BOOK REVIEW

Photographing Wild Birds
by Chris Gomersall
pub. David & Charles, 2001
Hardback 19.99, 160 pages
ISBN 07153 11131

Aimed at showing bird lovers and serious ornithologists how to capture their quarry on film Chris Gomersall makes a brave attempt in this book at helping the mediocre or amateur photographer achieve better results.

There are plenty of examples throughout; from that wonderfully vibrant occupant of our riverbanks, the Kingfisher, to the Great Bustard, Kestrel, House Sparrow and Eagles. And you know when you're in the hands of a seasoned veteran when little phrases such as 'a classic bait and perch project' appear.

As Gomersall reminds his readers they cannot expect a bird to pose (or, for that matter, expect a helping hand from British weather), and the author reflects that it sometimes takes years to get 'the' photograph at a particular location. Sometimes it can take more than a decade.

The content ontent is broken into five sections: Equipment, Controlling the Image, In the Field, Case Studies, and Post-Production. Equipment is given a thoroughly good airing with suggestions for the basic birdlover who wants to make a simple record of an observation, to those who perhaps aspire to having their images published professionally.

In each case the potential advantages and disadvantages of equipment and features are aired without prejudice, while at the same time delivering simple basics on technical photographic technique. However, what you won't find in this book is the usual diagrammatic explanation generally found in 'how to' photography books.

There are case study pieces throughout the pages. Within chapters there are featured photographs alongside comments from the respective photographer, while Gomersall devotes a chapter to examples of his own work.

Chapter Two moves on to the more creative aspects of taking your birding snaps, and includes everything from framing and exposure metering, to light sources. Interestingly, one of the short case studies incuded in this section is by Stephen Dalton, one of the best known pioneers in high-speed photography of wildlife.

By Chapter Three the author possibly reckons that you are sufficiently technically knowledgeable to be unleashed on the world, and turns to the practical aspects of locating and waiting for your quarry. Mostly with great patience it seems. Gomersall deals with everything from the home comforts in your 'hide' to adapting your photographic approach to the bird's behaviour, and possibly hoodwinking the feathered target with decoys. Oh well, who said a photographer's life was easy?

The final chapter, on Post-Production, covers all the basic aspects of this - from selection of the best image, to storage and conservation, to marketing and promoting your work if you have professional aspirations.

And there are some really useful tips, such as Gomersall's thought that a motordrive camera essentially affords the opportunity of taking multiple still shots of the static bird in front of you provides extra images for circulating to magazine editors and the like. Of course, that assumes you are confident about getting the correct exposure and are unlikely to waste film, but anyone who has ever had professional duplicates made of transparencies knows that they come at a hefty price.

Two Appendices include a 'Nature Photographer's Code of Practice' and the RSPB Guide to Bird Photography and the Law.

Bottom line...
With over 200 photographs there are plenty of examples for the birder to aspire to, but this is not a book which will really teach you the nuts and bolts of basic photography. It is much more about revealing the thought processes , methodology and conceptual idea that a seasoned wildlife photographer takes with him on location. As such the Gomersall's book is a goldmine of information that will put breathtaking photographs a touch closer.

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