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Friday, 23 April 2021


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On having a camera with you.
Years ago Jay Maisel was to give a talk to a photo group. Story is he walked on stage and saw the group, asked "who has their camera with them?" and no one did.
He is supposed to have then walked off the stage and did not give the presentation. Maybe said "I thought this was a group of Photogrphers" - but can't confirm.

Even a small carry around camera will pay dividends when things suddenly pop up - be it a dedicated model or your Cell Phone.

If you ever did create a book called “Bird Photographs as Art” then I hope it will not get confused with Art Morris’ book, “The Art of Bird Photography”, which at one time was considered to be THE book to learn bird photography from. I bought a copy shortly after I started doing bird photography, my favourite type of photography. This book certainly helped me to take better photographs of birds.

I am glad that you acknowledged how challenging bird photography can be. That is partly why I like it. I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction when I get a good bird photo, which does not happen nearly as often as I would like.

I just wait for the thump when a bird impacts our picture window, then pose the still stunned bird and take a picture.
Alright, just kidding.

When I was a kid in the reforested Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri, my dad would regularly and sarcastically murmur under his breath that "there would be a great view here if someone would cut down these trees..."

...the other problem, which is that there's always stuff in the way...

That's probably why landscape hacks like me tend to photograph in parks where someone has laid out trails/overlooks generally free of obstructions. :)

Timing is everything.
At the farm we had tons of birds and they were close to the house. So I'd just often take a break from work, sit on the patio and wait for something interesting like Hawks, quail, woodpeckers, etc.. I kept the "Critter cam" with the telephoto zoom where I could grab it going out the door if I saw something through the windows.
I'd suggest eating lunch outdoors with the camera on the table and watching the trees for birds. You should see plenty: Here is a state guide to birds in NY: https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/54755.html
But maybe you're not into birds like we are. Taking photos of things your are not interested in is not really fun, is it?
As for scenics, I remember visiting Bryce Canyon on a beautiful February day with some snow on the ground and puffy white clouds in a perfect blue sky. The scenery was beautiful, but the sky was criss-crossed with dozens of contrails from jet airliners, spoiling the scene and the photos.

One fall I captured an image of a waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge. It was okay, but I knew I could do better. I studied that image and planned my next visit. The following spring I was able to get back to that waterfall. Leaves on the tree had sprouted. The ice storm that winter had left a huge pile of tree branches at the base of the falls. The spring runoff from the snow melt on Mt. Hood was causing the falls to run large and fast. But the image in my mind was darn good.

‘Good bird photograph consists 30% of equipment, 50% of knowing the subject and 70% of luck. All 150% is needed, that has been shown in practice many times.’
- - - Hannu Hautala, the most famous Finnish bird photographer

I'm not a bird photographer either but I shoot bird photos occasionally. A 200mm lens won't cut it and yes, it requires a lot of patience. My bird photos all involve shooting through my windows to the are where I have bird feeders set up. I have a Canon SX50HS that doesn't have professional resolution but does have a 1250mm equivalent focal length and I've gotten some decent photos with it of song birds either on the feeder or on the arborvitae just outside the window. The small birds in particular are used to seeing me when I put seed out, to the point that I think if I put a lawn chair out there and sat with seed in my open hand they would come and take it (the patience part). Oddly, the larger the bird, the more skittish they seem to be. Chickadees are the bravest, followed by Gold Finches.

When it comes to photographing birds, I am reminded of the tricks that Elliot Porter used. He would find a nest. Set up a strobe. Birds move incredibly fast and using a strobe helps and it doesn't seem to bother the birds. When the chicks are born and up until they fledge, the parents spend a lot of time at the nest.

Another idea is to use a camera with a 1" sensor with a great zoom range. These cameras are used a lot by dedicated bird photographers. I noticed this studying bird images on Flickr. A good i" sensor that is matched with a good lens such as the Sony RX10 can rival the quality of a comparable APS-C or a micro 4/3 set up.

I think this is what I like about landscape photography. You can return to your favorite places, and they can look so different. You can take another crack at another shot to capture them right. The “best shot” might still happen, it’s worth the return, even if you’ve gotten lucky once or twice already to have gotten a good one in the past.

I guess with bird photography, your subject is literally fleeting. A moment for better opportunity really won’t return.

I’m sure ASW’s Ozarks couldn’t hold a candle to Chingford in the 1890’s :

If you saw my little backyard
What a pretty spot you'd cry
It's a picture on a sunny summer day
Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages
Wot people doesn't buy
I makes it on a Sunday look all gay
The neighbours' finks I grows 'em
And you'd fancy you're in Kent
Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews
Its a wonder that the landlord
Doesn't want to raise the rent
Because we've got such nobby, distant views.

Chorus: Oh it really is a werry pretty garden
And Chingford to the Eastward could be seen
Wiv a ladder and some glasses
You could see the 'Ackney Marshes
If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between.


"You can't go home to get your camera . . ."

There is a solution, just one you haven't been willing to implement. You know what to do!

Betweenness might also help. I don't carry a full, "serious" kit everywhere I go. I do carry a 1" sensor Panny ZS200, on belt or in bag. (Think Sony RX100 with longer zoom, more sensible EVF design.)

Imagine screeching sound, as Travelall brakes heavily, pulls to side of road, man leaps out, grabs camera on tripod and film holder, scrambles up to platform on top, sets up and shoots. Result - Moonrise, Hernandez, NM. Notice, the gear was ready.

Imagine screeching sound, as vehicle brakes heavily, pulls to side of road, Moose grabs camera under his legs, leaps out and runs into woods, yelling "I'll be back!" This is the prelude to some of my very finest landscape photos.

I'd show examples, but 470 pixels wide doesn't work for that sort of photos.

Many years ago, I went for a Sunday morning drive in my 1962 Corvair Convertible. I wanted to see some Frank Lloyd Wright designed lamp poles in a Mall parking lot. I thought I was alone, but then I noticed a La Salle limosine with roof platform and Ansel Adams was up there with his view camera! I kick myself for not going over and saying hello. But he was busy and I didn't have the nerve to interrupt. And, of course, I didn't bring a camera that day.

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