Recollection: Lost Among the Birds

Neil Haward LostAmong The Birds

It is dog agility weekend which means I have plenty of extra time on my hands.  That also means I can finally get a post out that I’ve had in the queue for a large part of this year.  It may be surprising to know that book reviews are one of the most time consuming topics when it comes to to my efforts here at Intrigued.  Photography posts are pretty straight forward – root through the massive image queue, find a set of shots my readers might find interesting, process them up and then do what I enjoy most, write about the experience.  Book reports (wow, that sounds so grade school ha), do not have the image work beyond one or two quick snaps with my camera phone, but what it lacks in processing, it more than makes up for in recollection time.  I spend a lot of capital on the takeaways, the concepts, quotes, thought provoking elements etc. that was gained from the investment in time with the author.  Today’s feature recollection was so full of takeaways I was hesitant to start on it until there was plenty of time to really do it justice – so there the book sat on my desk, right next to my computer taunting me each and every day for a little more than 11 months.  Today’s the day I address this visual guilt.

As an avid reader, you soon realize there are times when you turn the last page of book and immediately think to yourself “that time investment was only slightly better than watching paint dry.  Other times you might come away with a few good nuggets that make the investment worthwhile.  Every once in a while, a book comes along that has a tremendous impact, influence and/or entertainment value.  These time are easily identifiable by the shock of finality when you turn the last page.  Almost a feeling of sadness knowing the strong bond you just made with an author has come to an end.  There are only a few books that have led to this feeling.  The Lone Survivor is one that comes immediately to mind (and some of the horror stories I was insatiably reading in grade school resulting in a warning to my parents from a snowflake teacher, but I’ll let that go for now).  Now I can add another one to that distinguished list, Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year by Neil Hayward.  This novel was found at the Laguna Atascosa NWR gift shop.  I like to try and help out the various birding locations we visit especially when the visit results in new checks on the bird list – and Laguna has provided me a multitude of +1’s over the years.  Admittedly, before finding and reading this book I wasn’t aware of who Neil was.  The title looked interesting and who wouldn’t want to read about someone’s Big Year.  Figured it would be an interesting read for the long ride back at the close of vacation.  Little did I know at the time, how much I would look forward to turning these pages.  Every page was a mixture of new bird knowledge, a better understanding of what it takes to try and get the most bird species checked in a single year (called a big year for the non-birders out there), personal exploration and laugh out loud humor (note, that humor may be more in tune within birding circles).  A little background on Neil.  He is a graduate of Cambridge and Oxford with a  PhD in biology – the fruit fly nervous system to be exact.  From this foundation he spent 11 years in a successful startup before deciding he needed to find himself… or at least better understand the depression that was taking over his life.  A knowledgeable birder he decided to embark on a Big Year, although, I would characterize it as a Big Year found him rather than the other way around.  One thing led to another and next thing he knew he was earning frequent flyer miles at a record pace traveling all over North America in search of new species to check off.

It is on this adventure you learn about the depression that was taking root in his soul.  At first reluctant to admit it, he slowly comes to grip with it while spending time on the best psychology couch there is –  Mother Nature’s office. Through birding he learns to understand his mental state and reveals his thoughts to the reader as he progresses through the year, discovering himself almost as fast as he was finding new species.  Along with this mental journey, Neil takes you to his most memorable birding spots, many of which Linda an I have also been to making the read all the more personal – a weird combination of elation knowing you have experienced the same bird coupled with a swell of envy as he tracks down a rarity.  Through it all you begin to realize what a saint his new girlfriend (Gerri) must be to put up with his idiosyncrasies, unbelievable amount of time away from home and his inability to commit to the relationship in stark contrast to the commitment he had to those with feathers.  This book had such and impact on me that I immediately went to Amazon and had a copy sent to my brother Ron knowing he would enjoy it just as much as I did.  Maybe he will give his opinion of the read in the comments.  I do not want to ruin the book in case you are intrigued enough to pick it up yourself, but I will reveal he does get an incredible amount of birds -in fact he had more birds checked off in the first month than I have on my life list after years of birding.

