Boy Scout Photography

I was never a member of the Scouts organisation. I don’t know why. Maybe it is because none of my friends at school were? But i remember the Scouts’ mantra… BE PREPARED.

Recently I went on a birding trip to Malaysia with my darling, and after a “full on” birding photography few days, the road trip back to Singapore came about.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 12.33.31 pmIt’s around a 5 hour drive given traffic and other nonsense you may encounter on Malaysian roads. They have their share of good drivers; they also have their share that went to the George Lucas School of Driving, I think. This is because every now and then, it seems to me that a driver has decided to “just let go, and use the Force!”.

Somewhat wearisome, with mischief and mayhem thus far on the road managed and mitigated, I stopped along a main highway to ‘stretch the legs’. The place was NOISY! Truck stop. Cars. Limited parking spaces unfilled. Double parking. Triple parking. Anger. Horns. Highway within 50 metres. Food Court. Bathroom queues. Kids screaming. Parents out-screaming the kids. And then…

Just the faintest ‘seep – seep – seep’ was heard, cutting through the auditory salvo I was experiencing. I thought ‘I know that sound’ and went back to the car. For some time now I carry my birding tools of choice (Canon 1DX and EF 500mm f4 lens), in a long, and well padded backpack, on the back seat of the car. The gear was assembled, and ready to go with batteries and memory cards in situ. I grabbed the gear, dismissed the idea of bringing a tripod, and set off in search of the chirping.

I thought it was from a sunbird. Most likely an Olive Backed Sunbird, but I wasn’t sure. I checked the most likely places this bird might be and noticed a small row of Heliconeae plants (some call these Bird of Paradise plants) along the roadside. I knew these were a “sunbird fave” so made a beeline for these plants. And there he was. Just one male, merrily flitting between flowers and darting between plants. He was very skittish. I set the camera to TV mode, shutter speed to 1/2500 to freeze the motion, left the AWB and ISO on auto for now, just to get ‘a shot’. All thoughts of trying to mitigate harsh overhead Asian tropical sunlight were cast aside, with the only thought remaining… GET, THE, SHOT!”.

A39T5259-impI took only 3 frames before this bird flew away, but maybe that was OK? After all, I only needed one. When home, I looked at the 3 frames on the ‘big screen’ and instantly became happy I had been a Boy Scout that day. Being prepared had paid off. In the strangest of places. With a very small habitat for a discerning bird, I had gotten the shot I had hoped for. Could I have made this shot better? Set the camera up better for the conditions? Sure. I definitely could have. But if I had dallied, I’d have missed the shot. If I’d had to put the gear together, I’d have missed the shot.

So for some time now,  my bird photography mantra stays with me, wherever and whenever I go shooting…

“always be prepared, and look for the chance,

for that one, last, shot”.

Happy Days.

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