Oh man, i was riding the internet surf looking for some good nature photographers and found Ron Dudley’s awesome feathery pictures! He does to birds what Yoshika Sakai does to flowers, meaning the shots he takes are some of the best I’ve ever seen. He shows a unique side to the avian crew, a side people don’t often get to see, capturing their beauty, fortitude and strength perfectly. Ron needs a big pat on the back for these.
He has always had an interest in nature and forms a deeper understanding with it through the sciences- his college major was in biology & zoology which he later taught in high school for 33 years. Once he retired, nostalgic cravings for his science returned and he decided to give photography a whirl, as an avenue to peruse his interests without the stress of the work place. His interest in the behavior and beauty of birds made them a perfect subject to observe with his camera lens. Starting with zero skills to becoming a photographer of this caliber took determination and a financial hit in the face as he had to buy the proper lenses for the job.
Getting close to his air sailing subjects is no easy feat, he uses his pickup truck to get close since birds are less apprehensive about a vehicle approaching than they are a person. Finding the birds are another daunting task he has to undertake, occasionally he reads up the birding listservs to get an idea of where is subjects are located, then goes off to investigate. He normally leaves to camp, taking advantage of his prime location which is close to the bird-rich wetlands surrounding the Great Salt Lake, the Wasatch Mountains and the west desert of Utah. Patience is a key ingredient in all of this, camping out and waiting for the opportune moment to snag a sweet shot- as you can see, it pays off in Rons’ pictures.
He uses a Canon 7D (nice) for his shots, and attaches a Canon F4L with a Canon 1.4 teleconverter, which allows him the ‘reach’ needed to capture his subjects. Roughly 10% of his shots are with a tripod, using a Gitzo GT3530LSV with full Wimberly head which is stable and lightweight enough to capture birds in flight. As stated before, bird photography is no easy task, Ron will normally shoot up to 16gigs worth of images (600 high-def photo’s) and does the most unloved part of any photographers job: herding the quality shots. Out of the 600, he usually only saves about 50 of which he uploads to his blog because of they’re expression of interesting behavior or beauty. He’s unbelievably happy when he gets at least 2 mega wicked sweet shots.
Ron does very little post processing, trying to present the birds as he saw them; obsessively trying to get the colors and light to look as natural as possible since he never uses flash. He’s not a fan of over saturated images that over blow the beautiful natural colors of the birds. Usually he just crops and makes small exposure adjustments in ACR and imports to photoshop to apply sharpening to the bird and the perch. He rarely does any saturation tweaks, only if the picture was captured in low light or fog.
He has been influenced by a variety of people, most of whom are not known for their avian shots. Those influences include: Frank and John Craighead, Edward Abbey, Doug Peacock and Terry Tempest-Williams. Also, his two mentors Mia McPherson and Richard Ditch who taught him everything he knows today. If you enjoy Ron’s work, you got to go check out his amazing collection of photographs on his site!