Photographers in Focus: John Ehrenfeld

Photo of a Double-crested Cormorant going after a fish
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) All photos © John Ehrenfeld
John Ehrenfeld

We are pleased to feature John Ehrenfeld as this month’s Photographer in Focus. Ehrenfeld lives in Napa County, CA and spends his time as a visual artist photographing wildlife in Northern California.

He was born and raised in New York City and attended the renowned High School of Music & Art. Following college where he earned a Fine Arts Degree, John was a successful television commercial producer for two decades in Los Angeles.

“Photography, which was once a hobby, turned into a passion throughout the years,” says Ehrenfeld.

As you’ll see, Enrenfeld has a great eye for waterbirds and especially some of our favorites: cormorants, ducks, pelicans, skimmers and herons. We hope you enjoy his work as much as we do.

Brown Pelican preening feathers (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Question: What’s your background and how did you get into photography?

Answer: I came to photography through the film and video production industry. I owned a company in Southern California and had the opportunity to work with and observe some very talented cinematographers and lighting directors. There are many similarities in terms of technical and creative aspects of both. After leaving for Northern California, I devoted my love for wildlife and the outdoors to nature photography.

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)

Q: You have so many fine photos, what are some of your favorite species to capture photographically?

A: Thank you for that. I really love photographing all wildlife, every species has their own unique skills and beauty. I do have a special affinity for raptors, especially Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as Peregrine Falcons.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Q: What are some of the challenges you face in your bird and nature photography in general?

A: There are many and the challenges make a successful outing all the more rewarding. Some are rain, fog, wind, excessive cold or heat, the absence of wildlife in a certain area because of prey or human activity, etc.

Q: We know great photography is more than big name brand equipment. But that being said, what lens could you not live without and why?

A: I appreciate that comment as all too often some place undue importance on equipment rather than technical skill, creative acumen and taking the time to know wildlife’s habits. That having been said, a long lens is a must and I love the Nikon 600mm f4. In terms of sharpness, depth of field and reach it’s top drawer.

White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

Q: If you could give beginning nature photographers just one (or two) bit of advice, what would it be?

A: One, if you are dedicating yourself to bird photography, as opposed to mammals, landscapes, etc., I think one very important thing is to learn the habits of the birds you want to focus on. Where do they live and breed? What do they eat? When are they most active? Do they migrate in the spring and fall? What do they look like in various plummages? The more you understand a bird, the better chance you will have of finding and photographing them.

Two, you must learn and understand the basics of photography intimately. What effect the choices you make as to settings have on your photo. I am talking about aperture, shutter speed, ISO and speed of the lens as the foundation of photography.

Northern Pintails (Anas acuta)

Q: What bird photo projects are you working on in the future?

A: I am working on my first book which is called, ‘Silently Into the Wild’ which will be published and available in early 2021. I also am planning on conducting several workshops with perhaps a gallery show if COVID-19 allows.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Q: Who are some of your favorite photographers?

A: Ansel Adams:

Alan Murphy:

Arthur Morris:

Q: How has working around and sharing your love of wildlife enhanced your life?

A: Excellent question. It has enriched my life more than I can adequately describe. It’s my zen. I strive to leave my everyday world behind and become one with the bird’s natural environment as much as I can, without disturbing them. Birding ethics is critically important to me. It’s a very calm, peaceful endeavor and requires patience and focus.

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Squadron of Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis)