GNPA Welcomes Newest Conservation Partner:
Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites
The GNPA Conservation Committee is excited to announce our newest conservation partner – Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites (Friends).
Friends has a chapter at each of the state parks or historic sites, and its mission is to work with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources to protect, preserve and enhance the state’s natural and cultural resources. Friends sponsors environmental education programs, organizes cleanup days at parks, and supports projects such as pollinator restoration and efforts to save Georgia’s hemlock trees.
Fort McAllister State Park, Jenny Burdette, GNPA
GNPA conservation volunteers will work with Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites to provide photography that will help them spread their message. Our role is to provide photographs of some of Georgia’s beautiful parks and historic sites, as well as answering specific requests for photos of particular events or projects.
How can you be a part of this partnership and help support Georgia’s treasured natural resources? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!
First, click here to sign up to be a GNPA Conservation Photographer. Once registered, you’ll receive timely information and invitations to get involved with Friends and all our other conservation partners.
Second, start looking through your photo archive, and set aside your favorite images from any of Georgia’s state parks or historic sites (landscapes, wildlife, recreation, etc.). We will be announcing a fall project (with prizes!) to help the Friends group build a library of photos needed for promotional purposes.
Third, “adopt” a specific park or historic site that you would like to work with. Do you have a favorite park near your home or a special park close to your heart? Friends needs your help to photograph events and projects, or to fulfill any special requests for that particular park. If you are interested in being a volunteer for a specific park, please contact Jenny Burdette, GNPA Liaison/ Point of Contact (POC), at cons_Friends@gnpa.org and she will add your name to the list.
Be on the lookout later this year for our fall project!
Mark Buckler Photography
Photographing Birds in Flight
By Mark Buckler
Because they are ubiquitous, attractive and approachable, birds are a popular subject for nature photographers. However, these fast-moving (and often small) subjects can pose a great challenge to even the most accomplished photographer. Birds can move quickly and unexpectedly through three dimensions, and you must be able to first locate them in the narrow field of view associated with telephoto lenses, and then continue to track them as they fly. Not an easy assignment.
Mark Buckler Photography
But there are techniques that can help. Here are some tips to help you improve your images of birds in flight.
Use the Proper Camera Settings
Although some camera settings may be a matter of personal preference, there are certain settings that you should definitely be utilizing for flying birds:
- Autofocus Mode: Use Continuous AF (Canon refers to this as AI Servo. In Nikon, it’s the AF-C autofocus mode.) It will help your camera maintain its focus on moving objects.
- Burst Rate: Use a high number of frames per second to increase your odds of getting the best action shot. This is often combined with your autofocus mode and designated as CF-H or Ch (Continuous Focus – High)
- Autofocus Limiter: I like to set the Autofocus Limiter Switch (on the lens) to the distant/far range in order to improve the autofocus performance in most situations. Your lens will focus faster if it’s not searching through the entire range of focus. After all, it’s not very often that you photograph flying birds that are within the near-focus range of your lens.
- Shooting/Exposure Mode: You can use any shooting mode that you prefer, but photographing birds (and all wildlife) in manual mode has significant advantages. In manual, the proper exposure will be maintained (as long as the overall light doesn’t change) regardless of the tonal composition of any particular frame, or whether the bird flies between light and dark backgrounds.
- Aperture: Use large apertures so that depth of field is minimized. These bigger apertures draw attention to your subject by presenting a sharp image against a softer-focus background. Larger apertures also allow more light to reach your camera’s sensor, which lets you shoot at higher shutter speeds to help freeze action.
Mark Buckler Photography
Use Fast Shutter Speeds
Too often, photographers try to find the minimum shutter speed that will stop the movement of the bird. Although this makes sense because it often allows you to photograph at lower ISO settings (thus minimizing noise in your images), I prefer not to worry about my ISO and the resulting noise. I don’t hesitate to photograph at ISO 6400 if that’s what is necessary to achieve shutter speeds of 1/4000 or greater. Not only will these high shutter speeds reduce the blur associated with the motion of the bird, they will also result in sharper images overall.
Mark Buckler Photography
Use Behavioral Cues
Knowledge of bird behavior is as important as photographic skill when it comes to creating compelling images. Remember that birds will typically take off and land into the wind. Knowing this will allow you to anticipate action and better position yourself to get the best possible composition. Trying to capture a bird taking flight is challenging, but birds will often provide cues about what they might do next. For instance, sandhill cranes tend to lean forward before taking flight, and many raptors will defecate (poop) shortly before leaving their perch. Learning as much as you can about your subject will help you capture more interesting photographs.
Locating and tracking a bird through a telephoto lens is a skill that must be practiced, much like you would prepare for a musical performance or an athletic contest. Practice as often as you can, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. Also, you don’t need to go to a bird sanctuary or birding destination to practice; you can find plenty of opportunities in your own backyard or neighborhood. And it doesn’t matter what species of bird you use for practice. Even squirrels and other small, moving critters will work. What matters is improving your skill at quickly framing, focusing and following a moving subject.
