How to photograph a tern

First find a marshy place

with a dock.
Around the dock, look for some comfortable pilings
where the bird might like to perch.
Then, on the pilings, photograph something for the tern
something beautiful and strange that will make it feel at home.
(I found a couple pelicans.)
Then wait with your camera.
Don’t speak.
Don’t move.
(Hide behind a piling if you have to.)

Sometimes a tern will come quickly
but it can just as well take hours.
Don’t be discouraged if one doesn’t come right away
Wait years if necessary
it doesn’t mean that your photo won’t be good.

When the bird comes
if it comes,
remain absolutely silent.
Wait until the bird poses for you
then quietly take frame after frame.
Move closer if you like.
Try not to cut off its tail feathers.
If you get too distracted or excited
and forget to show the best angle on the bird
or have too much pelican in the background
don’t worry.
(You can fix most anything in PhotoShop later.)

Just photograph the bird
with the prettiest splash of blue for a background
or green if that’s what you prefer
and remember to have fun.
Photograph the summer breeze, too
and the smell of the sunshine and the ruckus of the boat-tailed grackles.
Then wait for your bird to sing.
(With terns this is an optional step, of course.)
If it doesn’t sing, don’t be sad.
You did your best.

But if the bird sings,
it’s a very good sign.
(Terns seem to spend a lot of time looking at their toes when they should instead be singing.)
It helps to have a great lens when taking photos of birds.

It also helps to have a friend willing to loan you such a lens

be warned tho
you’ll want your own.
are you listening?

16 thoughts on “How to photograph a tern”

  1. I love your ‘voice’! Just found your blog today.. cried twice over the bunny posts (SO sorry about Boomer and Cricket). You’re on my RSS. Thanks.. Jane.

  2. How lucky to find a tern sitting like that. Every time I’ve ever seen one, it’s been circling above the water and then diving for food. What a great opportunity you had for such fantastic photos.

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