Truthfully, I never imagined sitting on a rock for three hours waiting for a smallish feathered creature to turn its head towards the light. However, after having moved to what ornithologists call an “Important Bird Area” (IBA), that’s exactly what I’ve been doing on weekends over the last couple of months. And that’s not only because Wikipedia needs better bird pictures, but also because I like the challenge of wildlife photography.
With bird photography being one of the most challenging areas of wildlife photography, there is a strong need for books that introduce you to the basic concepts, techniques, and equipment choices.
The Handbook of Bird Photography written by Markus Varesvuo, Jari Peltomäki and Bence Máté is such a resource. The three authors are experienced and internationally acclaimed bird photographers who published the first Finnish edition of their book in 2011. Since mid 2013, an English translation is available through Rocky Nook, a California publishing house specialized in digital photography.
The Handbook of Bird Photography is a hefty volume of 368 pages, full of helpful photography tips and stunning images. The book opens with an essential advice: “Knowledge in bird behavior and biology helps improve your photography”. That’s a lesson that I have learned the hard way after shooting hundreds of birds and ending up with images that were not up to the standards that I set for myself. Now, what else does the book offer?
The Handbook of Bird Photography starts with 32 chapters that cover every possible aspect of bird photography, followed by 14 chapters that discuss various popular bird photography destinations (ranging from Brazil to Japan). Additionally, the last three chapters contain advice on how to sell your pictures, how to participate in photo competitions and how to create good slide shows.
With Varesvuo and Peltomäki being from Finland and Máté being from Hungary, most of their example pictures feature birds that can be found in Northeastern Europe. However, the authors’ tips are universal – they range from how to capture birds from the right angle to how to use water as an element in bird photography. What I liked best about the book is the many hands-on tips that go far beyond equipment choices and photography techniques. Whereas other books on wildlife photography focus heavily on topics like exposure, light, ISO values, etc., the Handbook of Bird Photography offers tons of useful advice on how to work in the field. You can easily tell that the authors are seasoned photographers who know all aspects of their subject from years of practical work. The book really shines when Varesvuo, Peltomäki and Máté explain how to attract birds, how to build and use a blind, how to take pictures from a car or a boat, and how to photograph birds at migration flyways.
Overall, the Handbook of Bird Photography is by far the most comprehensive book about this specific topic and well worth its $34.28 for the paperback edition and the $11.49 for the Kindle edition. The book is well written and covers the topic in a depth and breadth that will also please more seasoned wildlife photographers. It’s a must-have for everybody who wants to learn more about the fascinating world of photographing birds.