In our newsletters, we’ll be featuring short profiles of GNPA members from across the state. This month, it’s Lisa Westberry from the Griffin Chapter.
When did you join GNPA?
Five years ago.
What’s your occupation?
Ecologist for Georgia Department of Transportation.
How did you get into photography?
It started as a hobby while in graduate school, but turned into a full-time passion around seven years ago.
What are your favorite photography subjects?
Landscapes, wildlife, macro and architectural.
Photo by Lisa Westberry
What are your favorite places to shoot?
The Georgia coast.
Sunrise on Driftwood Beach taken on a birthday trip to Jekyll Island in 2012. Undoubtedly one of my favorite photos that I’ve ever taken. Very little editing was needed.
What would be your photographic “dream trip?”
A road trip west, with stops at all the iconic national parks.
Which camera and lenses do you use most often?
Nikon D500/Tamron 70-200 mm and Canon 70D/Tamron 90mm macro.
What are your go-to websites for photography information?
For inspiration I go to National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/). For my Camera System, I visit Nikon (https://www.nikonusa.com/en/index.page) and PetaPixel (https://petapixel.com/).
To improve my photography skills & techniques, I use Digital Photography Review (https://www.dpreview.com/) and Kelby One (https://kelbyone.com/).
Have any photographers inspired you?
There are so many photographers who inspire me, from Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz to many of my fellow GNPA members.
What’s your favorite part of belonging to GNPA?
Developing new skills, finding my creative side, and probably most importantly, taking pride in how my photography has improved while being a member.
Something about you most people don’t know:
I received my MS in Biology studying the life history of biting midges in Glynn County, Georgia.
Where are you from?
Born and grew up in Griffin, Georgia.
What’s Next for GNPA?
Eric Bowles, GNPA President
After a necessary break due to Covid-19, we’re starting to resume some level of normal activities within GNPA. Yes, we certainly need to be careful about health and safety, but it’s time to move forward where we can. Each of our state chapters will be determining the right time to safely resume in-person meetings. That decision will vary by chapter, because different locations may have different community issues. If you do attend any GNPA event, keep in mind that a mask is required, and we want to do our best to maintain proper social distancing.
The GNPA Webinar program is off to a good start. Most of the chapters have conducted one or more webinars, or have one scheduled. It’s not the same as our in-person chapter meetings, of course, but webinars have allowed us to continue to serve our members and share our interest in photography. We’ve enjoyed some excellent speakers so far, and considerable member participation. A complete list of upcoming webinars and webinar recordings is posted on the Member Home Page of our website. If you missed the live webinars, be sure to view the recorded programs.
Shute Bear Refuge by Eric Bowles, GNPA
By the end of July, we will open registration for the Fall Smokies Event, scheduled for November 5-8, 2020. The event is being structured around some great field trips. In order to help with social distancing, we’ve dropped the group meeting and reduced the cost accordingly. We will still conduct our photo contest for all participants, which is a popular part of the event.
Bosque Del Apache NWR photo by Larry Winslet
Meanwhile, we’re starting to test the water on a couple field trips. I know many of you were planning to do some Milky Way photography at the Expo. That opportunity is now available in our new “Jekyll Island – Dusk to Dawn” workshop led by Jamie Anderson. This three-day event (August 14-16) will feature extensive field work as well as classroom sessions. We also have a terrific trip to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico with Larry Winslet on December 12-17. Bosque is a “bucket list” trip for bird photographers, and Larry will put you in the right locations for some fabulous photos.
Thanks for your continued support of GNPA.
— Eric Bowles
How to Update or Change Your Membership
Less than a year ago, GNPA’s website migrated to a new MemberClicks database. We were outgrowing the existing system, and our expanding database simply required better functionality. The goal was, and remains, being able to provide more for our members.
Much of the behind-the-scenes work on our database was geared toward creating an easier registration and more robust member experience at the April Expo. But since the COVID-19 situation forced the cancellation of this year’s event, the full utilization of those improvements will have to wait until 2021. Meanwhile, we’ve begun using the new system for photography competitions, and to help create more content for the website.
In our previous newsletter, we provided step-by-step tips for renewing your annual GNPA membership within the new system. This time, we’ll explain how to log in to the member page, view your profile and add or make changes to your profile. This will make it easier to understand the new system, and to use all the benefits of your GNPA membership. (When you receive an email notice that your membership is expiring, you can renew online. However, changing from an individual to a family-type membership remains somewhat complicated, so in that particular case please contact someone on the Membership Committee for assistance.)
So let’s get started. Log into the website at www.gnpa.org, where the first screen you will see is the landing page (left screenshot). Scroll down to see other information before attempting to log in. Clicking on the Member Login (circled in red), will take you to the next page (right screenshot).
