Whether it’s your first trip or you twentieth trip to photograph at Carter’s Trail in McLeansville, North Carolina, the following tips will help you take home more photographs and ensure good photographic opportunities for everyone.

The bird photography area is designed for 300 mm to 500 mm lenses. Photographers have been successful at capturing pleasing images with lenses ranging from 50 mm to 600 mm (often with an extension tube), but photographers with 400 and 500 mm lenses tend to get more shots. We can help arrange lens rental if you do not have this range in your camera bag. This is a great place to “try before you buy”.

The blind is located in an eastern deciduous forest habitat which usually has a thick understory. A variety of plants, perches, and foods are presented around the blind to pull some of the common backyard and feeder birds out of the thickets and into locations where they can be shot in “natural” habitat and “backyard” scenes. During the spring and fall, a wide variety of migrants also visit.

If Gary and Robert get excited about a bird or behavior, then shoot it! It’s something that doesn’t appear or doesn’t happen very often. And the frequent photographic visitors to the blind often have MANY shots that Gary or Robert only wish they had!

Don’t forget shorter telephoto lenses, macro lenses, and extension tubes for the flower, insect, and herp photography opportunities. When photographing herps as a group, remember that everyone is not using the same length lens. Be thoughtful and rotate positions so that everyone gets a chance to shoot at the “good” angles.

Using flash (often with a Better Beamer flash extender) to fill shadows and create more pleasing lighting is strongly encouraged.

Avoid quick movements and loud noises. The birds in the photography area ARE wild. Some of the birds are obviously more habituated to people than others, but the “coolest” and hardest to get birds are the most wary. Camaraderie in the blind is great and highly encouraged. However, animated conversations can negatively impact bird photographic opportunities.

Stay in the blind. Yes, some of the birds will continue to feed when people are moving around outside the blind, but many of the “cool”, shy birds will not come in. When Gary and Robert are feeding the birds is a great time to take a potty break or go get a fresh drink.

Mentally select the most photogenic perches from your window in the blind and particularly watch those places for photo opportunities. When you aren’t actively photographing, go ahead and prefocus on the perch that your camera is pointing at; that way when a bird lands, all you have to do is release the shutter to get the shot – no camera movement and no focusing time required!

But don’t stay so attuned to the preselected spots that you miss other photo opportunities that develop. Use your peripheral vision to constantly watch for the movement of incoming birds. Birds that are coming in to feed often stop in the bushes just outside the blind area, giving you a chance to spot an incoming bird of interest and prepare for its arrival in the photographic area.

Watch bird behavior so that you can better anticipate movement. Some birds “grab and go” while others settle in. Knowing which species do which can help you to fire as soon as they land or help you decide to let them settle in to feeding or bathing before shooting them.

Do not get too attached to a single window in the blind. While the props, perches, and lighting will change during your visit, you should also change sides of the blind and change windows to get different compositions and perspectives.

Use a sturdy tripod.

Bring clothing appropriate for the weather. The blind is not heated or air conditioned.

Don’t forget spare camera batteries, flash batteries, and memory cards.

Use your trip as an opportunity to pick Gary’s brain on camera settings, equipment use, or photo techniques while you are there.

Bring 8 to 10 images (print or digital) to share during the post-lunch time image critique session.

If you have a request or a question, don’t be shy, speak up. Feel free to send an e-mail before your trip if you would like to make sure a special technique or equipment use is addressed. Also send an e-mail with any special dietary requests or restrictions before your trip.

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