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  • Writer's pictureVicki Wilmarth

Getting Better with the Bird Pics at Bosque

The Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was live and in person in December 2022 for the first time in three years. I spent several days there in one of my favorite places, taking informative classes like Birding by Ear and Creative Bird Photography. When I wasn't attending festival events at the college campus in Socorro, I was at the refuge, chasing the extraordinary New Mexico light and getting up close with the wildlife.

I've posted about Bosque del Apache twice before, including a general description of this beautiful public space and a summary of a photography workshop I attended in January 2022. There are few places outside of our gorgeous national parks that provide so many easy encounters with wildlife and breathtaking vistas for photography. Certainly, there are not many places like this within a five-hour drive of my home base in Amarillo, Texas (with the exception of Palo Duro Canyon, of course).

I have found that I really enjoy birding festivals. I like the interaction with birders and photographers who are much better at their hobbies than me. I enjoy short bursts of information from keynote speakers, bird behavior experts, and knowledgable locals. And I enjoy having time after each class to go practice what I've learned, rather than trying to drink from the firehose of an all-day or all-week photography workshop.

I also like that many birding festivals sponsor photo contests. So many times I just see the expert, National Geographic-type bird photos displayed. But lots of talented amateurs also produce new perspectives and fascinating looks at wildlife that I love to see. This year, I was fortunate to have one of my landscapes win first place in the landscape photography division. Now that photo, taken in the golden light of sunset at Bosque earlier in 2022, will hang in the visitor's center at the refuge until December 2023.

1st Place, Landscapes, Festival of the Cranes photo contest 2022

The time in New Mexico at the events did encourage me to try some new techniques (cranes silhoutted at sunset anyone?) and capture some lovely photos during the Festival of the Cranes.

Of course, I was once again reminded at the Festival of the Cranes that photography is an exciting hobby, as long as you are okay with never being quite satified with your work, and as long as you don't mind spending thousands of dollars on photo trips, classes, equipment, new lenses . . . !

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