Rose Robin

Rose Robin

PDF Week 21/2016: Canon 7D, 400mm, 1/400, f5.6, ISO 640.

Rose Robin is one of the many birds I had the pleasure to photograph during our camping trip two weeks ago. This Australian endemic bird is not very common and not easy to spot. Let me admit that a friendly birder we had met attracted various birds with their songs played through a loud speaker. Wow, what a revelation. Some birds literally tried to land on our friend's head.

Although not harmful to birds in general, this technique is like fishing with a sounder, highly effective but not very sporty. If everyone uses it constantly, sound attraction of birds may lead to harmful population changes from unnecessary stress and changed behaviour. Just let me point out for the records that I photographed some attracted birds that showed normal behaviour, like collecting spider webs and hunting for insects. A friend also told me that in his experience, recordings actually have a detrimental effect with birds leaving the area.

Unlike in marine science, biodiversity data for land animals are widely collected professionally and used for conservation purposes. Bird researchers depend on rarely seen birds not to be desensitised to calls and not to be misled by a recorded sound originating from an ambitious birder's iphone. A story from the U.S. has it that a re-emerged extinct bird species may only be a fluke. Since news of its calls made it across the country in birder circles, eager bird tourists are flocking in as if attracted by a magnet, probably a loudspeaker. 

If you have a look at my webpage you'll find quite an array of birds. Our camping trip managed to replace many species with better photographic representations. That's not where it stops. Not counting a few unidentified species, I added 11 new personal species to the list. Frankly, I think that is an outstanding result. This result is not even counting the photographic bird highlights, namely the Mistletoebird and various Bowerbirds, next to the Rose Robin shown here.

Here is the list of added species (and I am not even finished going through all the photos): Bell Miner, Brown Thornbill, Dusky Woodswallow, Eastern Rosella, Restless Flycatcher, Jacky Winter, Red-browed Treecreeper, Spotted Pardalote, White-browed Scrubwren, White-naped Honeyeater, Wonga Pigeon. Please be lenient regarding the photo quality. It is my concept to display any species that I came across and photographed. I will replace substandard quality photos as soon as they are available. I'll certainly keep an eye out for opportunities and ways to do better.

Since this is a photographic forum, I'd love to share some more exciting news. A friend of ours gave me and my girl-friend the opportunity to prove our photographic skills in a professional context. On Monday, we had such a great time, taking photographs of real people in a real business, a small company. I have read so much about the difference between amateur and professional photography. Nothing compares to the real (or near real) experience. There is this pressure that failing is not an option. My wildlife approach 'you'll get what you'll get and when you get it' quickly turns into 'you'll have to make it happen now, no matter the circumstances'.

'We're only amateurs' might tone down the expectations a bit, but in the end it is the result that counts for the client. I think what we lacked in experience and professional equipment we made up with euphory and dedication. It still brings a smile onto my face on how excited we were and how tolerant and cooperative the staff was. Reflecting on the experience, we learned a lot. Taking a good shot occasionally doesn't make you a good photographer, but satisfying and exceeding expectations consistently for paying customers does.

Taking photos on site is only a small part of the work. Bringing it together to a finished product and doing so in a fully professional manner and framework can be a daunting and time consuming task. You need to jump in the water in order to learn to swim. Many clients will not realise that you can't swim properly or that you have no medical clearance to do so. They will try to convince you that your wild paddling will do.

Equipment does matter a lot. So does the training and experience with it and around all processes of professional photography. We were fortunate that our customer was our friend. While I think we did a good job, we certainly all learned on the way about what professional photography is and how passionate we are about it.

The assignment didn't help to silence my desire for more and more professional equipment. If I'd ever do it again, I also would need some more formal training and good mentoring. Gosh, it is so hard seeing the opportunity to finally photograph people in a real context but being restricted to the confines of a predefined job. I would have loved to experiment much more, and to explore various techniques, perspectives and styles, more erratically and less planned. I would have loved to see and create light and the environment before the shoot. Last but not least, I feel that a little cheating with a little bit of selective manipulation with Photoshop is part of the professional's curriculum. Not mine for the moment and probably not in the future.

The photo assignment was an extremely fun and bonding experience. We connected with staff and the company through our photography in a way I had not imagined possible. Working with my girl-friend as a photographic team proved to be a blessing. But let me get back to catching up with the part of the work nobody but professionals realise exists, namely optimising all processes and the workflow (including arguing with Smugmug about it) next to checking through all photos. Private amateur photography definitely has its charm and I am looking forward to some birding with a friend tomorrow.

Enjoy your weekend!

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