Revisiting nature photography after turning professional

by on Feb.01, 2009, under photography

After doing commercial, event and wedding photography for over 3 years, I realised that I haven’t been shooting for myself at all for a long time. I recall visiting the zoo and jurong bird park like 3 times / week after my whole department in Lucent Technologies was retrenched.

Photography technologies and equipment have improved dramatically since then as well. I brought my D3 along with the 200mm F2 lens to the bird park one morning and tried to see if there was a difference compared to a few years ago.

During my hobbyist days, I used to start early at the Jungle Jewels aviary trying to capture the hummingbirds, honeycreepers and the elusive yellow-hooded blackbirds.  Despite Dr Minerva’s advice to start at the waterfall aviary, I still visited my old haunt the Jungle Jewels first. However I quicky realised that it wasn’t as vibrant in the mornings as it used to be and promptly headed to the Waterfall Aviary.

The birds had their first feed at about 8.45am and they took turns flying to the dish to get their food. This was easy, I just had to find a good background and set the tripod up to wait for them to come. I caught a nice shot of a Livingstone Turaco posing for the camera.

LivingStone Turaco

I found this pair of crowned cranes looking for their breakfast along one of the side routes and started tracking them. I They didn’t move fast, but composition was important and I ditched the tripod and went handheld for more mobility.

Crowned Crane

I headed towards the hawk aviary for the show at 10am. I used to have a lot of problems catching flying shots of the hawks during the show with my Sony F505. The hawks were so fast I had to pre-focus and trigger when they passed the focus point. I probably got only 1 usable shot among the dozens of times I was at the hawk show those days.

This time, due to a combination of experience, fast focusing camera and a fast lens, I ended up with several decent shots during the show. This was my favourite among them.

After the hawk show, I headed to the SouthEast Asian Aviary.. not too bad but I’ve shot these birds to death. So I did a very quick round.

And headed to the 11am main show which I waited for the macaws to fly through the hoops.
Scarlet Macaw

After the show, I walked around to the kingfishers, kookaburras, scarlet ibis, crowned pigeons, kites and had some good shots there..
Blue Breasted Kingfisher

Brahminy Kite

other shots may be found on my facebook album.

I haven’t been to the Lory Aviary since it was ready. On the left of the entrance, there were water sprays to let the lories cool down in the afternoon sun and found a pair playing around.
Lories cooling among the water jets

I headed to the pelican chit chat and got some shots, but they were too cluttered together to get a nice shot for my taste. So I headed down nearer the lake and started shooting birds flying and landing.

Last round was at 2.30pm for the bee eaters feeding. The carmine bee eaters were too deft and too small to properly acquire perfect focus. But I was happy to get a good shot of a Blue-bellied Roller with a catch in it’s mouth.
Blue Bellied Roller

It was really tiring.. I was no longer as fit as I used to be.. and hand holding the 200mm F2 for most of the day was no joke.. The tiring part was actually having to carry around the bag and tripod when I didn’t really use them! Next time I should just leave them in the car.

Oh… and for those who shoot avian creatures often, you’ll be familiar with bird droppings.. no surprises at all that I got them on my hands, shirt & hair.. but I had to get one on my lens!!! Note to self: Remember to bring wet tissue next time! I used to bring along, but I guess I haven’t been doing this for a long time and I’ve missed out packing some essential stuff!

I miss these shitty days!

More shots posted on my facebook album

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16 Comments for this entry

  • michael yip

    Wow, beautiful shots, would love to learn more from you. Do let me know if you’re going for any events and don’t mind a beginner to tag along to snap some photos? 😀

  • DK

    Wow…. really great photos. :)

  • Rachel

    Gorgeous! Do you think I can replicate this effect with my Nikon D60?

  • amb3r

    These are stunning.. @.@

  • Denver Wedding Photographers

    Love your work! Incredible images of these birds… I wish we had a fraction of this beautiful fauna in our area!

  • willyfoo

    Rachel: Yes you can.. it’s not so much of the camera but the lenses.

  • victoria stanley

    Dear Mr. Foo,
    I will be visiting my Asian relatives during the month of June and is looking for a photography mentorship while I am in Singapore. I’m very interested in photography and would like to know if you are willing to impart your expertise to a 16 year-old from the US. My favorite shots are those of nature and people.

    I do have my parents permission to send this mail.

    Thanking you in advance,
    1 713 876 8772

  • Pamela P

    I like the crowned cranes shot the best. Great composition with the back crane blurred out. How far was the back crane to get this kind of dof? Looks like 1m away from the photo.

    The hawk photo would be great if the wings weren’t cropped. The expression and pose is great. But I understand, on a prime lens and with fast-moving things, it’s hard.

    Last paragraph: lol… I got droppings on both my lens and body when I visited a bat cave too! And yah, shirt and all for sure. So I totally identify with your scenario… lol!

  • adamteo

    Bro, long time no see, haha…miss those days when we go out to shoot….still remember the leonids, sentosa, etc…haha

    Take care.

    adam teo

  • willyfoo

    The crane was a few metres back..
    Yeah, the hawk got a little too close for the prime lens..

  • Amelia

    Your shots are AMAZING! How did you get such a shallow depth of field?! because would you need a really big aperture for shots like that?:S

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