Shooting birds: Strasburg photographer takes aim at beauty in the wild

Alvin Finchum, of Strasburg, leans on his camera and 500mm lens outside Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown recently. One of Finchum's photos appeared in an article on the National Geographic's website in February. Rich Cooley/Daily

MIDDLETOWN – A retired Lord Fairfax Community College employee recently had a photograph featured in an online National Geographic article, fulfilling a dream come true in his passion for photography.

Alvin Finchum, 63, of Strasburg, took a photo of a short-eared owl with a meadow vole in its talons. The photo was picked up by National Geographic and featured in the article “The Owls of Winter: Ghosts of the Grasslands Appear at Twilight,” written by Cheryl Lyn Dybas. The photo was taken in January in Warren County.

Finchum said he retired from the college’s building grounds team 2 1/2 years ago after serving as an HVAC mechanic for about 26 years, and then earned his career studies certificate in outdoor and nature photography last year.

When searching for shots, he said, he’s “an opportunist.”

He added that he enjoys nature photography the most, snapping photos of an array of wild animals and wildflowers, but prefers bird photography the most.

A short-eared owl is shown in this photo carrying a meadow vole above Stonebridge Farm in Warren County. The photo was featured with an article on the National Geographic website. Photo by Alvin Finchum

“You learn very quickly when it comes to wild animals,” he said about getting the perfect shot.

Finchum is out almost everyday searching for his next muse, he added, taking at least 1,000 photos during each outing.

He said if someone is seriously interested in photography, take the classes and get the certificate from the college in order to learn about all the camera features, lenses, composition and exposures, and how to use these skills for different styles of photography.

“You will be surprised with what you think you know that you don’t,” he added.

Since discovering his love of photography, he said he has been having a lot of fun expanding upon his skills and experimenting with new animals and locations to shoot. He recently accompanied professors Rob and Ann Simpson to Costa Rica during one of their nature photography trips.

This fiery-throated hummingbird was photographed by Alvin Finchum in a cloud forest in Costa Rica.

Check out the National Geographic article and Finchum’s photo online at http://tiny.cc/1yqoky. Finchum also has his own website to show off his talents and offer stock photography for purchase at http://tiny.cc/d0qoky.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com