Tips for Photographing Birds at Glade Run Lake

Blog post written by Melissa Rohm of Wild Excellence Films

Great Horned Owl (fledgling). Credit: Wild Excellence Films

Glade Run Lake is an "eBird hotspot", with a list of 169 species observed, including bald eagles, green herons, owls, and many warblers and other colorful songbirds. In order to successfully photograph or film birds at Glade Run Lake, or anywhere really, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, the welfare of the bird always comes first. No photograph or video is worth jeopardizing the wellbeing of a bird or its nest. Getting too close to sensitive species like owls, or even making their location public, can disturb the birds, causing them to burn valuable calories or even abandon a nest. Some birds are more tolerant than others, but photographers should always err on the side of caution. In general, if you cause a change in a bird's behavior, you're too close. For more on the ethics of photography, take a look at the "Audubon's Guide to Ethical Bird Photography and Videography".

Blackburnian Warbler. Credit: Wild Excellence Films

Be patient, quiet, and observant. Crashing through the woods, talking loudly, or running along the lakeshore isn't going to do a photographer any favors. Move slowly and quietly. Stop often and look around. Binoculars or a spotting scope are very handy for locating birds from a distance or high in the treetops.

Go for the "good light". Most photographers know that the golden light of early morning and late afternoon/evening is best for photography. You'll want to avoid the glare of mid-day, but if you're lucky enough to get a bright overcast day, you can pretty much shoot for hours.

Barred Owl, photographed at Glade Run Lake. Credit: Wild Excellence Films

A long lens is great, but don't be afraid to make environmental compositions with a shorter lens. It's fun zooming in for tight portraits with a super-long telephoto, but if you don't have one - or even if you do - try making interesting compositions of birds in the landscape. For example, picture a bright red cardinal on a snowy evergreen or a great blue heron reflected in the water. A wider shot can often tell more of a story than a close-up.

Use a tripod if you have one. It's not an absolute necessity, but it makes it easier to hold the camera steady, especially when you're using slower shutter speeds and/or longer lenses.

Wilson's Warbler. Credit: Wild Excellence Films

If you're a paddler, try photographing from your boat! It's a whole new world along the more remote shorelines. You never know what you'll come across - not only birds, but turtles or even a mink. It's not impossible to use a tripod in a kayak or canoe, but it can get tricky. Plan on hand-holding your camera, and take a towel or two in case your equipment gets splashed. Before entering and exiting your boat, pack your gear in a dry bag in case the boat turns over. It happens to the best of us!

Go when the birds are there. For songbirds, late April through early June is prime time. Summer can be great for water birds, while fall picks up again with neotropical migrants. Winter can bring tundra swans, geese, and a variety of sparrows.

Last but not least, have fun! The chances of getting a National Geographic-level photograph are slim, so don't put that kind of pressure on yourself. Enjoy whatever you see, make the best photo or video you can, and visit often to practice.

Note: Wild Excellence Films is currently producing a short documentary for Glade Run Lake Conservancy and hopes to have it ready for public viewing in spring of 2021. The short film features many of the beautiful spots and amazing wildlife around Glade Run Lake and goes in depth with Conservancy board members, documenting their successful management and restoration of this precious gem.

Bald Eagle, photographed at Glade Run Lake. Credit: Wild Excellence Films


About Us

The dedicated filmmakers and storytellers at Wild Excellence Films are passionate about conservation and wildlife. They are driven to create media that connects with audiences emotionally and empowers people to get involved with saving wild places and the living things that inhabit them.

David and Melissa Rohm of Wild Excellence Films.