Book reviews:    The Art of Bird Photography

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The Art of Bird Photography
Arthur Morris
0 8174 3303 1
Amphoto Books
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The full title of this book is "The Art of Bird Photography: The complete guide to professional field techniques". The first part of the title already explains what this book is about. It is not one of the many books available on the subject of how to get a picture of a bird. This book concentrates on how to get beautiful photographs of birds. Photographs that don't just show a bird species but are truly amazing pieces of art as well.

The writer, Arthur Morris, is a very passionate bird lover and photographer. His love for the birds shows in every part of the book. He has been a teacher for many years before becoming a full time professional bird photographer. His experience of many years of teaching do show in his book. It is very well written and explains things very clearly. Its like having a personal teacher explaining you everything.

After a prefece and introduction there are ten chapters dealing with equipment and techniques. The book ends with a very handy description of the best birding spots in North America. After reading this book, you'll have to combat the urge to just pick up your camera and dash off to any of these spots right away. I'll describe the ten chapters of the book in a bit more detail now.

  1. Choosing the right equipment.
    This chapter deals with the hardware necessary for bird photography. Arthur Morris is a Canon contract photographer and this shows throughout the book. Before being contracted by Canon, he had been using Canon equipment for 12 years already. So his opinions are sometimes quite outspoken and maybe a bit biassed. But he clearly tells this to the reader at the beginning of the book. Still his advice is extremely valuable whatever brand of camera system you are using. He describes what to keep in mind when selecting a camera and lenses. Read this chapter very well before making any investments in equipment.
  2. The autofocus advantage
    Here Arthur Morris describes the different techniques for using autofocus. If you think that autofocus is just point the lens at the bird and shoot, then this chapter will be an eye opener to you. All diferent systems of autofocus are described with loads of practical advice from his years of experience. There are also different sections about AF with short and long lenses, teleconverters etc.
  3. Making good exposures
    Every photographer (whether interested in birds or not) should read this chapter. Not just once but several times. Read it, think about it and read it again. Practice the advice. Look at the results and read it once more. I think that this is the most important chapter of the entire book. It shows that no matter how complicated and expensive your camera is, no matter how many different exposure modes there may be, you need to learn about exposure. Arthur Morris explains the different exposure modes and their characteristics. He also explain where these modes fail and what you can do to compensate this. He explains in detail how to expose for dark and light birds in different backgrounds.
  4. On matters of light
    This chapter deals using existing light and when and how to use flash lights. There is information on how to shoot and expose for silhouettes. Information how to use electronic flash equipment.
  5. Film choise
    The choice of film is very personal. Arthur Morris explains the differences between the films and tells you what he likes and also why. He also gives advice on how to handle and store film.
  6. Producing sharp images
    Another very important chapter in this book. It tells you about lens quality and the movement of birds and shutter speeds. About focussing and depth of field. There are also sections about a vital part of equipment in photography with telelenses, the tripod and ball head. Arthur Morris once again has strong opinions on which tripod and ballhead to use, but his advice is sound.
  7. Designing the image
    Here is where the Art comes into the photography. This part explains you the difference between shooting snapshots of different birds and really making great looking photographs of these birds. It deals with composition, background, perspective and much more.
  8. Getting close
    Photographing birds is not just all about using the biggest lens available. And even with big lenses you'll still need to get close to a bird for it to fill the frame. When just starting in bird photography this can be very frustrating. Arthur Morris gives advice on how to approach birds without scaring them away.
  9. Capturing action and behaviour
    There is a difference between images of birds showing the species for a bird guide and images where the bird shows interaction with other birds or it's environment. This chapter tells you what to look for and to capture it on film.
  10. Evaluating and selling your work
    The dream of so many amateur photographers is to sell your work. To see it printed in a magazine and to recover some of the investment you made in equipment and film. This chapter gives information about the business side of bird photography and how to market your work.

Conclusion: The conclusion can be very simple. This book is the very best book ever written on the subject of bird photography. Why? It covers all aspects of bird photography in depth. And it was written by someone who is one of the best bird photographers around. His experience as a photographer shows on every page of the book. And his experience as a teacher makes this book very enjoyable to read and understand.

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All text and images 1991 - 2011 Hans Martens