On Bird Videography
Adventures and Misadventures
Two qualities crucial to developing bird videographing skills are patience and a cool head. I learned this while on a birding trip to Sultanpur jheel near Gurgaon last winter. Considering I have been visiting Delhi nearly every month for the past decade, it came as a welcome surprise to know that there existed something as wonderful as this birders paradise just half an hour from Gurgaon.
I was a little distance away looking through the binoculars, when my sister Billy pointed at a Purple Heron standing motionless in knee-deep water. Sensing that the heron was watching some prey intently, I trained my tripod-mounted handycam on the heron. I must have watched its statue-like posture for around ten minutes. Finally, tired of the seemingly unending wait, I turned and walked towards my sisters. A few steps away and Billy frantically waved her arms to alert me. I turned and saw the heron’s S-shaped neck stretch till it became a taut spear. The heron again held that position, then moved slowly forward a few paces. The neck darted forward with a spring-action to catch a large frog.
My handycam on the tripod had faithfully recorded the entire sequence except for the final strike which took place just outside the frame. Patience, patience – if only I had waited for a precious few moments more, I would have caught the entire action and perhaps thirty seconds of fame on one of the Nature channels.
Later on the way home, I saw a flock of starlings. They were moving in a single mass, swaying from side to side like a sinuous dancer. Unbelievable. I scrambled out of the car to set up my handycam to ensure I did not miss this unique video opportunity. I was quite happy to keep the handycam focused on the flock till they came down to earth in unison. I switched my record button off convinced I had some fantastic videography on tape. It was only when I got home that I realized that I had in fact, in my anxiety and hurry, not switched on the handycam.. So all I had finally on tape was a few seconds of a flock of starlings descending. Just so tragic. A cool head, I figure is essential for bird videography.
On another occasion, I shot a beautiful video on the pink flamingoes at Bigwan, around 80 km from Pune on the Sholapur highway. This was made early one February morning when the light was absolutely fabulous for videography. I thought I had some unbelievable footage. A few weeks later, there was a total lunar eclipse over Pune. Waking up groggily at three am to videotape the eclipse, all I achieved was to successfully tape over most of the flamingo video. Alas and alack.
I saw a pair of spotted owlets once, posing close by on a tree branch. Posing is the only word to describe them as they cocked their heads now and again to peer intently at me. What luck I thought, hopefully setting up my tripod. Just about then, my battery indicator showed me that the show put on by the owlets would remain in my head and not on videotape. I finally did however manage to videograph one of them peeping out from a hollow in the treetrunk and looking straight into the lens.
So if a successful photo or videographer you would be, remember to keep a cool head, be patient and pray like hell that nothing goes wrong. Oh and by the way, avoid getting up at 3am.