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Your turn: Birding Photography

As the technology gets smaller, lighter, and more affordable, more and more birders are carrying cameras into the field these days. In fact, there are so many choices, it can be a bit daunting.

Thankfully, in this issue of Birder’s Guide to Gear, Derek Lovitch has broken the choices down into easy-to-understand categories in his article, “Birding Photography”. He gives us the plusses and minuses of each type of camera. Knowing which camera is best for a certain set of conditions will help you in choosing the model that’s right for you.

To read Derek’s the article, just click here. The entire issue is available online.

Derek and I also welcome you to share your tips and knowledge. Likewise, if you have questions for Derek, please share them in the comment section below.

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Michael Retter
Michael L. P. Retter is the editor of the ABA's newest magazine, Birder's Guide. He also wears his ABA cap while working as a Technical Reviewer for Birding magazine. When not at home, Michael is often leading tours in Middle America (Mexico through Panama). He currently lives with his fiancé, Matt, in Fort Worth, Texas. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics. Michael also runs GBNA, the continent's informal club and email list for LGBT birders.
  • Michael Retter

    Tom Wilberding, via email, says….

    I enjoyed your comprehensive photo article for the ABA recently, but there was one photo topic you did not mention: drones. This may be a touchy subject. Birders generally are not too fond of the idea of military technology being applied to birds. But I also think drones are coming to birding, sooner rather than later. A top DSLR lens can cost $7,000 and up, but a drone with camera on Amazon can now be had for $1,199.

    Cons of this drone:

    · wide angle lens, but as time goes on I bet a drone with a telephoto lens will be available.

    · Rotor noise may cause birds to flush prematurely.

    · Birds may attack it and cause it to crash:

    · Drones may annoy birds even more than humans with cameras.

    · Battery problems, per some buyers.

    · FAA rules not very clear. I believe you have to keep a drone within sight, away from airports, and not too high.

    · If drone crashes, especially over a lake, good-bye $1,199.

    · One drone may not be a problem; the problem may arise with lots of birders having drones, similar to the bird call/ smart phone problem.


    · Can get closer without a super-expensive lens–especially helpful for winter gulls or geese roosting on ice far from shore.

    · Video is a good way to observe moving birds.

    · May be suitable for census work for larger birds. I believe drones are being used for Whooping Crane census work at present.

    · Birds have been photographed from helicopters and airplanes for a long time now, without much protest from birders.

    I think the ABA should take a look at this issue and be ready with ethical guidelines for birders.

    What do I think? I’m neutral at present, waiting to see how the drone product develops, and to read future FAA rules and ABA rules.

    Tom Wilberding
    Boulder, CO

  • Michael Retter

    Jan Peter Smith of Marblehead, MA writes (via email):

    The photography articles [in this issue] all seemed to overlap and have redundancies. And none of them seemed particularly clear nor gave specific brand analyses. Personally, I am more interested in knowing more about the possibilities (and limitations) of Google Glass (as shown in the ad by Mitch Waite. I would to be able to photograph birds that I see without lowering my binos since every look is important most of the time. Will Glass work overseas? What connections does it need? How to charge it? Store photos? (When I go to Bhutan next spring). What about a Go Pro camera, used by some sports enthusiasts? Can that serve the purpose? I have not been able to find anyone who can clearly answer these questions. I am skeptical about electronic field guides but would like to know more about how they work–can I scroll through the pages easily for something I can’t identify or do I have to know exactly where to look in the document? How does the Wrist Bird work? There are all kinds of new technologies to learn about. I am no good at sketching and it seems that field sketching only works when the subject hangs around. Another reason for my interest in google glass. I take notes in the field to keep species numbers only.

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