Bird Magic

I have met Charles on a couple of occasions, but his main impact on me has been through his images, which he displays online though his website In this regard, I believe he is uniquely and impressively talented. There are many bird photographers these days, and perhaps more than ever before. The equipment is better, and more affordable than it has ever been in the past. Thus, there are many excellent bird photographs being produced all the time, and it is not easy for any one photographer to stand out. Charles McDonald’s photos do stand out.

Charles is a fine naturalist, and his subjects look natural, untroubled by his presence, and at ease in their surroundings. All that I have seen are identified correctly. The magic, however, comes from a masterful combination of lighting skills, technical competence, and competence in the field.

Many of the images have a remarkable, almost 19th Century look to them, pin-sharp portraits of the timeless beauty of Canadian birdlife. Others are contemporary in their photographic style, and stand up to any I have seen by other photographers.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking photography with some of the finest bird and nature photographers in North America — people such as Arthur Morris, George Lepp, and Mark Moffett. I truly believe that Charles McDonald falls in this league.

John H. Acorn
Associate Chair Undergraduate Curator of Natural History Collections University of Alberta
2016-05-19

I view Charles work from three perspectives: Technical skill, artistic results and professionalism.

Technically Charles’s work is easily amongst the best I have ever seen. Composition elements such as framing, positioning etc. are all excellent. Where Charles’s work excels even further is his command of lighting, which is at the heart of all excellent photographs. The tone and warmth of his photos are brilliant.

Beyond the technical elements of his work Charles excels at creating an emotional connection to the subject. This is a skill that goes beyond composition of the picture and into the realm of art. His ability to capture the subject in such a way to build a connection is second to none and is some of the best I have ever seen.

I have spoken with Charles several times about his photos, as I am a photographer myself, and am interested in his work. A key element that has come up in these conversations is the approach Charles takes with his picture. It clear that he has immense patience to spend the time needed to find just the right moment to capture an image. Photography is not to be rushed and it’s clear that Charles has a large supply of patience. Also what has become clear is that Charles has deep respect for the subjects he studies. He takes his time to get them used to his presence and allows the birds to adjust to his being in their space. He doesn’t just rush in to snap a pic for his list and then rush off. He takes his time and has profound respect for the birds. To me this is a sign of a true photographer and artist.

Charles’s work is easily amongst the best I have ever seen and I feel he is also a very thoughtful and respectful photographer.

Steve Kulak, MSc.
Co-Owner of The Wildbird General Store
2016-05-18