About Me

 me-7124

 On a raptor quest in the foothills of the Stansbury Mountains

When I retired from teaching (high school Honors Biology and Zoology) in 2003 I needed an outlet for my lifelong interest in the natural sciences.  I’ve always had a special interest in birds but have never been enthralled with all that goes with being a “birder”.  I had dabbled in semi-serious photography over the years so I eventually decided to give bird photography a try and just see where it took me.  What a life changer!  Now I live, eat and breathe birds – not from a birder’s perspective but from that of a photographer.

I have strong feelings about the “ethics” of bird photography.  For me, avian photography is nature photography, and it’s not “nature” (or natural) when subjects are not their natural colors so I don’t oversaturate my images.  I don’t do significant cloning or other types of major image alteration  for the same reason.  I don’t closely approach nesting birds and I make every effort to avoid unduly disturbing my subjects.   I don’t use electronic devices to call in birds.  I love to photograph raptors but will never “bait” them in.  I don’t shoot “setups” except at my back yard feeders for the practice.

My gear is Canon and my primary birding rig includes the Canon 7D, Canon 500mm f/4L IS, 1.4 TC and the Gitzo Gt3530LSV tripod with full Wimberly head.  In addition I sometimes shoot with the Canon 40D and Canon 100-400mm.   I use a Canon Xti as a back up body.  Many of my bird photographs have been taken from my pickup truck window using the vehicle as a “blind” –  a very effective strategy for my situation.

I live in northern Utah and have convenient access to the many wetlands associated with the Great Salt Lake.    Bird photography is usually the primary goal of my frequent camping trips throughout Utah and other western states.  Because I have Montana roots and return there often, many of my avian images were taken in the western part of that state.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Ron

72 comments to About Me

  • Guy

    Just found your blog. Awesome shots that inspired me and I appreciate all the information you give. Thanks!

  • I got directed to your blog after searching birds of the GSL. I had visited my son in Utah in April and had spotted (and photographed) a Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed blackbirds and a couple of Chukars. In the past few months I have become an avid birder and love to photograph them. Just purchased my first pair of Swarovski binoculars and have started to look at cameras and lenses. Right now I am using a Canon Rebel and was thinking of ordering the 100-400mm f/4 lens for it. I am headed to the Galapagos in August and can’t wait to check out the birds there. I also won’t bait or otherwise attract the birds and I don’t like super enhanced photographs. Anyhow, love your photos and writings. If you can give any advice, please do so. Thanks for all the info you give.

  • Ed Stevenson

    Hi Ron,

    Missed your posts for a few days – hope you are OK.

    Ed

  • April Campbell

    Ron, the Canon 500mm USM you use, is it the new Mll or V1. Thanks

    • April, I just bought the new version 2 about a month ago. Until then I’d been using Version 1.

      • April Campbell

        How do you like it? I’m thinking of getting one. I’m glad yo see you using the 7D. I bought a refurbished one and I really like it. So many bird photographers swear you need the EOS 1D1V or 1 DX . I’m thinking I’d rather splurge on the glass than the camera. Have you had any problems with the auto-focus? I have a Cooper’s pair in my neighborhood. The female stayed in my Norway spruce for an entire week! I took lots of shots.

    • April, It’s the M11 and I like it a lot. I was using version 1 before.

      I also like the 7D very much. Enough that I have two of them. With the cropped sensor and fast burst rate it’s an excellent body for bird photography.

      Your philosophy regarding money spent on cameras and lenses is spot on. Buy the very best glass you can (almost) afford – much more important that the camera. For most folks the lens is a lifetime investment but cameras become outdated relatively quickly. And you get more bang for the buck in image quality with high end lenses than you do with high end cameras.

      Ron

      • April Campbell

        Hoping Canon will come out with a 7D MK11. I know the two Ps (patience and practice) are most important for learning bird photography. However, are there any other sources you found invaluable to you initial learning experience?

        • A third “P” – perseverance. Don’t give up at the bumps in the road. And join an online nature photography critique forum. You’ll eventually learn a lot there if you aren’t thin skinned, contribute to the community and listen to advice.

