How I Got Started with Bird Photography

Reprinted from the Gwinnett Daily Post – May 24, 2020. Article by Holley Calmes, Staff Correspondent

Mary Buck has been a portrait photographer for over twenty years at her studio in Duluth, Lightscapes Photographic Artwork.

Quarantined at home by COVID-19 and wondering how to spend her time, she found new artistic inspiration outside her window.

The Duluth resident, a talented and versatile photographer, found being sequestered difficult. To pass the time, she decided to decorate her backyard, adding new visual interests that include a birdbath, a squirrel feeder and a hummingbird feeder.

“Little did I know what was in store for me,” Buck said. “I soon found the silver lining in my quarantine when birds started to appear.”

Buck’s small, intown back yard was perfect for bird watching, with young trees and the new birdbath and feeders.

“Little by little, more birds started to appear. I was fascinated by their colors and songs, and marveled at their instinctive skills,” she said.

Gifted photographer that she is, it didn’t take long for Buck to grab her camera and start photographing her winged visitors. Using her longest lens, she was able to capture photos of birds splashing in the birdbath. The fascination grew from there.

Bucks said: “I knew little about birds except for the common ones like robins and cardinals, so I installed a bird identity app on my phone. I quickly learned to identify the birds and learned so much about them. I was astonished at how many types of birds my yard in Duluth attracted.”

Buck has learned to be prepared for her avian friends.

“My outdoor set up is simple,” she said. “It consists of fencing, which acts as a perching platform, as well as many small trees which are within reach of my 400 mm lens. And it amazes me how often the birds splash in the bird bath.”

As a portrait photographer, Buck knows that light is an all-important factor in capturing the perfect image.

“Lighting is a key element in achieving optimal results,” she said. “The morning light is best and provides that ‘glint in the eye’ which is just as important for a bird portrait as a people portrait. The late-day sun is a little harsher, but I am able to capture rim lighting on the birds which highlight their unique feathers and plumes.

“I am partial to the brightly colored birds which are usually the males.

I love the goldfinch, Carolina bluebird, and the cardinal. The house finch is also a favorite and probably the most common bird in my yard.”

Before she was sequestered at home, Buck knew nothing about birds.

“I never took the time to listen and watch birds. Now that I have become familiar with them, it has opened up a whole new world for me,” Buck said. “All this time, they were right in front of my eyes.” Now they are in front of her camera, too.