Interview with the Pros: Jerry Acton



Behind the Lens interview with the Pros: Jerry Acton

We share their stunning snapshots in our photo features and on our covers, but the professional photographers who take them still remain relatively unseen. Working with these amazing people is such a wonderful experience that we’ve decided to extend our Behind the Lens profiles to our blog. Meet the first of our monthly featured photographers: Jerry Acton!

Hummingbird and Iris by Jerry Acton. Birds & Blooms, June/July 2011.

Jerry Acton's amazing hummingbird and iris photo graced the June/July 2011 issue's back cover.

When did you begin taking pictures of birds?

I first became serious about taking photos of birds 10 years ago when they began flocking to the backyard wildlife habitat we were developing at our new country home.  Fascinated by their beauty, I was inspired to capture them in pictures to share with others.  A pleasant past-time quickly grew into a passion.

Our landscaping already included two garden ponds and numerous bird-friendly trees, shrubs, and flowers.  To entice even more birds, I expanded the number and variety of feeders and ground feeding areas to allow comfortable space for the many species we were enjoying.  I built bluebird nest boxes, placing them strategically around the yard and pastures, building more and rearranging them as the birds showed me their preferred locales.

My photography goals evolved as I observed the birds.  I wanted to capture infrequently seen behavior, such as a female red-eyed vireo feeding her young, a robin spreading flat on the ground on a very hot day, or a song sparrow feeding her fledgling cowbird.  I also wanted to show the birds as they’d look in natural habitat, which challenged me to provide feeding arrangements that appeared more natural.

What inspires you?

I am most inspired by the knowledge that I will never run out of opportunities to photograph and share nature’s beauty.  There are new settings in which to capture the birds I have already photographed, new species on my “to be captured” list, and more photographing and editing techniques to learn.  As long as I can push a shutter button, I will be able to “Brighten Your Day with Nature” (my website logo slogan).

Why do you take pictures?

I take pictures because, in the moment, it gives me an adrenaline rush to capture nature’s amazing beauty.  Sitting with my camera, watching bird and animal behavior and waiting for those precious moments, is like meditation for me.  Posting my images daily on my website gives me the additional pleasure of sharing what I see with others all over the U.S. and throughout the world.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph?

I especially love photographing bird behavior.  There is so much more to enjoying birds than identification guides are able to show: courtship, nesting, fledglings, molting, bathing, variations in plumage, and reactions to all kinds of weather: rain, sleet, frost, snow, high wind, or heat.  I also love catching anything unusual, such as the snowy owl hunting in our neighbor’s cornfield, or the leucistic chickadee currently frequenting our feeder.

Jerry Acton

 Enjoy Jerry’s photo galleries by visiting the Jerry Acton Nature Photography website:


  1. Jan Nyhus says

    What equipment do you use and with what lenses? Then, what software do you use to “fix” your pics? Thanks! I love all your pictures. So much talent!!

    • John Hoepfner says

      Well, unless I’m missing something…what are your answers to all these questions?

      John Hoepfner

    • vickie wells says

      I agree,this is a very beautiful Picture. I have iris around my trees. I didn’t realize hummingbirds liked iris’s
      another plus to my yard. my first hummingbird of the season finally showed up Friday May 4th.

  2. Claudia says

    What camera and lenses do you use. I have been trying to improve my pictures but I need better equipment but don’t want
    to spend a too much money but still take neat pictures.

  3. John says

    Come on, readers want to know what equipment, what lense settings, what lenses….. its nice
    to have a bit of biography on the photographer, but I am sure most will agree… we want to
    know how — not why!

  4. says

    Up here in Port Orchard Washington we are seeing the Anna hummers year around. so my feeders are out and are being
    visited daily. I change the water,sugar salution every three days. Usually we have just one or two pair per winter.
    The Rufus will be appearing by May or June. Then the fights begin and it’s time to hang out two feeders about ten feet apart’

  5. Paul Swaneck says

    Every Spring when the Orchard Orioles come through our area (South Bend, Indiana) I put out a couple dishes of grape jelly on our front porch rail. The rail is about 6 feet from our kitchen window and is a perfect place to watch the Orioles feeding. We have been able to take some beautiful photos of them without removing the screens. Last Spring they stayed for over a month and we went through a couple jars of jelly…but it was worth it.

  6. says

    I use a Nikon D300S camera with a SIGMA 150-500MM zoom lens and tripod.
    To get this shot, I saw the hummingbird stop at this flower which is at the edge of my water garden pond.
    I have learned that they tend to revisit flowers about every 15-20 minutes.
    So I pre-focused in manual mode on the part of the Iris flower that I thought would be in the same plane
    as the hummingbird if he returned. He did, I fired off 6-8 shots and this one turned out pretty good.

  7. says

    To edit this photo, I used Photoshop Elements 6.0.
    Nothing fancy, just a few adjustments to brightness, saturation and sharpness.
    I always take test shots first, read my histogram and tweak my settings
    to get the exposure just right for the light.
    That way, I don’t have to do a lot of editing.

  8. says

    Seems everyone wanted the info but no one seems too grateful you gave it. So thank you Jerry Acton for being generous with your info, a lot of photographers would not have been so generous. Beautiful pics from a generous man.

  9. John Hoepfner says

    As always, I missed going to the bottom…Thanks for all the answers. You do good work…keep it up

    John Hoepfner

    PS Just a note: Over the years I have had photos in Birds and Blooms too….However,, either the quality of my work has gone down hill or I said the wrong thing to the staff at birds and blooms, because I have had nothing in either birds and blooms or Birds and Blooms EXTRA for many years. If I did make the staff mad at me….sorry, I really did not mean to do so.

  10. says

    Thank you for the kind words about being generous. I have learned so much from other photographers who were willing to share their knowledge and experience. In my experience when I am generous to others, the generosity comes back to me 2-fold or more. I’ll take that kind of “return on investment” any day!

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