  • Wendy Chapman

    HI Ron,

    I enjoyed reading the information you shared about yourself and am happy you discussed your ethics. I live in Wisconsin and we had some ugly incidents last winter associated with the exciting and unusual event of having a couple of Great Great Owls spend time in our state. Some photographers baited one of the owls – even placing the mouse on his pant leg. Friends of mine saw him do this. Also, people placed sticks under the snow to make noise to attract the owl. They wanted those special close flight photos. Another sighting in Madison Wisconsin led to huge crowds and people approaching to the point where they almost shimmied the trees.

    Reading about your respect for nature gives me a good feeling. I look forward to reading your blog and enjoying your photos. Thank you,

    Wendy

  • Hi Ron,

    I love the photography on your site. I’m a teacher too (hs math) who has recently become obsessed with the worlds of birds, and I also have Montana roots (Sidney) but now live in Minnesota. I was wondering if you’d be interested in sharing some of your bird photography on the Utah page of a new site I created called birdingacrossamerica.com.

    Josh

  • Russ Fellows

    Mr. Dudley, er Ron,

    It looks like other former students have found your website and photos. They are amazing (the photos not the students;-). My current job working for an environmental consulting firm led me to your site and one of your latest articles on Sage-Grouse.

    I know it’s a little off topic, but I wanted to thank you for being my biology teacher in high school. I have to say you were one of my favorite teachers and I really blew it by only having you for a year and a half even though you had encouraged me to take more.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Hey Russ, It’s been a long time!

      Don’t worry about your comment being “off topic” – I loved reading it and hearing from you again. I’m also happy to hear that you work in the environmental field.

      Stop by again. And now it’s Ron, not Mr. Dudley…:)

  • Your photography is amazing! Congratulations on your post-retirement obsession. I am a semi-retired teacher who aspires to your level of commitment.

  • Valerie

    Hey Ron. I stumbled across your blog this (rainy) morning in central WY while searching for a clue as to the barn red hawk seen yesterday perched in a cottonwood stand in Wyoming’s wide open country northeast of Shoshoni. I am looking forward to reading through your previous posts and enjoying the great, great pics! An avid rookie wildlife photographer, my gutsy Canon is always in the saddle bag, backpack or on the truck seat as I pursue my humbly-paid but much-loved career of wildlife surveyor for energy companies. Each January morning scaling up the windy side of a high rocky ridge balancing a full backpack or on those 95 degree August days at high noon when the horse trailer tire rips a sidewall, I am reminded if this country were any other way it would be full of people. All high wind and cold rain/hot sun aside, Wyoming’s high desert is at its best these early summer days when over the next ridge there may be an un-named seep laced with every small animal track or perhaps a Prairie falcon tucked into her rock crevice nest watching me long before I see her. Here’s to many more early mornings in our high desert country that most people find too remote, too barren, too wind-swept. Good they are staying out of it. Leaves more elbow room for the rest of us. ~V~

  • I just went on my first ever birding tour at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site last Saturday, and found it both overwhelming and pointless. I do keep a life list of what I’ve seen, but typical birding does nothing for me. I have felt you were a kindred spirit since I found your blog a couple of months ago. Just watching birds, getting to know their behaviors and appreciating their beauty is what I like, and I therefore consider myself a birdwatcher, rather than a birder. Those of us who watch birds (with or without photography) are taking time to ‘smell the roses’, thereby enriching our lives. Just this afternoon I had the opportunity to see a Black-throated Sparrow close-up. He was gone in a few seconds, but was there long enough that I could see how beautiful all his marking were, and how shiny his feathers were. That was worth way more than 50 or 100 species in a day. I look forward to reading your blogs for a long time.

  • Ron…A bit of a kindred spirit here. Also retired, since ’04. A pretty serious photographer of nature and wildlife, in my part of the country. I photograph birds, but am not a birder. I photograph flowers, but am neither a gardener nor a flower person. I do insects…bugs, butterflies, bees…but I’m not an entomologist. Just a photographer who likes to get out and photograph what I see in the natural living world.

    I DO do quite a lot of processing on my photos, but with the goal in mind to make them better while not doing things to them which scream PhotoShop. And my idiosyncrasy is that I won’t photograph captive creatures, creatures in rehabilitation, baited birds, or anything like that. I want them to be free to leave me if they choose to. THAT’S the challenge of wildlife photography.

