- By Gaurav Mittal
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It is only fitting that my first blog post be about the place that gave me a sense of purpose in life, a reason to go on and discover my passion for birds and photographing them. I have just completed my first year as bird photographer and returned back to celebrate it at a place I consider my holy grail of bird photography, Bosque Del Apache National Refuge near Socorro New Mexico is that place which has so much to offer
The wetlands of Bosque attract wintering birds like the Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese and various species of ducks, which are the primary attraction here. Up to a 100,000 birds fill the refuges wetland and agricultural fields. The refuge has two main loops, the North Loop and the South Loop, which are easily accessible by vehicle. The North loop is extremely popular with visitors and photographers alike for it’s spectacular sunrise and snow geese blast offs along the flight deck. As you move along, there are observation decks for viewing the masses of snow geese, ross’s geese, sandhill cranes and the spectacular landscapes.
It is a dream for any bird photographer to be able to visit this beautiful refuge and take advantage of the unending image making opportunities available. It is also my hope that the images I made here convey my feelings about this refuge that I have come to love and cherish as sacred.
Bosque is a dream come true for any photographer who aspires to excel in flight photography. Depending on the wind conditions, the South and the North crane ponds are the places to be at in the morning to photography the cranes in flight. While I had ample of opportunities to do just that, it was the “ballad of the cranes” that caught my fancy, watching a pair of cranes take flight in unison was a sight to behold. It is one thing to look at these birds with your eyes and an altogether an exhilarating experience through a 800mm lens! The details in the wings had me mesmerized and the harmony of the wings was breath taking.
Driving along the North loop formerly known as the Farm Deck, I came upon a field with thousands of snow geese tightly packed together, it is here that I learned to see birds with a creative eye, as the geese take off in mass of what is a thundering sound of wing beats and calls, it was almost like watching a painters canvas come to life. It was however a large flock of Red-winged blackbirds that caught my attention, a sight I have seldom seen. As opposed to just creating images of birds in flight, I experimented with slow shutter speeds. In the days that followed I had ample opportunities to practice and create some pleasing blurs. Believe me, it takes a lot of practice and the opportunities are there everyday!
With some planning and pre-visualization, you can come away with some spectacular images from Bosque. I’m glad that I brought every lens that I own, from a wide angle to a super telephoto lens; you will find the need for them. I recommend that you spend at least a week if you would like to get to know Bosque and explore this photographic wonder. The best time to visit is between November and February.
Bosque is where I began my journey as a photographer, as my time here came to an end my emotions ran high. Seeing the cranes flying in utmost harmony with each other has brought to mind the sense of unity and commitment. A unity that I strongly feel with my fellow photographers and commitment that I have for this new found life. This is a new beginning and I will be back again, for these are sacred grounds.