In summary, if you are a birder and want to learn what it takes to compete at a Big Year level, then get this book.  If you are not a birder but want to have a better understanding of what drives these crazy bird people, then get this book.  If you want to read about the power Mother Nature can have on the human mind, then get this book.  If nothing else, you simply want an enjoyable read, escape from the new world order of polarizing politics and crave some laughter to your life, then by all means consider Neil’s work as just the thing.  Oh, almost forgot.  If you are a birder, you will want to check out the listing in the back which has the chronological order of every species he found and where.  Like me, you will probably find some places to add to your travel plans.

By the way, one of reasons this book caught my eye in the gift shop is that Neil had signed it!

Neil Haward Lost Among The Birds

Hit the jump to see my takeaways – note, there are some spoilers in there, so if you are considering picking up a copy for yourself, you might want to wait to read these until after you have had a chance to feel the remorse when you turn the last page.

Continue reading Recollection: Lost Among the Birds

They Must be Brilliant

Ian Plant Seminar Peoria Camera Club March 24th 2018Howdy everyone! It’s been a rough couple of days for me due to a medical procedure that I had to have today. Definitely not one of those experiences I want to go through again anytime soon. The good news is it over now and everything came out good. The doctors want me to take it easy until the effects completely wear off which is good news for my readers – nothing better for a night of relaxation than typing a few paragraphs out on the keyboard for another post. Oh, by the way, the doctors did recommend I avoid going to places like Amazon until my head clears all the way – might end up buying a year’s worth of jams from around the world hehehe. So I Thought I’d feature a topic that didn’t required a lot of prep work and thus going with a recollection from a recent photography seminar Linda and I went to a couple of weeks back. Since it covered both landscape and wildlife topics, went ahead and put it on my wildlife blog as well.

Last year we went to see Bryan Peterson’s photography seminar on “The Art of Seeing”. I was very familiar with Bryan’s published worked and have always considered his Understanding Exposure book to be the best reference for those wanting to turn their camera mode dial to ‘M’ (if you are still using the Automatic or ‘P’ modes, pick up that book and start getting the value out of all that money you spent on your gear). Unlike last year, this year the Peoria Camera Club invited a speaker neither Linda nor I were familiar with. We ended up going to his site (link here) and needless to say was impressed with his work. Based on his portfolio it looked like it covered both my wife’s preferred genre as well as my own wildlife preferences. Only tough part was investing $75/person and uncertain whether we were going to get something for that large investment – you can buy a lot of books or a short trip out into the field for $150. After some debating we opted to do it – if nothing else, this is something we enjoy spending time together doing each year. Turns out the day of the seminar the Heartland got pounded with a white out blizzard that eventually accumulated over 9 inches. We live in the country so trekking out in the deep stuff didn’t bother us much although seeing all the vehicles in the ditches on our way was a bit concerning. The aggressive off-roading tires on my new truck ate that white stuff up for breakfast. Old Man Winter did manage to defeat about half the attendees that were planned to attend. We did get the opportunity to meet some of the members of the Camera Club and spend some time with Julie who I met for the first time during my Audubon speech last month (link here) – an amazing wildlife photographer in her own right.

