Mini-review of Gerrit Vyn's 'Photography Birds: Field Techniques and the Art of the Image.'

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I read Gerrit Vyn’s Photography Birds: Field Techniques and the Art of the Image. 2020. ISBN13: 9781680510997.

I’m an amateur photographer in my second year with a long lens and attempting to photograph critters; here’s a list of the things I found interesting or useful. Overall, I really liked the book.

Camera and lens envy.

Professional photographers get camera and lens envy too! The author suggests sitting out the FOMO, and wait for your camera company to catch up, which if you use Nikon (me) or Canon, those companies frequently chase each other with respect to new features.

Blinds/ hides, and time.

The book has a detailed look into how professionals approach photographing birds. I was surprised about the extensive use of blinds and the time involved in moving the blinds closer. Well, that sure would make a difference in how close you can get, yes?


I felt validated about what purchasing choices I had made with respect to equipment – though I have a family friend and photography mentor to thank for a lot of that. I have two Nikon cameras, one a DSLR and the other a mirrorless camera; and I spent a lot on tripod legs that are appropriately sized as well as a gimbal.

Use the tripod, seriously.

The book includes some tough love about using a tripod. Most people are not able to keep heavy telephoto lenses perfectly still without a tripod. Basically: don’t be lazy and use the tripod already with long and heavy lenses (>= 500mm). I sort of needed this – I’ve been photographing at home and haven’t set up my tripod as much. That practice has changed.

Depth of field on telephoto lenses.

The depth of field for telephoto lenses with a subject up close is absolutely tiny. An example in the book: a 500mm lens at f/4 has a depth of field of 1/4 inch at 10 feet away. So: if the bird is not parallel to the camera, you may need to close the aperture to get all the feathers in focus.

Don’t be afraid to get a lot of frames.

There will be frames. Set up the camera to acquire in rapid mode. Through this, I realized that one of my cameras was set up this way, and the other one not.

But, save your time: don’t shoot in bad light.

I liked how the book explored ways to use your time efficiently; don’t shoot in bad light. Of course, if you’re enjoying watching the wildlife, do, but don’t expect your photos to be outstanding because of the environmental conditions. And the author defines what bad light is when it comes to wildlife. TL;DR: good light is right after sunrise and right before sunset.

Photo stitching for special situations where the field of view is too small.

One can use photo stitching to increase resolution, or to capture all of the bird in the case that it is too close for the lens. I would have never considered this, but doing so could create some neat animal combined with landscape shots.

Book layout and other neat features.

The book has a bird photo on almost every other page, with the lens used, ISO, exposure time, and aperture. A shock to me was some of the slow exposure times – 1/4 second, for instance. There’s a section on interpreting histograms. I also appreciated the discussion on data management.

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