Category Archives: Education & Tips

Monday Musings – New Backyard Bird Photography Studio

Ok, I have been trying a lot of new setups to get the most of backyard bird photography. You might remember this post (Post Link) I wrote a few months ago about a feeder I was trying as a new piece in my backyard bird photography studio. It is called the Effortless Bird Feeder. I will be the first to attest that it is in fact effortless, for crows, mourning doves and squirrels to eat their hearts content. While at the start I really enjoyed using this new feeder, it just didn’t cut the mustard. I then started playing with home made feeders and perches at the close of the winter and came up with a few designs I like (I will share these in future posts). The problem with my home made designs is that they are only suitable for short engagements. I really wanted something a little more permanent that would not only be a part of my photography but also a part of my love for wildlife and birds.
It was about this same time that I became familiar with a blog entitled The Zen Birdfeeder. This blog is written by a very nice lady named Nancy Castillo (we have only exchanged a few emails about birds and pictures, I have not actually met her). After reading a few of Nancy’s blog posts, I added her blog to my RSS Reader. As time went on I happened to notice that Nancy owned and operated a store in Saratoga Springs (I have family in Saratoga Springs) that is a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise store. I had never heard of the franchise so thanks to Nancy’s blog, I started to look through their product offerings. Much of what they offered seemed to be very good quality, at least from the brochures. And then it hit me. They have a pole system called the APS which stands for Advanced Pole System.

WBU Advanced Pole System with 2 Hanging Feeders

This pole system even had attachments for holding branches as perches. This would be perfect. I went to their website and looked up if there was a local franchise as I wanted to see the product before I purchased it. It ended up there was a franchise in Darien CT owned and operated by 2 very nice people, the husband and wife team of Pat and Joe Warren. After taking up about an hour of Joe’s time, I decided to purchase my first pole system pictured below.

WBU Advanced Pole System with Feeding Ranch on Top

You may have noticed that I said, purchased my first pole system in the previous paragraph. Well, that wasn’t by accident. After just the first week of having the Ranchette, I went back and purchased the double hanging feeder pole which is the first picture on the top of the page. Because of all this I am going to need to get a third pole soon, one that can hold the bird house that my wife is going to put me in. 🙂

As you can see in both pictures, the Warren’s made sure I didn’t leave their shop without the raccoon baffles they sell to keep the squirrels and raccoons from getting to the feeders. So far they have worked like a charm. I think you can see in both images the branch perch attachments that I mentioned earlier in this post. Those little attachments really hold onto the branches well.

You might notice I went to great lengths to introduce everyone in this story, not just my topic. I did that for one reason. The two vocations of wildlife/bird observation and photography have such great people involved that I wanted to give credit where credit was due. If it wasn’t for Nancy’s effort to share information with others, I would never have found WBU and in turn would have never met the Warren’s or found the perfect product for my backyard bird studio!

So I will be posting some images over the coming days and weeks of birds visiting my new backyard bird photography studio. Stay tuned!

Touching Video About Midway Atoll Albtross

I first saw this clip on Chase Jarvis’s blog and became instantly captivated by the work of the photographer, Chris Jordan. I have to admit that some of the images are graphic so watch with some discretion.

Im not sure what it is about this video and the work Chris is doing that I find so compelling and moving. I suspect what moves me is the realization that all our carelessness with the environment is directly affecting the lives of other creatures. The proof is powerful. If you really think using styrofoam cups and soft drink bottles doesnt have an impact on our lives, spend 5 minutes and watch this video.

Monday Musings – Make the Most of Every Opportunity

Over the years you hear people say that “Life is short” and to “Make the most of whatever opportunities come your way”. While that is true in the business world, it is also true in photography.

Brant Geese Flock

A photographer that I admire very much (Laurie Excel) once shared a story that I still think about today. Her dad was also a professional photographer and had given her the following advice (I am paraphrasing here). The advice was to make the most of every shooting opportunity because that opportunity could change or be gone in a minute or the next day.

Where Did They Go?

Unfortunately for me I didn’t/don’t always follow advice and have to learn the hard way. You see the images of the Brant Geese above are not representative of my best work. In fact, they stink. Why did I put them up here? Well, as I was scouting out a new location to photograph birds during the winter in and around where I live, I came across this flock of Brant Geese. Cool I thought, the whole winter to make images with a bird I don’t get to see very often. There were HUNDREDS of them here that day. Do you know what? I haven’t seen one at that location since! So all I am stuck with are marginal images instead of my best work.
Moral of the story…..Make every click count and take nothing for granted!

