Outdoor Ontario

Photography => Equipment and Technique => Topic started by: Shortsighted on September 11, 2020, 06:23:19 pm

Title: THE THREE DESIRABLES - Pick any two
Post by: Shortsighted on September 11, 2020, 06:23:19 pm

There is an old adage that suggests that when everything is kept honest you will usually get what you pay for. In other words, considering the desirables: good quality, low cost and excellent service, the average consumer can pick any two desirables. The quality may be very good and the service excellent but that does not come cheap. If you need it cheap, then either product quality or customer service must be seriously eroded or cheap is not an option.
There is a similar theme to be considered in bird photography. A high quality image and one that is also very engaging to the viewer requires three ingredients: a compelling subject, a stunning composition and excellent image quality. The matter of superb image quality demands that you use photography equipment that can deliver it, generally achieved with a large sensor and well-constructed lens. That seems self-evident but many an enthusiast struggles with mediocre equipment, or photo gear that is simply not designed for bird photography. You don’t travel off-road in a Toyota Yaris. You do not explore for long before the limitations of your chosen vehicle becomes painfully obvious. So, there is a minimum level of gear quality and gear design that must be brought to bear before high image quality becomes the norm.
Even when the right stuff is in your hand you must have the right stuff in your head. Spending big bucks is not the only requirement. Your ability to use that gear effectively is the end result of many hours honing your skills and acquiring the “chops” needed to match the performance of your gear.
A great deal of fun can be had with lesser gear, although it is often accompanied by frustration as well. The ratio between the two may dictate the amount of time ultimately dedicated to the noble pursuit. Outstanding motivation and dogged persistence can confound the perceived limits of modest, or poorly adapted gear. There lies the other desirables. Finding an interesting subject is partly a matter of chance but the odds can be stacked in your favour if there is enough enthusiasm to fuel the pursuit, and enough persistence to put you in the right place at the right time. Fortunately there are well-documented “hotspots” that let the birder know where the right place is located. The right time can be devined by considering the season, and the prior dynamics of weather systems. Beyond those cursory parameters the recipe for success is to venture forth in pursuit of a subject(s) as often as you possibly can. A pro would set up camp at a designated hotspot and live there, as it were, until the right moment(s) happen. You must do the next best thing. Get there early, get there often and repeat.
To recapitulate, you need the gear to produce excellent quality images and you must apply the level of motivation and persistence needed to find a subject worthy of imaging. The third desirable is to develop a skill for subject composition. A proficiency in image composition is an asset and it can be viewed as a marriage of two things, camera position and shear timing. Both are demanding of the photographer and few are consistently capable of achieving success because of the retched sibling sirens of contemporary failure – impatience and laziness. These two demons are really the crux of the difference between a good photograph and a thrilling photograph. When your gear and your application of that formidable technology are routinely producing images with clarity, dynamic range and exquisite detail, and when you have located shiny, happy subjects, then the foundering influence of impatience and laziness will rob you of a more riveting image than the one you actually procured.
Impatience and laziness is a symptom of affluence and privilege. It is also exacerbated by the on-demand digital culture, whereby every want and desire is wrapped within an app and where there is scant devotion to an avocation, without the might and muscle needed to excel and produce an exceptional result. I’m not saying that most nature photographers absent on any payroll are not trying hard to get good images …. Ok, that is what I’m saying, but I’m including myself in that unwholesome declaration. My point is that I see plenty of top-notch equipment being deployed to the task of nature photography, much more than I would ever have imagined, and I see devotees out early in the morning and even during inclement weather spells, sometimes traveling long distances to be where the action is, cost undeterred, but then the last two desirables appear on the scene and in many instances forestall what might have been pure magic.
Laziness is expressed in the total lack of preparedness for the conditions and impatience materializes when quitting the campaign before the final battle. Showing up in a muddy location without rubber boots, failure to hit the turf for a really good shot because there is no protection in the kit, failure to achieve water-level shots because the hip waiters are still at the cottage, failure to get a good exposure because no consideration was given to the location of the sun, failure to station oneself in a primo spot because of inadequate footwear, failure to give the right-of-way to fire ants, failure to get that moody rain-day shot because the camera might get wet due to absent cover materials, failure to get the shot because of constant movement and futile relocation, failure to get the shot because there is more talking going on than photography, failure to leave your smart phone in the car where it can’t interrupt you or the other guy who is already searching for a cudgel to whack you into silence.
