Planning the What When & Where

By David Halgrimson

Being a Photo Guide for Arizona Highways Photoscapes (AHPS) for over twelve years I have learned many things, camera settings to use for a subject, time of day for best light, watching for and using light for best effect, and planning the What, When & Where. The AHPS photographers all know and plan the What, When & Where for the workshops they conduct and for their personal photography. The What is the easiest part, you won’t find much wildlife in the city, you won’t find cityscapes in the countryside.

I currently live in Minnesota where we have lots of wildlife, and lots of birds. But, most of the birds are not here in the winter and many of them just migrate through. Then there are others which stay around all year and still others that stay around during the summer and fall only. I am usually not concerned about What birds, I like shooting all birds, that I can find, so I need to plan the When and Where. I do this by reading, researching and asking fellow photographers or birders.

My latest planning for What, Where and When started from an article I read in a magazine, the author, and photographer, wrote an article on Great Blue Heron in Minnesota and mentioned When and Where they would be nesting. It turned out they would be nesting at a rookery about 20 miles from my home starting in March. Well, being it was March, it perked my interest and I planned my first planning visit. I had the What but not necessarily the When and Where, so I packed my camera gear, just in case and headed out.

The Where was a small city park along the Mississippi River just north of Minneapolis. The detailed Where was a couple of small islands in the river. Additionally, there is a high bank occupied by tall trees, bare now, above the river. To get down to the river was not going to be easy, my first try was the wrong way, ended up falling forward then backward ending up on my back on some tree roots where the ground had washed away, ouch! But I did get down to the shore eventually and found a much easier way to get back up the bank and to get down again on the next visit. I now had the full Where info and BTW, the birds were not there.

I have been back a couple more times and the birds were there, now I had the When. I used my newfound way to get down to the shore, setup may camera and here are some of the results from my planning. I will be back.

One of two islands with the rookie nests
Three Great Blue Heron landing in the tops of the trees, not a composite, three separate birds
Coming in with nesting materials
Great Blue Heron in full flight

Other birds were abundant as well, Canada Geese
Bald Eagles were numerous
Another view south to downtown Minneapolis as two Canada Geese fly toward the city

David Halgrimson is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes