Those who follow me (FaceBook, Twitter, Flickr) will know I’ve been trying to get a magazine quality shot of this beautiful bird showing it’s full iridescence for some time. It came together last week.
They seldom sit still as they constantly dig under bark looking for moths, insects and larvae. Naturally this is done under a canopy of leaves from the tree they have targeted so they are often in the shade. Only sunlight reveals their amazing iridescence which is scant considering the umbrella they have above them. They’ve been near impossible to photograph unless you are in the exact right place, right time and they don’t see you. I Leopard crawled behind him to get this shot.
The Green Wood Hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus) is a large, up to 44 cm long, near-passerine tropical bird native to Africa. It is a member of the family Phoeniculidae, the wood Hoopoes, and was formerly known as the Red-billed Wood Hoopoe. They are common but are constantly on the move and very wary. They have the most fabulous laughter/call and are very sociable birds.
The Zulu’s call them “Ntlheki bafazi” because they make such a racket when hunting, searching for bugs. This translates to the “chatter of noisy women” I can vouch for that!
They swoop fly, meaning there is a fair amount of vertical up and down movement as they beat their wings and BiF images are also quite difficult to get.
They are my favourite bird of the 800+ species found in Southern Africa.
Wildlife photography is an insular pursuit. Often selfish. In order to excel you need to be “alone”. No other distractions. I can name a number of colleagues who would no doubt agree, based on their blog writing, style and consistent quality of their work. Occasionally we work with another photographer who also understands the demands 100%. This is not to say that we don’t enjoy shooting with clients, friends and family but let me take you through the requirements to get what looks like an easy shot…and perhaps the fact that it looks like just another bird on a tree, casually peering into the distance, unperturbed and patient.
Easy shot right? Perhaps the fact that it looks so easy, casual, is why it scored a mediocre 42/90 in a recent DPC Photo Competition. There was no one at the “office”. Everyone was out. Working on the PC, I can see outside to the forest. I heard the birds before I saw them, grabbed the camera/lens combo (always ready and waiting) and snuck outside, hit the deck and leopard crawled up to a raised area, where 90% of my body was hidden from the birds. Took off my jumper and rested the camera on top of it as a form of bean bag. Pushed the ISO t0 1600 as I was using a 100-300mm f/4 with a TC x1.4 and began shooting. With no distractions I was calm and methodical. Timing shots. Waiting for specific movements of the birds, body language etc. Something you can only do if you have watched them as often as I. Predictive photography, especially with WILD-life gets results. Good gear helps too as does thorough working knowledge of that gear.
Shot details: Nikon D7000 | Sigma 100-300mm f/4 EX HSM OS @420mm with Sigma TC 1.4x
ISO-1600 | f/5.6 | 1/800s | EV +0.3 | Hand Held but resting on jumper.
Post Processing in part with Topaz Labs
Location: @ Midrand, South Africa.
Gear I use: Bodies: Nikon D-SLR’s / Lenses: Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Vivitar
Filters: Hoya UV & Polarizing / Flash: Nikon Speed-lights / Bag: Lowe Pro
Tripods & Heads: Manfrotto / Grips, Triggers, Timers, Batteries etc: BandH
Editing Plug-in: Topaz Labs Noise Reduction, HDR, B&W Conversion & more!
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