Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

January-February 2002

Tip of the Month

The Sibley Bird Guides

Photographing wildlife is more than just shooting pictures. Far more. Of course, wildlife photography should imply that one is afield photographing wild animals, and, in truth, part of the allure of photographing wildlife must lie in this field work. It's fun and rejuvenating to be outdoors, and at least for Mary and I, that's half the fun.

But to successfully photograph wildlife one needs a knowledge base. Granted, that knowledge can be derived from personal experience. Much of what we know about African wildlife is derived from our personal observations, but we certainly augment that with reading magazines and books, and watching nature and wildlife programs whenever we can. While all of this is enjoyable, it is also very valuable for our work.

I'm no longer surprised to discover that some of our photo tour or safari participants have almost no knowledge of wildlife. Years ago, believe it or not, we had someone ask us whether they would be photographing tigers on our Kenya photo safari. No, we were not, as tigers live in Asia and Kenya lies on the equator of east Africa, a continent away! A lack of information may be OK for people doing a tour, since the leaders of the tour should, and will, provide all the information you should need. But if you are traveling alone, or if you really want to maximize your shooting opportunities as best you can, learn as much as you can about the subjects you are shooting, or the subjects (the animals, plants, etc.) that reside in that area.

With that preface, I'd like to give my unsolicited endorsement for a new bird field guide that was published last year. Called 'The Sibley Guide to Birds," the book is probably the most complete field guide available for North American birds. It is huge, 545 pages, with no more than 2 species illustrated and described per page. Virtually every plumage, every phase, and every variation and morph is illustrated, as well as 'thumb nail' silhouettes and cross-sectional views of birds in flight.The book is written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley, truly the next Peterson, or more. Sibley has co-authored and illustrated a companion volume, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, giving extensive natural history information about all of North America's birds.

To me, the latter guide is especially important. I've always been frustrated by bird guides -- they identify the birds but tell the reader very, very little about the birds themselves. I've known birders who knew little about most of the birds they watched, even though they were excellent bird identifiers. 'The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior' will rectify that situation for anyone.

Both books are sponsored and endorsed by the National Audubon Society, and published by Knopf. If you are looking for the ultimate field guides, and great info on bird natural history, get these books!

Check the NANPA website for a direct link with to buy either book. NANPA will receive a small financial benefit for you doing so!

Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:

  Aug./Sept.,1999  oops, NA!   Nov./Dec.,1999
 Dec./Jan.,2000  Feb./March, 2000  April/May, 2000
 June/July 2000  July/August 2000  September 2000
 Oct./Nov. 2000  December 2000  January 2001
 Feb//March 2001   April/May 2001   June 2001
 July-August 2001  September-October 2001  November 2001
  Dec 2001 Jan 2002    

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