Birding in the Snow

If you are looking for a unique photograph, precipitation always adds a little something. Snowy bird pictures are some of my favorite to take, but in some ways they are also the most challenging. Not only are you exposing yourself, sometimes for extended periods, to cold and damp conditions, but snow can reflect the light in ways that affect the photograph’s exposure. While including snowflakes in the shot is part of the desired effect, they can sometimes wreck havoc on your focus. And then there is also the terrain. Walking in snow and potentially ice, especially with a huge camera lens throwing you off balance, isn’t always fun. But the challenges are part of what makes the experience all the more rewarding, especially when you do get that great snowy bird photograph.

In my experience, the best time to get a snowy bird photograph is after the storm has passed. If you are out in the midst of a storm, trying to find birds to photograph, you will realize that many of the birds are smarter than you. They are tucked away out of the weather somewhere warm and much less exposed.

However, once the storm has passed, out they all come, and they begin rummaging in the snow for food. The search for food can create opportunities for interesting photographs as the birds get snow on their beaks, ruffle their feathers and sometimes seem to be playing. The snow also sometimes helps you spot birds your wouldn’t ordinarily see, as they make more noise knocking snow of branches and other perches. Many birds also show up even more clearly in the snow, their bright feathers making it easier for you to find them in a white blanket of snow.

Winter is really when having feeders out in your yard can put you at a great advantage. Yes, birds will find you any time of the year, but winter is when they will need to visit your feeder the most and you never need to leave the convenience (and warmth) of your own home.

If you are like me and you really enjoy snow and snowfall, you might find yourself out amid the flakes. Just remember to keep an eye on your light exposure, be careful of your footing and be patient. I try to take twice as many photographs in snowy conditions, just to increase my odds of having one decent photograph.

So glove up and enjoy the snow!

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