Photographer Jessica Kirste‘s work proves that you don't need to go to an exotic location to take incredible photos of wildlife. Her own backyard is fertile ground, and she made good use of it in 2021 to capture the birds that call it home. After slowly earning their trust, she was able to transition from photographing them through a window to joining them outside. That's when the magic really started.
As the birds began to look to her as a source of peanuts, Kirste gained access to their world. The results are breathtaking. She enjoys capturing them in motion, so her photography is full of birds flying, feeding, and bathing. By focusing directly on the bird with little else in the frame, she allows viewers to drink in the actions of the animal without distraction. In particular, she's enthralled with blue jays. This species has taken a liking to her in and she's taken full advantage of it.
“They are the one backyard bird that is so friendly and so smart, and also very pretty with all those hues of blue,” Kirste tells My Modern Met. “They quickly learned a year ago that I am the peanut supplier and they can get curbside pick up here! I can go outside and shake the bag of peanuts and call them and they will all fly in if they are close by. I don't know any other bird that will respond in that way. I do control the number of peanuts they are getting and I am not just throwing bunches of them out there. They have helped me learn how to get better photos of smaller birds in flight. They make for great photos with all their crazy movements and twists in the air.”
Blues jays aren't the only stars of Kirste's bird photography. Woodpeckers, cardinals, and even ducks all make regular appearances on her Instagram feed. As these animals are constantly on the go, Kirste is always on her toes. Never knowing what will happen next—and when the next great photo will happen—is part of what keeps her creatively stimulated. She hopes that her work will serve as a lesson for others to know that great photographs can happen right in their own backyard.
“You might not see anything from the inside looking out but once you spend time sitting out there waiting and watching you start to see a lot of birds that you probably never knew came around your yard. Put up bird feeders or have unsalted peanuts on hand to offer to your feathered visitors you just might make sure friends who will come daily.”