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Five Birds

Years ago I bought my Fuji X100T. A great compact camera with a fixed 35mm lens (full frame equivalent). Before I made that purchase, I did a lot of browsing on the internet and read reviews. About the main reason that was decisive for this camera at the time was that I read somewhere that a fixed lens allows for more creativity. Instead of turning the zoom ring, you will have to move closer to or further away from the subject to achieve the desired composition. The idea is that this will make you much more conscious of the desired composition.

After using this camera quite intensively for years, I can fully agree with the above reasoning. I liked the Fuji X100T so much that I really thought I would never buy another camera again. Very occasionally I missed the opportunity to zoom in on a specific subject, but that happened so rarely that it didn't bother me at all and I was happy to take it for granted.

Fast forward to over six years ago. Then we moved to a beautiful place on the outskirts of Winterswijk. From the first week we immediately noticed that we are apparently not the only ones who feel at home in this environment. We regularly observe all kinds of birds and sometimes we see wildlife literally walking past the kitchen window. I soon realized that it would be great if I could photograph something of it. But...with 35mm you won't get very far, or better said close. After much deliberation, because it felt a bit like I was going to betray my X100T, I decided to buy the then newly released Fuji X-T4. Together with the Fujinon XF100-400mm and the XF1.4X teleconverter, I suddenly had about 840mm available to capture all this beauty.

Fantastic of course, but now that I have used this combination regularly for a few years to photograph birds, I can conclude that the telephoto zoom can never be big enough for these little guys. Because even with that thick 800mm I still have to crop quite often to squeeze out a nice close-up. Nevertheless, I really like this lens. And in addition, this combination of telephoto zoom and teleconverter, weighing over 1.5 kg, is also extremely acceptable to handle for a longer period of time or to carry around in the backpack.

Below are five photos of birds that I took last summer. The first photo is of a red-backed shrike. My neighbor has designed a small plot in such a way that it is a perfect habitat for this bird. Not surprising that he was on cloud nine when he saw this brutal bird right there. I say brutal, because despite its cute 'zorro mask', this bird likes to impale its prey, including bumblebees and beetles, on sharp thorns to eat them later at an opportune moment.

I took all the remaining four photos in Groningen, when we stayed there for a few days with the camper van. The bird in the photo below is an avocet. How cool it is to capture a bird in close-up, so that you can sometimes literally count the feathers. Sometimes it is just as nice to give a bird or other animal more space in the photo, so that you get an idea of the natural environment in which it is located. This is also the case with this avocet, which is looking for a meal on this dried-out part of the Wadden Sea. His reflection in the water is of course the icing on the cake, which completes the photo for me.

When I was almost back to the camper early in the morning after a run, I passed two photographers who had their cameras with telephoto zooms ready on their tripods. After I inquired where their cameras were pointed, they pointed to the marsupial tit's nest. Wow, just a few feet from where I stood was a small but insane piece of craftsmanship. Naturally, I grabbed my camera as quickly as possible to try to capture this artist as well. Each time he emerged from the nest I had about a second before he flew away. Even though I don't really like it, this was the perfect opportunity to use the burst mode of the X-T4. I thought the photo below was the best of the series.

On the same part of the Wadden Sea where I observed the above avocet, I later saw this oystercatcher. Maybe he is looking for a suitable spot for a nest, who knows. What I particularly like about this photo are both the horizontal and vertical lines of those two dividers. These guide the viewer's gaze, as it were, through the entire photo, with the black and white bird with its red beak as an eye-catcher in between. Even though this wader is not on the red list, things are not going well for this species. That was the reason why 2023 was chosen as the year of the oystercatcher.

The photo below of a wood warbler is one of my all-time favorite bird photos to date. I waited for at least half an hour before he even showed himself briefly in the dense reeds. And even then it was quite difficult to get this bird properly and sharply in the viewfinder. Ultimately, my patience yielded the photo below. It is not just the bird's posture and the fact that it is just turning its tune that appeals to me. But I also think the blurred reeds and leaves in the foreground, which serve as a natural frame, give the photo a nice 'touch'.


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