Stealth is the game – getting close to the action.

I have been getting requests for presentations on bird photography techniques and thought it would be a good topic for posting as well.  With Dianne’s help, I have able to prepare some demonstrative images of myself and ways I get closer to birds.

Birds are generally very wary of humans with the exception of Black-capped Chickadees, Rock Pigeons and Ring-billed Gulls to name a few.  In order to get closer to birds especially for photography, it is worth considering hiding or going stealth.  There are options for hunters and photographers alike and come in the form of blinds, covers or suits.  Friends of mine have a pop-up blind that has a camouflage pattern and resembles a small tent.  These are great for setups of long duration and are handy if you want to be in position before your target arrives on scene.  I have a Kwik Camo Photography blind  which is basically a large cloth that I drape over myself and my gear.  It is light and easily packs into a pouch that I can strap on my waist allowing me to carry one less thing.  It has a camouflage pattern which effectively disguises the human form and the camera mounted on a tripod.  I use it in a variety of ways depending on the specific bird being photographed.  For example, in the winter I can stand within 25feet of a feeder once I put on the Kwik camo and I become invisible at least to the birds.  I also sometimes sit on a small tripod stool depending on the duration of shoot.  In the following images, you will see me sitting on my stool under my Kwik camo blind all set up for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that will feed on the Cardinal flower or the American Goldfinches bathing in the creek.  If I wanted to be less obvious, I could also set up closer to the tree line.  A curious thing that happens when I set up like this is that the Hummingbirds obviously know something has changed and they fly around me trying to figure out what I am.

View from behindhead-on view

The other technique I use is mainly for waterbirds such as herons, ducks and kingfishers and also employs the use of my Kwik camo blind.  I had often thought that having a light canoe or kayak would be a great way to get into areas otherwise inaccessible except by water.  I started researching different types of watercraft for photography and I finally found a video from another wildlife photographer, Jim Van Den Brandt who talked about the confidence he had in the Native Watercraft Ultimate model.  He was so confident, he never hesitated bringing his expensive camera gear into the boat and have it all setup ready to go.  The Native Watercraft Ultimate series kayaks are uniquely designed with tunnel hulls and are intended for standup fishing so they are very stable.   Last summer, I launched the ‘Arnold the Likeable’ which I have named after my father who loved the outdoors.  With my Tegris, I can explore quiet marshes, wetlands and slow-moving streams and rivers with my camera gear out in the open, not hidden in a typical dry sack.

I have included a number of images below that show my Tegris in action including ‘stealth mode’ in which I incorporate my Kwik camo blind.

setting up the tripodinstalling the lensready to paddlepaddling paddlingstealth 1stealth 2

I have also created a couple videos that shows how I move around in the kayak….

and going into stealth mode.

 

Finally, is all this effort worth it?  In a word yes, as shown by some of the following images that I have been fortunate to have acquired.  Some of these images have never been seen before so I hope you enjoy them.

Black-crowned Night HeronBlack-crowned Night Heron - juvenileGreen HeronGreen Heron 2Great Blue HeronBelted KingfisherSolitary SandpiperWood DucksWood Duck 1Wood Duck 2Wood Duck family

 

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6 Comments

  1. TONY August 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Great setup Arni I think Harry Potter had a cloak just like yours!

    • Arni August 24, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      That’s a good analogy Tony. Now all I need is his Marauders map so I can figure where the birds are! Thanks!

  2. Scott Martin August 29, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    Great post the importance of stealth techniques Arni and your Tegris set up looks perfect too. I’m more hopeful than ever to see you in cammo clothing next 🙂

    • Arni August 29, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      Thanks Scott, having a camo-patterned blind is probably enough for me!

  3. Martin September 23, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    It must be sweltering hot under that camo in summer. I’m holding my breath watching you paddle, one mistake and $15,000 worth of gear is in the drink. Awesome clear close-ups. Oh how I yearn to have that much time to sit on a Lake taking photos 🙂

    • Arni September 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      Hi Martin, The heat under the camo is usually worth it but I am usually out at first light and done by mid-morning before it gets really warm. Not to worry, I am very cognizant of the effects of gravity, water and general clumsiness so I am extra cautious 😉 I only ply quiet waters and when I am moving between locations, the gear is on the floor 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!