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Master Naturalists: Picture is worth more than a thousand words

By By Paul and Mary Meredith
Feb. 2, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.

A good nature photography camera can capture action with a burst shutter release that takes a sequence of pictures as fast as the camera can shoot.  Here, a young hawk watches us as we sat on the side of the road to Port O'Connor.  As the first shot finishes, he leaps into the air and the second shot captures the first flap of his powerful wings. Then he's gone, a third frame showed nothing but sky.

Another unforgettable memory

Birding at Mad Island Marsh Preserve in Matagorda County emphasized local species for us as trainees. We joined a fellow trainee, an avid birder, in his sports utility vehicle in the caravan of avid bird-watchers. All three of us in his front seat, we drove slowly along the preserve's narrow, dirt and gravel roads past areas visited by local/resident and migrating birds. Several times the vehicles ahead suddenly pulled off the road onto the shoulder. Drivers and passengers alike hopped out carrying binoculars or cameras - or they stuck their cameras or glasses out car windows - to observe interesting species. Our driver didn't bother to stop, just grabbed his glasses and stuck them out his window. Mary, sitting next to him, grabbed the wheel, and sort of steered to keep us on that road - barely. Fortunately, he very gradually slowed down while he watched. Mary had no access to his vehicle's brakes. We came to a stop eventually. You can be certain we'll never forget it. He told us later that his wife ordinarily drives when they go birding.

All photos may not be worth a zillion words. We've been fortunate to photograph some of nature that we want to preserve. Some we want to share with others. Some are for our collections. And sometimes we want to learn more by photographing nature's subjects.



Raptors galore

Returning recently from collecting phytoplankton in Port O'Connor, we hoped to take raptor photos along the way. Paul saw many raptors perching along our route when he drove the route the week before.

Sure enough, many raptors perched on the wires and in the bushes on our trip, also. For each photo, we had to pull onto the shoulder of the road and turn on our hazard lights.

We took twice as long returning home. Raptors don't pose. Some sat very still, watching us, but many flew away. We had to prep our camera before stopping to get our shots. And Paul used the camera's multi-shot feature, getting shots of birds taking off from their roost.



Our habitat birds

Our backyard birds also recently challenged our (his) photo-taking. One attacked our large window, but eventually posed for several pretty good shots. Another merely pecked at the window glass repeatedly. Maybe he couldn't see through. Perhaps the reflection on the glass made him think there was another bird?

Some hummers seem be enjoying our habitat. During migration, Paul photographed them while he sat in shade near their feeders.

He's good at being very still, even while taking pictures from a tripod. Sometimes they perch on his head (nice shiny spot, no obstructions), perhaps waiting for a better chance at the nearby feeders.

Interesting to watch the man with a hummer perched on his head while he's photographing other hummers. Unfortunately, the camera we had then had no rear-view mirror shooting feature, so we have no photos of the hummer perched on his head.



What we use for all this photography, why

For several years, our camera for nature photography was point and shoot, with a built-in telephoto lens - recommended for nature photography because it's reasonably priced, simple to adjust and shoot.

But its resolution was not very high; it was marginal in low light and close-ups in providing what we needed for interesting, good quality pictures for use in our columns, for example.

Luckily, Paul recently discovered an advanced point and shoot camera with a wide-range (super zoom) lens that's very highly rated for its photo quality, good resolution, speed and ability to focus from very close (1 inch) to extreme ranges under various of light conditions.

And we treated ourselves to it. The camera is especially good for catching fine details, even under shaky conditions, with a number of adjustments he's practicing using.

Most important - and enjoyable long-term - in nature photography, is experiencing the subject of your photos, both during picture taking and when remembering later while viewing those photos.

Paul and Mary Meredith are master naturalists. Contact them at paulmary0211@sbcglobal.net.

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