Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Birdwatching, photography and reeds

click photo to enlarge
It struck me the other day that photographers are quite similar to birdwatchers in the way they choose to pursue their hobby.

Birdwatchers fall into two main groups. There are those who study a particular local patch, walking the same routes year after year in different seasons and at different times of day, learning which birds favour which spots and when, noting the unfamiliar as their eye becomes attuned to the familiar terrain. Such people also, periodically, travel a bit further afield and benefit from seeing new species in different surroundings. Often birdwatching of this kind is a solitary pursuit, or is undertaken with a partner or friend, and builds a knowledge of bird life in a particular locality over time. Then there are those who tear around the countryside by car, briefly dropping into favoured spots, scanning the usual places before screeching off to the next locations, contacting other birdwatchers to find out if any rarities have been seen within striking distance. These birdwatchers compile lists of all sorts - birds seen from their home, birds seen in their country, birds seen in their lifetime, etc. Trips to far-flung places and abroad, to extend their lists, are essential for this kind of birdwatcher. When I watched birds with a greater seriousness than I do now I definitely fell into the first camp.

I suppose that accounts for the way I choose to make photographs, also tramping over the same ground at different times of day, in different seasons, taking pleasure in picking out something new from a piece of countryside or village that I've walked many times before yet never noticed. Making the occasional foray farther afield is part of my practice too. However, I have never been tempted to pursue my hobby by driving off to "photographic" locations, to exotic countries, or to meetings of other photographers in photogenic places: what I disparagingly call the "Luminous Landscape" approach to photography. To me that's photography as consumption just as "twitching" is about birdwatching as consumption.

Today's photograph was gathered during a circular walk I've undertaken many times. On this occasion I noticed that alongside some streams the leaves of the dead reeds had been fixed in a horizontal position, presumably by the effect of the wind. The way the late afternoon light was falling made them into an attractive subject, contrasting with the thin upright lines of their stalks. This shot has been converted to black and white using the digital equivalent of an orange filter which has increased the contrast of the image.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 132mm (264mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On