Ian Plant’s seminar took the exact opposite theme from Bryan’s talk the previous year. While that speech was on the Art of Seeing, Ian’s seminar was entitled Unseeing: Taking Photos with Attitude. Note, it was a bit refreshing that Ian didn’t continually talk about his ex wives or his pension for recreational drugs like Bryan did. From a summary perspective, we both thought we received value from our investment. Ian was very personable to the attendees and kept us all entertained until the end. It also helps that his photography portfolio contains some absolute stunners. For the same reason we go to local photography competitions, seeing captured images that are better than yours is the best inspiration there is. Every interesting angle or interpretation of a scene broadens our boundaries and puts another idea in the toolbox. If I had to pick the two most informative elements of Ian’s presentation, I’d have to go with shooting wide vertical and shooting into the sun. Probably an hour into the talk, someone commented he must be cropping a lot out of his pictures based on the fact he was using a wide angle lens. Ever have one of those moments when your entire understanding of something you’ve been looking at for a while suddenly gets turned on its head? Ian’s response to the question did that – “I didn’t crop anything – I shoot vertical”. Whoa! Now, that was a new concept for both my wife and I. In fact he followed it up with “amateurs shoot wide horizontal”. It all became crystal clear how he was getting such huge depth in his shots from the sky almost directly above him down to a few feet out from his shoes. You can then control the perspective of the background objects (like mountains) by simply tilting the camera up or down. He also shoots wildlife wide and those familiar with that glass know how close you have to get pictures with that gear. He mentioned several times he put himself in harm’s way by moving with his eye through the glass and not realizing he had put himself in dangerous proximity to animals that could kill him. Learned that lesson a long time ago – move in the field with both your eyes open or away from the camera – this photographer will NEVER forget almost bringing his foot down on the head of an Alligator in the Georgia swamps.

On the shooting into the sun aspect, his wildlife silhouettes are absolutely breathtaking and something I would have no problems proudly displaying on my walls. The simplicity of the outline cast by the sun is captivating and such a stark contrast from his landscape photography which is packed full from foreground to background. This is something I am plan to try this year while out in the field. Guessing it is a lot easier said than done, but who isn’t up for a good challenge. Guessing Linda is going to try out some wide vertical shots the next time she is out with the waterfalls (especially since Ian just called her out as an amateur hehehe). Couple of closing points. Ian is also big into drone photography. Apparently he has crashed a few and has since opted for the cheaper versions – my personal concern is where are those crashed drones ending up. Ever since some idiot dropped one in the Yellowstone Grand Prismatic my opinions of drones have been seriously tainted (link here). Ian also doesn’t like photographing the circle of life in action – his story about Lioness’ taking out a male Wildebeest had a traumatic impact on him – much like when he found out how some photographers get those great action shots of predator birds coming toward the camera. A dark little fact that non wildlife photographers probably don’t realize and a technique I am very much opposed to.

In summary, we definitely enjoyed Ian’s talk and worth our investment. Can’t wait to try out some of the things we learned in the field. Be sure and check out Ian’s work if you haven’t already done that. I’ll leave you with his comment that gave me the biggest chuckle of the day “If others don’t like you photographs it is probably brilliant because you can see what others can’t”. Definitely going to be my go to response whenever Linda rolls her eyes at some of my shots hehehe.

Be sure and hit the jump to see more of my takeaways from Ian ‘s talk – the shocking thing is how much I can remember from two weeks ago when I’ve appeared to completely forgotten what I did or said for about 1.5 hours after my procedure today. Linda keeps asking me if I remember doing this and that and I have zero recollection. If jams in Amazon boxes start showing up at the door we will all know why.

Continue reading They Must be Brilliant

A Decade Anniversary

Well, we have definitely made it to 2018 – or, based on the current weather, the Chinese year of the popsicle!

This month officially completes my 10th year of blogging. Yes, folks and entire decade of observing life around me and bringing you my perspectives and interpretations. Admittedly, rather proud of that accomplishment. I personally cannot believe it has been that long since committing to this small off ramp on the information highway. All started thanks to my brother Ron who provided the spark with his own blogging over at Dead Reckonings – link here. One of my goals for this year was to expand Life Intrigued to a broader audience. I have mentioned this a number of times over the years, but finally carried it through. Wildlife Intrigued was create and launched in the beginning of the year to provide a more public offering to the wildlife related posts on the Life Intrigued blog. The new blog has introduced me to individuals all over the world and really pushed me to make sure my wildlife posts were up to that par. Although an addition of a significant amount of work, very pleased with how that is progressing and looking forward to what that offshoot will bring in the coming year (there is one upcoming event that I’ll be posting on in a few months). Note, for those reading this summary from the Wildlife blog site, the stats provided are for the Life Intrigued posting and thus represent a larger body of work of which Wildlife is a subset.

