By Mike Busch

The record cold start to 2018 finally relented late this week but single digit temps and wind chills below zero didn’t slow down the Long Island Wildlife Photography group or the local birds.  Bitter cold actually seems to kick up the energy level and activity.

Birds of prey also enjoy the packed feeders at this time of the year.   I have a Cooper’s Hawk that terrorizes my feeder a few times of day, but he has left with empty talons as far as I can tell.

Going through this week’s photos I am really seeing an improvement in the overall quality of the images and in particular focus.  I still include poorly focused images in this feature when the subject or the situation allows but for those of you new to wildlife photography, one of the most important things to get sharp are the eyes.  If your shutter is not fast enough or your focus points are off it is almost possible to get sharp images.  With 10,000 photographers here I am sure there a 1000 different theories on how to get a nice sharp shot but I will share what works for me, it might be worth a try.

The best photography advice I have received and passed on to others is back button focus.  Every modern DSLR has this feature, you will need to do a Google or YouTube search for your particular model.   When you remove the focusing function from your shutter button you no longer have to worry about holding it down halfway to maintain focus on your subject.  When a bird is in flight, it is easy to push a little too hard and take an out of focus shot.  By the time you recover, the bird will be gone!

I set my camera to continuous single point focus.  That allows me to hold a different button (AE-Lock) and track the subject and maintain focus the entire time,  allowing the freedom to take the shot at the precise moment I want to or just spray and pray.

This is not just for wildlife photography, it will just become second nature and you will forget how to focus the old way.

It might sound complicated but once you get used to it I doubt you will ever go back!

Next week I will go over shutter speed and the Iso settings that work for me.

Highlights this week include a Horned Grebe, Golden Crowned Kinglet, Red Shouldered Hawk and a few Rough Legged Hawks.

The Rough Legged Hawk is a large Buteo Hawk that spends summer in the Arctic Tundra and ventures into our area in the winter.  Jeff Gross captured a beautiful example and made this week’s cover.


Vicki Jauron | Merlin with catch

Melinda Elizabeth | Cormorant with Blackfish

Brian Doherty | Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Jeff Gross | Rough Legged Hawk

Cat Yellen-Rebennack | Eastern Towhee

Barbara Lash | Greater Scaup

Heff Stoppe | Ruddy Turnstone

Jackie Connelly Fornuff | Tufted Titmouse

More images on pages 2,3,4,5 and 6