Master Light Program (MLP) Followup

I received several questons as a result of the post Moose Peterson did about my time with him during his Master of Light Program (MLP). Several of the questions I thought would be interesting to many of you so I decided to do a post with the answers to the top questions. Here is the link for the post on Vincent Mistretta – MLP.

1) How much work was the MLP?
The answer to this question is more complex than a number of hours. I will give you an example. In general, Moose sent me 1 major assignement a week. When I sent him the completed assigment, he would often either develop a new assignment based on some element of the work I sent him or ask me to redo the assignment with some new twist. This new work would be due in 1 week, in addition to the next regularly scheduled assignment. As you can imagine, I did have a few periods of time when I was juggling 5 assignments for the program.

2) How long does the program last?
It is 3 months long which includes a weekend shoot with Moose and attending a DLWS event. We went to Baxter State Park in Maine together after the Maine DLWS.

3) Did Moose really spend that much time with you?
Yes. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how generous with his time he was. I will make a confession here. As many of you know I have had a long career on Wall St. I am a fundamental trader/analyst by training. Very regemented in how I approach things and evaluate situations. I am known as a numbers guy and believe numbers don’t lie! One of the things that I love about photography is that it touches the other side of my brain, the creative side that doesn’t get used in a numbers don’t lie environment/lifestyle. However, this transition for me, made Moose’s job very difficult. It feels now like he spent the first 2 months training me to let go of my rigid self. I mention all this because I feel Moose went above and beyond what I think would be customary. He clearly did more than I think the “fee” associated with the MLP should have provided.

4) Did you learn everything you wanted to learn?
This is a really interesting question. I am going to answer it in a slightly different manner. The thing I learned the most from my time with Moose is what I didn’t know. This set the stage for me to learn in a more meaningful manner. Photography is an evolutionary process for many and the time it takes to improve is different based on aptitude, time spent in the field and frankly, attitude. I learned a lot, but I have also learned a lot since finishing this program. Put another way, I think the program has empowered me to learn at a faster rate.

5) Would you take the course again or recommend it to others?
Yes and yes, very much so! If you envision a career of some sort in the business of photography, this course is highly recommended. It is also excellent for just improving your photographic skills.

6) Can you complete the course while working another full time job?
I think this depends on the person and their resolve. I did it while working a full time job. But I admitt I did a lot of work on the weekends and at night. If that is too much for you then you might want to heed the comment Moose made in his blog post which was “Not everyone makes it through the program”! I suspect this is one of the reasons for past participants not making it through.

If you are interested in more information about Moose’s program, here is the link for the Master Light Program.

First Bird Images from Effortless Bird Feeder

I have been writing the last few days about this feeder. Its the first in a series of back yard projects I started building bird photography perches. Here are the first bird images taken using my perched out Effortless Bird Feeder.

Black Capped Chickadee

I have had a lot of fun using this feeder. Actually, so much so that I might buy another and take down the feeders I have hanging in the trees. The one warning I will give you is with squirrels. The baffle on the bottom of the feeder keeps them from climbing the pole. However, you need to keep the feeder far enough away from bushes and trees so that they cant jump onto the feeder platform. I learned that lesson the hard way 🙂

Tufted Titmouse on Perch

Backyard Bird Photography Studio

2 weeks ago I wrote that I planned to try 2 solutions to creating a perfect backyard bird photography studio. One would be purchased and the other homemade. Both would require some customization but my goal was to do this in a manner that would be easy enough for anyone to replicate. I decided on the “Effortless Bird Feeder” as my purchased option, you can read about it here.

So after a few days of using my pimped out bird feeder, I have to say I made the right choice. The results have been truly amazing. I was able to use this combo in the middle of the blizzard we had last week. I will post some of the bird images on Friday but suffice it to say that it held up well to 60 mph winds and 18 inches of snow with 4 ft drifts.

Below are some images I made of how I added the perches. Remember, my intention was to do this in a way that any of my readers could replicate with no need for power tools or mechanical knowledge. At some point after using the feeder, I might change the perches but so far I have been very happy with the results.

The first thing you need to do is find branches that will make perches suitable to the birds in your area.

Use Gardening Tape to Make Perches One Piece
Use Cable Zip Ties to Attach Perches to Base Using Drainage Holes

Below is the back of the unit once complete.

Back of Completed Unit

Effortless Bird Feeder from the Front

These might not be the best pictures of the unit, I only had my iPhone with me when I took them, but I think you get the point.

The most important element however is that the birds love it and I have had many different species on the perches in just the first few days.

Enjoy making your studio and let me know if you have any other customization ideas for this unit.