Weird Career for the Especially Persistent

Imagine a career that is doomed from the start.

And to make matters worse, it’s an occupation that takes time, costs money, and has (at best) remote rewards.

That weird career is Bird Photography.

Tree Swallow, © Photo by Steve Kaye, in "Steve Kaye's New Weird Career"

Tree Swallow

Birds refuse to cooperate, they ignore you, they fly away.

And yet, I take photos of birds — because I enjoy the challenge of capturing the beauty in nature.

Here are samples of the problems followed by five photos that worked.

By the way, the bird in this (typical) photo is a Tree Swallow, male. Most expert birders should be able to recognize the feet.

First Problem: Birds Don’t Show

Bird photography is based on trying to photograph a random event that does not want to be near you.

The way to overcome this challenge is to go to a likely spot and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I have waited for hours for a bird to arrive. Yes hours. And no bird.

Is this a weird career or what?

Branch with no bird, Steve Kaye Weird Career

 Where are you?

Branch with no bird, Steve Kaye Weird Career

I was there and I waited.

Branch with no bird, Steve Kaye Weird Career

I thought we had an appointment!

This third photo is the best of the three because the background is about perfect.

Notice that I’m able to find something good in even an empty photo.

Second Problem: Birds Don’t Stay

No bird wants to be photographed.

When they notice that a lens is pointed at them, they leave.


I have had birds fly away during the second while my lens focused on them. Maybe they saw the lens elements move. Maybe they noticed a huge eye looking at them. Or maybe they received a tweet from another bird.

In any case, they left.


And the heartbreaking part is: The bird left after I had waited and waited and waited.

I have taken thousands (actually, tens of thousands) of photos like those shown below.

Is this a weird career or what?

California Scrub-Jay Leaving

Western Scrub-Jay Leaving

Hooded Oriole, Male, Leaving

Hooded Oriole, Male, Leaving

Black-capped Chickadee, Leaving

Black-capped Chickadee, Leaving

Actually, this last photo would be okay if I hadn’t cut off the wing tip. But I was standing too close.

 Third Problem: Birds Don’t Cooperate

If you manage to overcome the first two problems, there’s one more.

Birds don’t cooperate.

They ignore you. They ignore instructions. Yes, they ignore everything.

They just spend their time on bird activities.

And I’ve tried all the tricks.

I’ve called out, “Photo Magazine!” or “Photo Contest!”

I’ve even used the magic words, “National Geographic!”

Nothing works.

Is this a weird career or what?


House Finch, Male & Female

Hey, Look this way! (House Finch, Female & Male)

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler, Working out

Great-blue Heron

Hey! Stand up straight! (Great-blue Heron)

Good News: Sometimes Everything Works

The bird appears. The bird stays. And the bird poses (sort of).

Actually, it’s a matter of persistence, skill, and (yes) luck. Then you have results like the photos below.

Is this cool or what?

Northern Mockingbird, photo in Steve Kaye's Weird Career

Northern Mockingbird

Horned Grebe, Breeding Plumage, Taking a Bath, Steve Kaye's Weird Career

Horned Grebe, Breeding Plumage, Taking a Bath

Sandhill Crane, photo in article - Steve Kaye's Weird Career

Sandhill Crane, Bosque del Apache, NM

Black Phoebe in Steve Kaye's Weird Career

Black Phoebe

Canada Goose in Steve Kaye's Weird Career

Canada Goose

Final Note on This Weird Career

Although this might be a weird career, it has fantastic rewards.

I can spend time outside, observing birds plus other wild life.

Through this, I can enjoy the serenity of being part of the natural world.

And I also come home with some beautiful photos, which I can use in my presentations, photo classes, and blogs.

For example, here are some special posts:

Ordinary Courage

Vacation for the Birds

Beyond Black

Snowy Egret Story

What If Nature Was a Business

If you want to learn more about birds, visit the Audubon or Cornell Lab of Ornithology web sites.

Preserving Nature, One Bird at a Time