Sally Lightfoot crab and Striated Heron – Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador
Vivek Khanzode

Our latest featured photographer is Vivek Khanzodé from Northern California. His interest in birds and nature blossomed after a trip to Costa Rica in 2009. The Resplendent Quetzal mesmerized him, and since then he has been traveling in the U.S. and the neotropics in Central and South America annually on nature themed vacations to capture the beauty of birds on film.

Vivek has been a member of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (SCVAS) Board since 2011 and currently serves on the Executive, Membership & Development, and Nominating Committees. He is also a strong supporter and active presenter in the Bay Area Bird Photographers group of SCVAS. When he isn’t working as engineering manager in the semiconductor industry, Vivek photographs birds in the Bay Area and beyond. His bird photos, in addition to appearing in International Bird Rescue publications, have been published by the National Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy, and other conservation related organizations.


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

Answer: Thank you! I am glad you like my photos. I love all birds and it is really difficult to answer this question as I am interested in understanding and observing bird behavior and I also love to photograph them. That said, some birds lend themselves to be better subjects than others. In my opinion tropical and sub-tropical birds like the Tanagers and Hummingbirds are especially colorful and make for great subjects to showcase Nature’s beauty.

Greater Flamingo – Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador

Q: How did you get your start in photography?

A: I have loved photography as a child. I had an old Yashica twin lens reflex (TLR) film camera as a child. Over time, I developed an interest in nature and wildlife and so photographing the wildlife and nature was a natural extension of my passions and abilities. After the advent of digital photography, I was able to learn quickly and develop bird photography as a hobby. Although I have been a photographer for a long time, I have only been photographing birds for the last ten years or so.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron – Weslaco, TX, USA

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

A: Birds are not static, and most birds are pretty skittish. Therefore, one of the key aspects of bird photography is exercising patience. One must also travel to their habitats and learn their behaviors. For example, in Galapagos, there were many Red-billed Tropicbirds that came up a bluff. And the wind carried them up, so I positioned myself at the bluff and waited for them to come up against the ocean with a nice background. The same is true for wildlife. It is critically important to understand the behavior of the wildlife. In Africa, the action happens in crepuscular hours, so one must be willing to get going very early in the morning before dawn and willing to stay past sundown. Nature photography also includes Landscape photography and for landscape photography, the “quality” of light is important.

In addition to this, the photographer must know the capabilities of the camera system. This is important in order to capture dynamic moments. Certain other situations also demand a good understanding of the camera’s capabilities.

American White Pelicans

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: Photography is certainly more than big name equipment. While equipment is important, having a good eye is certainly more important. All that said, for a bird photographer, a long telephoto lens is absolutely essential. I think, for me, that lens would be the Sony 600mm f/4 GM lens. I love how well made, sharp and light this lens is.

White-cheeked Pintail – Galapagos, Ecuador

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

A: Take a lot of photos and review them critically. There is no substitute for practice. Also, get a mentor who can review your photos critically and ask for advice – especially what they would do differently.


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

A: I would love to visit Colombia to photograph birds. I’ve visited Colombia once on a family vacation, but I would love to go back specifically to photograph birds there. Colombia has a great variety of tropical birds that I haven’t seen and it would be a blast to go photograph them some day.

Q: Who are some of your favorite photographers?

A: My favorite photographers are:

Luis Villablanca – Birds –

Matthew Studebaker – Birds –

Glenn Bartley – Birds –

Brian Small – Birds –

Guy Tal – (Landscapes)–

Q: How has working in nature enhanced your life?

A: Working in nature is pure meditation for me. The high tech, high stress life in Silicon Valley is very demanding. I like to escape to nature and photograph birds. I love my time in nature because it allows me to relax and enjoy the solitude that nature offers from the humdrum of city life. In other words, birds and nature rejuvenate my soul!

See more of Vivek’s wonderful work on his personal site:

Twitter: @birdpixel

Belted Kingfisher – November, 2012