How to Photograph Backyard Birds in the Snow!

Photographing a wide variety of winter wildlife in your own backyard is easier than you think! No matter where you live, wildlife is abundant. Here are a few of my tips for photographing wild birds, especially in the snow when the photos really pop. 

1) Food - Food is a birds best friend in the winter. Buy bird seed or suet that attracts a wide variety. If you're looking to attract specific birds, some specialized blends are also available. 

2) Shelter -  When placing your feeder, consider the birds distance from sheltered areas like tree branches and wood lines. Also consider the distance from your home so you don't attract rodents like mice.

3) Planning - Now the most important part. Plan ahead. Think like a bird. If you want the feeder close to your home, but don't want photos of the birds on the feeder, make your own bird studio. Find a few branches or perches for a bird and place them in the ground right by the feeder. This gives patient birds a chance to wait their turn while also providing a natural looking composition to your photographs. The photo above is a small branch that I placed near my feeder. It became a favorite spot of many woodpeckers, blue jays and cardinals. 

4) Get the shot - Your photos will look professional if they're taken close to eye level with the subject. Try to find a window that you can crack open. You don't want to be taking photos through dirty glass. I highly suggest a tripod as well. I leave mine set up in front of the window, so if I see an interesting bird throughout the day, I can walk over at any time to snap a few shots.

5) Be patient - No wildlife readily cooperates, so be patient. It may take 100 shots to get the perfect photo, but it's well worth it when you do! 

-Mark

Milky Way Season!

The Milky Way rises over Beavertail Light in Jamestown, Rhode Island

The Milky Way rises over Beavertail Light in Jamestown, Rhode Island

It's officially Milky Way season in the Northern Hemisphere, which is an exciting time for photographers, astronomers and stargazers of all kinds! On clear, moonless nights (if your area is dark enough), the core of the milky way can be visible to the naked eye! If you haven't seen the milky way in person before I highly recommend planning a night to give it a shot. Modern day camera sensors are able to pick up more star detail than the human eye, so when you see photos of the milky way, don't assume that they are fake. In fact, most are very real and depicting what actually exists! Here are some tips on viewing the milky way for yourself.

1) Find a dark spot away from the light pollution of cities. Searching google for a light pollution map can help find the best spots in your area. Locations along the coast or deep in the mountains usually yield the best results. 

2) Check the weather. There are several factors with weather, but the most important things to consider are clear skies and moonless nights. The moon always has a rise and a set time just like the sun. It also has certain phases which produce more moonlight than others. Scheduling your trip around the "New Moon" or after moonset will result in the best stargazing.

3) Find the Milky Way. Modern technology makes this very easy. If your'e not familiar with the stars, don't worry. Many free apps on your phone can point you in the right direction and show you exactly where the milky way will be in the sky at a given time and location. 

4) Be prepared. The most important things you'll need are appropriate clothing and a flashlight. Most of us aren't accustomed to walking around or spending great deals of time in the dark, so a flashlight will quickly become your best friend. 

5) Have fun! Bring a friend, bring a camera, bring snacks. Stargazing is all about living in the moment and sharing that moment with others. Make a night of it and be patient. It will usually take your eyes a good 15-20 minutes to adjust in the dark! 

Those are my 5 tips for seeing the Milky Way with your own eyes! If you enjoyed this post feel free to comment or share it with your friends! 

Have fun out there,

Mark

Planning the Shot - Choosing a Location

A stunning sunset from Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

A stunning sunset from Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Every December, most of us feel like the year flew by. Time is the only constant and what we accomplish within our time is what defines us. For myself, 2016 was a success. I took some substantial steps forward with my photography and I'm beyond grateful for all of the continued support from friends, family and a wonderful group of followers on social media. With that said, this post is less about the past and more about the future. I'm going to make a strong effort to update this blog weekly going forward. It will hopefully provide some insight into my work, techniques I use and also serve as a way to connect with my audience on a more personal level. So let's go.

It's February 8th as I write this. It's 1:05AM. I'll often be winding down for the night and suddenly an idea will materialize that I need to act on. I'll write it down, research any curiosities I have and start planning it out. Before I know it, 2 hours will have passed, but a well-formulated plan is something that I've found to be invaluable. Take for instance my 2016 Rhode Island Christmas Video. The video was very much a last minute idea, which I only had about 10 days to shoot. Factor in poor weather and it was down to 7 frantic days running all over the state to get the shots I needed. Without a plan, it wouldn't have been possible. So how do I plan things? It's fairly simple.

In my phone and on a notepad I keep a running list of locations that I want to visit. These can be beaches, mountains, locally popular spots and everything in between. I organize them by state and weather conditions. Some go in a "sunset" list if that's a shot I deem intriguing, some go in a "fresh snow" list and so on. With landscape photography so dependent on the weather forecast, this makes my life a lot easier when I have time to shoot. If a snow storm is coming (like this upcoming Thursday), I'll go to my Snow list and choose a location. I'll check the forecast tirelessly and if everything aligns I'll drive through the conditions or the night to be the first person there after the storm. Will I know the EXACT composition of the shot? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Getting to a location early and scouting it out (or previously scouting it out) is all part of the formula for creating an image that STANDS OUT. I'll talk a bit more about that in my next post. For now, I'll try to keep this short. Thank you for reading and thank you for the ongoing support. 

-Mark