Each month, we sit down with one of our favorite photographers for a snapshot interview of the person behind the lens. This is an exciting time to talk with professional photographer Marie Read, as she recently launched an ebook for the Apple iPad: Music of the Birds, Volume 1.
How did you become a wildlife photographer? I began wildlife photography back in the 1980s in Kenya, East Africa, where my husband and I were studying bird behavior. We were living in a national park, surrounded by all kinds of wonderful birds and other wildlife, so it seemed natural to start taking photographs of them. Shortly after that I started getting published, writing magazine articles about birds and bird behavior to accompany my photos.
What’s one good piece of advice that you learned through firsthand experience? I think the best advice I can give for bird photography is to be observant and learn as much about bird behavior as you can. Soon you’ll become aware of the behavior cues birds often give us that they’re about to do something interesting or dramatic. Once you can recognize those cues you’ll be primed for capturing action. For instance, birds often signal they’re about to take flight by crouching and/or pooping—notice that cue and you can capture the bird as it takes wing. Another photogenic activity many birds do after perching quietly or preening for a while is stretching their wings. Keep alert for that to occur, because it’s quite lovely and dramatic. Pay attention to individual birds’ habits, like using the same perch again and again—that’s a photo op waiting to happen!
What inspires you? I’m inspired by birds’ beautiful colors, liveliness and song, their awesome powers of flight and the wonder of migration. I look forward to the changing seasons because, although birds look their best in spring, I also like to portray them as survivors, toughing it out in adverse weather. One of my favorite photos is of a female pileated woodpecker during an intense snowstorm. In fact I photograph in winter almost as much as in spring…seeing birds in the snow and cold makes you appreciate what they have to contend with throughout their lives.
What does bird photography give back to you? Why do you take pictures? Mostly it’s for the challenge, especially trying to capture birds in flight or interacting with each other. I get an incredible thrill if I succeed. It’s exciting to photograph something beautiful or dramatic. I enjoy showing birds going about their lives, and if my photos can educate or inspire other people, that makes me even happier.
In your opinion, what is the most important camera feature, and why? Well, I certainly would be lost without autofocus and the amazing focus-tracking abilities of modern cameras, which free up the photographer to concentrate on composition or follow a moving subject, waiting for the decisive moment, without also having to focus manually. Today’s camera technology allows bird photographers to capture peak action images that would have been next-to-impossible 20 years ago. Even more exciting are the recent advances enabling digital cameras to capture high-quality video, something that I now regularly include in my photo projects.
How are you using that video coverage? Recently I’ve embarked on a major multimedia project with my long time collaborator Lang Elliott, who’s a nature sound recordist and videographer. We’re producing a series of multimedia ebooks for the Apple iPad and other tablet devices. In fact the first in the series, Music of the Birds Volume 1 for the Apple iPad, which showcases twenty of our most-loved birds, has just been released through the iTunes bookstore.
What makes Music of the Birds Vol. 1 unique? It’s truly a multimedia experience, with stunning HD videos and sounds in addition to beautiful still photographs, maps and engaging text. And it’s packed with interactive features. Did I mention that it’s also gorgeous!
If this is Volume 1, how many volumes can we anticipate? We have several more ebooks in the planning stages, including Music of the Birds Volume 2, which could be released as early as the end of 2012.