With turning of the new calendar, tradition continues with the yearly summary. Our efforts with our photography work continues to be the main focus of the blog, however, this year brought a large number of projects (especially on the Halloween front), book recollections and still some perspectives on my daily life observations. Although this year I pulled back from the Marathon distance, it was still another big year on the road with a record number of half marathons making its way into the books. Still struggling with some heat issues, but went over 1,000 miles for another year with multiple age group placements – one of the few advantages of turning 50 (sigh). I’ve mentioned this a number of times, but it is truly amazing to look back over the years (all 10 of them) and see what was keeping my attention back then and on a personal development front see the progression in my photography abilities and Halloween prop building. I’ve purposely kept my political leanings out of the Wildlife arena – no reason to mix our broken political system with the tranquility and, quite frankly, currently more civilized ecosystem of the wildlife kingdom. For those that might be wondering, I set my yearly goals at the end of this month to give myself sufficient time to really think about what I want to accomplish and what areas of character development to focus on. I am moving into a brand new role at my day job which looks to be very challenging. Add that element to the list of items in my idea book, throw in new ventures in Halloween electronics, new photography trips along with a continued strive to get healthier (is this the year of the obstacle courses?!?!?) and we have a recipe for excitement, challenges and another full year of blogging. My heartfelt appreciation for all my readers and a huge thank you for all the commenters that have provided their inputs on my meanderings (that includes a special thanks to my brother Ron who pretty much commented on EVERY one of my posts). Nothing makes my day more than sitting down at the computer and seeing feedback on one of my posts – please keep the comments coming especially if there is anything I can do to improve your experience.

Again, special thanks goes to my brother Ron for all the time he has put in on the blog, helping to bring my crazy project ideas to fruition and making the effort to head out into the field on our numerous birding outings in search of feathered friends to feature on this post. He continues to challenge me on the bird count pushing me to catch up his impressive number. Finally making some headway on that thanks to a number of birding trips to other states (Texas rocked again this year and even Minnesota added a good number to the count). Of course, he did take a hit to his bird count when he started up his wildlife related blog – per our agreed upon birding rules, our counts only go up after featuring the bird on our blog – rules are rules hehehe, It does bring a smile to my face now that he is experiencing the photo processing backlog – not my nightmare 3 year queue yet, but it is creeping up there. By the way, for the 7th year in a row I managed to hit my minimum 6 posts per month goal (yeah!).

I have high expectations for another exciting year around here at Life Intrigued and now the sister site Wildlife Intrigued. The training season is already in full swing (albeit on the treadmill at the moment – too damn cold out lately), processing is in full swing on the photo backlog and, to hopefully no surprise, Halloween prop work is already in flight. Looking forward to trying to hold on to my UB competition reign (not sure I blogged about it this year, but I won this year’s annual photography competition between my wife and I). Hope you join me on this journey again this year! Enjoy the details in my blogging summary below and let’s pop the top on that champagne in celebration of 10 years past and plenty more to come.

Thank You!

And now, the annual stats for the year’s worth of blogging.

Hit the jump to see the 2017 stats!

Continue reading A Decade Anniversary

Book Recollection: Sibley’s Birding Basics

Sibley's Birding Basics Greetings everyone! We just returned from a quick birding trip in Iowa over the Easter break. Nothing new from a bird species perspective, but think there are a few wall hangers so it was likely a productive outing. Been caught up in a number of projects as of late not to mention putting the final training runs in before the start of the race season scheduled for next weekend. As a result, going with a short post tonight – my body needs a rest from all the hiking.

