One year ago today I experienced one of the two most frustrating days in my entire time of being a bird photographer while photographing Red-naped Sapsuckers in the Targhee National Forest of Idaho. The lighting conditions were especially challenging for me, I’d never had to use -4.0 exposure compensation to stop the whites from blowing out or had to change my exposure compensation so rapidly because of the extremes in lighting conditions when a cloud would float by overhead and then back again when it moved away, that happened over and over again.
Red-naped Sapsucker chick begging for food – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 800, -1.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
The sun beat down on me and I felt dizzy at times because the air wasn’t moving and it was so hot that my phone that had been sitting in the bright sun next to me alerted me with a warning message that it was too hot and needed to be shut down and cooled off. I had to turn it off and put it in the shade for more than 20 minutes to cool it down before I could even turn it on again.
The action at the nesting cavity was hot and fast as the adults came in to feed the chick begging at the opening of the nest and most of the time I was struggling with exposure issues, feeling disoriented because I was too hot inside the vehicle due to the sun shining directly on me, sweating so much I had to keeping drying my hands on my jeans so my fingertips weren’t wet and slippery and still trying to keep an eye on the birds as they flew in. It was dreadful and I didn’t enjoy myself at all which is a huge part of why I love bird photography, for the peace & enjoyment I normally feel. Of the more than one thousand images I took I only kept fifteen and that was extremely disappointing.
The next day wasn’t as frustrating for me though and I did relax, enjoy myself and took some lovely photos of the Red-naped Sapsuckers at their nesting tree. I was excited to finally be able to photograph the chick begging for food from the male sapsucker, I’d been wanting photos like this since the first time I saw and photographed a Red-naped Sapsucker.
Adult male Red-naped Sapsucker in a defensive pose – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 800, -1.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Watching the behavior of the adult Red-naped Sapsuckers around the nesting cavity was fascinating to me and being able to photograph that behavior the next day when my frustration level had dropped was fulfilling. This male sapsucker was in a defensive pose because it had seen another male sapsucker in the tree above the nesting cavity.
I hope I never have another day photographing birds that was as frustrating as a year ago today was.
Life is good.