It’s important to be at the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge very early in the morning before sunrise. At sunrise is when the magic happens as all the birds fly out to feed when the sun breaks over the horizon and the event last just a few short minutes. So, we departed our hotel about an hour and fifteen minutes BEFORE sunrise to allow ourselves time to get a snack and/or coffee and travel time to the park. Upon arriving there were very few people on the North Route next to the lake. The important thing is to be as quiet as possible not to disturb the birds and stake out the best location wherever the birds are that morning. Don’t forget to check out the small lake on Highway 1 on your way in as at that location the sun will be behind you therefore the birds will be lite up by the sunrise. At Bosque’s main lake location the birds will be in silhouette as the sun will be rising behind them, which can make for a beautiful shot. We arrive at the main lake and begin to setup our gear. In my opinion, it is very important to utilize a long lens, minimal 200mm (400mm or better would be ideal), auto focus focus tracking, a gimbal head to mount your camera or lens to allow you to track the birds better without fighting the weight of the camera and lens. Wait patiently and be prepared as when the birds begin to lift off it happens very fast and there is no warning, it just happens.If you are waiting in the car because of the cold or eating a snack, you will not have time to get to your camera and get the shot. It’s all over quickly! Be sure to have your camera settings ready as it will be dark so you will need a high ISO, high shutter speed 1000 or greater for the fly out and depending on your required depth of field, close down your aperture as necessary.
We then proceeded to pack up our gear as to drive around the refuge to explore. As you make the loops be sure to look out for Bald Eagles along higher trees. The north loop and South loops are partially one way so you are committed to make the loop once on the one way portions. There is so much to see. Many of the cranes will fly from the lake to the fields within the refuge area to feed. Although difficult to get and up close shot, just be patient and opportunities will come your way. Again be prepared with your camera settings to capture the moment. Birds in flight require a shutter speed of 1250 or higher to get the bird in sharp focus. If you want to add some blur for movement, just reduce your shutter speed till you get the result you desire. This is best accomplished in shutter priority but make sure your ISO is on auto or high enough for proper exposure. I typically shoot one stop down from wide open if the birds are 100 feet or greater away.Around noon we went back to Socorro for lunch and to rest.
Later in the afternoon we headed back out to Bosque Del Apache for late afternoon shooting and the evening fly in. The fly in begins about an hour before sunset with the bulk of the birds coming in withing the last 20 minutes or so. Again, in the evening the sun is behind you so the birds are well lite. In addition, the tall grasses behind the birds on the east side of the lake is gold with color in the late evening and creates a wonderful color harmony of the blue sky, gold grasses and the neutral colored birds. Keep shooting all the way to sundown and until dark.
We then proceeded back to Socorro to our hotel and dinner as well as time to download images and get gear charged and ready for the next day. You will shoot alot of images, so be prepared with high capacity flash cards and full batteries as well as extra batteries. I also carry a 12 volt to 110 volt transformer in the car so I can charge batteries during the day on location. Click Here for Day 3 at Bosque Del Apache
© Copyright Robert Shreve Photography