Francis Morgan is a wildlife photographer and book designer, based in Tucson, Arizona. For the past ten years, he has concentrated on photographing birds. This site shows a little history from his early work in publishing to his current work. Francis is currently working on a large format coffe table book, which will include all species of birds in Arizona. The book, Arizona-Birds, is planned to be published by Fall 2024. 

Photographing birds in S.E. Arizona

I have been a photographer since I was a teenager in the days when you had to wait a week to discover if you had captured anything decent on your film. In the past few years, I have concentrated on wildlife photography, particularly birds. You can see some of my bird photography on my website Arizona-Birds.com. I will regularly update the site as I capture better photographs of a particular species. I hope that those of you living in, or visiting, the area will visit some of the locations I have featured, and spot some of the birds that I have photographed. 

 My Photographic Equipment

I use Nikon equipment. I have two camera bodies, a Nikon Z9 mirrorless and a Nikon D850 SLR. The lenses I use for photographing birds are a Nikkor 800mm 6.3, a Nikkor 500mm f5.6  and a Nikkor 300mm F4. I sometimes use a Teleconverter TC-14E. I have a Nikon 500mm f8 Reflex mirror lens, but it's more of a novelty lens. You can read about it here

Tips and Hints

Get Close

The closer you are to the bird, the sharper the photograph will be, but the problem is that as you get close, the bird will fly away! So it's essential that you use a telephoto lens. My lens of choice is now the 800mm f6.3. I sometimes use a 1.4 teleconverter which gives me 1030mm but takes the aperture to f9.0, which is often not good enough in low light. 

Check the Light

Once you have found your bird—not always an easy task, and positioned yourself close enough to get a decent shot, you need to assess where the light is coming from. You usually want to have the light behind you, so that it is falling on the bird. This is not a hard and fast rule though, you can also get spectacular back-lit and side-lit shots.  If the light is not quite right, you will need to move to a different position, without scaring the bird. The best time to shoot is early in the morning or late in the evening, otherwise you are likely to get harsh light and unwanted shadows.

Watch the Bird

It's best to watch a bird for a while, note its behaviour. If you have a good position and the bird flies away, if you wait, it will usually return to its favourite perch, it will get used to you being there.  Bird photography takes patience. Don't wear white or other bright coloured clothing, try to blend in with the surroundings. It's a good idea to wear camouflage clothing (including hat).

Backgrounds

You need to be aware of the background. What's behind the bird? Is it confusing? Is it far enough away that you can throw it out of focus (depth of field)? Are there any branches or twigs in front of the bird? Try some test shots, even if the bird is not on the perch, to make sure you have the correct exposure.

Shoot!

So we are close, the light is good, the background is perfect, we have the correct setting to give the perfect exposure. We are ready to shoot. Be sure to focus on the eye of the bird and wait until you see a glint in the eye. That will make your photo come to life. Shoot a burst—several exposures with one push of the shutter release. Check the shots so that you can make any adjustments and reshoot if the bird is still there or likely to return to the same spot.