24 May 2012


For the next couple of weeks here in Michigan warbler migration will be going in full force. Photographing warblers is likely one of the larger challenges in the field of bird photography. I like to say shooting warblers is like trying to photograph a hyperactive two year old with wings, after they have just washed down a giant bowl of fruit loops with two redbulls. Another reason warbler photography is so tough is that they are tiny and like to hang out in the woods where the light is notoriously difficult to deal with. It really is a challenge, but once you see one of these little jewels through your lens you will be hooked. I like to photograph warblers in migrant traps. A migrant trap is a location where birds tend to stack up and wait for certain conditions to proceed over some obstacle, usually a large body of water. Or they can also be a spot where birds first make landfall after a crossing and hang out for a bit gathering their strength before continuing north. Where ever you live there is likely a migrant trap near you. Some of the more popular migrant traps near my home here in Michigan are Point Pelee, Magee Marsh, Tawas State Park, and Whitefish Point.
To shoot these little guys requires patience and perseverance. I generally try to get my lens on a bird and then track them with my camera as they flit about feeding on insects, only squeezing off a shot now and then when the bird gets in a nice spot. Autofocus is a huge help here, as are quick reflexes. For a warbler to sit in one spot for more than a couple seconds does not happen very often. I also use fill flash to help balance the light and bring out the colors of the birds plumage. I usually have my flash dialed down to a -1 1/3 stop exposure compensation.
If you have never tried shooting warblers give it a try. It is the most maddeningly frustrating thing you will ever love.
Good luck and good light
Image: Yellow Warbler & Apple Blossoms