Today’s featured topic is another book recollection – Sibley’s Birding Basics by David Allen Sibley. If you are familiar with birds at all you should recognize the author’s name. If not, you need to make your way to your local bookstore and pick up his Guide to Birds – it is an illustrated book which is a nice compliment to the references with actual photographs – you can always draw key features better than you can visualize them from an actual photograph (we’ll just gloss over the nuances of how he was able to draw them so well). This particular book was actually loaned to me by my brother Ron. He probably didn’t realize at the time it would take like a year for me to get through it (sorry). The interesting thing about this book is it isn’t a very large book. Not only is it thin (maybe a 1/4 inch), but it is also small in dimension. Don’t be fooled though, this is a very technical read and one you might find yourself repeating paragraphs just to understand the nuance or detail. It is a very sharp looking published product with gorgeous illustrations, but one thing turned out to be a tad annoying – the type font is too small. One of the reasons it took so long to read is it wasn’t convenient to travel with since it required me to drag along a pair of reading glasses or have really good light. Basically it became my quick nightstand reading material for those days I wasn’t too exhausted to get a few pages in.

From a summary perspective, this book is pretty technical. Recommend just focusing on a few key elements you can use in the field immediately – there is a lot of stuff in there and you might find yourself overwhelmed like I was was at the beginning. For me, the key characteristics that distinguish the Hairy Woodpecker from the Downy Woodpecker was worth the price of admission alone – distinguishing those two in the field is about as fun as trying to identify juvenile Sparrows. Without having them side by side to see the stature differences, they pretty both looked identical until reading the key tail barring difference and the fine feathers on the bridge of the Downy give it a smaller bill appearance. I recommend giving this book a read – maybe a number of reads taking a few more bits of knowledge each time to increase your bird brain.

Hit the jump to read some of the takeaways from my first read!

Continue reading Book Recollection: Sibley’s Birding Basics

Book Recollection: 51 Birding Tips

Good Birders Don't Wear White - Lisa WhiteTurns out February was a very good month for getting through my reading queue. This is the first of no less than 4 books that had all their pages perused and turned. Granted one of these books was for pleasure only – a rarity since I like to try and get something out of my time spent with an author. One of the books covered war photography and the other two had a bird theme. We’ll get to the other three books soon enough, but let’s start with one of the bird related ones. Today’s featured recollection is about a book entitled Good Birders Don’t Wear White with a subtitle of 50 Tips from North America’s Top Birders. This sounded intriguing when it came up on an Amazon search for something else I was looking for. Ended up adding it to my wish list which Linda used for a birthday gift. Unfortunately, she purchased two of them accidentally thanks to a shopping cart snafu. Rather than bother with returning it, my brother Ron ended up getting some extra reading material. There were big expectations now that it essentially cost us double – Ron, don’t read this review if you had your heart set on reading it.

The format of the book is a series of magazine like articles from a number of well known birders (and a bunch of others I probably should know based on their bios at the end of each article). Each author is given 4 to 7 pages or so to bestow pearls of birding wisdom on the reader. The book is actually very short so each is a quick read which worked out perfectly for my pre-sleep reading material. Take in a few different authors and hit the lights to be ready for the next day’s grind.
Edited by Lisa White. It didn’t take long to get through the 261 pages – each tip is a fairly easy read but the real speed element was a result of content – felt like I was rushing through it to actually get a tip that wasn’t obvious or trivial. As far as 50 tips go, it should have been titled 4 good tips buried in a sea of words. Maybe I’ve just been birding too long and the experiences and knowledge has built up more than I thought – would be interesting to see how a new person to the birding world would take to this advice. As noted, there were a few good nuggets like recommending you buy a Duck Stamp to help out conservation efforts, pishing to draw birds out of brush and confirmation that talking to people about birding is a good thing (take that Linda!). However, these are countered with a multitude of tips ranging from the absurd (cranking bird songs through your car stereo) to the insane (recommending I sketch a bird in the field when I have a perfectly good camera with me). In summary, I will add a 51st tip – if you have spare time to read a book related to birding, spend that valuable time with another product – something like Arthur Morris’ book reviewed last time (link here).

You can see some of the takeaways for this book below after the jump, but all in all, this was a disappointment.

