Sunday, 6 April 2014

Hiding in a Hide

Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m not a particular fan of using hides although I do sometimes – usually as a stop off while out and about or in Winter, as a place to get some respite from the weather.  I can sit for hours outside waiting for the opportunity to see an animal, but do the same in a hide and I’m completely bored.  I think because when inside one, you are removed from nature and the environment, just viewing it through a window of a large wooden structure.  There is another reason and that, ironically is other photographers.  To be fair it’s by no means all as, over the years I have met some really nice and interesting ones and they can be a good source of sharing knowledge, but there seems to be with the advent of popular digital photography a new breed of photographers.  Combine this with Flickr and you have photographers who seem to ‘collect’ images, usually of birds and particularly of more unusual or exotic ones, which are then to be shown like a ‘badge of honour’.

I recently made a trip to a hide in the hope of specifically seeing and photographing Kingfishers as my luck this year has consisted of glimpses or distant views.  It was a damp and miserable day so I thought few would out and about and in the hide, but it was full of photographers obviously hoping for the same sight as me.  Unfortunately there was little chance of a good window seat, so I just sat at the back window and couldn’t help but listen to the others talking.

Most of them had been there for a few hours already on the day and had been coming in day after day this week and, a few, the week before as well.  I do admire their dedication and one of them was showing his previous successful images of a Kingfisher on his ipad, but it did make me again, wonder.  Recently in the news there was a situation in Florida where a well known, professional photographer was disturbing a protected bird by (apparently) delivery making them fly off their nesting area so his tour of other photographers he had brought along could photograph the bird in flight.  Obviously, this does not compare with someone who simply enjoys spending a lot of time in a hide, but I keep wondering why do people take wildlife photographs?

Everyone will have their own reasons and as far as I’m concerned as long as they are enjoying themselves and don’t disturb the wildlife, then good for them.  But it also brings me back to why I generally feel uncomfortable being around a group of what I call ‘drive by photographers’ (They drive to a hide or location but never walk more than a few metres from their cars).  Dressed for the most part head to foot in camouflage, many had some very expensive looking gear, it seemed more like a social gathering with little interest in what was happening outside except for the odd appearance of the Kingfisher or quiet periods when a few would take some pictures of the more common birds around.

One of the things I am very conscious about is that public hides are for everyone, including non photographers so having one that is chocker block full of them that have been camped there for hours, often means that other people who want to simply watch any and all wildlife, feel a bit intimidated.  An elderly couple did come in and promptly left.  

It was interesting just to be an observer and as the crowd thinned out I was able to get a ‘front view’ seat. The guy next to me was rattling off shots like there was no tomorrow.  When the Bullfinch below landed on the perch he took four bursts of four frames followed by another two in the space of around five seconds.  I took three. In old money his had taken the equivalent to a role of film!  Maybe coming from a film background, I still take my shots more sparingly and with thought.  Rather than just shoot at ten frames per second, I had my camera set so could take one shot but if I kept my finger down, it would do around five.  This way I could observe the bird and wait until I thought the ideal pose was met – light in the eyes and a nice portrait.  I looked at his LCD as he was checking his images and he had a lot of images of the head looking away or with his back to the camera but also had a few similar to mine that I could see. I guess it’s all part of the ‘spray and pray’ culture of the modern photographer but it reminded me of the story I had heard about a mimic bird who was heard in a remote part of, I think Australia, and it was making the sound of a cameras rapid drive!

There is another disadvantage of using a hide.  The bird images below show them on a perch that is probably now very well known on Flickr and other sites so originality can be lost.  I will carry on using hides but they don’t replace the enjoyment of solitude and the mixture of excitement and tranquillity of actually being out in nature, of using your own skills as a naturalist and photographer to achieve an image or just simply seeing a wild animal in its natural surroundings.

Male Bulfinch
Blue Tit
Female Bulfinch
Male Pheasant
Male Pheasant
Female Pheasant
Grey Squirrel
Grey Squirrel
Grey Squirrel
Grey Squirrel


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