Mia McPherson

Snowy Plover in early morning lightSnowy Plover in early morning light

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and bird photographer. Birds fascinate, delight and intrigue me which is why I devote many hours learning about them, observing their behavior and photographing them. It makes perfect sense that the more I know about each species the better my chances are for creating wonderful images of the birds because I can anticipate what they might do next.

I enjoy sharing my photos, photographic skills and techniques with those individuals who are serious about their own avian photography.  I have a great amount of fun while photographing birds and yet I can still be serious about my efforts.

I am self taught and have never attended a photo workshop other than the ones I have given. I practiced a lot when first photographing birds because they are such a challenge but I enjoy the challenges. I also became efficient at self critique by removing myself emotionally from the images I create and evaluating why they work and why they don’t.  As much as I hate to cull the bad images by looking at them and asking myself “what could I have done to make this shot better?” I’m able to learn from my mistakes. I feel that is very important; even critical, for my growth as a photographer.

I prefer to leave my images as close as possible to what they looked like as created, using only minimal contrast, saturation or levels adjustments along with sharpening for web presentation. I have seen too many images where the saturation and contrast levels were terribly overdone and the birds end up looking like cartoon characters because the colors are unreal. You won’t find images like that here.

I don’t “clean” up the bills when they are salt encrusted or muddy, I don’t attempt to clean bubbles off the top of water and rearrange feathers to make my images look more aesthetically pleasing.  I take images in nature and nature isn’t perfect but I find it to be perfectly wonderful just the way it is.

I don’t bait birds, use set ups or call them in with sounds. I prefer to photograph birds doing what birds do and where they want to do it. I will at times take images of backyard birds near the feeders though, I’ll mention that when I post them.

On image critique forums I often see the phrase “you take what you get” , my philosophy though is “I get what I take“.  I do my best in the field to create the image I am striving for and if I don’t get that image I want, you won’t see it here or on a critique forum,  it will be in my delete bin.

I photograph in all kinds of light, the golden light of dawn, sunsets, low light, snowy and foggy images too. I like the challenges of those conditions and have learned to work with the light, not fight it.

I don’t enjoy tooting my own horn but I felt I should mention that my work has been published in guide books, national and international magazines, bird apps and various other publications. I also have works on display in several locations across the U.S. that include the Utah Natural History Museum.

I find that my photographic nature  journeys bring a sense of peace and balance to my busy life and I try to show that with my images. I hope you enjoy my photos.


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Mia McPherson photographing shorebirdsPhotographing shorebirds in Florida ©Adrian Burke


  1. Great shots of many different birds, its good to go with the natural style when shooting birds, after-all, nature is natural! I admit i touch up my shots sometimes, though only to improve sharpness or correct exposure errors. I never mess with the colors.

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  3. Hi Mia,

    Don’t know why I didn’t think of this long ago, but I just added a permanent link to your website to my New Jersey Nature Notes website, on the Birds and Birding page. I hope lots of people find it and enjoy and learn from your wonderful work. I am so envious of where you’ve been and where you are. I’ll get to the region some day.

    • Thank you Rich, I appreciate the link. I added a link to your site a while back, I enjoy visiting it.

      I feel very fortunate to get to visit the many places where I photograph birds & nature! I hope you get to visit this area one day soon.

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  6. I have been running the Stanford Birding Photographic Competition since 2007 and I love your website. We are Facebook friends and it will be great if we can do reciprocal links. I shall place a link to http://www.onthewingphotography.com on the home page of http://www.stanfordbirding.co.za/ under “Birding Links”.

  7. Nicely done and informative site. I am not a birder per se but occasionally photograph them and have a general interest in all aspects of the natural world. I completely agree with your philosophies above with respect to nature photography, and photography in general. Some small amount of tweaking may be occasionally required of a given picture to best reflect what was actually seen by the photographer’s eyes which does involve some amount of subjective judgment, but anything more than relatively minimal adjustments usually indicates a picture that likely should be discarded; and while “presentation” of the subject is always important and sometimes clearing some debris out of the way is appropriate (for example), showing the scene as it actually was as a general rule represents for me too what it is all about.

    • Hi Tony, thank you for visiting my site for for leaving a comment. Nature enchants me and never disappoints. I prefer to have my photos as completely natural as possible and I try not to intrude on the bird’s or animal’s natural behaviors. I appreciate that you expressed your thoughts here.

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  9. I finally got around to reading your bio. I am impressed. Impressed that you feel the same way that I do about getting the images. I, too, refuse to get caught up in making dazzling, misleading images by editing. I do edit my photos, but just the basic things, adjusting light, sharpening, etc.