Continue reading Book Recollection: 51 Birding Tips

Book Recollection: The Art of Bird Photography

Bird Photography by Arthur Morris
Today I bring you the first recollection of the young year. Truth be told, I have been trying to get through this featured book for at least two years. It has been all across North America as it is the book I would grab as my reading material on our cross country birding trips. For some reason I kept getting sidetracked and would only get a few pages further regardless of how many days we were gone. Luck would have it, I was able to FINALLY get through it while our recent trip to Texas – had a lot of driving time which gives plenty of opportunities to turn the pages … when Linda is driving, of course. Do not make the assumption that the struggle to get through this book had anything to do with the quality – it is a worthwhile read, not overly technical beyond some detailed sections of exposure rules of thumb. Even if you do not like reading, this book has some stunning photographs in it – absolutely stunning! I find the better I get at photography, the more appreciative I get of the works from others. Arthur Morris is a top notch photographer – add in the fact those pictures were done in film format is even more amazing. I laughed to myself as he routinely mentions the thousands of film pictures he would take on a shoot – damn expensive in those days and huge separation along with glass costs between the professionals and amateurs like myself.

As a whole it did end up being a pretty quick read once I could dedicate myself to the task. He reaffirmed a number of my hardened principles and gave me some things to think about and likely try. At the end there is mention of a volume two available on CD that had the digital elements added to it – will probably pick that up some time too. As a summary, I wouldn’t hesitate to take a gander at this book (may check out the CD instead for the digital aspects). The shots are worth the time alone and will likely give you few more angles/options/poses to look for when you are out in the field.

In case you are wonder, this book appears to have been published back in 1998 with a large paperback version (the version I have) that came out in 2003. Not sure if I ordered it special or got lucky when I ordered it, but my copy is officially signed by Arthur – nice little touch. Hit the jump to see my takeaways.

Continue reading Book Recollection: The Art of Bird Photography

Book Recollection: Deadly Instinct

I bet you thought the next post would be Part 2 of the Mute Swan post.  I felt bad having to go back to the bird topic so quick after the barrage from Project Chekov so trying to ease you back onto the feathered features.  Instead figured it was about time to throw out another Book Recollection.  Today’s recollection comes to us thanks to Melissa Farris who compiled a product she called Deadly Instinct.  I can’t remember what made me aware of this book, but my guess would be one of the wildlife photographers I follow on Google+ brought it too my attention.  No need for a lot of convincing past the cover which had the National Geographic seal along with a Lion bringing down a Wildebeest – I’m in.   Big thanks to Linda who ended up getting me this book for Christmas.  Technically, coming in at only 180 pages, it is really more of a photography book than a reading book.  There was a setup at the beginning of each chapter that set the tone for the set of images.  Once that page or two was consumed, it was on to a nice collection of shots… umm let me correct that.  There were some FANTASTIC shots, a lot of cool wildlife shots and then some I simply put in the TOTAL CRAP category.  I’m sorry, but I like my pictures to be in focus and the attempt to show speed by throwing the shutter speed way low resulting in a blur you wouldn’t even know what it was unless they told you is not worth my time – trust me, there were more of these shots than I would have expected alongside the other quality shots.  I wouldn’t let the bad shots deter you from enjoying all the good shots, but note to author – there were plenty of better shots you could have used of the Gorillas. The best part of the book was it had a number of pictures from my favorite photographer – Joel Sartore.  If you recall I featured one of his books previously called Rare (link here).  I had a feeling some of his work would be included based on the National Geographic stamp on the cover.  Pretty used to his style these days and can usually pick out his work without seeing the credits first.  Was surprised to learn he started on his naturalist journey after seeing the harsh conditions of the Galveston coast.  Always cool to learn more about the background of photographer’s you spend a lot of time following.

