Every photographer has a different style, working method and favourite location. Bird photographer Peter Wallack explain how he works and shows us some examples of his bird photography done near his home on Sanibel Island, Florida.

By: Peter Wallack

The Birds of Paradise

 Reddish Egret with Monet Palette
Taken with stacked teleconverters at 1120mm, tripod mounted, on Provia 100 F pushed one stop.

I recently retired from a career as a teacher of World Cultures, and moved full-time to Sanibel Island, Florida. I have also been a long-time fine-art landscape photographer, having exhibited at art shows and galleries for a quarter century.

For a photographer, living on Sanibel Island is like being on a continues photography shoot. The island is world famous to bird watchers for theDing Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It was the first of the now over 500 National Wildlife Refuges nationwide. Birds are found there in vast numbers, and also atBlind Pass Beach,Sanibel Pier,Bowmanís Beach, theLighthouse Walk,Park City Beach,Lighthouse Beach, and many unknown places that I’ve discovered.

How I Work

Wood Storks Before Sunup
Photographed Velvia 50 pushed 1 2/3rds stops. Tripod mounted, somewhere between 800mm and 900mm.

I go out with my Canon EOS 3 camera ready to shoot birds using the new Canon 1.4x II teleconverter on the Canon 100-400 f/5.6 IS lens. This gives me a 560mm reach which I successfully use hand-held due to the magic of Canon’s Image Stabilization technology. I also carry a Manfrotto Carbon Fiber One Tripod with Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead. But I am ready to put it aside when I can manage a handheld shot. These are usually ones I can manage from about 6 to 24 feet away.

Cormorant Bust

Shot from about 6 feet away with the 100-400mm IS, probably at 100mm. This bird was banded, and had probably gotten used to people at a rehabilitation center.

Usually when I’m able to work this close it is because the bird is too busy to notice me or just looks at me and decides I’m harmless. Birds are adept at reading non-verbal behavior, so going in low and slow helps, but they also seem to sense calm in ones manner. If the birds are more than 30 feet away they usually feel secure if you do not move directly towards them. It also helps if you take your time, and tack toward them on the diagonal. With these birds I stack the Canon EOS 3 body with the 1.4x II TC and the 2.0x II TC on top of that, This can deliver very sharp results at a 1120mm focal length at f/16. (Here’sa linkto how this is done — Michael)

Text and Photographs‚© 2002Peter Wallack

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