Sunday, 21 June 2015

Waiting and watching - have you the right attitude?

All bird photography involves a lot of waiting around for something to happen. When it does of course, things get very exciting. Barn Owls are a case in point.

When you are waiting for a particular bird to show it seems that they never will. There is nothing quite so hopeless as a landscape devoid of the bird you have come to see. However hard you look, and however hard you hope, it is just not there. Worse than that, you cannot imagine that it ever will be. Time passes and brings no improvement. Time continues to pass.

Then, if you are lucky, the owl is suddenly in front of you. Unexpectedly, because by that time you have resigned yourself to disappointment. Suddenly there is a lot to do. If you are not lucky on that occasion then, of course, you just have to go home without seeing it.

When I give my talks on bird photography, people often say to me "You must be very patient." I never know what to say to this. It is true that I am content to station myself for hours, camera at the ready, to see what happens. But it is not like waiting for a train, for example, I am very bad at that sort of thing. When you wait for a train, all the time spent waiting is just wasted. There is nothing else to do and only the arrival of the train will put you out of your misery. Bird watching and photography is not like that. The being there is part of it.

I do not regard time spent waiting for birds to show as wasted time - time that I am impatient to see finished. I settle down and enjoy the teasing sense of possibility. Anything might happen and I am open to it. You can never predict what could happen next. Maybe nothing, it doesn't matter.

I feel relaxed and attentive and sometimes become absorbed by the scene before me. I try to open my eyes and my mind and let the world in. I like it when the barrier between "me" and "it" dissolves. When the world becomes me and I become the world. Sounds pretentious I suppose, but it honestly happens.

If I do want some distraction, there is always something going on and, when you are in that state of mind, you are prepared to look at things that would not normally have caught your attention.

You might notice something you have never registered before. Take for example the shape of the pupil in this Wood Pigeon's eye. It is distorted. They all have it. 

 Here it is in close-up.

It is as if the iris has folded down at the bottom. Maybe this allows the pigeon to get a wider field of view in one direction. If upwards, it may help it spot predators. If downwards, maybe it can see its food better. If anyone knows what this is for, please let us all know!

In passing, I cannot help thinking that it looks like a fairly casual and lazy form of evolutionary adaptation - just a perpetuated defect in a normal eye. Any comments?

Finally,  here is  another interesting photography item. Before taking the first picture of this distant house (it is across the valley from my garden) I stuck a broad piece of masking tape vertically across the front of my 400mm F4 lens - it looked ridiculous! The lens is about four inches in diameter, and the tape about half an inch wide. Surely it would ruin the photo.

For the following photo, I removed the tape.

There is no sign of the tape itself, but the contrast in the first picture is somewhat lower than when the tape has been removed in the second one.

I do not think that you would get away with this on a short-focal-length lens, but you can with a telephoto. The tape is so out of focus that it hardly betrays its presence. The image is happily formed by the rest of the glass. All this means, of course, that you need not get too upset if you scratch your telephoto lens - you will be heart broken of course, but you needn't really be! Small comfort I know.

So that's it for this time. Please have a look at my website at
and kindly visit me on Facebook at