Empty branches may be beautiful but for Kristina Martin they are a photo failure. It’s the birds that have just vacated the branches that she is hoping to photograph. “I take a lot of photos to get to the good one,” she says.

Her interest in birding started in 2016, after a 30-year career as a medical transcriptionist. Lured by the songs and chirps, flights and feathers of birds, she picked up a camera in order to capture their images to identify these fast-moving creatures and study them more closely. As she began photographing them, she discovered their quirky secrets: the catbird loves to splash and bathe; the wings whistle when the dove takes flight.

“I ended up with all these photos. So I made cards for family and friends. They said they were pretty good! I put together a basket and put them on the counter at Yushak’s (general store in Shushan, NY) and that’s where it all started,” she says.

Kristina loves nature and being outdoors; she doesn’t mind how challenging photographing wildlife can be. Recalling a recent evening in Fort Edward, I can hear a smile in her voice. She hunkered down in the tall grass and waited for short-eared owls that have migrated locally from the arctic to appear. Owls are a favorite subject of hers to shoot partially because they are nocturnal; it’s difficult to get a good shot in natural light. “They came out at dusk and were flying over the grasslands,” she says.

Her work has grown into an extensive line of cards but she also offers enlarged prints and framed art. As customers have requested, she has expanded her work into nature scenes and rural living, including florals, barnyard scenes and covered bridges. (She had a fox family in a hedgerow behind her house last year. She set up a blind and was able to watch four kits grow up while getting great photos for her cards.) She plans to package her cards into gift sets and will create groupings of birds, flowers and more for Mother’s Day and springtime.

Her art is transforming as she gets more practice. She introduced photos that are more abstract. “It’s fun to see people’s reaction to my more abstract work. Some people really get it,” she says. For instance, she took a photo of a snow bend with trees and altered it into sepia. There’s a path that’s lighter than the surrounding area. “It’s nature but it’s funky,” she says.

Although Kristina tries to keep photos as genuine as possible, she uses digital technology, specifically Lightroom, a photography platform, to facilitate the finest result. “I try to make sure the photos I take are the best they can be to start, depending on the conditions. Editing or enhancing photos is part of the craft, improving on the original photo, creating more definition by cropping or enhancement,” she says.

Kristina is enjoying being a relative novice, always learning something new. She appreciates the feedback she receives from her customers as well as tips from other photographers.   

Kristina is happy to accommodate specific bird photo requests. She also offers enlargements of any images seen on her Whistle Wing Print cards. “Creating hand-crafted cards and prints allows me to share the beauty, charm and humor I see around me every day.” In the meantime, Kristina will keep on getting outside and shooting … hopefully not another empty branch.