Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What are my favorite subjects to photograph?

What are my favorite subjects to photograph?
That is a good question, and for people who know me the answer is simple, birds and landscapes. I also enjoy taking family photos, but I think everyone likes taking pictures of loved ones and friends. There are a few reasons that birds and landscapes are my favorite subjects, and I will discuss those reasons today. I'm also going to mention a few tools that I use to capture my favorite subjects and give some tips for achieving the best results from my experience.

Why do I shoot birds and landscapes?
When I think of why I started shooting the subjects that I do, I think it stems out of a love for nature and being outside. I find that one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a day is to go outside for a hike in the woods, which is rather easy for me, as I live in the Vancouver area of British Columbia. Here there are forests, mountains and an abundance of parks that are only minutes or at the worst hours away. With so many possibilities at my finger tips, it was hard to ignore the call of these beautiful areas around me, so I go out and enjoy them. There is nothing more relaxing than waiting for the light to change, or just to sit and watch the sky against the towering mountains of the west coast. I started shooting landscapes when I was young, as I have always had an awe of natural beauty, which brings me to why I love birds as well.

Have you ever taken the time to just sit and listen to a bird sing, or watched how they move and fly? If not, give it a try! During one of my many walks in the woods, I started to notice the abundance of birds in the area around me. There are over 300 types of birds that are either native or visit southern British Columbia at some point during the year, which gives you at least one or two chances during the year to capture images of some species that you would not otherwise see. Due to the numerous types of birds I find it fascinating to photograph them, to look at the different colours, to see how they act around other birds and people. One of my favorite places to photograph birds is at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which is located on Westham Island south of Richmond.

Some tips
When it comes to shooting birds and landscapes patients and practice are the key to success. That may sound overly simplistic, but it is true. For landscapes patients is needed for several reasons, first being waiting for the right light. I have found that waiting for the right light is key to a powerful landscape shot, something that many of my own landscape photos may be lacking, it is hard to be patient when you are sitting up on a mountain side waiting for a sunset, while gangs of mosquitoes are attacking you! In some ways that is what make landscape photography a challenge, forcing you step outside your comfort zone into an area where you are not the most powerful creature around, knowing that bear or mountain lion could be just around the next curve on the trail. Practice is important because you need to learn to see interesting things in the foreground. In a landscape shot the foreground is often far more important than the background, in terms of making a good photo. You can have the most impressive background, but if the foreground is boring or distracting people wont see what you want them to.

As for patients and bird photography, it is a little different, although pesky mosquitoes are still around! With birds you might be waiting for a type of bird to fly, or move to an area that is more photogenic. You might have the right light, a great background, but if the bird is too far away you aren't going to get a good shot. When it comes to shooting birds, practice is important, because each bird acts differently and can impact how you photograph them.

What tools do I use?
My primary tool for shooting birds and landscapes is my Nikon D90, I use my D80 as backup camera with a different lens mounted. One reason for doing this is to get a different perspective without taking time to change lenses, which can be very important when shooting wildlife, as animals wont sit around and wait for you to change lenses! For landscapes I use my Nikon 28mm F2.8D, 35-70mm F2.8, or 50mm 1.8D. I use the 35-70mm most often though. In the near future I'll be getting a wide angel lens, a Tokina 12-24mm F4 Pro DX, and I look forward to the new perspectives that lens will provide. I shoot birds with my Nikon 300mm F4 AF-S, which is a wonderful lens to work with. These tools help me to capture what I love, but at the end of the day it is what I see through this equipment that makes the photograph!