Impatience is also a symptom of our culture of immediate gratification. The fraternity that worships Instagram and Twitter may not have the discipline to wait it out. I’m not an advocate of those digital platforms but I’m challenged by impatience enough to lose the shot, time and time again. This has happened so many times I getting uncomfortable just recalling the instances of antsy behavior.
I once tried to photograph a Least Bittern at Cranberry Marsh. I knew it was there. I even knew approximately where it was prowling, although remaining unseen at that location. I knew where the light was coming from. I knew enough to station myself close to the ground, prone, camera at the ready. I was certain that it would eventually appear around the corner of a stand of reeds, perhaps appearing on stage in a dramatic pose, the pulse quickens just imagining it. I knew that my back might start hurting long before that miserable heron deigned to make an appearance. I knew that I forgot to take the Tylenol. Still, I waited for the quintessential moment when the Least of my worries would make my day … or would it be tomorrow?
Eventually I could bear it no longer and got up to raise my nostrils above the miasma. Still no Bittern. I started to walk toward the reeds in hopes of inspecting the other side and see if the star of the show is having a smoke or some other such disgusting activity. Just then it appeared at the EXACT spot I figured it would emerge. It had a clinging-like stance to a supporting reed like something out of National Geographic. I was now walking instead of supine and dead-motionless as I was moments earlier, half hidden behind my backpack for cover. The heron saw me fully erect (no, not that part) and immediately flew 20 meters away across the water to another clump of reeds. I was beside myself with fury. I had succumb to the siren’s call, the call of impatience and I paid the price with yet another missed opportunity.
Another time I was ensconced between consenting boulders at Sam Smith waiting for a non-breeding loon to come up from its dive. I watched it dive several times and counted the time before resurfacing so that I had some secure knowledge of how long I had to scramble down the rocks and wedge myself into a suitable crevice. I had a good spot, located right in front of where I expected the loon to emerge from the depths. I waited patiently. Nothing happened. I counted again from the beginning. Nothing happened. I waited until my legs were numb. I finally surrendered to failure. The loon probably swam far away and resurfaced where I couldn’t see. I got up and stiffly climbed up the slope from boulder to boulder to reach the pathway, turned around in dismay and then the loon surfaced exactly where I hoped that it would, a spot offering me a point-blank opportunity for my short lens. It must have been laughing at me with that iconic loon laugh but the steam coming out if my ears muffled the call. I was absolutely livid and the reprobate was thoroughly pleased with itself. Impatience foiled another super opportunity.
Many is the time that I was too lazy to bring rubber boots. I don’t have hip waiters and they are too expensive to buy. The truly devoted sometimes don a wetsuit and get into the water. I’ve tried getting into the water without adequate protection and it was no fun. Shoes sink into the mud, the cold water takes my breath away, but the composition results can be superb. I once used an aluminum stool and submerged it and then sat on it with water up to my chest. Camera and lens just a few inches above the water and a burlap camo cloth floating on the surface of the water below the lens hole. A Wood duck had no idea what was going on but knew there was something strange happening and that it might be fun to investigate. Happy with the shot, for sure, but too damn lazy to make a habit of it. The pro would get a wet suit, or even a dry suit and make it a regular thing.
Those sirens are just so seductive.
Title: Re: THE THREE DESIRABLES - Pick any two
Post by: Ally on September 11, 2020, 10:57:34 pm
It took me a while to finish reading( English as Second Language Learner), I guess I don't think about the composition that much. I know I will be toasted after I post this. I spend a lot of time debating, do I go down the ravine, I hear the birds, but it's windy; Or too many weeds with sticky seeds, or the path is slippery;  Do I go to the park, is there traffic? Is it going to rain, will I get lost? what if I can't find the owl, etc,etc. Then when I do go out, I just try to find the bird, and if I get them in good light, I will be happy; If they are feeding, fighting, flying, I will be happier; I get greedy, and pull it too close, so when they do feed, fight or fly, it's outside the frame, or part of it got cut :roll:
Title: Re: THE THREE DESIRABLES - Pick any two
Post by: Ally on September 12, 2020, 01:58:46 pm
So, when I was taking pics in my neighbourhood, I discovered a cicada buzzing away on the low part of a post. I thought, maybe I should do something about my composition. So I took pics of him with cars passing by, so there are different backgrounds. And realized what I was doing, and left so abruptly, I saw it through my lenz, he was very upset.
Title: Re: THE THREE DESIRABLES - Pick any two
Post by: Shortsighted on September 12, 2020, 05:05:48 pm
That is very imaginative.