How was Gene able to take such incredible photographs of living birds and their nests? In her articles and in her bird study books she told her secrets of her success.
Gene’s first advice was to “use plain common sense. Approach the nest slowly, and when the young begin to cry, imitate them so that they will think you are a kindred thing.”
She had enormous patience and would spend hours and days to get the best pictures. She would allow the birds to become used to her presence to win their trust. For her king rail photographs, she came back seven days in a row and moved a little closer to the nest each day. She did not disturb the nest and Gene was able to get some great photographs.
She recommended spreading out food that the birds like and if necessary to feed them several times. In the winter, she enjoyed walks and would carry seed and bread with her to spread out along the road for the birds.
She dressed in what she called her “swamp clothes” that were comfortable and practical for work in the field. She hired young men to help her carry her gear. She had four cameras, one weighed forty pounds, a tall ladder, hose and waders. Two of the best men that she hired were Raymond Miller and Paxson. She writes about both men in her nature study books.
Since Gene lived in a time before the internet, she had a network of people in Geneva that she called her faithful friends or kind strangers who came to her when they had a bird or a nest of interest. Bob Black was an oil man who enjoyed hunting for bird nests in his spare time. He located over forty nests for Gene. Bob and Gene would remain lifelong friends.
Gene’s advice is still relevant over one-hundred years later. Common sense, patience, practical clothes and friends that will pass along information.