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Blue Jay

by Stan Tekiela
© NatureSmart

November 19, 2018

I’ve been waiting and planning to capture a very specific image for over three weeks. I put a fair amount of time and effort into the making sure that everything would work out. Now I just had to wait for the leaves to change color from summer green to autumn yellow.

The time has come and autumn is upon us. The leaves on the Super Maples have changed from the shiny green of summer to bright yellow of autumn. I’ve set up my longest lens, a gigantic and heavy 800 mm lens on my most sturdy tripod. Stability is of utmost importance for this kind of photography. I have attached a speed light (flash) with an extra device that magnifies and concentrates the light from the flash into a powerful beam of light.

I mounted my best camera on the long lens and got ready. It was a waiting game now. The cool autumn morning broke with a thin layer of clouds blocking just enough sun to make it perfect lighting conditions. I had everything set up and ready to go. Now just sit and wait.

I love autumn. I enjoy just sitting back and watching nature do its thing. I watched an Eastern Gray Squirrel scampering about pushing its nose deep under the layer of newly fall leaves searching for acorns that fell nearly 2 months ago. He would pop up his head holding an acorn and start to eat.

I could see a newly arrived Dark-eyed Junco scratching around under my bird feeder. They do a special backwards, double-foot hop to expose any hidden seeds on the ground. These birds live up in Canada and come down to visit us only for the winter. You know winter is on the way when you start to see the juncos. The females migrate further south than the males so we usually end up with only males hanging around for the winter.

Off in the distance I could hear a flock of Canada Geese calling on the wing. No doubt they are heading south for a warmer climate.

There is a constant “rain” of bright yellow leaves falling from the towering maple trees above me. Several leaves land in my lap and brush against me on their decent to earth. They spent the entire summer, sixty to eighty feet up in the trees. They saw gentile spring rains and summer storms that blew strong winds. They saw lightening and hail and now they are dying and one by one are losing their attachment to the tree and silently falling to earth.

Not too far away I could hear the familiar call of the bird I am waiting for. I activate my camera and turn on my flash. I need to be ready because I will have only a split second to capture the image I have envisioned in my head when the bird comes in. The call gets closer. I grip the camera with my right hand and hold onto the adjustment knobs of the tripod with my left hand. Slowly I move my eye close to the camera’s view finder so I am ready and I don’t need to make any sudden movements when it comes time to capture the image.

Two birds Land in the branches above me, I hold my breath. Here it is, the very reason I am here--Blue Jays. Both jays give several more calls, loudly announcing their presences. All the other birds seem to take note of the Blue Jays and scatter.

I am waiting and almost willing the jays with my mind to approach close enough to capture some images. Suddenly one jumps from its high branch and lands at eye level. I quickly look though the view finder of the camera and adjust the focusing dot. It is extremely important that the eye of the bird is in focus, not just the body of the bird.

I spin the dials around on the top and back of the camera at the same time. In a split second I captured a couple images. The flash goes off adding just the touch of light to make the colors in the image pop. The jay doesn’t even notice me or the camera. I check the preview screen on the back of my camera to see if the exposure is correct and if the bird looks good. I got it! Weeks of preparation have paid off. Until next time…

Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the U.S. to study and capture images of wildlife. He can be followed on www.facebook.com and twitter.com. He can be contacted via his web page at www.naturesmart.com.

Photo by Stan Tekiela

The nationally syndicated NatureSmart Column appears in over 25 cities spanning 7 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. It is a bi-weekly column circulated to over 750,000 readers.

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