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Lessons in Cultivation

When I first got into photographing birds, I knew little of the theoretical aspect of it – the unspoken communication that is stored within the borders of the frame. For me, a photo was a photo, and hey, if it looked appealing enough at the time, then I was satisfied and it was time to move on. As the years passed, I learned more and more – not by being overtly taught – but by becoming a viewer myself. I started squeezing images (both mine and others) for information, for feeling, for atmosphere.

Many of us are somewhat blinded by the novelty of being able to see things differently through the camera, and I can assure you, I was spellbound the first time I zoomed into one of my shots and saw details on a bird’s face I had never previously noticed. Very often, this exciting new perspective is what we wish to communicate to the viewer. Sure enough, many photographers choose to work up-close and personal for this very reason. It definitely has theย wow factor. I mean, a 100% crop of a female Violaceous Euphonia creates an almost terrifying image, making us ever thankful that we’re not bug-sized.

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Personally though, I prefer to include lots of space and habitat in my images. I love that the subject has “room” to move into, it presents an image that is wilder than a tight viewpoint. It allows the viewer to wonder about what’s next in the life of this creature. It encourages thought, and appreciation of the habitat.

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A bird that’s reasonably large in the frame encourages the viewer to enjoy the bird itself – nothing to detract from the beauty that’s painted by each feather. This male Violaceous Euphonia illustrates this perfectly, even though he jumped out at me in near midday sun, it worked to my advantage as the bright light brought out some shades of blue not always seen. This is quite understandably my father’s favourite bird. Thanks dad!

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But we must always be aware of our own individuality. For artistic pursuits, this has an even greater bearing on the final product. As rewarding as tight portraits are; as attention grabbing they seem to be – I always prefer the wider viewpoint. I am, by nature, loose, relaxed and appreciative of all things within the web of life. I like my subjects to be as comfortable as they can be, where they want to be, doing what they want to do.

So please enjoy this image of a notoriously skittish Green Kingfisher, happily fluffed out on her favourite branch ๐Ÿ™‚

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4 thoughts on “Lessons in Cultivation

  1. Devan Mulchansingh says:

    I always appreciated your style of usually including lost of the environment around the bird, different from how I usually proceed myself. You hit it spot on, I usually share my tighter shots because the details in the birds do excite me! Your images stand out to me because of your different approach, an art in its own right.

  2. Some photographers like to enhance (not sure if that is the correct word) the colours also. Although the photos are for promotional purposes they still make me cringe.
    Once upon a time my friend and I went adventuring. It had poured the night before and the river was flushing so the water was not very appealing. I explained to him that it might not be appealing but that’s okay. Nature can be dull or dirty or downright bizarre these are just different sides to her. Anyway I was just the tripod holder and in the end he changed the colour of the water ๐Ÿ™
    The point is if you are going to photograph nature you should do right by her.

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