    Love your shots.

    Terry in Eastern Iowa

  • Richard Harlow

    Hi Ron,
    Much appreciate your candor and philosophy. I too am retired from teaching for 36 years (AP Biology, Intro Biology, Oceanography and Environmental Science), but I have been into photography since I was given a brownie camera a looooong time ago!! Have a Canon 5d mkIII and love the camera. So much to learn about and unfortunately am impatient, need to deal with learning this technology.
    Your images are fantastic, absolutely wall hangers! I really loved your shots of the Long-tailed Weasel and Rough-legged Hawk, as well as your many others. Many thanks for sharing these shots and the tech about the shots.
    Dick Harlow

  • Ron, surely it wasn’t an accident finding your website and if so, it was a good one. I have really enjoyed spending time viewing and reading. Wish you the best.

    Take Care,
    David

  • Hi Ron,

    I’m a graphic design student at Winona State University and I am creating a website for a non-profit burrowing owl foundation as part of a class project. Your burrowing owl photography is wonderful and I was wondering if I could get your permission to use some of your photos for my website. The website would be accessible through my portfolio website (see above) and as I said before would only be used for educational purposes. Please let me know – thank you!

  • Charlie VanTassel

    Hi Ron,

    Great website. You really have been finding some great subjects over the years.

  • John

    Dear Ron:
    I just got to know your website from a friend of mine, and I have just viewed your photos of birds there, especially bald eagles, I have to say that you are great, and all photos you took are great!
    I am in Houston, TX, and I am crazy for bald eagles when they are fishing in water. You mentioned in your website that there are many spots good for photo bald eagles alone the wetlands of great salt lake. I am not familiar that area and I have 3 questions here: 1) is now still a good timing for photo bald eagle fishing in Utah? 2) if yes, would you be kindly enough to tell me a good spot to do that now (i have some vacation days that I can use now)? 3) if you would like to tell me the “good spot”, what is the best route to get the spot?
    I thank you in advanced for taking your time.
    Best regards,
    John Ling

    • John, Most (though not all) Utah Bald Eagles are here only during winter and when they are they’re mostly scavengers. It’s highly unusual to get them fishing in the classical sense I think you have in mind. In February, Farmington Bay WMA kills the invasive and damaging carp and the eagles often (though not always, last year was very slow) come in large numbers for the dead fish. But getting shots of eagles grabbing live fish out of the water would be quite unlikely around here.

  • Brad Thoams

    Where’s your beard?!?!
    Wonderful pics.

  • Budd Black

    I’m finding it difficult to refer to you as Ron, since when I was your student at South High, you were Mr. Dudley. I stumbled across your blog after making my first trip in 30 years to Antelope Island yesterday to take some pictures. Fascinating place, and although I have one good shot of a pair of chukars, my efforts pale in comparison. Thank you for your effort and for sharing your talents. I will be visiting this blog, and Antelope Island frequently. Perhaps we’ll meet out there some day and reminisce about the day you called Dr. Sorensen an “organism”.

    • Hey Budd, Great to hear from you! And yes, call me Ron – you’ll get used to it. Many other ex-students have. Yes, the island is a wonderful place and I sure look forward to the possibility of running into you out there. Look for the vanity plates at the top of this blog – for now they’re on a dark gray Ford pickup. Hmmm, I’ve forgotten the “organism” moniker I used on Dr. Sorenson, you’ll have to remind me of the context…

  • Jim

    Hi Ron:

    I stumbled upon your excellent website and great bird photography while preparing for a class I will teach on wildlife photography this spring. I definitely want to include a section on photography ethics and your points are well taken!!

    Ron, can you advise me on lenses? I have a Nikon 300 2.8 and am considering the 500 f4 but would have to sell the 300. Would I be over powered with a 500? I love all aspects of naure photography and sports as well (ski races, bike races).

    Jim

    • Hi Jim, and welcome!

      I’m delighted to hear that you’ll be including a section on photography ethics in your class – couldn’t be happier about it!