    And, yes, my trash bin holds more images than I ever show to the public. If I don’t accomplish what I set out to do there they go. My says that I am my own worst critic.

    At my age I have trouble getting down on the ground in the weeds anymore, unless there is somebody nearby to help me get up. :-)

    But I love what I do, and I’ll keep doing it even someone has to push my wheel chair. :-)

  10. Hi Mia,

    Just wanted to let you know I came upon your site while searching for more information on Dwarf Bitterns and was really very moved by your photographs. I don’t generally comment on websites, or really spend a whole lot of time on the internet, more time outside, but I can tell you’ve got a way, and I’m really glad you’re sharing the quiet fierce and fragile moments of these incredible creatures. The compositions are incredible.


  11. Hi Mia – great site! Love the bald eagle photos especially. Having a hard time figuring out who my backyard buddy is … he’s been coming since a baby, I can’t figure out if he is a juvenile Great Blue Heron, reddish egret, or maybe a tri-colored …. I believe he is 2 years old. When does a Great Blue reach full adult plumage? THANKS!

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for your kind words on my blog. In answer to your question about your backyard buddy, by the end of the first year a Great Blue Heron has it’s adult plumage and is nearly as big as the adult when they leave the nest. Can you describe the colors, bill, and plumage of your bird?


  12. Hi Mia, what a site you’ve got here! I’d like to share one of your photos (with full attribution and link of course) on 10,000 Birds. I can’t find any contact info, so please contact me and I’ll let you know what I’m thinking. Thanks!

  13. I stumbled across your site when Googling “white pelican jaw,” and I’m glad that I did. Thank you for sharing, not only your photos, but your philosophy, which I see most of your admirers share. I’m on a quest to photograph as many different birds, as I can this year (my first full year in retirement, so I have time to travel.) No bird goes into my birding list for the year, unless I photograph it clean and clear; that’s a challenge, but it will help keep me from getting bored. I make do with a lens that maxes out at 300mm, which adds another challenge, so I like reading about how other people find and stalk their prey. Thanks, again! I look forward to reading more.

    • Diane,

      I wish you the best of luck & light in getting the images you will get this year. I plan on doing a blog post about focal lengths and how people with shorter focal length lenses can get beautiful & compelling images. For instance the image that is here could have been taken with a 200mm lens or a good point and shoot camera. With my TC on the 200-400mm I had to back up to 200mm to fit all the pelicans in.

  14. Hi Mia,

    I too, came across your site from NPN and immediately bookmarked it. Your philosophy of nature and bird photography is totally in line with my thinking. Th
    For me, the process is a total immersion in nature. I just want look, listen and revisit the experience when I review the images. Yes, I am addicted, but my hobby is both therapy and solace from the stresses of life. Your work is beautiful.

    Best regards

  15. Hello Mia, I discovered your web site ! Very nice and interesting.
    Now I’m going to study every single word.
    Bye, bye.

  16. Hi Mia, I was just messing around on NPN & Facebook and came to your blog. It is great and I am impressed..It is without a doubt one of the best blog layouts that I have seen. I’m glad to find someone who takes REAL wildlife photos. Well Done.. PS. That Ruddy Turnstone is magnificent…

  17. Hi Mia,
    Just found your site on Birder’s World…I am in awe! I just started to photogragh birds this year in WY and your website just got me more excited to get out there & take more photos! I too have the same philosophy about taking pictures…I just sit & wait to see what happens, I don’t wait for the “perfect” shot, I take what comes to me. Thanks so much for your awesome photos & inspiring website.

  18. Avian photography has saved my life. I retired and was lost. A member of NPN told me of the site. You commented on my first posting and your advise not only was very helpful but really got me hooked. Shooting, researching and meeting wonderful people has given me a purpose. I have visited you website and now this blog (I am new to blogging). Your photographs and stories are inspiring. You are very appreciated.

  19. Hi Mia
    Found this through NPN. I wholeheartedly agree with your take it as is sentiments. I like to say that I prefer not to be too romantic with the clone tool etc. Sure there are uses at times, but my preference too is for as natural as possible.

    Love your images and work
    Best regards
    Ákos :)

  20. Mia, followed the link in NPN to this page. I looked at this site the other day and I do believe you’ve added a vast amount of content and functionality. This page is a ‘wow’ for me.

    You were asking about why I used -1.3 steps of evaluation compensation for the Hummer photo. It may be a ‘learning curve’ issue for me. I used a neg value to get more shutter speed. I’ll bet there’s a better way!

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