As many of you know, I spent this past Thanksgiving in Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) outside Socorro, New Mexico. I'd planned this trip for over a year and although not your typical "vacation", it was worth the trip. Most wouldn't consider getting up at 4am, setting up camera equipment in the dark and in sub-freezing temperatures a vacation. Unless, of course, you're a bird photographer and you're in Bosque. Bosque is located in the middle of nowhere - or just outside of nowhere - about 28 miles south of Socorro, New Mexico. Socorro is a town along Interstate 25 an hour south of Albuquerque. I decided to take the 12 hour drive in my own car so I could bring all my gear and take my time getting there.
Thanksgiving week is known to be the height of the season for Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese as they winter here, supposedly in a warmer climate. They numbered in the tens of thousands as they converged on the shallow pools and nearby farmlands. It was an exercise in speed, hand-eye coordination, timing and reflexes in order to capture these birds in flight. At times there were so many birds flying around, taking off and landing that one could easily become overwhelmed and miss many a photo-op. The decision wasn't "what kind of shot am I going to get?" but "which one of the dozens of opportunities in front of me am I going to photograph?" As hard as it was to concentrate in this environment, it was an absolute necessity in order to come away with keepers. Sunrise and sunset were the most productive times of day, which is typical, especially for wildlife photography. I found that I spent a lot of time working with silhouette images. The shapes of these birds set against an orange sky or the shining waters surface grabbed my attention and my imagination. You'll see what I mean when you visit my gallery. With my creative juices flowing I also began experimenting with blurring and pull-focus techniques. You'll see those too.
Being that it was Thanksgiving week, I wondered if I would spend my Turkey Day by myself, eating a hot turkey sandwich at the Dennys in Socorro. It didn't really bother me since I'd decided to spend my Thanksgiving week here over a year ago, but I must admit it was on my mind. A surprise came as I made images near the Crane Pools just outside the refuge. Legendary avian photographer Arthur Morris was leading a workshop at Bosque, as he does every year. I'd taken a workshop of his earlier in 2009 at the NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) conference in Albuquerque. As I struck up a conversation with a couple of other photographers they told me they were part of Art's workshop. Before I knew it I was talking with Art himself who soon invited me to his annual Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in Socorro! How cool. I not only had a place to enjoy my Thanksgiving feast but I was going to spend it with some of the finest nature photographers anywhere! Opened just for Art's dinner, I enjoyed a wonderful meal with around twenty other nature photographers. I ended up sitting at a table with some wonderful folks including Art and an equally talented photographer, new media pioneer and host of the "Photofocus" podcast Scott Bourne. We had great food and great conversation with great company. Thank you Art, Scott and the rest of the gang for giving me a Thanksgiving I'll never forget! I think it's safe to say, you can be grateful for what you have no matter where you are.
Long story short, my trip to Bosque Del Apache was a resounding success and I'll definitely be back. Even if I did arrive with a cold and leave with pneumonia (ok, maybe just a worse cold). The results of my week in Bosque can be viewed in my photo gallery HERE. As time goes by a will likely delete some of the more similar images but for now, I'm happy with what I have. After all, any of my fellow photographers out there will appreciate the fact that I was able to edit 6,500 images down to 167 and that only took five days! I'll work on the HD video next, stay tuned for that.
(Click on the image to view the entire gallery)