Monday, May 18, 2015

The Master of Crappy Warbler Photos

Monday, May 18, 2015

'Tis the season when our in-boxes and social media accounts are flooded with gorgeous bird imagery from our shutter-buggy friends who are sharing their most recent photographic tours de force. From well-known migration hotspots like High Island, Magee Marsh, and Central Park, an almost constant stream of bird photographs (usually of male warblers in their spring finery) floods your world. 

At first it's wonderful to see these striking images—they whet the appetite for your chance to get out there for a swim in the river of spring songbird migration. Then your reaction transitions slowly to one of envy, even jealousy. And by the time the final stages (grief and anger) hit you, you're thinking about giving up birding, photography, and social media for good.

Why do THEY (your talented photographer friends) get to spend endless days frolicking through the woods, marshes, and parks snapping away to their hearts' content while you have to sit here in your cubicle at work, cursing yourself for not taking the entire months of April and May as vacation/sick/personal emergency days.

But the joy keeps building. When you finally get out there with the birds, it's rainy and cold and the migration is pretty much over. You get some dark shots of American robins and red-winged blackbirds and one shot of a Canada goose family. But that's it. Maybe you're like me and you're struggling with an older camera that's not as easy to use [idiot-proof] as some of the newer DX/FX Mark XXVIII with the 800 fixed and a 1.4 converter with the Beamer thingy and a 'roided-up battery pack that lets you take 2,750 frames per second. I've got a Canon 30D with a 300mm fixed lens that has a mind of its own. Its auto focus takes longer than the 17-year locusts. When the shutter finally clicks, it sounds like one of the doors slamming shut in the intro to Get Smart. Canon keeps e-mailing me saying they want it for their exhibit at The Smithsonian Museum of Ancient Technology. It will sit right next to the cotton gin and the rotary phone.

It's at this point that you know—in your heart of hearts—that if one more person says "You shoulda been here last Saturday! It was a HUGE fallout" YOU. WILL. MURDER. THEM.

Rest easy, fellow non-traveler. I am here to assuage your feelings of being left out and left behind. To wash away that bitter taste left from seeing the 347th stunning shot of a male Blackburnian warbler, in deep tones of black, white, and Valencia orange, making duck lips at the camera. 

For I am just like you. I am a taker of crappy bird photos. I am a misser of migration. I am a gainfully employed, never-gonna-retire, working-for-the-weekend, gazer at the passing parade of nearly pornographic bird images as they drift past my open digital window. And I feel your pain.

Here is my antidote. I am posting, below, my crappiest warbler photos from two days this past week when I walked the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. During the past 10 days the photos coming out of Magee and The Biggest Week in American Birding have been stunning. And I took none of them. You perhaps did not either. 

So, like Jamie Lee Curtis proudly showing off her middle-aged, unretouched body and face, I am sharing these unedited images as a way to strike a blow for us normal bird photography folks. This is how OUR photos look. And they are realer than real, man. I only hope the world can handle them.

Male blackpoll warbler, imperfectly backlit.

Male Cape May warbler, butt-only. Shout-out to my buddy Dave, who specializes in burdbuttz.

Please Mr. Autofocus, focus on the stick, NOT on the bird. Thanks! Cape May warbler male.

This would be a perfect shot of sunlit ash leaves but for the blurry chestnut-sided warbler that photo-bombed it.

Magnolia warbler, fleeing the frame.

Beheaded magnolia warbler.

Yes, that's a male northern parula. Trust me.

Black-throated green playing hide-n-seek.

Perhaps the first photographic evidence of the ghost of an male American redstart.

So there you have it, friends. My photographic tour de farce. And I give you my word that none of these images was processed or tweaked in any way—because I'm sure you were wondering.

Peace, my brothers and sisters, and I'll see you out there with the birds (and without my camera).



On May 18, 2015 at 2:19 PM cyberthrush said...

one thing about warbler photos... they may be crappy, but they're almost never photo-bombed by Boston Terriers!

On May 18, 2015 at 2:52 PM TJKashuba said...

Excellent at all levels! thanx

On May 18, 2015 at 5:56 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Love this post, BOTB at his funny best. I have the solution to your dilemma. I highly recommend a Canon 7D with Sleek Beige Beauty 20-300 telephoto. Lay down the rocks to get the shotz. Someone who has given me great advice over the decades once said, "You'll never regret any money you spend on setting yourself up with the best camera equipment."

On May 18, 2015 at 7:12 PM James R. Hill, III said...

Hi Bill! Even though your photography may be weak (actually, those are some of the BEST worst shots I've ever seen), but your writing skills and humor are unsurpassed! A great read!

On May 18, 2015 at 7:21 PM robin andrea said...

I love seeing these photos. The blurry world of birds and trees is my habitat. I recognize the love in all these photos! Wonderful post.

On May 18, 2015 at 9:00 PM digitalzen said...

I feel your pain.

On May 18, 2015 at 9:02 PM digitalzen said...

I feel your pain.

On May 18, 2015 at 10:36 PM Marilyn Kircus said...

As to the reasons some people can spend days taking the perfect picture - I think there are at least 2 reasons. 1) They are rich and can time off from work or don't work. 2) They are old, retired farts. You, for sure can attain #2. So dispair not.

On May 19, 2015 at 7:52 PM Rondeau Ric said...

I have an extensive collection of empty branches where birds used to be if you would like to see them Bill.
Marilyn, I'm one of those old farts and I can still get really crappy photos, and I don't even have to try very hard.

On May 27, 2015 at 1:22 PM Dave Lewis said...

Hello Billio! Oh boy! I bought me one o them new 7D MarkIII! Now I can get the bestest crappy burd buttz in the world!
Dave The LoopyKing of BirdBottom

On May 27, 2015 at 9:46 PM Val said...

We're in good company. Thanks for sharing. My crappy photos consist of legs on one edge of the photo to a piece of wing and one has legs with a good shot of bird poop heading down. They should have photo contests for this category haha!

On June 6, 2015 at 5:55 PM Tracie K said...

absolutely loved the article you written, I laughed because we have all been there, even with better equipment..... about 90 percent of all bird shots are crappy, due to lighting background, foreground, and lets face it they don't sit still long enough. as the experts say " frame the shots, get the best composition." Who are the Kidding, i'm just lucky enough to get a pic of the bird, which includes butt shots and the bird flying off, and the best.... the belly shots so high up in the tree tops that you have to guess at what species it was. But lets face it when you do get a really good pic. you are really proud of it because you know that it wasn't easy and you have a lot of time many hours invested in bird photography. If you are a person who gets frustrated easily and has no patience then you don't want to try bird photography.

On June 29, 2015 at 8:18 PM Jill said...

"crappy" photos plus hilarious commentary ....makes these my favorite bird photos so far!
Love your site!

On June 29, 2015 at 8:37 PM Jill said...

My crappy English isn't nearly as interesting as your crappy photos - "make" these my favorite bird photos....

I am a new bird watcher....obsessed....I want to duct tape a pair of binoculars to my head while going about my daily activities so as not to miss out on Mother Nature's surprise presentations...."Get a load of this one!"

I am working on identifying sights and sounds. Think I should find new adjectives as well...."adorable" and "cute" are grossly overused...."magnificent" is a good one.

Again, thank you for a great site....

On July 10, 2015 at 10:26 AM Cindy L said...

These made me laugh.
I got some good ones here:
They were easy to photograph but probably because they were in a tree right next to my window.
thanks for a great site!

On March 6, 2016 at 11:11 PM C said...

the fallout day is always yesterday or tomorrow :(