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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On The Wing

A look at the many facets of avian photography and techniques for getting colorful, inspiring images

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Chris Klapheke's stunning avian photography is diverse. To be sure, Klapheke takes his share of simple shots of birds on branches, but he also strives to get blurred images of whole flocks and freeze-frame shots in flight. It's a specialized kind of photography with specialized equipment that can be hard to find. Klapheke has leveraged his love of taking these pictures into a business that sells the type of gear he uses (www.outdoorphotogear.com). He makes a point of selling the same items that he uses for his own photography. ABOVE: Bird blur at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Crested cara cara (captive) photographed at St. Augustine FotoFest raptor workshop
After a 10-year absence to tend to other business, Chris Klapheke rededicated himself to photography in 2004. He really never had paid any attention to birds before, but a workshop with bird photography guru Arthur Morris at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico got him hooked.

"I'm not a birder, and I don't know the name and call of every bird I've photographed," Klapheke says. "What I do know is I find birds beautiful, and the act of image capture is in itself a sport. For a good bird capture, you have to plan, be patient, and when the time comes, be quick. The whole process appeals to me, not just the final image. Sometimes just being out there with the birds is so nice, I don't worry about the final images.

Snow geese blur at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
"When casual viewers see a good bird image, they don't realize the planning and effort that goes into getting that image," Klapheke continues. "Arthur Morris was the first one to introduce me to light direction, wind direction, temperature, species habits and other items that go into a successful image. Later on, I was introduced to Alan Murphy's style of shooting–the setup bird portrait. Alan's shots are almost painting-like, and the clarity and detail of that style of shooting is alluring to me. I now assist Alan on several workshops a year, and I'm also the cook on our workshops in South Texas–that's my other hobby. Some people might think that going from practicing law and running regional retail chains to a workshop cook is going in the wrong direction, but I think it's just fine!"

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