Allen's Hummingbird, © Photo by Steve Kaye

Mastery | July 2019

Mastery can seem effortless.

When seeing a good photo, you might conclude that birds pose. Or maybe they wait in the air. Or they cooperate – somehow.

Actually, mastery requires perfecting the following three qualities (listed in order of increasing challenge).

Allen's Hummingbird, Adult Female (Left) and Juvenile (Right), © Photo by Steve Kaye, in blog post "Mastery"

Allen’s Hummingbird, Adult Female (Left) and Juvenile (Right)

1) Mechanics

Mastery begins with mechanics, which includes:


Certainly good equipment helps you achieve better results: It works better, contains more features, and takes better photos.


Technique is the sequence of actions taken to achieve a result.

And thus, good technique matters because it’s impossible to achieve success with bad technique.

You learn good technique by studying and then imitating success.

So read books, attend classes, and observe experts.

Note: Imitation is the highest form of efficiency.


Skill is the effective application of good technique. And this comes from continual practice and learning.

Ideally, your skill works at an organic level, thus leaving you to concentrate on optimization instead of on implementation.

Downy Woodpecker, Male, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye, in blog post "Mastery"

Downy Woodpecker, Male

2) Attitude

Birds ignore directions, miss appointments, and fly away, which could be frustrating.

So, I manage attitude with the following:


I believe that there will always be some success, even if it’s unexpected.

So I’m never disappointed.


This begins with kindness from within.

So out of respect for myself, I never become angry, frustrated, or discouraged.

And then I’m kind to the birds.

For example, when a bird leaves, I say, “Good bird. Be well, stay safe.”


I work really hard (play, actually) at taking photos.

Once I was taking photos of Sanderlings while they ran back and forth with the waves.

After more than an hour I had 500 bad photos.

I stopped, set my tripod, raised a fist in the air, and announced, “I’m not leaving this beach until I have 1,000 photos! And I want a few good ones!”

This pause helped me evaluate and adjust my technique.

Then I went back to work (play). And over the next two hours I took more than 1,200 photos, which included many good ones.


Instead of being a master, I’m a student, working on the life-long quest of mastery.


Every good photo is a gift.

Sanderling, © Photo by Steve Kaye, in blog post "Mastery"

Sanderling, Running After a Wave

3) Intent

Your intention becomes a signature that identifies everything you do.

My intention is to inspire respect for Nature. So I strive to take photos that celebrate the extraordinary beauty in the natural world.

Thus, your intention defines the direction of your mastery.

And then it tells you where to be, what to do, and how to act.

Great Egret, © Photo by Steve Kaye, in blog post "Mastery"

Great Egret

Some questions to ponder:

How well does your technique serve you?

How would you describe your attitude?

And how do your results compare with your intentions?

Much success,

Steve Kaye

Find More at:

Unexpected Results

Snowy Egret Story

Question for a Bird

Did You Know?

The most effective way to help birds is to buy land.

Here are three organizations that excel at doing this.

1) American Bird Conservancy

2) The Nature Conservancy

3) The Trust for Public Land

Please visit their web sites to learn about the work they do.

Here’s an excellent book: The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation

You can help – Please share this blog with others.
Inspiring Respect for Nature, one bird at a time.

Web Site  |  Presentations  |  Blog  |  Photos  |  Articles

  • Catherine Kaye
    Posted at 13:38h, 19 July

    Excellent thoughts and ideas!

  • Rev. Eileen O. Brownell
    Posted at 18:10h, 19 July


    Another great article. Thank you for sharing!!! Your photos are beautiful.

    Blessings and joy….Eileen

  • Marvin Marshall
    Posted at 12:24h, 21 July

    Steve, Your artistic genius is obvious again.
    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your next newsletter

  • Kathryn Grace
    Posted at 10:43h, 22 July

    Inspiring, as always, Steve. And calming. Thank you. I’ll answer your questions out loud, so to speak, right here, with what is true for me today. Like your photography work, my approach comes from a lifetime of building technique.

    How well does your technique serve you? Since the 2016 election, I’ve lived basically day-to-day, asking myself each morning, “What’s the most important thing I can do today to make the world a little safer?” I cannot say it’s the most effective method I’ve used, but it’s what I can do.

    How would you describe your attitude? My attitude remains hopeful because without hope I would perish. All too often, that hope seems unwarranted. Thankfully, I have the childhood memories of a strong mother who faced every adversity with alacrity and found joy every single day while I was growing up. She’s not doing so well now, but she still gets a light in her eye. How can one give up hope in the face of a sparkle that shines through pain and suffering?

    And how do your intentions compare with your results? I’ll let you know following the 2020 election.

  • Thea Merritt
    Posted at 14:07h, 24 July

    Great article, I will be book marking this to easily remind myself key tips to success. I believe you have covered all the ground. Thank you for sharing.

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.