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The Making of the Meadowlark Blind at the Ljósmyndir Ranch Part 2- The 40,000 ft Plan

June 25, 2021
© Jim Miller – Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys)

Greg Reid is said to have opined, “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”

For the Meadowlark Blind, I reordered these steps a bit. I wanted a plan to determine if the dream was even plausible.

In my past life in the Air Force, plans and discussions had a wide range of levels of details.

There was the 40,000 ft plan, plus or minus 10,000 ft (or for my international, non-imperial measurement readers, a 12km plan, plus or minus 1.5km–because if God had intended Americans to use the metric system, he would have given us 10 fingers…). It was a very high-level view with big picture concepts, but very short on details.

And then there was a plan that was “In the weeds.” A high level of detail, but if it was the first plan then some of the big picture concepts were missed.

Most plans started at the 40,000 ft view and eventually descended to a plan that made it into the weeds. And between 40,000 ft and the weeds were plans with progressively more details.

Along with plans came a basic truth about them: No plan ever survived first contact with the enemy.

To make a plan, you have to know the essential elements of what you were trying to do. And over the years, I’ve written about this, as it pertains to bird blinds, at length in other forms. The simple version, and the one that I usually talk about when I’m trying to explain what makes a successful blind, is that there are three key ingredients that make for a successful blind. But in reality, that number is really is six.

The first, which wasn’t previously on the list, is availability of birds. The best setup blind with all of the other key elements is absolutely useless if there aren’t any birds around. And initially this was a worry for me. But after many trips to the property before we started the process, I was convinced that this was not going to be a problem.

The second, and the first on my standard list, is safety. The blind has to be setup in such a way that birds feel comfortable coming up to the area. No safety. No birds.

Third element is food. Proper food for the birds that are in the area is essential to attracting them and keeping them around.

Next is water. Available water, whether in a bird bath, a shallow pond, or sometimes even a cattle trough is a big draw for birds. Dripping water has the ability to attract birds to the blind that normally would not come for food because they can hear the water. Especially in drier climates.

Fifth, which I don’t usually discuss unless it is with fellow photographers, is light direction. Many blinds on public lands suffer from the light coming from angles that are not suitable to photography. The original orientation of the blind at San Angelo State Park suffered from this. Front lighting is the goal. Otherwise the only good time to shoot is when the skies are lightly overcast and the diffused light can make up for the lack of planning. However, it must be noted the as the sun moves in the sky between the winter and summer solstices, and exaggerated by how far away from the equator you are, the more variation you will have away from true east or true west on the directional light. More on that in a future blog post.

And last, and often not contemplated, is background. While getting the subject sharp is important, a distracting background makes for a lousy image. Sometimes nature doesn’t help out here. But you do what you can do with what you have to work with. If nature doesn’t help out right away, you can always introduce more nature in the form of vegetation, or fake nature in the form of artificial backgrounds.

Six basics to contemplate at that 40,000 ft level to then be broken down to the point where the plan can be executed.

Since the initial element (presence of birds) was determined to be true, I needed to move to the next step. Convincing the birds it was safe to come and join me with an appropriate structure was next on the list.

About the Image
Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys)
Elbert County, Colorado – June 2021
Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 150-600 (Gen 1)
Tripod w/Wimberley gimbal head
ISO 400, 1/320 at f/14 – No Flash
Portfolio Image #1072
Image Size in Portfolio: 4560×3648 (full frame)

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