BIRDERS AROUND THE WORLD
“Bird photography by Rene de Heer”
Rene de Heer is a Dutch resident in the UK, passionate and dedicated to bird photography for over 25 years visiting many places and countries looking for great images. His work has been shown in several publications and now we are lucky to share a small sample of his excellent work through this series of images taken between Scandinavia, Netherlands and Hungary.
© Rene de Heer
After more than 25 years photographing birds, still remember your beginnings?
Yes i do remember the beginning very well. I started of as a birdwatcher but quickly became interested in bird photography. Started off with a Novoflex long lens system and did my own darkroom work. My parents have a house in a very nice wetland area up north in Holland. I spent a lot of time there with my camera and lenses trying to photograph the bird species there.
With your experience, you must be very demanding for choosing photographic equipment. Which one are you using?
I currently use Canon 1DX and 5D Mark3 bodies with Canon lenses up to 600mm. Camera equipment evolves quickly. What i like about the new long Canon lenses is the reduced weight. For me it makes a difference when carrying my camera and lenses around.
Do you prefer use skins for your photo sessions or walking hand-held camera?
I am not an opportunistic photographer anymore. When i lived in the Netherlands, i did drive around the polders in the hope of coming across a willing bird. Since i have moved to the United Kingdom things have changed. I find photographing birds in the UK far more challenging then in the Netherlands. Often you have to drive far to get to a good spot to photograph birds.
In the UK you need more of a plan. Although there are some good spots not far from where i live to photograph Red Kites or Little grebes. Most of my photography is in “bursts”. I have a very busy job in the City, so i intend to go on a few trips a year to various countries to photograph birds. For example in March i will be in the Varangerfjord for a week to photograph the wintering
King eiders and Stellar eiders and in June i will be going to Romenia, the Danubia delta to photograph waterfowl.
Even if you’ve visited several countries in your photo expeditions, why do you like both Finland and Scandinavia for photographing birds in winter?
My love of Scandinavia (Finland) goes back a long time. One of my favourite bird photographers is Hannu Hautala. I was lucky to meet him and his book ” a year in Kuusamo” triggered my interest in Finland. I have been there many times, and always in the winter. I like the vastness of the country, the empty spaces and the solitude. Birds are scarce but the birds that are there are fantastic like Pygmy owl, Great Grey owl and Siberian tit.
It will always be my greatest love for bird photography.
Our readers would like to hear some of your favorite birds and why?
I have many favourite birds but if i have to mention 1 or 2 , it must the Pygmy owl and the Siberian tit. The Pygmy owl because it is so small and manages to survive the hardest Finnish winters. The Siberian tit because it is, in my opinion, the most beautiful, of all tits. Especially in the winter.
During the 25 years you’ve been photographing nature there are any trip that you consider as memorable and that especially impressed you?
One of the most memorable trips was a trip to Olanka National Park on the Finnish/Russian border. I spent a whole day in the eagle hide and absolutely nothing happened for most of the day. The light was already fading when i spotted an eagle and a second later a second eagle swooped by. All of a sudden the female Golden eagle landed in the snow followed by the male and they mated in front of me. It is one of my most published images and something i will never forget. It shows that you need a lot of persistence and patience when it comes to bird photography. At the end it pays off!
Your photographic work has been widely spread through magazines, calendars and successful exhibitions. Is there any publication that you feel particularly proud of?
2 years ago i had a large exhibition in the City centre of Amsterdam in one of the largest bookstores. It was well visited and my bird images were used as a theme for the annual ‘Kinderboeken week”. I was very proud of that. My bird images have also been used for the annual corporate Christmas card for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom.
Is it possible to get your graphic work somehow?
Yes it is possible to get prints through my website www.naturepics.co.uk. Some of the printing i do myself on a widebody A2 Epson printer.
What objectives you propose to as the founder of one of the first Dutch Nature Photography Societies?
Nowadays there are many bird/nature photographers. Most can afford the expensive equipment, have time and money to spend on trips. The playing field gets smaller and smaller and to be honest; there are many good photographers around. As a founder of a Nature Photography Society it is important to have some ground rules. Pictures of birds by a nest are a thing of the past. Personally i also don’t like pictures of birds with food in their beaks. Those pictures are obviously taken not far from a nesting site. Another thing that always surprises me ,and i have come across this regularly, is the lack of any kind of knowledge about the species one takes a picture off! Not so long ago i met up with a photographer who didn’t even know the difference between a Kestrel and a Peregrine falcon. These are not naturalists but just boys with expensive toys in my book!
What is the secret to getting so excellent pictures?
The secret of a great image is patience and knowing your subject. Unfortunately i do not have enough time to spend in the field but through all the years i know when i photograph birds what to expect. i also often have a picture in my head of what kind of picture i would like to take. More often then not: it doesn’t work out that way, but you have to keep on trying!
Interview by J. M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
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© 1999 – 2013 Rene de Heer – Dutch Nature Photographer