Monday, 14 November 2011

Crisis averted, and Ghosts a plenty

 CRISIS... Averted...

Firstly to deal with my earlier crisis of identity. I decided I don't really care about whether I am a photographer, or a birder, or both, or neither. Sometimes I enjoy taking pictures, sometimes I enjoy just watching birds. This was proven to me on Saturday when I spent an hour sat in my garden watching House Sparrows flitting into my tree before grabbing a snack from one of my feeders. I think sometimes when I'm out in the field I grab for the camera, when there isn't really a shot on, and miss the enjoyment of just watching the birds, so if anything I need to learn restraint. Bins first, lens second. That said I did take a few snaps of the Sparrows even though it was a very, very gloomy day, some of them came out quite nice. This is mostly due to the setup I now have being able to deal with those conditions, so to change away from this would be a bad decision.

My "Pet" Sparrows

I can never see myself with a scope watching the seas in the hope of catching migrants, and Patch ticks, year lists don't really have a place in my life. I do keep a record of what I've seen, when and where I've seen them etc., but this is more for a record that I can revisit these places in the future and compare. For example I'm off to RSPB The Lodge in Sandy at the weekend. This time last year there were Waxwings (which I didn't see), Redwings and Fieldfares, Redpolls and Bramblings (which I saw none of), however I did see a Nuthatch and a Goldcrest, both of which I have rubbish photographic records of so to improve on these would be great. So I will continue as I am, but who knows what the future holds.

There be Ghosts

I had the privilege of visiting the Ghosts of Gone Birds exhibition in Shoreditch yesterday, and I was blown away. A couple of things really surprised me, for me the diversity of artforms from Painting to collage, Sculpture to musical installations were incredible, but the real surprise was that my wife was taken aback at the treatment of birds, and the way that humanity is careless in the way we treat the diverse range of lifeforms that share this planet with us. I think the destruction portrayed in birds killed in Malta really shocked her, as it did me. The form of a bird on the floor created from a border of photos of birds, filled in with spent shotgun cartridges was particularly powerful.

There are some extinctions that we have caused, and can't undo but to allow it to continue is appalling. The Dodo you could say we knew no better, but the Albatross? Surely now we know the dangers that we create for these creatures, and to not change the actions that cause their unnecessary deaths is careless in the extreme. Animals will naturally die out, and extinctions sometimes just happen, but when that extinction is caused by Humans then questions need to be asked.

Ralph Steadman Room
Anyway, back to the art and what stood out for me was the Ralph Steadman room. Floor to Ceiling, 4 walls covered in paintings. They laid out binoculars so that you could see the ones at the top of the walls, it was incredible.

The exhibition won't be there for much longer, but I urge anyone to make the effort, you will not regret it.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Crisis! I've lost my way!

About 18 months ago now I rediscovered my love of birdwatching. As I wasn't sure if this was just a temporary fad (of which I have had before) I didn't go crazy with kit. I decked myself out with some cheap binoculars, and a cheap scope and I set off in pursuit of all things feathered. As an amateur birder I wasn't 100% sure what I was looking at, so decided a camera would help me ID the birds I couldn't initially identify. After a bit of research I went for a cheap dSLR, a Sony. The kit lens with it wasn't so great, so I upgraded to a larger 75-300mm zoom lens. This was fine, until I decided to upgrade the body, which in turn broke the lens, so I upgraded the lens again to a 150-500mm zoom.

This new setup was rubbish, the body I now had (dSLT A55 and Sigma 150-500) was no good at all for what I now thought I wanted, so I eBayed the lot, and bought a Canon EOS 40d, 300mmLf4 prime lens, and after a while a 1.4x TC to give me an extra bit of reach. And here is where I have reached my crisis. What happened to the birding?

My initial use of a camera to help with ID'ing birds, has led to me being completely involved in the photography, and I've forgotten about the birding. Now I've never really fancied myself as a twitcher, but my skills as a birder have not developed at all. I read a tweet earlier from Dominic Mitchell of a Brambling being spotted in a finch flock, I wouldn't have seen it, and if I had I'd have been too busy getting my camera ready for a shot, and not actually looking at the birds. And where next with the kit? I'm not a millionaire, I'm not an award winning photographer, nor will I ever want to make a living taking photos so how can I justify that the next lens I want is £5000, or the next camera body over £1000. I've already spent loads on Cameras, lenses, bags, batteries, tripods, monopods, memory cards blah blah blah, when all I really need is a GOOD pair of binoculars, possibly a compact bridge camera with decent zoom, and a whole lot of practice.

So there's the crisis. I need to put some serious thought into it and decide if I want to be a birder, with a camera, or a photographer, with a penchant for shooting birds. I have a feeling I know the way it is heading, so you may want to start looking on eBay soon if you want some decent second hand photography gear.

On another note I will be going to the Ghosts of Gone Birds exhibition in Shoreditch tomorrow, followed by a trip to Hamleys with my 4 year old daughter. I am looking forward to one of these, I'll let you guess which.