Georgina Steytler is one of Australia’s top bird photographers and has won many awards. It was clear from the photographs that she showed us why, as they were stunning. She took us beyond the simple reporting of birds to the artistic highlighting of their features and her teaching techniques grabbed everybody’s interest.
As you can see on the website, for part of the workshop we were all lying down photographing stuffed animals. There was a purpose to this, though, as we learnt how much difference occurs when we are photographing while standing, sitting, or best of all whilst viewing the birds at eye level, lying down without propping yourself up on your elbows. This is particularly useful when photographing birds on the ground, beach or ocean but not so much a pardalote at the top of a tree!
Georgina demonstrating her techniques with a stuffed toy
Using stuffed toys allowed us to move them around so we could learn about composition. The closer the background is to the bird, then the more the background may distract from the bird’s image. If the background is a long way from the bird, the bird is clearer to see.
She also taught us about exposure compensation and was a big advocate of “spray and pray”. In other words, take as many photographs of the bird as possible and hope that one of them is perfect. Georgina also advocated taking photographs in “the golden hour” when colours were softer i.e. at sunrise and sunset and making sure we had ample detail of the feathers.
She emphasised that the whole bird did not need to be in focus as long as the head was and there was no need to have the bird in the centre of the photograph. Instead we were encouraged to consider where the viewer’s eye goes first, which in 41% of people is to the top left. She also showed us the importance of a using a spiral for best placement. We were even given many tips for taking photographs on our mobile phones. Finally, as probably all photographers will tell you, getting close produces the best photograph.
The point was driven home that bird photography must be done ethically. For example, she strongly discouraged us from flushing out birds or using calls or other activities to attract them because they may get stressed. There is evidence that sustained stress can reduce offspring by 42%. Simply put, she says, “Please do not alter the natural behaviour of the bird.” She pointed out it could be considered harassment when we do alter its behaviour and this is illegal. With the advent of social media, she said, there are many more people trying bird photography and, in some instances, it is the photographers who are doing the most damage to birds.
It was a brilliant 3-hour workshop. The audience was enthralled, the venue packed and everybody left knowing how to take better bird photographs.
Thank you so much Georgina.
Georgina’s website: GEORGINA STEYTLER