Birder? Photographer? Birdographer!

Three-toed Woodpecker

Three-toed Woodpecker photographed by Kevin Loughlin during our Grand Tetons Spring Workshop

Many birders have become photographers… and vice versa… What about you?

Three-toed WoodpeckerBack in the old days of film photography, the line between birders and photographers was very clear. Most birders did not want to be bothered with carrying the extra equipment and photographers didn’t bother with binoculars.

This still holds true to a point, however, the line is much more blurred these days, especially when you take into account the innumerable digiscoping fans. In fact, the digiscoping ‘craze’ of 2005, in my opinion, introduced photography to many birders.

Mainly as a way to ‘prove’ their sightings, birders got hooked on digiscoping and it is even more popular today with scope manufacturers making accessories to help digiscopers get better images.

Digiscoping quickly led many birders to upgrade their compact cameras to DSLR cameras in order to have a lot more flexibility and higher quality. AFter all, trying to keep a high magnification scope on a fidgety warbler or a hawk in flight is extremely difficult! Once DSLRs, with their interchangeable lenses and high-speed drives hit the market, the quest higher quality photography gained even more popularity.

Fast forward to 2014 and we see birding festivals offering nearly as many photo workshops as birding field trips. Many birders have become photographers, but it is surprising how many photographers have gotten hooked on birds as their favorite wildlife to capture in pixels. Workshops to learn how to better capture hawks in flight or hummingbirds attract folks who may not be able to identify what they are shooting, but they are having a great time getting their images. With many, this has led them to wanting to know more about their subjects and eventually wanting to photograph different species in different locations… a photographic life list if you will, rather than just a written list. A birdographer is born!

I have to admit… I kinda started out this way. I enjoyed drawing birds as a kid in the 1960’s, and after getting my first camera at age six, birds were one of my favorite subjects. It wasn’t long before I was leafing through my mother’s Peterson Guide to figure out the birds I was photographing and eventually I was looking up all the birds I was seeing whether photographed or not! I remember getting my life American Woodcock while skateboarding around Promised Land Lake in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Yes, I was carrying my camera, with my brand new (pre-owned) 300mm Accura lens on my Minolta SR-T 202. I was 15, so I did not yet have a driver’s license–skateboarding and bicycling were my only mode of personal, wheeled transportation to get to my favorite photo locations.

But I digress. Back in the early days of Wildside, I was offering photo instruction on all of our birding trips, plus offering photo workshops and tours. Of course, using film, participant did not know how well they did until a few days after getting home. Now we have instant gratification as well as instant learning tools, which can make a photo workshop even more fun and much more productive than they once were. Thanks to these new technologies, Wildside has added a lot more photo workshop opportunities… many of which are geared toward birds (without ignoring other wildlife, too).

Whether a birder with a camera or a photographer that likes birds… all birdographers will enjoy a number of our upcoming workshops!

–Kevin Loughlin

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