      Regarding your question – I can only advise you reliably regarding birds as subjects. For birds, the 500 is absolutely the best choice, IMO. I shoot a moderate amount of wildlife shots (other than birds) and my 500 is great for most of those shots too but sometimes I’m too close so occasionally I go to my 100-400 (like I did with today’s coyote post).

      I have virtually no experience with sports photography so I hesitate to advise you on that, though my instinct would be that a zoom might work best there.

      I very seriously considered the Canon 300 2.8 coupled with a tc for my bird photography when I first started looking at big glass. But I did a HUGE amount of research and solicited advice from folks I trusted and they talked me into biting the financial bullet and going for the 500mm for birds. Best advice I’ve ever recieved. The 500mm (Cannon or Nikon, doesn’t matter) is the FAR superior overall lens for birds.

      Good luck in your choice. I fully realize how difficult the decision is to make.

  • Dennis Christensen

    Hey Nephew,
    Once again you made this a special evening as I enjoyed your beautiful bird pictures. Each time I do, I consider making a comment. This evening I reacted rather than just thinking I should. The one you just posted is like all the others — unbelievably beautiful. Uncle Dennis

    • Hey Uncle Dennis. I keep forgetting to look at comments on this page so I missed yours and several others. Gotta change my habits. Thanks very much for the nice comment and I’m glad you enjoy my photos. It was wonderful to see you and Marie again today, even under such circumstances.

  • Mitchell Kranz

    You do some amazing work. I am adding this blog to my favorites!

  • Eldridge Rawls

    Thanks so much for the stilt photos. i am a contenporary painter using birds ,mostly ocean birds. I make stencils and then repeat them on an atmosphericaly painted background . I hope to use the stilts in some of this work .

  • Barbara

    Ok Ron, I have to ask… why the photo of you with the unnatural perch in the background? HAH! I had to mention it… since you talked about it first….

  • Charlotte Norton

    I am so grateful to have found you and grateful for your willingness to share. I know I will never be the photographer that you are, but I do enjoy it. I took up birding a couple of years ago because I’m dyslexic and sudoku is out for me. I like birding better anyway. I have learned a lot and had more fun doing birding and photography.

  • Dick Ashford

    Ron, I am in tune with your philosophy re the natural world. Thanks for doing what you do and, if you’re ever headed toward the Klamath Basin in winter, please contact me. As you know, it’s a GREAT place for wintering raptors. I lead hawk and eagle watching outings for Klamath Bird Observatory, so I usually know where the birds are and I’d be happy to show you around. Thanks again.

  • Anna Cordova

    Uncle Ron! Awesome photos! You must have so much fun catching these shots. So clear and so beautiful. Thank you!

  • Trevor Andersen

    I love your work Ron ! I have been shooting with similar settings on my Canon 7D, 400mm 5/6. I cannot for the life of me get images of this quality. I’m wondering if the 500 f/4 would make a difference.Thanks for sharing !

    Kind regards

    Trevor Andersen (Australia)

    • Thanks very much Trevor. Your lens is a very good one but the 500 f/4 would make a big difference for you as far as “getting close” to the subject which makes a huge detail difference. If you used it with the 1.4 tc (which you can’t do with a 5.6 lens) you’d be going from your current 400mm to 700mm. I think you’d love the 500mm but the financial hit is a significant one.

  • Joe O.

    O’Driscoll’s the name. I look forward to your future work.

  • Joe O.

    Hey Mr. Dudley!

    I stumbled across the blog and love it! I had you for both biology and zoology at Highland in 02/03 and you were one of my favorite teachers. I’ve shared the blog with several of your other former students and we all think it’s great. Keep up the good work! Maybe you can hit Glacier National Park one of these times…

    -Joe

    • Thanks very much Joe. Always great to hear from a former student (though I wish I knew your last name so I could figure out which “Joe” you are.) I’m sure I’ll hit Glacier again this summer – haven’t missed for decades now.

  • Leslie Blau

    Hey Ron;

    I love your photos of the Northern Harrier. I’m in Exotics and Lab animals in my Veterinary Technology Program at Brown Makie College in Boise Idaho. I would like permission to use your photos for a presentation I’m doing on the Northern Harrier.

    Thanks again for the great photos!

