Learning with experts

Stretching your photographic boundaries

tricoloured heron

When I first bought a camera I photographed everything and anything.  It didn’t take long though before I started to concentrate more on some subjects than others, and I’m sure this is true of most photographers.  In my case, my favourite subjects were – and still are – flowers and landscapes.

However it’s great to sometimes have a go at something different.  I’m sure it’s beneficial as well as fun, and it can certainly help to get you out of a photographic rut!

yellow crowned night heron

Recently I had a trip to Sanibel Island, off the west coast of Florida.  Sanibel is known for its birds, especially the roseate spoonbill, a fabulous pink bird which can often be found at the Ding Darling wildlife reserve on Sanibel.  This trip gave me an opportunity to have my first try at bird photography!

Looking at the results later I started musing about the similarities and differences between the various genres of photography – in this case, between flower photography and bird photography.  Several differences are obvious – I’m used to photographing flowers at close range, while for birds I was using the longest end of my telephoto lens; flowers stay in one place, while birds most definitely don’t; you can move around a flower to find the best viewpoint, whereas you can’t move around a distant bird; and assuming not too much wind, I can use quite a slow shutter speed for a flower, whereas I needed a much faster one to avoid any movement in my feathered friends.

But on the other hand, many of the basics are the same.  I still wanted a good clean non-distracting background behind my subject, with no very bright spots or dominant colours to pull the eye away.  The direction of the light falling on the bird was still important, and the problems caused by contrasty or patchy light were the same.  Above all, the compositional considerations were the same as I tried to frame the subject in a way that created a balanced and harmonious composition.

I hugely enjoyed my first try at photographing birds – I can’t wait to have another go!  If you fancy trying your hand at Bird Photography my colleague David Tipling does a terrific 4 week Online course at MyPhotoSchool entitled Bird Photography : How to Photograph Wild Birds

roseate spoonbill

Geoff Harris

I am a photography journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill, Steve McCurry and the late Mary Ellen Mark. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time.

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