As many of you know, I’ve got an upcoming workshop in Albania. This will be my third trip to this fascinating country. I should mention here, mostly for my American audience, that Albania is NOT inside Russia nor is it right next to Ukraine. Albania is NOT in South America and Albania is not at war. In fact, Albania is far safer than New Mexico, the place I happen to call home. Albania borders Greece to the south, North Macedonia and Kosovo to the east, and Montenegro to the north. And there just so happens to be this little body of water, several actually, to the west. You know, those pesky little puddles the Adriatic and the Ionian. (Albania has the best beaches in the entire region.)
My plan is to co-teach with Elena Dorfman. We will cover photography as well as the real-time creation of magazines. Shoot, edit, sequence, design. (Each student gets a free $50 code.) During last year’s trip, in addition to shooting my double exposures, I occasionally had one eye peeled for feathered, flying objects, but this was mostly confined to the breakfast table at the Rogner Hotel in Tirana. The Rogner has a fantastic breakfast, and coffee for that matter, and the entire surrounding outside area is open range for eating and hanging out. I get up early and head down to journal while consuming my morning meal.
As you would imagine, anytime you eat outside, birds will make their presence known, but birding had yet to become a fixation for me. So sure, I would glance at the species attempting to steal my chocolate chip pancakes but never gave the specific birds much attention. I did see the ubiquitous sparrow and well as the Eurasian magpie which is a gorgeous blue, black, and white bird that is hard to miss. But that’s about it.
After doing a quick search, I realized I had missed 25 of the 28 most common birds in Albania. That’s not easy to do and tells you how focused on photography and books I was. A student did see some crazy, red-headed “thing” from Africa but by the time he called it out it was gone. I’m semi-puzzled how I could have missed so much but also driven to try and remedy this reality. What I love about birding is that birding is like breathing. It’s kinda always there. You do it without needing much. You just turn on the “look for birds,” portion of the brain.
And the amazing thing about these trips is the range of territory we cover. From tight urban areas to vast, alpine mountain ranges that have to be loaded with species. This is exciting because these are Eurasian species are different from what we have here in the backwater western United States. These Euro species are much like the humans that dwell in those parts. They wear skinny pants, scarves, speak multiple languages and travel with TINY suitcases. They are flamboyant, colorful and are prone to burning down their own cities when their team wins. What’s not to like?
I won’t bring any long glass to Albania as I don’t need it to teach or to continue with my “side-project” of multiple exposures, but I will bring my binoculars. In fact, my binoculars will be with me at all times from here forward. Ya, it’s that bad. Down the rabbit hole. Lost to the realm of the ornithological unknown. These classes are about observation. There is no right and wrong. Each attendee sees in their own way, something clearly evidenced when it comes time to review the work. Giving yourself a chance to see without the restrictions of home life creeping in. Let’s be frank, this is a luxury but if you are driven to be a photographer you simply MUST undertake missions to do little else than frame up the world. The birds will continue to be secondary but I’ll be watching and waiting while protecting my pancakes.