Laure Neish – November, 2012

Laure Neish, Penticton

BCFO’s First Featured Photographer

Bird photography has added a new challenge to documenting observations I’ve made for many years, first as a “birdwatcher” then “birder”. The intensity and intimacy of interacting with these winged creatures as they go about their daily business has evoked emotions from surprise to pure joy. If I’m lucky, the product of a few Canon clicks can communicate the poetic sense of grace and beauty of bird life to me and my audience. The pattern of pixels can be a teaching moment on some facet of bird life history or clarify an identification. It’s a moment frozen in time, through the looking-glass, which reflects the communion of my eye with a bird’s eye.

While raising two daughters and after a short career as a public school teacher, I was fortunate to move into the job I had always wanted, being a nature interpreter in Alberta and British Columbia.  There was a pressing need for photos in slide shows, so I started my own collection of nature images, rather than borrowing others. Although a technically perfect photo is very desirable, I still see the relevance of bird photography as an extension of those years as an interpreter. It is easy to get too caught up in the marketing world of bird photography, so I often take time to watch the world of birds through a pair of binoculars. It is always a celebration of the big picture.

All of the images presented here were taken at or near my home in the South Okanagan.  For photo equipment I alternate a Canon 50D body with EOS 5D Mark III combined with a 300mm f/2.8 lens and 1.4 tele-extender..

Please do not download or copy the photos on this page without permission.

You can view more of my photographs on my website.

Pygmy Nuthatch,  Naramata

It was quite impressive to watch this little lumberjack excavating a nest hole in a mature cottonwood tree. I wanted to capture the action of the sawdust spray as it flew out of the cavity and luckily the lighting was just right.

Common Poorwill (male) displaying, Penticton

Some photos are the result of a moment of surprise, in this case for both me and the bird. I was walking slowly through the bunchgrass looking for a nighthawk nest, when I flushed this species instead. Before this encounter, it was a bird I had previously seen only in the dark, illuminated by headlights.

Eastern Kingbird feeding dragonfly to fledgling , Vaseux Lake

After finishing a morning census at Vaseux Lake banding station,  I returned to the dike where I had seen a family of kingbirds. I sat down on the ground near the nest and within a few minutes, one parent returned to feed this “Big Gulp” to a youngster. Being observant is key to finding good photo opps.

Redheads, Penticton marina

Winter sunlight is sublime but fleeting, in this cloudy gray Okanagan Valley.  Lake Okanagan is host to many duck species during this season, so I clear my schedule on cold, sunny days and head to the shoreline, hoping to capture some of their action in the low-angled daylight.

Rough-legged Hawk in flight, over White Lake grasslands

A new approach I have taken on in bird photogpraphy is to include a habitat view  with the bird.

Western Tanager (male) Naramata

Should I stay or should I go…After an unsuccessful hunt for birds at a Naramata park one day, I decided to give up and head into town  to get coffee. As I came to the intersection of the main street, a flock of tanagers was feeding in the hawthorn trees and one landed on the fence right next to me!

Cassin’s Finch (male) Penticton

Can you tell I took this photo through an open car window while sitting in my driveway?  Does it matter?  How one gets a bird photo can provoke much discussion over tactics and “purity” of the shot. In this case, the Ponderosa Pine is a volunteer plant that filled in a gap in our yard after the removal of non-native junipers.  I needed to be close to my subject with my limited zoom  lens to capture this sharp, colourful portrait and my car “studio” worked well.

Iceland Gull,  Penticton waterfront

When the birding gets slow in winter, I often head down to Lake Okanagan to scan through the many gulls that congregate.  After photographing them, I can then ID them more carefully at home on the screen. The reward is finding a rarity such as this pale gull which turned out to be Larus glaucoides glaucoides, far from its breeding range in Greenland.

Red-necked Grebe,  Penticton marina.

With their nest only metres from shore, this pair of grebes offered many people (and photographers) an amazing opportunity to observe all the facets of raising a brood.  I loved the intimacy of this family shot of the parents feeding the grebelet a tiny minnow.

California Quail in wild roses, near Ollala BC

Although I wish the rose in the foreground had been in focus, I love the bright colours of the image and pattern.  Quails are very photogenic and popular images  are easy to market.

Calliope Hummingbird (male) near Kaleden at Mountain Springs Nature Retreat

Sometimes I can’t really explain why I keep or enjoy a particular photo. I often go by gut instinct, whatever that means. In this case, I liked the colour, clarity, curves and composition of the image and how such a tiny bird can still bend the new growth on a maple with its micro-mass.

Black-capped Chickadee ,  Okanagan Falls, BC

What is this bird thinking?.  There is an element of humour in the little guy’s expression as it looks back at the big sunflower head. Chickadees first got me into birding so I love to photograph them.

10 thoughts on “Laure Neish – November, 2012

  1. Congratulations on being the first photographer here Laure, and a nice set of pictures to set the bar for future submissions. It will be difficult to match

  2. Laure
    Congrats on being the first Featured Photographer at BCFO. How in the world did you ever select the 12 photos to use out of the multitude of truly excellent photos you have taken? I hope this sends lots of folks to your website to see the rest of your photos.

  3. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos. I believe half of a great bird photo is the setting and background and your are wonderful.

  4. Superb photos Laure. Your text also does a superb job of capturing your feelings about the image and getting the shot. You’ve set the bar for featured photographers too high for my photos at the moment, but I’ll continue trying to reach your level. Don’t think I could mention superb enough times.

  5. Pingback: Featured Photographer – New Showcase for 2013 | British Columbia Field Ornithologists

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