Bosque del Apache

Until this week I’d photographed birds once, back in June 2008 shortly after buying my first DSLR.  It just hasn’t been my “thing,” and I’ve often joked over the years that I don’t shoot anything that’s alive.  No birds, no brides.  Just landscapes and dead trees.

But last month I bought a new lens, a 150-600mm zoom, so I can start shooting wildlife.  A couple of things led to this.  Last summer I saw a beautiful Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the Rio Grande Gorge, not quite a full curl ram, and I took a few shots of it with my 70-200mm zoom lens (the longest lens I had).  But if I could just get a little closer…  In September I was in North Dakota, and decided I wanted to shoot bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (because they’re beautiful animals, and they’re just – there), and really enjoyed photographing them.  But if I could just get a little closer…  So I talked with a photographer or two and looked at shots they’d taken and did my research and bought a lens and then it was time to dive in.

Earlier this week I went to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge outside of Socorro, New Mexico.  I’d been once before, just on a drive through during the off season for migratory birds.  This time I went knowing that the sandhill cranes and snow geese were in abundance.  I had an afternoon/evening and the next morning to shoot.  If there were ever a chance to try my hand at shooting birds, this would be as good as any.

I got to the refuge and started driving the loop trails and kept my eyes open and soon I was standing on the side of the road watching this beautiful sandhill crane…


A little while later, on the edge of a corn field as the sun was getting low in the sky, I came across hundreds of sandhill cranes and spent quite a bit of time watching and listening and shooting…


And I tried my hand at panning along with the flying cranes and got this shot of one against the twilight…


The next morning I got to the refuge early and set up my tripod and watched the sun rise over the ponds, ducks gliding by in the crisp morning air…


After sunrise I spent time slowing driving the loop until I saw these two…


Then, at the cornfields again, were a flock of snow geese huddled in the morning sun, some late comers floating in…


And there were wild turkeys feeding in the cornfields as well…


It was a quick visit to the refuge.  And I have a lot to learn about shooting birds.  And how the new lens performs (and how to use my camera to get the best results).  But I’ll be back.  And I think my days of not shooting wildlife are over.  But, brides?  Still not quite ready…

If you’d like to see more of my work, my online portfolio (where my work can be purchased) is here.  I post photos daily on Facebook, share my photography journey on Twitter (@KSchafferPhoto), and share iPhone pics from the road and around the house on Instagram (kschafferphoto).





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