Curious about wildlife photography? Discover how these five nature photographers captured their favorite images of rare and unusual birds in the wild.
Photographers have long felt an affinity for birds. In fact, George Shiras, an early 20th-century congressman as well as a leading wildlife photographer, was one of the first to introduce the protection of birds into law. He was a key player in the creation of the bill that would later become the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which still exists today.
In recent years, bird populations have faced a number of threats. Tropical deforestation has led to the decline of birds like the resplendent quetzal. Overfishing and overhunting in certain areas have dwindled once-flourishing puffin populations. Oil spills have killed seabirds, and climate change has already altered the migration patterns of several species. In the United States, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, born a century ago from Shiras’ efforts, is undergoing changes that could be devastating for birds.
In honor of our planet’s birds and the long-standing stewardship of wildlife photographers, we asked five expert Shutterstock Contributors to tell us about a few of the creatures they’ve encountered on their travels. Read on to hear about some of the world’s most precious birds and professional tips for photographing them responsibly. As a reminder, photography should always come second when dealing with animals. The safety and wellbeing of wildlife should always be the top priority.
1. “My first piece of advice is non-photographic: Don’t disturb the birds at any time, especially in the spring during the nesting period.”
Image by Dusan Vainer. Gear: Nikon D500 camera, Nikon 300/f2.8 lens (+ TC1.4), bean bag. Settings: Focal length 420mm; exposure 1/320 sec; f4.2; ISO 100.
Tell us about a unique bird you’ve photographed.
One of my greatest experiences was probably the day I met these lapwings on the shore of a half-flooded sand quarry in central Bohemia. Several common waders returned to this place regularly to bathe and drink during the course of the hot afternoon. I was lying there for two hours, and then a miracle happened. The lapwings appeared in front of my lens. The golden evening sun and the rarely seen bird! It was so impressive, and I was barely breathing beneath the camouflage net. In this beautiful evening light, it was easy for me to forget that I probably wouldn’t be able to catch the last bus to Prague.
Unfortunately, lapwings are quite rare. Although they were quite common twenty or thirty years ago, the situation now is completely different due to the destruction of their natural environment. Their population has declined seriously. When I was a boy, they were everywhere. Meadows were full of these birds, and you could hear their strange UFO voices every spring.