Enjoy this trip to Merced National Wildlife Refuge, guided by the lens of Horn Photo's skilled photographer and waterfowl expert, Darrin Armstrong.



Shoot the Shooter: Capturing the Passion of a Waterfowl Expert - Darrin Armstrong

Welcome to "Shoot the Shooter," a unique blog series where Horn Photo takes you behind the scenes with our staff members who are not only passionate photographers but also experts in their chosen fields. "Shoot the Shooter" is not just about photography; it's about the individuals behind the lens and their unwavering passion for what they do.
In this edition, we are featuring Darrin Armstrong, Horn Photo camera salesperson, and waterfowl expert. Darrin, who also happens to be Horn Photo's only champion Duck Caller, will share with you his knowledge, expertise,  and the artistry that goes into capturing the character of these interesting birds.
Darrin Armstrong competing

Meet Darrin Armstrong - Camera salesperson and waterfowl expert

As a waterfowl expert and champion duck caller, Darrin's knowledge goes beyond photography. His understanding of waterfowl behavior and migration patterns enhances his ability to anticipate and capture those magical moments. Whether it's the flight of a Snow Goose or the serene presence of a Northern Pintail on water, Darrin's keen eye and passion for waterfowl shine through in every shot. Watch the above video, as we follow Darrin, on an excursion to our local nature hotspot, Merced National Wildlife Refuge.
Geese during sunset at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Merced National Wildlife Refuge - A treasure close to home

Merced National Wildlife Refuge is a mere hour away from Fresno, and offers a diverse range of waterfowl and other birds. Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Flyway, it is a haven for migratory birds, especially during the migration season, which generally goes from late November through February and sometimes into early March. During that time, the refuge is filled with geese, ducks, ibis, lesser sandhill cranes, as well as egrets, heron, red-winged blackbirds, swans, pelicans, owls, hawks, kestrels, and even the occasional bald eagle. Not every photogenic creature has wings. There are also deer, coyote, fox, and an abundance of cottontail rabbits. It turns out that rabbits really do breed like rabbits. To learn more about the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, check out our feature: Best Places to Photograph Near Fresno.
White fronted geese

Behind the Lens:

Follow Darrin behind the lens as he maneuvers through the refuge, seeking the perfect angles and compositions. Experience the patience and skill required to photograph wildlife, especially in their natural habitats. Each click of the shutter tells a story, and Darrin is a storyteller who brings the world of waterfowl to life through his lens.
Northern pintail ducks

Darrin's gear and settings:

Darrin uses a Sony camera along with two lenses: a  70-200mm lens, and a 200-600mm lens, both ideal for capturing the beauty of wildlife in action with precision. Additionally, he often switches over to the lighter weight Panasonic Lumix G9 II camera equipped with a 100-400mm lens plus a 200mm F/2.8 lens. These are all powerful lenses, and each has it's specific use, depending upon the lighting and the distance of his subjects.
Darrin starts with a shutter speed of 1/1600 with the intention of capturing the bird with it's wings extended. His aperture and ISO depend upon the lighting. The birds are most active during sunset and blue hour (after sunset before nightfall). Some of the best shots present themselves when lighting is low.
Snow goose landing

More to come!

Stay tuned for more editions of "Shoot the Shooter," where we explore the diverse passions and photographic pursuits of the talented individuals at Horn Photo. Until then, keep shooting and embracing the beauty that surrounds us!

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