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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone – Part 1

I’m often asked if my photography is limited to birds. While it’s true that birds are my passion and my photography is mostly dedicated to them, it’s also true that I have become much more in-tuned to the environment in which I shoot. Although patience is a key to success in bird photography, there will be days when your patience may bear no results. Over time, I’ve learned that waiting to photograph birds has greatly enhanced my visual perception of the world in which these birds live. The hours of waiting for avian action forces me to use my time effectively by paying close attention to the finer details in nature and making images that keep the creative juices flowing. In this two-part article, I share tips on photographing the nature around you while you wait for the birds.

Canon IDX / 1/250 sec @ f/13

Canon IDX / 1/250 sec @ f/13

Bringing The Small Wonders Of Nature To Life

When shooting birds with a long 600mm lens, the angle of view is very narrow as you are trying to get a close-up shot of the bird; and, unlike a macro lens, you are also limited by the minimum focusing distance which, for a longer lens, can be quite far off. In this situation, it’s important to focus on distant objects and compose the image so that you can pick up the finer details which otherwise would not be visible to the naked eye.

For the image above, I was waiting in a tall hide in the rainforests of Taman Negara, Malaysia. With the help of a long lens, I was able to focus into parts of thick vegetation and pick up the heart-shaped leaves and the thin intertwined vine. Visually, this magnified the inherent beauty that was hidden in the dense and cluttered forest. The front-to-side lighting added a three-dimensional touch and further accentuated the beauty and sense of poetry. This low-key image was complete when a tiny spider came down and hung as if suspended in time.

Canon IDX / 1/800 sec @ f/8.0

Canon IDX / 1/800 sec @ f/8.0

No, the image above is not an alien floating through the Aurora Borealis but rather a Eugenia flower with its reflection. This image was shot from a boat with a 600mm lens while floating downstream in a kayak on the Tembeling River (also in Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia). As we slowly made our way downstream, silently looking for forest birds, I came across this single flower floating on gentle ripples of shaded water. This scene was screaming for attention… a single ray of sunlight falling on the flower was giving it a glow against the shaded water. In order to further glorify the beauty of this moment, I needed to add some color to the dark water. I signaled the kayak operator to position us so that the subtle reflections of the tree above would fall on the water below and around the flower.

For both of the images above, letting the camera automatically meter the scene would leave the main subjects highly overexposed. The camera’s Evaluative Metering mode averages out the entire scene (which is mostly dark) causing the shutter speed to drop significantly to achieve the “proper exposure”. This leaves the lit subject (a small part of the overall scene) overexposed. To achieve the correct exposure in this situation, the image should be underexposed by one to two stops.

To be continued…..Stepping out your comfort zone – Part 2

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