Tree Swallow, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va. All images © Kim Taylor.
Twitter has proved to be quite the matchmaker for our Photographers in Focus series. We recently came across the work of new follower @ktaylorphotos, aka Kim Taylor, who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and has an eye for the tranquil moments of bird photography, whether on the water or in the sky.
This Mallard Duckling and dragonfly shot (below) is an instant classic. Other subjects, whether a Tree Swallow soaring above, a Green Heron stalking at water’s edge or the droplets spilling off an American Wigeon’s bill, capture that simultaneous moment of joy and tremendous excitement upon seeing a bird in the wild.
The Ospreys in the Washington area are a particular favorite for Taylor: she’s been following one pair for several years now.
Taylor, who recently caught up with us to chat about her photographs, has offered these images as prints for sale with proceeds benefiting International Bird Rescue! Click here to find out more at Kim’s photography website.
Mallard Duckling and dragonfly, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.
Taylor: While I work and live in a city/suburban area, where wildlife and many bird species are plentiful, I love going to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (in Maryland) and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (in Delaware). Both Blackwater and Bombay Hook are about a two-and-a-half hour’s drive from Washington, D.C. Both offer amazing opportunities to capture wildlife during the year and are great spots during migration in the spring and fall. Many different species of birds winter here or pass through this region.
Equipment of choice
I use a Nikon D3 and D800. My go-to lens is the Nikkor 600MM f4. Other options: 300mm f2.8, 60mm 2.8,50mm 1.8, and 14-28 Gf2.8. My bread-and-butter lens is the 600mm, as I use it for sports photography too.
Green Heron, Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, Va.
Snowy Egret, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Smyrna, Del.
Thoughts on motion
Photographing birds in flight takes practice, practice and more practice. I also think becoming one with your camera is essential. While you are watching a bird, the larger your lens, the more you must pay attention to being steady, while following the bird in your viewfinder. All while thinking, Do I adjust my shutter speed? My F-stop? Being one with your camera means knowing by glance at your meter which adjustments to make on the fly for +/- shutter speed and/or F-stop (I am speaking toward shooting on manual settings).
Starting out, you will miss shots — we all did and still do — but missing shots teaches you that the next time conditions are similar, what settings to start with and what to improve from there. Basically, shooting without having to think about what your camera is doing, and instead think about what the bird is doing or going to do. Knowing bird behavior is critical. Knowing by watching will allow you to be ready for that wingbeat shot, say, after a duck or goose preens. Birds will tell you what they are going to do if you just listen and watch.
American Wigeon, Choptank River, Cambridge, Md.
Standing in half-frozen water waiting for Canada Geese to take flight is difficult. Also going out in really hot and humid weather, even in the early parts of the day, is difficult. But if I know a Prothonotary Warbler is hanging around a certain spot at a park, deep in the thicket on a hot, humid day … I am there.
Belted Kingfisher, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.
Mallard Drake, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.
That’s a tough question. I have several that fit that description for different reasons. I see some amazing Osprey photos this time of year. There are photos of Osprey emerging from water with fish that are just stunning! (Yes, those extra hard shots are on my list this year.)
Any photo featuring a bird is inspiration. I think of birds as miracles with wings.
Female Osprey, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.
Horned Grebe, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.
Sadly, I have seen injured birds, but gratefully not many. I do try to get help for an injured bird; as you all know, sometimes that is easier said than done. I’ve also taken a basic wildlife rescue and rehabilitation class. I carry basic rescue tools (boxes, something to cover the bird’s eyes) and my handy list of rehabbers in the area on my phone. Ironically, two weeks before my rescue class, I rescued a pigeon in a parking lot. It was unable to fly, so I scooped it up and took it to an animal hospital near me.
Barn Swallow, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.
A note to the novice
Photographing birds and wildlife takes lots of patience! By nature, I am not a patient person, but give me my camera, let me walk out into wilderness, and I can wait all day for “the shot” if need be. Which is what I have done many times. Unlike other types of photography, you can’t just show up at a spot and expect birds to be waiting for you, the same way you would shooting a street scene downtown at rush hour. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. Yes, there are those lucky times — you show up, get your shots and move on — but that is not the norm.
Taking a photo of a duck sitting on water looks easy, but in reality that duck is moving. Taking a photo of a duckling nipping at a dragonfly looks easy, but in reality there were two frames. Two frames — that’s it. To get the photograph, you have to go out there and wait for it and be prepared to take what Mother Nature gives you. So pack lots of patience and learn the behavior of the wildlife you want to photograph, and be prepared to wait, wait and wait some more.
Northern Pintail, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.
If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail us.
And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Yeray Seminario of Spain, Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles, Matt Bryant of Florida, Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.