Patience, Observation, Passion…Result Is Great Photos

My name is Steve Creek and I’m a wildlife photographer from Lavaca, Arkansas. I love the outdoors and spend many hours in the woods with my camera. Photography is my passion.

I enjoy watching and studying wildlife; two key things you must do in order to get that perfect photo. I have had numerous opportunities to experience and photograph so many great things during my walks in the woods but most of them as a result of patience. So many people enjoy wildlife, as I do, however they don’t take the time to really watch and study their subject. They might see a bird gathering nesting materials, but they don’t stick around long enough to watch the nest being built. That’s when the best photographs are taken.

I found a nest of baby Red-Wing Blackbirds recently. Both Mom and Dad were present and allowed me to get close enough to capture some great photos. During my visit, I captured Mom flying in and out with food for the fledglings.

Red-winged Blackbird-2576

Mom will stuff baby’s mouth with insects, some so large that sometimes she will have to tear off a wing or other parts to help, but most of the time, the entire insect is stuffed into the baby’s mouth. She fed them continuously that day while Dad stood guard nearby.

Red-winged Blackbird-2582

Through patience and hours of watching, I was fortunate enough to capture another behavior of Moms caring for her babies. It was really hot that day. Mom would stand at the edge of the nest and above her babies and spread her wings to shade them.

Red-winged Blackbird Keeping Young Cool-2803

The babies would move closer into her in order to get under the shade that she was providing. It is a great thing to witness and awesome to have photographs to share.

I was also lucky enough that day to photograph Mom cleaning her babies. She actually helps the baby shed its waste by removing the fecal sac from them.

Red-winged Blackbird Removing Waste-2588

She then flies away from the nest carrying the sac and drops it. She doesn’t drop it near the nest because this alerts other predator animals of the nest location. This is a common behavior with mother birds.

There are many opportunities for great photos that even amateur photographers pass up. Television and computers have become such a way of life for so many that spending time outdoors is a thing of the past. Most people can walk out their back door and find wildlife there and if they do it often enough they will find that nature offers them many photo opportunities.

One day while walking around one of my favorite places, I decided to walk down to the river banks hoping to find something close to the water. I saw this large water snake coming through the water, to the bank, with a large catfish in its mouth.

Water Snake Eating Catfish-2928

Once it saw me, it headed back down into the water with its catch. The current was really strong and the fish was really large, and I knew that the snake would have to resurface and return to the bank to feed. Once it got back to the bank there was an added bonus. There was a second snake attached to the other end of the fish.

2 Water Snakes Eating Catfish-2970

I watched the two snakes fight over the fish for several minutes until finally the larger snake swallowed it whole.

Two Snakes Eating A Catfish-3008

I captured great shots during this event and felt privileged to share my photos with so many others who enjoyed them as well.

As a photographer, sometimes it is about being in the right place at the right time. But I’ve learned through my own experiences that the photographs don’t come to you. Once again, it’s so important to understand how patience and observation play a major part in capturing the best photos. You have to experiment to learn the best times of the day, what factors heat and cold play and of course the location and lighting. There’s so much out there to learn and so much to see in the great outdoors. For those who don’t take the opportunity to spend time outdoors, they are missing out on some of life’s greatest adventures.

In closing, I want to share one of my favorite stories. One day while in the woods I came across a nest of baby Red-winged Black birds. I noticed Mom hanging around as expected and coming and going to feed her fledglings. I had taken a few photos and then realized there was a Scissor-tailed Fly Catcher also hanging around. After observing for a while, I found that she too, was feeding the young.

Scissor-tailed Fly Catcher Feeding Red-winged Blackbird-2311

I had never witnessed this before. While the Blackbird was on the nest, the Scissortail stood guard nearby, but they both took turns feeding.

Scissor-tailed Fly Catcher and Red-winged Blackbird-2283

I would not have believed this if I had not seen it with my own eyes and I was so fortunate for the opportunity to photograph it. After posting photos to my sites, I received so much feedback that I realized that this was indeed a rare event and forwarded the photos to a well known Ornithologist. He too responded that it was a unique event and one for the ornithological literature. He also commented that he would not have believed it without the photos.

