The symbiotic relationship between photography and birding will be a focal point at the upcoming 2017 Winter Wings Festival, with a multitude of workshops and field trips aimed at teaching people to implement photographic techniques.
Klamath County’s premier annual festival celebrates all things avian, drawing renowned birders and photographers from well beyond its borders. This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 16-19, and will include a wide variety of birding opportunities.
For photographers, educational opportunities for all levels of shutterbugs abound.
“I think we have a really great selection of professional photographers helping out this year. It’s going to be one of the most exciting years we’ve had,” said Steve Spencer, president of Leo’s Camera Shop and a key contributor to the festival’s photography-centric planning.
“We are blessed to be at the apex of the hourglass of the western flyway. Birds come from all over the south and fly through this area, then disperse. This time of year there is an amazing variety of birds traveling through the area.”
Spencer will lead two workshops during the festival focused on utilizing cellphones and tablets to capture quality nature photographs. An expanded workshop from a popular presentation Spencer debuted at last year’s festival, the workshops will cover various equipment add-ons, software programs and photographic techniques to get great images from basic equipment.
“We’ll talk about limitations of phones, composition and a basic photography education, as well as software and things we may do differently when using a phone,” said Spencer.
“Last year people said they learned a lot of things they didn’t know about their iPhones, so we’re expanding this year to also include Android phones.”
Photography workshops will also cover topics such as capturing images of raptors, close-up photography, and how to create award-winning images with post-production software for image touch-ups.
Field trips range from guided hikes to feeder "hops," where photographers can get up close to birds from the comfort of homes thanks to strategically placed bird feeders.
One of the three keynote speeches will be presented by world-renowned nature photographer Chas Glatzer, focusing on the importance of light and shadow in capturing images.
Glatzer’s arrival is a big deal, according to Spencer, providing a chance to get hands-on experience with one of the top nature photographers in the world. In addition to a keynote presentation, Glatzer will lead a field trip, providing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn directly from one of the best in the business.
“This isn’t something that comes around every day,” said Spencer of Glatzer’s participation in this year’s Winter Wings Festival. “His workshop will include several classroom hours and then 3-4 hours out shooting. He does this for a living, taking people out to teach them photography, but normally he charges much more.”
“This is an opportunity to get out in the field with people who have similar interests,” said Abbott Schindler, who will lead two feeder-hop field trips to various homes at Running Y Ranch, where bird feeders provide an easy way to get close-ups. “It’s so nice to share an interest with others. I’ve been doing special work with a close-up feeder, and I’m happy to teach techniques.”
A veteran nature photographer, Schindler found a niche in shooting feeders following a hip injury last year.
“Many people have feeders and cameras, but often they don’t put them together,” added Schindler. “Bird-feeder photography lends itself to most seasons, and you don’t have to be physically fit nor need lots of special gear. You can do it with something simple as a cellphone. It’s not about the gear, it’s about your skills and interest.”
Knowing how to clean up a photo after it's been taken will be the focus of workshops presented by Mark Fitzgerald.
An award-winning photographic touch-up artist and Adobe-certified expert in Photoshop and Lightroom, Fitzgerald will return to Winter Wings to teach methods of utilizing photography software to accentuate images and teach what makes an award-winning photograph.
“Almost every capture, no matter how good, can be made better with some post-production,” said Fitzgerald. “I want bird photographers to understand that capturing specific specimens can be an accomplishment in of itself, so it’s important to spend time making sure that it is presented the best it can be. I try to teach people that it’s not about fixing problems, but finding strengths and making them stronger.”
Fitzgerald, a member of Oregon Professional Photographers Association who often serves as a judge for photography contests, will also talk about things to consider when creating artwork for competition, such as impact, storytelling, technical excellence and creativity.
“I’m anxious to come back, it’s always a fun energy,” said Fitzgerald. “I think it’s good because there are all sorts of people there, not just photographers, so I get to meet people I normally wouldn’t where I teach and speak.”
For more information about the festival, see www.winterwingsfest.org. Costs vary and space is limited for each event.