For River folks of all ages the world of nature and all of its beauty is literally waiting just outside your door. This could be all new to you or you may already be a bird watcher - or an outdoor photographer - or someone who simple loves all the treasures involved in our spectacular River world.
All Photographs by Bill Munro © 2013. Click to enlarge
If you are looking for a new hobby to get deeply involved in, may I suggest outdoor photography. Now be warned… once you jump into the “outdoor thing”, it will take over your life and lead you to a multitude of other outdoor pleasures and pursuits. That’s a good thing! (But always remember, our natural world must be protected and enhanced for future generations through conservation and stewardship programs.)
It is impossible to deeply appreciate nature without getting involved. But, I am getting way ahead of myself. Back on track… you need a CAMERA to get started, as well as a good Bird Guide to Eastern Birds (I like the Sibley version) and perhaps, binoculars.
Back to the camera. Find a good camera shop for knowledgeable help. Also talk with friends who are into photography. You don’t need to ‘sell the farm” to buy your first camera. Keep it simple. You can buy an SLR digital camera with extra lenses. Prices will vary on models, but they are expensive. Perhaps buy a “point and shoot” digital camera. They run well under $500 and will serve you well both on close-ups and long range shots; you will not be disappointed. So my advice is start with a point and shoot; lighter, smaller and easier to carry. Buy a large capacity, or at least 4GB camera card. You can always move up later to an SLR camera.
Now you have your camera. Read the owner’s manual. Understand the function, setting and limitations. Now start shooting… the more shots, the more you will learn. Get used to the camera. It is your friend, not your enemy. Unlike film cameras, you have almost unlimited capacity for numbers of photos you can take. If you don’t like a shot you’ve taken.. delete! Take the camera everywhere you go. All the time. Wonderful photo opportunities are everywhere. Don’t be sorry you don’t your camera with you.
For shooting nature the very best times are early morning and late afternoon. The light, as the sun comes up and goes down is breathtaking. Early morning is also when everything in the world of nature “wakes up.” Just grab your camera, maybe a mug of coffee and find a special spot to sit… or get into your kayak… Sit, relax, go slowly and be patient.
Be in touch with your surroundings. Look up, look down for movement or sounds. Certainly trees and bushes will have more birds than other vegetation. Birds of prey, like eagles, osprey, hawks and owls build large, unusually visible nests; don’t get too close as it will stress them. Stay back and study their comings and goings. You might even set up a concealed blind, sit and wait, they will come.
Bay and shorelines will be home and highway for many River dwellers, such as Great Blue Herons, ducks, Canada Geese, shorebirds (even a muskrat, mink or otter might surprise you). Shoals and small islands will always hold gulls, terns and cormorants. Our island interiors offer many different habitats for a wide range of plants, animals, birds and insects. The best place of all may be your own backyard. Feeders and certain plants will also help bring birds in. But, regardless, warblers, songbirds, woodpeckers and much more will pass through on migration, both Spring and Fall. Many will enjoy our area and stay for the summer.
Nature photography may involve living things, but outdoor photo shooting should and must include our River life. So look for good light and weather conditions, including fog, mist, dew, rain (shower cap on your equipment) and wind, along with our usual beautiful River weather. You know what I'm talking about...freighters, tall ships, lighthouses, boathouses, antique boats, island architecture old and new. Our River and everything on it, in it and near it are subjects just waiting for your camera.
So, get up early, enjoy the moment, go slowly, be patient, remember there are no bad photos. It's what YOU like...experiment, be creative, "think outside the box." Oh, I forgot, another reason to step into the outdoor world is it gets you away from ever present technology and off the couch. Being outside is also good for the body, mind and spirit, plus it's exercise. And, finally, when you get that great image, thank your subject for being there for you! Whatever it may be; without its cooperation you wouldn't have a photo would you?!
Your new "sport" is part luck, part knowing your equipment, part skill and creativity, part knowing your subject and having its cooperation, throw in a bit of patience, and yes, having your camera in hand. Go out and discover a new lifetime gift to yourself. Keep in touch. See you on The River. I also expect to see your photography on the pages of this fine publication.
Bill Munro, Murray Isle
Bill Munro, a photographer with a keen eye. He and and his wife Judy, are well-known “birders”. They summer on Murray Isle and winter in West Palm Beach, Florida, his family’s home town. They volunteer for several organizations and share their love of the River with friends and family.