Updated: Sep 2, 2022
By Elizabeth Gracen:
Although Twitter is possibly my least favorite social media platform, every now and again a visual artist posts their work, and I'm in for a deep dive to find out about their process and passion for art. Such is the case when I saw the enchanting photography of Jocelyn Anderson and her gorgeous birds!
I reached out to Jocelyn to ask her all things birds, the Audubon Society and how she is able to capture so many wonderful images of such beautiful creatures.
Please Meet Jocelyn Anderson!
EG: Jocelyn, I’ve read a bit about how you became interested in photography, but would you share the origins of your passion and how you got started?
JA: I've always been interested in animals, but I really got into birds a little over 5 years ago. I took a camera out on the nature trails and quickly realized how many different birds were around that I never noticed. My first day out I noticed a very cute and round bird—it was either a Ruby-crowned Kinglet or a Golden-crowned Kinglet—bouncing around in the bushes. I was enchanted, and ever since then I've been watching and admiring these modern dinosaurs.
EG: Why are you drawn to wildlife photography? Why do you think it’s important to capture the images of these beautiful creatures?
JA: A camera allows me to see farther and a fast shutter speed allows me to see movement too fast for my eyes; it captures moments I cannot see otherwise. Birds are incredibly important to the ecosystem, and by sharing images I hope to encourage conservation of these beautiful creatures. I love hearing that my photos encouraged someone to go birding or to take up bird photography. Supporting birds is not only good for the environment; bird watching is beneficial for peoples' mental health as well. It's win-win!
EG: My backyard and garden thrive will all sorts of urban wildlife (coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, . . .), but I particularly like watching and listening to the birds that fly around the numerous trees and chirp from the branches of the old California Live Oak by my pool. We have hummingbirds that love the Cape Honeysuckle hedges when they are in bloom—we even tried to rescue an Anna’s Hummingbird one summer. There are a myriad of huge black crows that are constantly at work in the neighborhood, and I’m fascinated with daintiness and little chirps from the tiny birds—Bewick’s Wren, Oak titmouse, Black Phoebe. Why are you specifically attracted to birds?
JA: Those are all birds I hope to see one day! It's the magic of flight, the beauty of feathers, and all of the birds' wonderful personalities that I try to capture. I go out into nature daily and am always enchanted by the antics of birds. It is also helpful that birds are everywhere! I will take photos of other wildlife when the opportunity arises, but while I could go months without seeing a mink, birds can be seen as soon as I walk out my door.
EG: You mention on your website that you follow the Audubon’s Guide to Ethical Bird Photography. Can you give us the short version of what these guidelines instruct on how to photograph birds? Why is it important to follow the guidelines—for even the most novice nature photographer?
JA: One general guideline that I have found helpful is to keep in mind that every moment for a bird is life or death. Are the actions you're going to take for a photograph (for example, using flash on an owl at night, which blinds the bird but gets you the photo) going to put the bird in a poor position for survival? Is camping out at a nest location going to prevent the parents from coming back to the nest? I have made mistakes in the past, and luckily I have received gentle education in what's appropriate, and I continue to learn. It's not easy at times; I can completely understand the desire to get the shot! But it is incredibly important to respect the bird and put the bird first before any photograph.
EG: Let’s talk a bit about your process. What kind of camera do you prefer? What lenses? Do you adhere to a specific printing process? Do you outsource the printing to someone in the Michigan area or have you found other alternatives?
JA: I've always shot with Nikon cameras and use their lenses (500mm, f/5.6) along with a Tamron lens (70–200mm, f/2.8). My current camera body is a DSLR, but I am looking at their mirrorless offerings, as the mirrorless bursts take many more photos per second, and the more shots I can take of a bird the better! I outsource my printing to a third party.
EG: I traveled to Michigan a very long time ago, but I don’t know much about the state. I think I read that you are not native to the area, but I’m curious why you have stayed and what you love most about your state.
JA: I moved here when I was 10 from southern California and still prefer the warmer weather! About 7 or so years ago, I was looking to move somewhere warmer due to the brisk Michigan winters but have decided to stay as there's no place quite like Michigan. This state is in a migration flyway, so we get lots of migrating birds coming through in the spring and the fall. I would say the seasons are the best part; right now the trees are showing off their fall colors, and I love our Michigan winter bird visitors.
EG: For the novice birder or nature photographer, what advice can you give for starting to photograph the natural world and its creatures?
JA: If you're looking to get a camera, first stop by your local camera shop—they will be very helpful! Next step, pick a favorite spot (it can be your yard or a favorite park), observe, and listen. Take 20 minutes and see and listen to all the different things happening. As humans, we depend on our eyesight the most, but hearing is a huge clue as to what's going on in nature around you. As you spend more time in nature, you'll notice things you never did before. An alarm call of a chipmunk that you would've ignored in the past could now guide your gaze to the treetops where a hawk is perched (chipmunks are quite helpful in finding raptors!).
EG: The Climate Emergency that we are experiencing is something that totally stresses me out and has me so very concerned about the future. Is this something you are passionate about? Is there anything you would like the world to know about taking care of our planet and the amazing creatures who inhabit it?
JA: Absolutely. So many of our birds—along with other wildlife—are at risk. It can be overwhelming at times. Wildlife photography is a great way to recharge your mental health, and by taking and sharing photos, you are showing what is important to you while bringing awareness. The more people that care about [Earth's] inhabitants, the more people will do to save them.
EG: I know that this is going to be a hard one to answer, but do you have a favorite bird?
JA: Actually this one is easy: the Tufted Titmouse! Cute, sassy, and full of personality.
EG: Finally, please let our readers know about your online catalog (I just purchased a handful of greeting cards!) and the work you are planning for the year to come.
JA: Please visit my online shop here. Next year I hope to make it to Magee Marsh in Ohio and to Tawas in Michigan in the spring, both wonderful places for warblers. Other than that, I don't have anything planned. I prefer it that way; one of the best things about birding is heading out and seeing what surprises and sightings await!