I should probably mention something before people run off to purchase this book to see the “purdy” pictures.  The pictures are not all “pretty” in the hang on your wall and let your visitors gawk over mode.  The truth is the intent of the book is to show how lethal, dangerous and aggressive wild animal behavior is.  If you are weak of stomach or god forbid a PETA member save your money and go watch the Muppets Movie instead.  This book is full of violent, bloody wildlife on wildlife encounters.  Oh, and a lot snakes so Linda has been warned to never open the book herself – about 5 pages in there is a particular awesome picture of a Vine Snake that even made me hesitate when I turned to that page.  Also very appreciative of the heavy paper stock she used which helps maintain the quality of the pictures.  Kudos to the photographers that provided all the outstanding shots to this book.  It always inspires me when I see the work of photographers that are clearly on top of their field.  A pretty short recollection but the book only took me two nights of light reading before hitting the hay.

Hit the jump to see my takeaways.

Continue reading Book Recollection: Deadly Instinct

Book Recollection: Creative Bird Photography

I am pretty ashamed of myself right now.  Remember that goal of getting through my ever growing stack of reading material?  If not, I completely understand since I haven’t posted a book recollection since ..wait for it .. wait for it.. APRIL (link here).  Pretty pathetic, but there are some reasons for that and most of them result in just being too tired or busy to sink myself into anything with any intellectual depth.  As a result most of my night and travel reading has been running and health magazines that invade my mailbox once a month.  There are usually some interesting quick reads in the running journals but I am quickly coming to the conclusion that my health mags are worthless – give them three months and they will contradict every recommendation they gave you in the current month.  I’ll be ending those and my Guitar World subscription at the next renewal.

The bright spot in all of this is I have been turning a few pages in a real book every once in awhile.  Somewhat shocking I actually came to the index on one last week.  Which means it’s time for a new Book Recollection – WOOT!!  Today’s entry is about an offering from Bill Coster on Creative Bird Photography: Essential Tips and Techniques.  Pretty sure Linda picked it up for me – obviously she knows me pretty well.  This is a 160 large paper bound book printed on nice stock pages which make the numerous pictures stand out nice and crisp.  To be honest, it was more of an inspiration book than a volume of new information.  This isn’t Bill’s fault but I have read so many books and manuals on wildlife photography that it takes something revolutionary to really grab me.  However, if you like perusing some of the best bird photographs you will ever see.. then this book is for you!  This is where the inspiration comes from – nothing like seeing successful shots out in the field to get your juices flowing to go out there and try to get your own gallery shots.  When it comes to bird photography, Arthur Morris is clearly in the cream (can check out his work out here) Beware, that dude is a Shopaholic in case you have some angst on that (I DO NOT).  Based on the images in this book I am going to add Bill into this elite group as well – strange that I have never stumbled on his work before.  He also gets extra props because he started in the IT Industry before going full time into photography – his sweet spot back then were birds in flight which were pretty rare in the film days.  This led to his employment with one of the top natural history agencies in Britain.  Oh, did I mention he was raised in London?  This particular book was based on a series of articles he wrote for Birds Illustrated magazine – maybe I’ll replace my health subscription with a bird journal .. maybe even on the iPad.  He does an excellent job of giving the details (bird type, location and exposure information) for all the shots in the book.  Note he is a Canon user – let’s all let out a collective siiigggghhhh.

One thing that becomes very clear in the book is Bill has a lot of spare time and is very patient in the field.  He details all of the locations around the world he’s been able to shoot at (many of which I’ve added to my travel list) and continually mentions the multi-day outings just waiting for a bird to show up where he wants it to.  This is a huge advantage over holding down a full time job in the IT world.  I actually have a pretty big list of takeaways so clearly it was worth the read if you can call 160 pages in 5 months actually READING.  There are 38 unique birds (class and common name combined) within the covers (yes, I counted them) and I’m sure some of them you have never seen in person.  If you are new to bird photography or wondering why anyone would take up this pastime, then this book is for you.  If you want to judge how far you need to go before you can call yourself a real bird photographer, then this book is for you (answer a LONG ways for me) or if you just like looking at “purdy” pictures then … this book is for you.  If there is one negative on the book is that it just simply ends.  One moment you are learning about Tilt Shift photography, turn the page to see a couple full spread shots of bird flocks and next thing you know you are staring at the index.  No words of encouragement, no go out and win one for the Gipper speech (speaking of which Notre Dame is currently kicking the crap out of Michigan State) or thanks for spending your valuable time with me.  None of that, just the index.  This always gives me the sense that the book was rushed or the author became so bored or burdened with it that he was relieved just to make it to the page quota.  Maybe it is just me, but if ever write a book I’m going to take the time to properly polish up the ending.

