Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another Perspective on Bosque del Apache!


Get ready for an experience of a lifetime! Arriving 40 minutes before sunrise, I waited in the cold pre-dawn for the daily ritual of the fly-out of the snow geese. The geese roost in the ponds overnight to protect themselves from predators and then fly-out in mass in the morning just as the sun rises to go to their feeding areas.

Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

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Mention the word "Bosque" to any bird photographer and they will instantly know you are talking about the mecca for bird photography in the United States. Every year from November to February, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is home to thousands of migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese for the winter. Located in San Antonio, New Mexico and a little over an hour drive south of Albuquerque, Bosque del Apache will enliven your senses and put your photography skills to the test.

It is also home to professional and well-funded amateurs photographers who migrate to Bosque for unique photo opportunities. In particular, the breathtaking experience of the predawn fly-out of tens of thousands snow geese.

As primarily a landscape and cityscape photographer I chose to go to Bosque to challenge and expand my photography skills. After my first day of shooting it became apparent I had some shortcomings. Bosque is one place where your camera equipment is as important as the person behind it. This is where top-notch professional camera bodies and fast super telephoto lens dominate. While the Canon 600mm f/4 lens is a popular lens with bird photographers, most photographers I talked with used the Canon 500mm f/4 lens because of its lighter weight and ease of use on the credit card (for the price of one Canon 600mm f/4 lens one can buy 18 iPhones).

The longest lens I was shooting with was with my Canon 100-400mm, but with limitations comes creativity. Most photos you see of Bosque del Apache are sharp portraits of the wildlife. My approach was to portray more environmental portraits of not only the wildlife but also man and nature.

Overall, I had a great time shooting at Bosque minus the cold weather (at dawn it was in the mid-teens). Now if Santa would kindly deliver the Canon 600mm f/4 lens for Christmas I would consider going back and braving the cold!