Reimagining Bird Photography

Bird silhouette through the trees.

Bird photography is one of the most popular forms of wildlife photography today. Many across the globe have taken to this hobby, even clicking images from their home gardens. This comes as an extension to bird watching (aka birding).

Until a few years ago, I wasn’t particularly interested in birds. They were merely creatures zooming in the background, unworthy of my attention. My love for animals revolved around tigers and elephants, central characters on the wild stage.

It was during my time at Rishi Valley School that I was introduced to birding. The school campus is located in rural India, in a Bird Preserve. The surrounding scenery is buzzing with bird activity. Everywhere you looked, there was an avian to see.

As I read up more about birds, I noticed a trend in bird photography. Most images consist of a bird on a branch, with a background thrown out of focus. And while these shots are pleasing to look at, it soon becomes repetitive. The more I explored, the more monotonous it became. All images practically looked the same. There were no hints of creativity and art.

Most new images of birds are not art but mere repetition.

Yellow Bulbul. Shot by Ishan Shanavas in Munnar, Kerala, India
The stereotypical bird image

This bothered me. After all, birds are some of the most charming creatures. Isn’t there more scope for art in photographing them?

Bird photography typically requires specialised lenses with large focal lengths. Owing to their skittish nature, birds stay away from humans, and thus you need a long lens to shoot them. 

Brahminy kites and Black Kites Fine art shot. Shot in Kochi, Kerala, India.
Wings Out

But it is precisely these lenses that have stereotyped bird photography. At long focal lengths, the background is pushed out of focus (Called bokeh). But this is a done trend. Most new images of birds are not art but mere repetition.

I have attempted to shoot birds differently, in a manner that strays away from the norm. In examining them through this new stance, I hope to instil a sense of novelty. These images embody that vision.

Lesser Hill Myna backlit in a tree. Shot by Ishan Shanavas in Munnar, Kerala, India.
One with the Leaves

I am by no means an expert in bird photography. Instead, I am quite a beginner. And it is this beginner mindset that asks me to do things unorthodoxly. I yearn to explore novel approaches to photograph these feathered friends. 

Some are environmental shots, others extreme closeups, with a few being an abstract interpretation. But all are united in my attempt at originality. I wish these images convey the same infatuation and wonderment as I got shooting them.

Spotted owlet Flight Fine Art Photography. Shot by Ishan Shanavas in Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India
Hidden Owlet

I have an entire gallery showcasing my bird photography. Check it out here!

Check out my friend’s blog centred around birding and travel here!

A photographer on Instagram whose work I greatly admire. These images embody a new vision of bird photography

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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