As a bird photographer living in a temperate region, I always dream of being able to shoot in some exotic tropical paradise like Costa Rica, Ecuador or even in Florida. However, unless you’re doing this professionally or are retired with unlimited funds available, it’s highly unlikely for most of us to live out these dreams except perhaps for short vacations. Seriously pursuing the art of bird photography over the past few years, I have learned and managed to capture dozens of images of different bird species within easy driving distance from home.
We live just outside the city of Toronto in a densely populated area known as the Golden Horseshoe. Stretching around the west end of Lake Ontario, it is an area with a population of over eight million people. Even though the area is heavily populated, we are very fortunate to have several large parks in the area. Many are right on the shores of Lake Ontario and offer diverse eco-systems with sheltered bays, marshes, forests and meadows. In fact most of my shooting is done within a half hour drive from home. These local parks can provide a large variety of songbirds, raptors, wading birds and waterfowl. Some are year round residents, but many unique opportunities arise with the seasons as birds migrate through the area. Another benefit to shooting close to home is that you learn to scout out areas that are productive without having to hire guides or local naturalists.
The local governments have been very proactive in our area to provide large tracts of parkland. However smaller towns and cities may not be able to provide these parklands. Check out public golf courses, quiet rural side roads, even parking lots that back onto to farmland, woods, meadows and wastelands. Just remember to park safely and not trespass on private property.
By shooting locally, it allows you to get out more often so you can develop and hone your technical skills preparing you for when you do get out to those more exotic locations. And when I mention technical skills, I don’t just mean learning all the functions of the multiple buttons found on your camera and lens, but also how to stalk birds and learn the behavioural patterns of various species. Knowing what to expect from your subjects is just as important, if not more important, than knowing what your equipment is capable of doing. So let’s forget about the tropics and focus on getting some stellar shots of the birds around your home.
I want to touch on two areas that will help you achieve photographs worthy of hanging on your wall or creating your own coffee table book. These are:  Equipment and  Field Techniques.
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