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Bird Photography
ebooks and videos

I've been photographing since I was 13 or so, and I was lucky enough to have an epiphany early on, via a National Geographic article by one of the best wildlife and bird photographers working at that time. The photographer was Fred Truslow, and I learned, from his article, the importance of planning shots, and not (as I was doing) just wandering about snapping images as the opportunity arose.

You have a chance at having your own epiphany now. I've just had my second dose of epiphanies via the ebooks I've been reading, written by Alan Murphy. If you photograph birds, or if you ever look at the photo credits in bird magazines and bird books, you probably will recognize Alan Murphy's name. If you don't, you should, because Alan is one of the best, and if you ever wondered how he makes his spectacular images, his ebooks and his videos reveal his secrets.

I'll start with the ebooks. The ebooks are beautifully illustrated, and the shots of the birds are motivational in their own right. However, in addition to the wonderful shots, Alan also illustrates the props and the step-by-step procedures involved in making these shots.These instructions are great, and they will instantly motivate you to go out and try the techniques he illustrates and explains. I'm writing this in the dead of winter, just days before I leave for 9 weeks in Africa and India, otherwise I'd be out trying out Alan's ideas and shooting pictures for the rest of the winter.

If you are not a fan of ebooks, this series may change your mind. Here's why. An ebook's content is virtually limitless, as there are no restrictions from a publisher about page length, or number of photos, or the ultimate cost multiple pages and photos requires. So with the ebooks, content can be thorough, and Alan's content is extremely thorough. The other advantage here is that the ebook can be viewed on a laptop or any other device -- a Kindle Fire, iPad, etc., so you have an instant reference with you, provided you carry along these handy, small devices.

Undoubtedly you'll want to get out there and shoot bird photos, and with an ebook you'll have a quick, easy reference to check and double-check exactly how to set up what you're trying to accomplish. That may sound unnecessary, but believe me, I've done some setups similar to Alan's, and when you're in the field, what you think you want to do, and what you end up doing, can be quite different. Having his motivational images as a reference, and then to be shown the actual techniques and methods he used to make those shots is simply invaluable.

For example, in his ebook 'The Photographers Guide to Attracting Birds,' Alan explains and illustrates how he successfully photographs species of songbirds that often perch on barbed wire. Wire isn't an attractive prop, and Alan shows how he works around that to obtain natural looking, and far more attractive images. That's just one example, but I cite this because I've been in that type of situation myself, in Texas, and I was frustrated by the problem. Alan's ebook solves that problem.

Another great example. You've probably seen the plastic Great Horned Owls sold in garden shops to frighten away pesty birds. Alan shows how you can easily convert that ineffective owl decoy into an incredible lure to photograph both raptors and songbirds. I've seen Alan's shots of his flying hawks, and I always wondered how in the world he made these images. Now I do, and knowing his secrets only increases my appreciation of the work, but I now have the information so that I could at least attempt to do similar work. Truly invaluable and motivational.

In that same ebook Alan thoroughly explains how to effectively, and ethically, use bird tapes and calls for bird species I would never have considered. Using calls is controversial, and Alan debated whether or not to include this section in his ebook, but felt that it was better to show how to do it correctly rather than to simply ignore a technique that many photographers do use, and often poorly. Just as important, Alan covers the gear that works, and where you can get it, thus eliminating a lot of guesswork and a lot of wasted money, too. His resource references are worth the price of the books alone.

His other ebook,'The Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography' deals with subjects virtually anyone reading this could do at home or at your nearest wild area. Once again the photos are spectacular, and once again the explanations, shown step-by-step and leaving no guesswork, will provide the inspiration and the information you need to make similar images.

In his treatment of utilizing bird feeders in setups I actually had to laugh, as I ruefully thought, 'why didn't I think of that!' Alan's ebooks solve problems. He approaches a subject with a plan in mind, and then sets up the scene to execute that image, and he does it extremely well.

Another point that I really, really loved about the series is the fact that Alan says nothing about photographing birds at their nests. Done incorrectly, or even done right by somebody that knows what they are doing, things can go all wrong and result in a nest desertion or predation or destruction. Years ago, Popular Photography's photo contest winner for a monthly contest showed a Northern Mockingbird at a nest, and I can't imagine how many bird nests were destroyed by copy-cats trying to get their own prize winning shot. Alan's methods deal with photographing birds by using food or calls, not by exploiting a bird's primal instinct and risking destroying a nest.

One final point. I was truly impressed with Alan's hard work, and I know it's tough and difficult because I've done some of it, and believe me, suffering can be involved. Alan discusses techniques, or illustrates the concepts, where he may be nearly chest high in an arctic pond (with chest waders on, of course), or lying flat on sand for ground-level shots (back pain, neck pain?), but he shows how, in doing so, the effort is worth it. He's a shooter, no question about it.

The video series is equally well thought out and delivers great information as well. The videos are more like a course, in a way, as you can't skim through if you are impatient, but they're worth the patient view.

Alan Murphy eBooks

The price for the two ebooks is $90, available at

The video series as a package sells for $130, and is available at

If this review doesn't convince you, just speculate and buy one of the ebooks. You'll love it, and you'll wish you saved some cash and bought the entire package. Then, if you want the graduate work, get the videos, too. And, in doing so, you'll be a bird photographer ... or you sure should be!

Alan recommends wearing camouflage, as do I. Recently I purchased an inexpensive Ghillie-style camo suit - here's the link:

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