I am not a birder! Except I have photographed many a bird this year. What has happened to me?

In Iceland it was Puffins. In Namibia it was Lilac Breaster Rollers and Flamingos. South of Tucson it was Cardinals. And during our annual trek to Bosque Del Apache in New Mexico it was Snow Geese and Sand Hill Cranes. It’s not that I photographed these birds while I was at each location, it is I traveled to these locations with intended purpose TO PHOTOGRAPH these birds. What has happened to me?

While we were driving to Bosque, about three hours into a seven hour drive, I had the awful realization that I forgot something. We’ve all done this, especially as we get older. But, this time I forgot something quite important – my long lens which is used for photographing birds. Ouch. I have forgotten a belt before which was easily replaced. I forgot my underwear. Also easily replaced. But never before did I forget a lens. I started to panic. What can I do at Bosque without a long lens? The only reason to be there is to photograph birds. What has happened to me?

Kathryn remembered that we know some professional, tour leading photographers who were at Bosque. Perhaps they have a lens I can borrow? She texted them. No dice as they only brought a single long lens to shoot with.  Do we drive back so I can get my lens? This would add six hours to our drive. Forget it, I said.  How about renting or buying one at a local camera store? Kathryn searched. Not a single camera store in hundreds of miles. This was not looking good.

I’m an engineer of sorts. What do engineers do when there is seemingly an insurmountable problem? They formulate a plan – they solve the problem.

I started to formulate a plan.  I did still have my 70-200mm lens. This is not nearly as effective as my 200-500mm lens I left behind. But, it is a start. I also brought with me a 1.4x teleconverter which turns my 70-200mm lens into a 98-280mm lens. This is nowhere close to my big lens (I was going to use my teleconverter on it to give me an impressive 280-700mm of reach). At least I had something. I could still shoot, just not closeups of the birds.  I also had one more thing in my favor. My camera (Nikon D850) has a large sensor, 45 megapixels. I will be able to crop images, making the subject look large, and leave me plenty of pixels to print effectively. I now had a plan. Let’s see how good I was at my image taking with the self-imposed limitations I had set.

Luck was with me. The ponds that the birds usually roost in were all dried up. But there was another new pond. With this pond we could get a lot closer to the birds. Perhaps my shorter lens will be just fine. Not only was it fine, my forgotten longer lens might have been too long!

Our first night we had a spectacular sunset. The silhouetted birds against the beautiful sky was on my shot list. (I did crop a little)

Just after the gorgeous sunset, the moon appeared as an accompanyment to the silhouetted Cranes. (A small crop again)

An early morning blastoff of the Snow Geese. I set the shutter speed at 1/25 second to show the motion of the geese. No cropping needed here!

Three Cranes taking off. We were so close that I would not have needed my longer lens.

Snow Geese reflected in the pond. Overall a beautiful scene.

Cranes in the early morning light, with their crisp reflections.

Snow Geese against the cloudy sky. One of my favorite shots from the trip.

So, how did I do? Did I miss the longer lens? Not a chance! This fits with the adage, the best camera (lens) you have is the one with you.

Remember, it’s all about the light!