If you have never logged in before, use your existing email address as the Username or click on Retrieve Username to confirm your Username (see below). Enter your email address and your Username will be emailed to you.
Next, click on Reset Password to enter a new password (see below). Enter your email address and follow the instructions from the email you received.
NOTE: Any previous passwords from our old system will NOT work.
With your username and password, you can log in to the GNPA system (see below). Either of the two areas circled will work.
Now that you have successfully logged in, you have access to the full GNPA system (see below).
At this point you can view and update your Member Profile. This is also where you can register for any Current Open Activities or Field Trips. These areas are dynamic and will be updated, so check often to see new listings.
Here’s how to navigate the Member Profile section:
Just below the name badge with you name, chapter and membership type, select My Profile (circled in red) to go to the Member Profile Attributes. This is where you update or change pertinent information about your membership.
Here you can see what Attributes of your membership have been selected.
To make any changes or view additional information not shown, you must first click the grey EDIT Button (see left).
This will reveal all available Attributes, whether selected or not.
You should now see the expanded screen (at rt) with all Attributes and selections. Each Member Profile has 14 built-in Attributes and 12 custom Attributes.
You should now also see these 2 buttons (see right).
Scroll down to see all the selections available. Most important are your contact fields, camera system, primary chapter, emergency contact information, photography experience level and photography interests.
Just go through your Member Profile and verify or update any of the member Attributes not already selected.
The Attribute labeled Organization is a GNPA naming convention used to identify our family memberships, based on a family last name. It is NOT actually an organization, so please do not change anything already entered here.
VERY IMPORTANT: Once all your selections are made, click the green SAVE button. If you forget to do so, none of your changes will be saved and you will need to start over.
If you have questions or issues with your Member Profile, please send an email to membership@GNPA.org with an explanation of the question or issue. We will get back to you as soon as possible to assist you in making any corrections or upgrades to your membership.
We hope this has been helpful. Thank you.
— Stewart Woodard
Swallow-tailed Kite flight with insect, Tom Wilson, GNPA
Swallow-tailed Kites and Mississippi Kites
By Tom Wilson
There are plenty of great things about living in Georgia. If you’re a bird photographer, one of them is a particular raptor, the Swallow-tailed Kite, which breeds in Georgia and other southeastern states. While these birds winter in South America (primarily Brazil), they can be found here for a few weeks every summer.
Photo by Tom Wilson, GNPA
A fairly reliable option for spotting these birds is near the town of Glennville, in Long County. From approximately July 20 through August 15 every year, you can usually find numerous Swallow-tailed Kites (as well as Mississippi Kites) at a private farm owned by the Skeen family. The owners have been very friendly to birders and photographers in the past, but it’s critical that we take nothing for granted and exercise courtesy and respect while photographing on their property (important details below).
The farm offers perhaps the best location in the area for photographing kites, which spend the bulk of their time hunting insects on the fly (most of your photo opportunities will be flying birds, so before you go, be sure to read Mark Buckler’s column in this newsletter about photographing birds in flight). You may see more than 100 Swallow-tailed Kites, plus some Mississippi Kites, on a given day.
The Kites start to gather around 9:00 a.m. or so, and begin to disperse in the late morning or early afternoon. You can count on it being very hot and humid. Make sure you are well hydrated with plenty of extra water, wear cool, breathable clothing, and protect yourself against the summer sun. I would recommend you take whatever gear you typically use for birds in flight. I prefer a zoom lens, which offers me the reach I need but also allows me to zoom out when birds get closer. In my case, I use the Nikon 200-500 on my Nikon D500. Also, keep your eyes peeled for parents feeding young birds in order to get a variety of shots.
Photo by Tom Wilson, GNPA
Timing your trip is very important, because the drive is fairly long for most of us. As a result, I urge GNPA members who photograph birds to sign up for the List Serve, Georgia Birders Online (GABO). Mark McShane, who provided the details and map overlays for this article, posts updates in July through GABO. Those include the numbers of Swallow-tailed Kites and Mississippi Kites currently in the area.
Mark also checks to make sure that the owners of Skeen’s farm are OK with birders and photographers accessing the area. That’s why it’s doubly important to check GABO for Mark’s posts this month, both to make sure we’re allowed to access the farm for photographs, and to confirm that the birds are there. Additionally, I will repost Mark’s GABO post on the GNPA Facebook page when it comes out, although if you are a bird photographer, I strongly suggest that you sign up for GABO yourself.
The maps below give the coordinates for the location in Long County. I would urge you also to do a web search for Grady Kennedy Rd. NE, Glennville, Ga. 30427 to plan your driving route. The overlays on the maps provide very good information for locating the Kites, finding parking, etc. Drive safely, and good shooting!
Image from Google Earth
Image from Google Earth
Image from Google Earth