and Bird Photography as a niche within that specialty has a variety of challenges.

I have written about challenges and successes I have had photographing different birds over the years. Overcoming challenges in ones work can be exhilarating. But sometimes having a particular challenging aspect cease to exist for us as artists can simply be refreshing.

One particular challenge faced by bird photographers is finding a subject. This is especially true if the photographer is trying to create images of a specific species of birds. It can be a great thrill to successfully capture high quality photographs of an elusive subject. I even wrote about that very thing in a 2011 post: Elusive Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

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Baltimore Oriole perched on oak tree in Upstate, New York

One of my favorite song birds has always been the Baltimore Oriole. I don’t know if I like them because I grew up watching and playing baseball and the Baltimore Orioles were a team and one of the most popular players in baseball, Cal Ripken Jr., played on that team but that is certainly possible.

Baltimore Orioles are probably one of the more well known species of birds again probably owing to the popularity of professional baseball. I think that leads them to be underappreciated. Baltimore Orioles are one of the most brilliantly colored birds in the region. Their bright orange contrasting with their stark black.

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Grosbeak perch

I love nature. I enjoy nature in a wide variety of ways. One activity I really enjoy is watching birds. As someone whose always loved animals and been a science nerd simply observing bird behavior is endlessly fascinating and entertaining.

As a photographer, creating photography of birds is enjoyable and challenging. More so than any other animal birds have the ability to appear one second and be gone the next. That lends itself to the enjoyment, the challenge, and the satisfaction of photographing birds.

As a photographer that creates nature photography but does not specialize primarily in bird photography it can be quite difficult and frustrating to capture images of all the different types of birds I see let alone all of the different birds I would like to photograph but have not even seen in person.

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A big part of creating great photographs is simply being in the right place at the right time. As a photographer you can play a big role in this by just choosing to be present. But everything is not always in your control. This is especially true when photographing wildlife.

For several days now I have been watching as Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks have been visiting our bird feeders. I don’t often see Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and I was anxious to have an opportunity to photograph them. I was struggling to find a chance to photograph the birds. When the weather was nice I did’t have time and when I had time the weather didn’t cooperate.

Looking up at a black capped chickadee perched on a branch of an oak tree in the finger lakes region of upstate, New York.
Black-Capped Chickadee | Birding | Upstate, NY
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I do fun, for me, strange, crazy, weird things. I do things that other people might not want to do or see the value in doing. I do them for many reasons. One reason I do them is because it allows me to enjoy nature in a way you just cannot enjoy nature in any other way.

When you spend over ten hours out in nature moving across this landscape on your feet you appreciate nature in a way you can’t when engaging it in different ways. You appreciate all the stones, the roots, and the thorns. You appreciate the mud and muck and stream crossings. OK. Maybe appreciate isn’t the right word for those things.

Finger Lakes Trail Stream Crossing
Stream crossing along the Finger Lakes Trail.

But what happens is you experience nature. You don’t just see nature. Seeing nature is great, but experiencing nature is just another level. When you spend that much time out in nature you see things a little differently. I like how my mind shifts when I am out there.

This different way of experiencing nature helps me to appreciate nature better. It helps me to think about nature more. It helps me to be a better artist. It helps me to be more creative.

Taking the time to get out in the woods on a virtual 50k like the Aravaipa Strong race gives me time to reflect and work on my craft in ways I can’t at other times.

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I enjoy running as an outlet, as a way to socialize, and as a way to stay healthy. What I enjoy even more than running is just being outside and adventuring. I have not really just gone out adventuring in a while. I don’t know if was due to a lack of motivation or inspiration, but it just hadn’t really happened since my last big race. Then along came this interesting opportunity.

I love social media and I especially love certain content creators. One of my favorites has been Jamil Coury of Aravaipa Running. He creates so much awesome content on YouTube that is both entertaining and inspiring. I would love to run an Aravaipa race, however they are located in Arizona and I have no idea when or if I will ever be out that way. Then we are hit with the Corona Virus Pandemic. This obviously has not been fun for anyone, but to look on the bright side for me it caused a pivot to virtual races and that included virtual races from Aravaipa Running.

Aravaipa Running announced their first virtual race, Aravaipa Strong. I am not usually into virtual races, but the chance to run an official Aravaipa race was very appealing. Plus if you are having a virtual race you have to have good swag and the Aravaipa team put together great swag. Even better was that you could choose your own distance from 5k to 100 miles. I had not been training for any long runs but this opportunity for adventure was one I could not pass up.

I was tired I could have taken a nap in this lean to at the junction of the main Finger Lakes Trail and the Crystal Hills branch of the FLT.
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Continue to stay the course. It doesn’t mean do what you normally would have done had the corona virus pandemic not occurred, but it means keep working at the goals and plans that you had already made. It means adapt those plans as best you can to fit into your life and your businesses in the way we have to operate now.

My commitment this year was to work hard to grow my photography business this year. The ultimate goal for me being that it is no longer my side hustle, but it is my career. Merge my career and my passion.

A big part of that plan and growth meant expanding to offer new services I had always wanted to offer but never felt like I had the time for. But now I was committing to them. I had been working to plan workshops to work with photographers to learn more about our craft.

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