‘Swan portrait’, behind the image

Its sometimes the most commonly found animals and bird that make the most interesting subjects. On a recent trip to Hokkaido, Japan, i got the opportunity to photograph these swans which if i am totally honest, i would never have done in India or Africa.

Now that i was doing it, i had no option but to do a good job, so instead of using a long telephoto lens, i decided to photograph these birds using my smaller lenses (Nikon 200 mm and the Nikon 58 mm) which in hindsight was the best decision of the trip.

In my option the intimacy that can be created using smaller lenses just can not be done using the longer telephoto lenses but with that comes challenges. In this instance, it meant i had to get close to the birds. I am not a bird photographer but with my limited experience photographing them, i do know that they are hard to approach. It was no different on this occasion. Every time i would get near one, it would simply turn its back on me and look the other way.

To add to the mix, it was bitter cold, minus 16 c to be more precise. I was laying flat on my belly, the cold seeping in through my clothes and i was nowhere close to getting the shots i wanted. After about two hours of waiting (and freezing) i assume i had become a part of the habitat because just when i was about to give up, a flock of swans landed just a few feet from where i was laying (edge of a small pond). Since i was periodically checking my exposure and taking test shots, i did not have to worry about my camera setting, i simply framed, focused and took some shots. I must have got about two minutes with the birds, who by now realised that i was an intruder and swam away. Two minutes was all i needed because i had been preparing for this opportunity way before i had even left for Japan.

Hard work and a lot of persistence paid off on this occasion but there are many instances when it does not. There are times, i dont get images or i get sub standard images that i would simply delete during post processing. I have learnt to embrace failure and disappointment. I hope some of the young photographers reading this post can learn to adopt failure too. Without a doubt, it will make you a better wildlife photographer.

View a high resolution version of ‘Swan portrait’ here.

For prints please email me at info@arjunanand.com