Well, that’s it boys and girls.  Hope you enjoyed the discussion and find some value in the Takeaways that can be found after the jump.  Until next time, happy shooting

Continue reading Book Recollection: Creative Bird Photography

Book Recollection: Rare

I decided to pinch the Yellow stream for a quick post on a book recollection.  This is mainly due to something that arrived in the mail just a few days ago, but more on that later.  Today’s post is on a book called Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species by Photographer Joel Sartore.  Like the previous book recollection post on Decisive Moments (link here), this photographer’s work is one of my favorites (to be honest, he is probably tops in my list).  As you can guess, he is a photographer for National Geographic and has a focus on bringing awareness to endangered species.  There are wildlife photographers that can capture a shot by getting all the technical details right such as lighting, focus, aperture and shutter speed.  There are also photographers who are able to illicit emotion from the viewer by capturing the mood and feel of a situation.  Without a doubt, Joel is one of the few people who is able to produce a shot with both of those qualities.  As an example, just take a look at the Red Wolf in the cover shot.  The 2 subjects reside at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  This proud species is fighting for their survival with only 330 of them left (at time of publication).  As Joel states in his book, their relationship at the top of the predator food chains makes them susceptible to lead poisoning thanks to intolerance.  To be honest, this is not a book you put down feeling good about your place on earth.  Sure, there are some bright spots like the success stories on American Alligator recovery and the banning of DDT in 192 which was responsible for devastating the populations of our proud American symbol, the Bald Eagle as well as the Peregrine Falcon.  Having just come back from Yellowstone, let’s not forget the progress of the Gray Wolf recovery.  But for all those triumphs, there is the losing side of the battle.  This includes the last Dusky Seaside Sparrow whose final resting place is in a jar at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville Florida or the fragile Mississippi Sandhill Crane population of 155 birds residing in Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refugee that was put at great risk by Katrina.

I am not in a position to preach to anyone and I certainly have my biases, but if you get the opportunity, just take a look at this book.  Even if the message doesn’t hit a personal chord, simply enjoy the stunning photographs.  Joel does a nice job of capturing the subject in a black or white setting (intentionally done to illicit more emotion).  The book is organized by population sizes with a description of the plight of that particular animal, insect or plant and in some cases he includes a little background on where and how the shot was taken.  If nothing else, it will push the bar up a little higher on your own photography output.  The book was also published on high quality paper giving it almost a gallery feel that you can put on your coffee table.  If you like his photographs, keep an eye out for his other works.  For starters, his image in the Simply Beautiful Photographs (see recollection here) was quite stunning.

So, back to that mail delivery mentioned at the start.  As a wolf enthusiast, I feel obligated to help in their recovery.  As a member of the National Wolf Foundation based on Ely, Minn), a member of the local Wildlife Prairie Park (who have a very nice wolf pack) and a new member of the Yellowstone National Park Association I like to think in some small way I am helping make a difference.  A few months ago I was made aware of another effort to help my four legged friends.  Will Burrard-Lucas and Rebecca Jackrel (whose photography blog Lind and I actively follow) started a project to document the struggle for survival of Africa’s wolves – you can find more about the project at their website (link here).  They were asking for financial assistance to get the project off the ground and I jumped at the chance.  Since that time, I had slowly forgotten about it as the stress of the holidays began to set in.  Low and behold we received this postcard in the mail.  A handwritten postcard from Rebecca and Will from Ethiopia.  How cool is that!  Needless to say, I am excited to be a part of this and cannot wait to see the shots upon their return.

Hit the jump to see my takeaways from Rare

Continue reading Book Recollection: Rare