Learning Excellence in Photography Online from Expert Melissa Groo


By Anne W. Semmes

Red and Green Macaws in a fly by in Brazil. Photo by Melissa Groo

Melissa Groo is a Greenwich homegrown, award-winning wildlife photographer, based in Ithaca, New York with her family, but much present in the Melissa Groo Gallery at Audubon Greenwich where her stunning photos of birds captured in the wild are on view, accompanied now with fitting Mary Oliver poetry. But soon Melissa will be highly accessible online with the June 30 debut of her inaugural Bird Photography course released by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s e-learning department, Bird Academy. For the price of admission, she says, “You can watch all 34 videos, at any time, and as many times as you wish.”

“Bird photography can seem daunting at first,” she explains, “from figuring out what gear to buy, to finding birds to photograph, to mastering your settings, so I’ve designed this course to help you every step of the way.”

Snowy Egrets dancing in Chincoteague, Virginia. Photo by Melissa Groo

When not traveling the world on assignment for magazines or teaching her trade, Melissa spent much of last year in the filming for the course. “It was a great honor and opportunity to work with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,” she shares. “The Lab is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds, and it was a welcome chance to help increase appreciation of birds and their beauty, diversity, and intelligence.”

The course offers instruction on seven overarching topics: “Understand Birds for Better Photos; Match Your Gear to Your Goals; Gain an Audience with Birds; Craft Great Bird Photos; Get Creative and Tell Stories; Capture Birds in Flight; and Curate, Edit, and Share Your Photos.”

Surely important to Melissa are the topics found in Lesson 3: “Let birds come to you; Attract birds; Approach birds responsibly.” In her work Melissa has become a spokesperson for ethical wildlife photography. To not intrude on that wildlife with your camera, however impassioned. “I discuss often,” she confirms, “how thoughtful photography that honors the welfare of the bird first and foremost can actually result in the best photos.”

Baltimore oriole foraging for food in Ithaca, NY. Photo by Melissa Groo

She’s just back from a teaching assignment in Wyoming, her first breakout from the pandemic since holding a workshop in Nebraska with the Sandhill Crane migration in March. Any bird highlights in Wyoming? Most definitely. “Mountain bluebirds feeding their young, northern harriers building nests, red-naped sapsuckers nesting in an aspen tree, American avocets with chicks.”

For those wanting to take advantage of an early-bird discount, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is offering “Bird Photography with Melissa Groo” at $190 until the debut date of June 30, when the price changes to the regular cost of $240. “More than anything,” she emphasizes, “I want to help you realize your goals when it comes to capturing stunning images of these magnificent creatures, no matter how modest or ambitious they are.”

To enroll in the course or give it as a gift, visit https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/bird-photography-with-melissa-groo/