Flickr album link: Birding At Sumpter Valley Wildlife Management Area II
A previous article describes the environmental conditions that make the Sumpter Valley Wildlife Management Area such a great place to go birding during the migration season. Baker City and old historic Sumpter, Oregon are the closest places where modern amenities can be found, while there are several campgrounds too choose from next to the wildlife area. Setting up a basecamp is easy to do, while food, fuel and water are not too far away, but the chances of finding specialized birding equipment will be practically nil. For this reason it is best to make sure that binoculars or a spotting scope is packed for the ride. Finding photography gear is the impossible dream outside of the big western cities too, so going over the bird imaging checklist will be necessary.
There are a zillion birding tutorials on the web and with each advance in technology many become outdated soon after they are published. Purchasing the newest professional bird photography gear is an expensive proposition that few can afford, but there is a thriftier way to achieve the same results. Shopping for used high speed cameras and lenses is one way to save money, while renting expensive gear is another.
By far, the best value for birding will always be a crop sensor camera in the 20 megapixel range. A 1.5 crop sensor camera will double the focal length of a lens while narrowing the field of view, so something like a 300mm lens will in effect deliver 450mm lens performance with no loss of light. A 500mm lens is the minimum standard for songbirds and on a 1.5 crop sensor camera the field of view will equal a 750mm lens. The added reach will reward a photographer with far more keeper photos that require little or no cropping.
The Sumpter Valley bird photos for these two consecutive birding articles were captured with a semi-pro Nikon D7500 1.5 crop sensor 20 megapixel camera. The lens I most often use for birding is a Nikon 200-500mm lens with an ƒ/5.6 aperture. This combination runs about $1800 used or refurbished, which is a very thrifty price for getting in the door. There are other lens/camera manufacturers that offer similar quality and as long as you are adept with your own photography skills, there will be no reason to spend tens of thousands of dollars on pro equipment. The exposure settings and autofocus settings are always far more important than the equipment used, so never feel shy about breaking out the old trusty vintage gear when going birding!
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