Photography can be such an exciting hobby and/or profession. Not every day is a great day. Not every day results in a photo. But every day in nature is an adventure with continual and exciting opportunities. Patience, endurance and observation will give you the results you are looking for in that perfect shot.

0 thoughts on “Patience, Observation, Passion…Result Is Great Photos

  1. Brian Hochmuth

    Mr. Creek:

    Your work is an inspiration and your advice is invaluable. I was recently in the Cayman Islands and saw a Green Heron there for the first time. You posted a picture or link to a picture of the stretching Green Heron. What a great image around the same time. It was fun to see the same bird I had photographed earlier in the day appear as a link in your tweet! Keep up the great work!!!

    Best regards,

    Brian

  2. Joan from Virginia

    This is very good advice. I am often not patient enough to get the good shot. Also, I like the way you use for the camera to document behaviors.

  3. Chris

    This is a wonderful post and your photographs are amazing. Patience truly does pay off, and I realize I need to wait more to improve my photographs. Thanks for writing this.

  4. Bryan Roberts

    What a great website and some stunning work! You’re writing about my dream job/life. For now I have to share my time in the field with a full time deskjob and family matters. Frequently, due to the job, my fieldwork gets the shorter end of the stick or, if we go by those snake pictures, the fish.

    For me there is nothing better then spending large amounts of time in Nature with a camera so I can record and share my experiences. Too many people take it for granted. I’m glad I found your site and I look forward to seeing much more!

  5. Robbie Morton

    Gee Steve, I thought you were an amature. These pictures are professional! I am loving them! I am inspired to try this when I get some time.

  6. Jon

    Great post, well said. I agree it takes work, and an appreciation for wildlife to get good, powerful images.

  7. Out walking the dog

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories and photos, Steve. The story of the flycatcher feeding the blackbirds is astonishing and beautiful. The mother with her babies is moving, and the two snakes eating the catfish is – well, horrific, amusing and awesome, all at once.

  8. Pingback: Great Outdoor Blogs worth checking out | Roger's Outdoor Blog

  9. amy smith

    my dad got bitin not even 30 mins go the fire people and everyone says it not the one that will kill u or nothing but i been lookin on ur web to see if i can find somthing that looks like it and i cant but it brown and the othere stips thing looks some what black could u help me out if u would thatnk u

  10. Ed Dombrofski

    Hi Steve

    Your nest pictures and thoughts about observation and time remind me of 1970’s photographer Eliot Porter and his book ‘Birds of North America A Personal Selection’.

    If you are not aware of Eliot Poter I suggest you check him out on the web……

    Ed

  11. Amanda

    Hi Steve! I’m not at all a photographer however I’ve been given a special opportunity. A Robin couple built a nest on a ceiling fan which is hanging from a large pergola on my back patio. The nest ended up falling but luckily I had placed cushions underneath it in case of this very event. Researching online I read that you can in fact place baby birds back in a nest w/o the mother abandoning it. I had nowhere else to place the nest w the four nestlings aside from a large flower pot on my patio table. I surrounded the pot w a lot of other plants in an attempt to shield them from predators. Aside from the extreme heat of close to 109 here in Charlotte, NC they are doing fairly well. The Mother and Father birds are both extremely involved in feeding them, removing fecal sacs and defending their territory from other birds that come into the yard. I’ve been completely amazed at seeing this so close up. I’ve snapped some pics w my iPhone but wish I had a quality camera for something this special. Do you have any suggestions as to how I should proceed? I only have a few trees in my yard and there just seems to be no good branches to hold it. Should I just leave things the way they are since they’ve been doing ok or should I try to find a more suitable location? I’d hate to interfere & relocate them a second time. I could email you a couple of the pics I’ve snapped on my iPhone if you provide an email address. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

  12. Steve Creek

    What an awesome story Amanda! I’m no expert but if it is working the way you have it now I wouldn’t change it at all.
    Good luck and please update me on what you decide and how the Robins do.