THE BLIND SPOT

Imagine you’re hiding in a blind waiting for the birds to come. With you in the blind is a bird photographer. To pass away the time, this bird photographer, who is quite the raconteur, started telling you stories about bird photography: trips that he or his colleagues took for the purpose of taking pictures of wild birds, or explaining what cameras to use and how to use them in a very non-technical way and other interesting facts about bird photography.
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BOB KAUFMAN
Photography Editor

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Bird Photography corner of the e-Bon newsletter. I’d like to call this section “The Blind Spot” as illustrated in the above story. For our very first episode allow me to answer some questions that pop-up in a birders’ mind when it comes to bird photography:

Who are those bird photographers, anyway? And why are they behaving like that?

Very loaded questions indeed. Basically, the answer to the first question is so simple that it would, without a doubt, elicit a “duh!” from you. Bird photographers are people who enjoy taking pictures of wild birds. There. Really simple, isn’t it?

The more complex answers are reserved to the second question. The way bird photographers act stems from 1) how they got started in that hobby 2) how they see themselves 3) what their end goals are.

Let’s tackle the first one. Many bird photographers started out as bird watchers. They know the basic behavior of birds, the habitats and other pertinent data. For most of these people they enjoyed the beauty of birds that they want more than just a fleeting look at these avian creatures. They wanted to have a “record” of what they had seen – images that they could gaze upon at any time they wanted to. These images are, of course, photographs that they have taken. Some would take pictures of birds that they were unable to identify in the field so that they have something to refer to when looking at Field Guides or to submit to the experts for their analysis. For the most part these types would be contented with just an “average” result in their bird picture-taking. The more self-demanding bird photographers would try to learn as much as they could about the intricacies of photography in general – studying the technicalities and such.

Then there are those who started off as photographers – whether it be in model photography, or sports, or landscapes. Realizing that the most challenging of all photographic endeavors is taking a picture of those tiny, constantly moving feathered creatures drew these people into bird photography. The more serious of these in the second group usually evolve into devoting themselves to the study of birds the way avid birders do.

Based on the above categories, certain bird photographers consider themselves as mere recorders of bird images. They are happy with even a “documentary” shot (a term coined to describe a less-than-presentable picture). At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe they are the creme de la creme of bird photographers. These people would do almost anything and everything to get that perfect photograph or to be the first to document a rare species. Thankfully the vast majority of bird photographers fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. They strive to get the best picture of a certain bird but they also know their limitations and puts the welfare of their subjects first and foremost.

As far as taking bird photographs is concerned, generally there are two basic methods: first is what is called “stationary” birding. As the term implies, it is essentially staying put to take the pictures of the birds in that area. A very good example was when a family of Philippine Eagle Owls was spotted at the trees inside the Balara Compound in Quezon City. A bunch of bird photographers placed their camera equipment in front the tree where the owls were and took as many pictures as they could.

The other method is quite logically, “non-stationary” birding. Bird photographers either walk or ride in cars and try to get pictures of birds they encounter along the way. An example of this is at the Candaba Wetlands. To get the most of the bird life found in this area, it is necessary to walk or drive around in a car.

Now for the final question on what the end goals of a bird photographer are. These are rather personal, but let’s consider the more obvious ones: Bird photographer take picture so that these can be used for scientific research purposes. Getting the images of a nest and eggs of a species never before recorded is a tremendous help to those whose specific field of study is about birds. Some bird photographers are motivated by personal challenges, i.e. getting photographs of all the doves and pigeons found in the Philippines. Of course there are the professional photographers whose main goal is to sell the results of their work. While others simply enjoy the pleasure of obtaining bird photographs as a mere hobby and their goal is to simply take the best possible picture that opportunity offers. Please note that a bird photographer can have one or any combination of the above goals. It is the manner of achieving these goals that really matters. The bottom line being that no photograph is more important than the welfare of the birds that we are taking pictures of.

So there you have it! A bird’s eye view of what makes a bird photographer tick (or what attracts ticks to bird photographers). In the months to come we hope to give you more insights into this quaint activity known as bird photography.

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