Beung Boraphet Wildlife Preserve and Wetlands 

 

Every now and then the pieces fall together for a perfect outing.  Such was the case several weekends ago when a group of friends with a love of photography and various levels of experience got together for a fun filled rewarding Saturday outing with Rob as tour director and technical adviser.  Rob had been to Beung Boraphet several times before and was quite adept at “birding”, as was his wife Sao.  Loading up several SUVs with a modest fortunes worth of photography equipment and eager photographers we headed out for Nakhon Sawan province.

 

Every now and then the pieces fall together for a perfect outing.  Such was the case several weekends ago when a group of friends with a love of photography and various levels of experience got together for a fun filled rewarding Saturday outing with Rob as tour director and technical adviser.  Rob had been to Beung Boraphet several times before and was quite adept at “birding”, as was his wife Sao.  Loading up several SUVs with a modest fortunes worth of photography equipment and eager photographers we headed out for Nakhon Sawan province.

 

Four hours outside of Bangkok we arrived at the park's entrance and quickly parked the cars, gathered our gear, and took advantage of the excellent food while our boat captain and guide readied the boat.  Everyone knew we were “serious photographers” when we walked up because of the array of huge white lenses and big black camera bodies we carried.  Besides, if that didn’t clue them in then a few of the guys were wearing odd looking hats which were sure to get the message across.

 

Four hours outside of Bangkok we arrived at the park's entrance and quickly parked the cars, gathered our gear, and took advantage of the excellent food while our boat captain and guide readied the boat.  Everyone knew we were “serious photographers” when we walked up because of the array of huge white lenses and big black camera bodies we carried.  Besides, if that didn’t clue them in then a few of the guys were wearing odd looking hats which were sure to get the message across.

 

Birding has its challenges.  The first challenge on boarding the boat is staking out your own small piece of real estate keeping in mind that you’ll need “lens swing” room so you don’t accidently knock your buddy in the head with the lens hood of your 500/4 IS.  After a butt numbing four hour drive in the relatively comfortable leather seats of the SUVs I couldn’t help but cringe at the hard metal seats of the boat.  Oh well, sometimes you really have to suck it up and endure to get some good captures.  The two shots above were taken in rapid succession as one of the pair of birds decided to take off.

 

Birding has its challenges.  The first challenge on boarding the boat is staking out your own small piece of real estate keeping in mind that you’ll need “lens swing” room so you don’t accidently knock your buddy in the head with the lens hood of your 500/4 IS.  After a butt numbing four hour drive in the relatively comfortable leather seats of the SUVs I couldn’t help but cringe at the hard metal seats of the boat.  Oh well, sometimes you really have to suck it up and endure to get some good captures.  The two shots above were taken in rapid succession as one of the pair of birds decided to take off.

 

Each bird scene has its own challenges.  With birding the biggest challenge is getting close enough to the subject so the bird becomes more than a mere speck in the frame.  There are two ways to do this.  First, you use the longest lens you have.  Unfortunately I only had a 300/2.8 IS so on the advice of Rob I immediately added the 1.4x teleconvertor for a fixed 420mm.  Second, the boat captain will try to maneuver the boat as close to the subject as possible.  With a very loud and noisy unmuffeled car engine this becomes something of a challenge.  The boat captain gathers some speed, aims the boat in the right direction, cuts the engine, and as we slowly drift closer we all raise our lenses and hold our breaths hoping we get close enough to fill even a small part of the frame.  If you’re lucky you’ll catch some good light and get a nice reflection and you’ll remember to compensate your exposure so you don’t blow out the white feathers which is one of the most common errors.

 

Each bird scene has its own challenges.  With birding the biggest challenge is getting close enough to the subject so the bird becomes more than a mere speck in the frame.  There are two ways to do this.  First, you use the longest lens you have.  Unfortunately I only had a 300/2.8 IS so on the advice of Rob I immediately added the 1.4x teleconvertor for a fixed 420mm.  Second, the boat captain will try to maneuver the boat as close to the subject as possible.  With a very loud and noisy unmuffeled car engine this becomes something of a challenge.  The boat captain gathers some speed, aims the boat in the right direction, cuts the engine, and as we slowly drift closer we all raise our lenses and hold our breaths hoping we get close enough to fill even a small part of the frame.  If you’re lucky you’ll catch some good light and get a nice reflection and you’ll remember to compensate your exposure so you don’t blow out the white feathers which is one of the most common errors.

 

It never fails, it will be you or one of your buddies, but someone’s foot will slip, a bag will fall, someone clears their throat, and the birds take off in flight in the blink of an eye.  There you are in the boat, a half dozen huge white lenses tracking the birds like interceptor missiles tracking an incoming MIG21, shutters releasing at 8fps, silent swearing as someone loses tracking, and in a short moment the bird is out of range and everyone looks at each other with big smiles on their faces as they casually “chimp” their LCD to see if they got a keeper.  A few managed some good shots and proudly share them with the others, more encouragement than boasting.

