Monday, 21 September 2015


Still lacking direction I keep on snapping away in the knowledge that eventually something will click. Looking at the pictures I've made over the last few weeks there does seem to be a feathery connection. One a work party on a local fishery one of the other members brought his goshawk along for some fresh air. I'd taken a few shots of it a few weeks earlier but didn't have a long enough lens and it wasn't in the best of positions. This time I had a longer lens (one the nerds would scoff at, of course) and enough time to get some decent poses. With good technique - as in concentrating on what I was doing instead of snapping hastily - the results were pleasantly detailed, and I managed to get a soft background to isolate the bird without recourse to wide apertures.

A few days later I was at the animal sanctuary again, this time for the Fun Day. The sun shone most of the time, which made life easier, and the creatures were under control, which also helped matters. Something that I found odd was that whenever I pointed my lens at a bird that was being held the handler would stretch their arm out so I couldn't get them in the shot.

I imagine that most amateur snappers are intent on getting close up shots of the birds with the same kind of background as I found for the goshawk. What I was after was the relationship between bird and human. More interesting to me. This was something that cropped up in a conversation with someone at the poultry show I attended last week.

The chap had been to the national show where a news photographer was taking photos of people with their fowl. His focus was on interesting looking people, whereas the chap I was talking to (a poultry fancier) was interested in photographing the birds. I guess this is a case of knowing your audience. On the back of this conversation I bought a couple of back issues of Fancy Fowl magazine. Sure enough there were more pictures of fowl than folk!

As I strolled around the sanctuary I was once more struck by how difficult it is to take interesting pictures in these situations. I'm sure that the more you attend this sort of event the easier it gets. It wasn't so much a reticence to point the camera at strangers as getting an eye for a shot. The sort of stuff I see on forums was easy enough. simple record shots of something interesting, but actual pictures are far harder to see. I was trying to get something interesting in the foregroud while having more, slightly out of focus but readable, stuff going on in the background. Timing things so they all fall together is really difficult. More Fun Day pics here.

A week later it was the poultry show. I'm trying to build a collection of photos that cover a wide range of aspects of the shows, rather than just pictures of birds. With the autumn sun shining it was easy to get a wide view of the show building and the cars parked around it to set the scene.

The lighting inside the show building is always a challenge. I was trying out a zoom lens for convenience, unsure if it would be fast enough. It seemed to cope well, and the closer focusing distance at the long end than a similar fixed length lens came in useful for trying to take a set of pictures of chicken legs, and other close ups. One of the trickiest things to overcome is the cycling of the fluorescent tubes, which makes using a fast shutter speed difficult as the white balance alters through the cycle. A fast shutter speed can be a big help with twicthy chickens!

Once more I tried to make some pictures with interest throughout the frame. I know the mantra is to simplify and not have distractions in the background, but that makes for boring photographs. Small, apparently insignificant, details can be surprising. Timing is everything. The shot below was the third of a short burst. It almost worked out. Mostly though there are bits in each frame that work, and if they were all combied in one shot would work really well. Just keep on trying, I guess.

Something I'm going to try and do more of are pictures of people with their birds. That photographer at the national show was doing the right thing. Pictures of people are more interesting than pictures of birds. And pictures of people interacting with birds are more interesting still. I could resort to the use of flash I suppose, but it's a pain to lug about. Maybe next time.

While the regular photographer was otherwise engaged the chap I'd been talking to was using the 'studio', so I had a go from the sideline.

The lighting set up is just right for what it's designed for. The regular photographer uses on camera flash for fill, and with patience over the posing he gets consistent results for people who want to look at the birds from a fancier's point of view. From my point of view the birds might as well be made of pottery as the pictures are all the same.

Although the bird on its own is a (slightly) technically better photograph than the one of it with its owner, I much prefer the latter as a picture. There's something going on in it that anyone can relate to. Whenever someone says that photography is 'all about light' I want to scream. If the subject isn't of interest the 'best' lighting in the world is wasted.

Could birds and people become a project? I suppose it could, but once more as soon as I find myself making mental notes on how to plan it out I find myself losing interest. It's that distinct lack of a work ethic in my make up. Doing anything to a plan feels like work. And I can't abide work!

More poultry show photos here.

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