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Handbook of Bird Photography Book Review

Express Summary

The Handbook of Bird Photography by Markus Varesvuo, Jari Peltomäki and Bence Máté is a hefty 358-page soft-cover book published by Rocky Nook. Written by three expert bird-photographers, it covers its title-topic end-to-end with the experience of its authors front-and-center. As a book devoted entirely to such a specialized area of photography, it assumes basic skills yet never gets technical.

Remote ExposureBirds are extremely popular subjects among nature photographers. While anyone can point a lens at any bird in the vicinity, professional bird photography is considerably more involved. This book progressively covers all the equipment, preparations and skills that are needed to perform bird photography at that level.

A book, like this one, written for photographers needs visual appeal to attract its audience. The Handbook of Bird Photography features a huge number of beautiful and impressive images that provide nice examples for most points discussed in the book.

Naturally, bird photography requires photographers to locate and approach birds. To this end, a substantial portion of the book is devoted to areas of interest for encountering various species of birds.

The Handbook of Bird Photography is written with easy-to-understand language and makes minimal use of technical photography terms. It covers a considerable amount of advanced topics and is therefore clearly aimed at serious bird photography enthusiasts and professionals.

The Handbook of Bird Photography is available for purchase from Amazon.

Book Review

Birds are one of the most challenging subjects to capture. Their small size, fearful nature and preference for hidden locations all contribute to the difficultly. Bird photography therefore requires plenty of its own and rather unique considerations. The Handbook of Bird Photography presents those aspects in great detail and paints a remarkably deep portrait of what it is to be a professional bird photographer.

The Handbook of Bird Photography brings together the varied experiences of its three coauthors. Unlike the majority of coauthored books, chapters in this one name their writer explicitly. Each coauthor can then deliver his unique point-of-view regarding the subject at hand, making this book feel more personal than most such photography books. The experts sometimes disagree but overall the content fits extremely well together.

When people think about photography, they most often imagine the moment each photograph is taken. For bird photography, the reality is that it takes a considerable amount of effort to reach that moment. In fact, this tome is so heavy because it covers every aspect from bird-research to the moment a photograph is made to marketing and generating income. This makes the book fascinating because it shows all the effort required to work as a bird photographer.

The book is divided into no less than 51 chapters, most of them broken down into three to nine sections. Most chapters are written by a single author and treat a single stand-alone subject. This makes it easy to read the book out-of-order, or just skip chapters which do not apply. After all, not everyone has the time to Build a Blind.

The first five chapters set the mood for bird photography. They prime the reader to the approach an enthusiast needs to become successful at this type of photography. They clarify what to expect and what not to as birds are living creatures and depend heavily on nature. Different types of birds are discussed and how to attract them.

The next six chapters are devoted to equipment. The choice of cameras, lenses and light sources are covered in great detail. For understandable reasons, only Canon and Nikon are discussed and, as expected, mostly models which the coauthors have used. Given the rarity of bright telephoto lenses for most other systems and their lack of rental availability, sticking with those two manufacturers is a sound choice for wildlife photography.

Four short chapters are then devoted to basic photography as it applies to bird photography with exposure and motion being the primary concerns. Many variations on motion are discussed and every single one is illustrated by an artfully created image.

The 13 chapters that follow cover a wide range of miscellaneous topics. The primary themes are understanding the environment and how birds interact with it, plus light and composition which are the keystones of photography. The advice in each of these chapters comes from years or even decades of experience photographing birds and is highly practical. Correctively, the coauthors cover seasonal variations, arranged setups including feeding birds and building nests, weather and every imaginable lighting type from typical front-light to the aurora borealis.

These chapters and several further in the book show bird photography as a delicate operation, attempting to balance the desire for having publication-worthy imagery and the safety of the birds, so that they are plenty left to capture on future shoots. Laws are also revealed to protect birds from other people, not just bird photographers.

Five chapters follow that describe how to attract and observe birds for photographing them in a natural environment. Many ways and different options to observe unseen are presented. The chapter on blinds is particularly demonstrative of the length and effort these photographers are willing to go for the ultimate in bird photography. Included are traditional blinds as well as underwater ones and remote-controlled self-cleaning camera boxes.

The next group of 14 chapters discusses, one at a time, various bird photography destinations spanning four continents. Timing, species, nature and what type of bird photography to expect at each location is presented in glorious details with full-color images.

The book closes with a few chapters on the business aspect of bird photography. While hobbyists can enjoy bird photography from time to time, the realities of living from such a demanding field require marketing skills and being resourceful beyond knowing where, when and how to photograph birds.

In the end, The Handbook of Bird Photography succeeds at teaching bird photography and also exposing what it takes to be a professional bird photographer. The combined experience of Markus Varesvuo, Jari Peltomäki and Bence Máté provides excellent support to the highly personal writing-style in this beautifully illustrated book.

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