 

It never fails, it will be you or one of your buddies, but someone’s foot will slip, a bag will fall, someone clears their throat, and the birds take off in flight in the blink of an eye.  There you are in the boat, a half dozen huge white lenses tracking the birds like interceptor missiles tracking an incoming MIG21, shutters releasing at 8fps, silent swearing as someone loses tracking, and in a short moment the bird is out of range and everyone looks at each other with big smiles on their faces as they casually “chimp” their LCD to see if they got a keeper.  A few managed some good shots and proudly share them with the others, more encouragement than boasting.

 

Birding reminds me a lot of trap / skeet shooting.  You’ve got to remember to lead your subjects, lock them in, and then follow them while obtaining capture after capture.  When shooting up into a bright sky a common error is exposure.  Either you’ll compensate too little and the camera will meter for the sky which makes your bird nothing more than a dark shape against a bright sky, or you compensate too much blowing out the details of the whites leaving only a white shape.

 

Birding reminds me a lot of trap / skeet shooting.  You’ve got to remember to lead your subjects, lock them in, and then follow them while obtaining capture after capture.  When shooting up into a bright sky a common error is exposure.  Either you’ll compensate too little and the camera will meter for the sky which makes your bird nothing more than a dark shape against a bright sky, or you compensate too much blowing out the details of the whites leaving only a white shape.

 

If you get it right you’ll be able to see a lot of detail in the feathers and the sun will create contrasting levels of illumination across the bird.

 

If you get it right you’ll be able to see a lot of detail in the feathers and the sun will create contrasting levels of illumination across the bird.

 

And if you get it right and are lucky at the same time, the light will come from a direction that will also reveal the yellows of the beaks and feet and other colors present.  And if the gods are really smiling you’ll do all this and achieve sharp focus at the same time

 

And if you get it right and are lucky at the same time, the light will come from a direction that will also reveal the yellows of the beaks and feet and other colors present.  And if the gods are really smiling you’ll do all this and achieve sharp focus at the same time!

 

Very few things are as beautiful as a wild seabird at full wingspan as it hovers over the water making minute corrections in flight.

 

Very few things are as beautiful as a wild seabird at full wingspan as it hovers over the water making minute corrections in flight.

 

The light on the water can be quite harsh, creating a huge dynamic range between the bird and the water.  In this case our boat captain had already cut the engine and we slowly drifted towards this guy at a maddeningly slow pace.  You could hear shutters going off well before we were in optimum range and I wondered if their buffers would be full when we finally got as close as we could.  I had something else in mind.  I knew the bird was going to take off and I wanted to capture him going from sunning himself with outstretched wings to running across the surface of the water to flight.. so I held my shutter finger off the shutter and it took all my self control to wait while everyone around me was whirring and snapping.

 

The light on the water can be quite harsh, creating a huge dynamic range between the bird and the water.  In this case our boat captain had already cut the engine and we slowly drifted towards this guy at a maddeningly slow pace.  You could hear shutters going off well before we were in optimum range and I wondered if their buffers would be full when we finally got as close as we could.  I had something else in mind.  I knew the bird was going to take off and I wanted to capture him going from sunning himself with outstretched wings to running across the surface of the water to flight.. so I held my shutter finger off the shutter and it took all my self control to wait while everyone around me was whirring and snapping.

 

Suddenly he took off running across the water and I was ready!

 

Suddenly he took off running across the water and I was ready!

 

Swiveling at the hips I panned him across 100-200 meters as he literally ran across the water before gaining enough lift to take off into the sky.  We couldn’t help but watch with awe as this wild creature took flight and circled away from us.

 

Swiveling at the hips I panned him across 100-200 meters as he literally ran across the water before gaining enough lift to take off into the sky.  We couldn’t help but watch with awe as this wild creature took flight and circled away from us.

 

This remains one of my favorite shots where the exposure on the bird was perfect, the focus perfect, the light extraordinary, and the depth of field optimal to take in the surrounding textures and colors.  These are the shots that make you feel like the dollar slots in Vegas just paid off and the bells are ringing and the lights flashing and everyone is staring..

 

This remains one of my favorite shots where the exposure on the bird was perfect, the focus perfect, the light extraordinary, and the depth of field optimal to take in the surrounding textures and colors.  These are the shots that make you feel like the dollar slots in Vegas just paid off and the bells are ringing and the lights flashing and everyone is staring..

I had a great time on this outing and from all accounts so did everyone else.  Thank you Rob!