• "MEET A MEMBER" #16 Chris Martinez

    It’s time to reveal a little more about the man behind the mask. Chris Martinez has been responsible for instigating and conducting these interviews, so it’s time to turn the tables. Hopefully Chris will add some images.

    What got you interested in bird photography?

    I had bought my first DSLR, a Canon 400D and like many folks I was madly photographing anything I could think of. My photography skills were non-existent. My first frames were black and I had to scratch my head to figure out how to get a reasonable exposure of the wall in the lounge room. One day I was in the front yard and noticed a bird I was unfamiliar with. The only birds I knew the names of were Lorikeets, Magpies, Cockatoos & Galahs. I don't know why but needed to know what this mysterious bird was. I captured a few frames with my 70-300 lens and posted a photo online. The bird turned out to be a male Figbird and from then on I was hooked.

    What is it about bird photography that keeps you passionate?

    There are so many reasons why I am so passionate about bird photography. I love the challenge of going to a location and targeting a species and trying to create some photographs that I am proud of. Often I will target a specific species and all of a sudden a golden duck wanders into the scene, a bird I've been hoping to photograph but have had no luck with and I'm surprised with a few photos that were totally unexpected.
    I love the fact that you can photographs a certain species again and again coming away with different photographs every time.
    I enjoy the constant progression of my skills and my preferences. I’m always learning and improving.
    Photography is my escape from the world and myself. Like many folks I struggle with depression and associated “conditions”. My mind is my own worst enemy. Photography gives me something to focus on keeps the self-destructive thoughts at bay.

    Do you have a favourite local spot to photograph birds? What is it that attracts you?

    I guess I have a favourite spot. It is a very large shallow lagoon about 20mins from where I live. It has Grass Owls, Avocets, Marsh Sandpipers, a number of different raptors, and many more wonderful birds to photograph. If you want to photograph the water birds you have to be prepared to get down and dirty(in summer eaten alive by mozzies) and I've learnt that you really need to be in position before the sun comes up. If not the birds have plenty of other real estate to spend the morning.
    I like the place because it is so close to home and you never know when something exciting will decide to visit.

    If you could travel anywhere in the world to photograph birds where would you go and why?

    I would really like to visit Siberia and Alaska. Coloured-up and breeding/nesting shorebirds is the reason. Perhaps China, South Korea & North Korea(never gonna happen though). I'd love to see the congregations of tens of thousands of shorebirds on migration before they dwindle away...

    If you could spend the day with a fellow bird photographer, who would you choose and why?

    Gee that's a tough one. There are so many talented photographers out there it's hard to choose just one. Perhaps Franz Lanting though he's not a bird focused photographer. I'll have to leave it at that.

    How much planning goes into your photography?

    My planning comprises me doing recce trips, spotting a species or group of species at a location then returning time after time until I capture some photos that I'm happy with or the birds can no longer be found. I'll pick a spot where I see regular activity get in position and wait for the birds to put on a show for me.
    Sometimes it is very spontaneous but no longer walk around hoping something flies in front of the lens. I did that when I first started out and the results speak for themselves…..

    What has been your most challenging species to photograph?

    Of the birds I'm actively chasing I think the Gatton Pink-eared Ducks are giving me hard time. One morning I managed a heap of full frame photographs but the light was terrible and the photos don't do the birds justice. When these birds are photographed in early morning light they look absolutely incredible!!! I've lost count of the number of times I've woken up at 3am, driven for an hour and a half only to have the Pink-ears paddle over to the other side of the lagoon upon my arrival. Then to rub salt into the wounds as I pack up my gear and walk back to the car, the ducks have returned to where I was lying down. Grrrrrr!!!

    What species would you most like to photograph if time and money weren’t an issue?

    After seeing Gerrit Vyn's amazing footage of Spoon-billed Sandpipers, if I won the lottery I would be planning an expedition to Siberia. I've fallen in love with the species and it hurts to know they are on the path to extinction.....

    What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out as a bird photographer?

    I don't know if I'm in a position to give such advice but ……. Practice, practice, practice. Learn your camera's settings. Exposure and shutter speeds are very important IMO. Once you've got the technical aspects under your belt work on your fieldcraft i.e. getting close to the bird. Study your subject and learn its behaviour if you know the bird’s next move you can already be in position waiting for the cream.
    Try and figure out what your goal is. What are you trying to achieve with your photography? You might not know this at the start and your objectives may change with time.

    What tricks and tips have you picked up that work for you in the field?

    Get there before the bird does. I generally have the most success when a bird approaches me.

    Do you have a preference for photographing on your own or with a companion? Why?

    I really enjoy going on a shoot with a companion but they have to be on the same wavelength as me. It's great to be out with someone else who is super passionate about photographing birds, being able to shoot the breeze but when the action starts so does the talking. I do prefer to photograph on my own though. Two people means twice the chance of sending the flock to the sky.

    To get an image, how much effort are you prepared to go to? Would you drive two hours before daylight to be in position for a killer shot?

    Recently I spent three hours having the life sucked out of me by mozzies while lying in a stinking marsh. I couldn't swat them away for fear of scaring the shorebirds away. It was horrible. I'm just happy they weren't midgies!!!! I'll gladly drive for a few hours before sunset in an attempt to photograph a bird. It’s no fun driving for two hours only to find out it's raining at the location but you have to take the good with the bad.

    What else besides photography helps you unwind?

    Umm… I like to photograph birds.

    Summer of shorebirds

    This article was originally published in forum thread: "MEET A MEMBER" #16 Chris Martinez started by Gerard Satherley View original post