  • Nancy

    Ron I just stumbled upon your site and am so thoroughly impressed ! Your photos are beautiful and it is clear that you respect and love your subjects. Thank you for sharing your talent with us all I plan to keep you on my favorite list and continue to view your amazing work.

  • Joel Weeks

    Ron,
    I have been working on learning photography for the last couple of years, part of my learning process is to seek out people that are taking the type of photographs that one day I hope to take and learn from them. Part of my “homework” for today landed me here and I must say your photography inspires me! Your images are so beautiful and I love that you post your lens and settings, something so many do not share. Although your formal years as an educator may be in the past I look forward to studying your shots and learning what I can from your posts. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us!

    Joel

  • Sonja – thank you for making the effort to make such a nice comment, especially since using the English language isn’t easy for you. Much appreciated!

    Ron

  • Over a photographer who I’ve become aware of your great site.
    I am from Germany and I am in the English language, not as firm.
    But to bring hope to express how thrilled I am a nature photographer from the many great bird photos!
    Very, very good photos in best quality .. I can only dream of it!
    Furthermore, many great designs and always good light and in 2012 it also wishes Sonja from Haase
    Lueneburg in Luneburg Heath, Germany.

  • Stunning photos of the hawk. Thanks for posting.

  • Hi Fyn – You can either subscribe to the posts feed or subscribe by email. Both links are found in the upper right hand corner of my blog.

  • Fyn Kynd

    Hi Ron, How do you subscribe to your blog?

  • What a wondeful thing to say Lacie – you made my day! Good luck with your subject choice and if I can be of any help just let me know.

  • Lacie

    Hello, I am 14 years old and am currently taking up photography as a GCSE course our first topic is structures, I have decided to do feather’s and birds and you work has inspired me to choice that as my choice, I hope some day that I will be able to be as good as you.
    Lacie

  • Thank you Tana. Hope things are going well for you at Highland.

  • Tana Hunter

    Great photography! Thank you for sharing.

  • Tana Hunter

    Hi,
    I still work at Highland, and I am so very glad that I was made aware of your blog. I am a “birder” and wildlife enthusiast, and your photos are amazing. Thank you for posting and keep up the beautiful work!

  • Oh Robert, I’ll bet you say that to all your male former teachers…

  • robert stevens

    I love you.

  • I’ll bet you were just as good at teaching as you are at bird photography! Wonderful site…I enjoyed every bit of it! Sharon

  • Chuck Nakell

    Loving your blog and images. Thanks

  • Megan

    Mr. Dudley. I literally just happened upon this page via a fellow Utah bird-loving friend. Which is, as it turns out, a happy occurrence since I have fond memories of you as my high school zoology teacher. It’s nice to know that you’re still in Utah and have found a passion in photographing birds.
    I’m proud to report that I have pursued a career with wildlife, specifically with birds. It’s taken me to some pretty wonderful places. Right now I’m lucky enough to be on Kaua’i working with Fish and Wildlife as an intern. I think I must have the coolest job – I get to track reproductive success for the refuge’s Laysan Albatrosses, Nene, and Hawaiian Stilts. Bad ass. :)
    Your photographs are beautiful. I particularly enjoy the ones of the flying owls – they are images that don’t appear easy to get. Keep it up! I’ll be following your blog regularly.

  • Richard

    Hi Ron
    I am a relatively new photographer and like you enjoy photographing birds. Not sure if I’m a birder as yet but definitely spend too much time thinking about when I can next get out and try to imrove my skills. Your photos are magical really I wish I can one day take pictures even half as good as yours. I also really like how you explain how you do things….easy to understand without all the technical jargon. I am presuning you are professional?

  • Lila Orme

    Ron, I think my brother-in-law, Dale Prince, introduced us a few years ago. He sent me some of your pictures, along with your comments. I spent the next half hour looking and reading and admiring your work. Your images are perfect in claity and color, and your explanations made it much more interesting. I would have missed some of details without your comments. I would like to see more of your work. How would I do that? Thanks for sharing. I’m going to forward this to a bird-watchers in my ward. I know he’ll enjoy it too, and maybe share with your some of his word. Thanks again. Lila Orme, Chatsworth, CA

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>