or, A Short Interview with Myself on the Topic of this Book
Q. What camera equipment do you use?
What an interesting question! Once your photo equipment budget matches the price of your car, indeed, you will find that good photos happen automatically. Photography is all about having a very fast, lightweight, extra‐high quality camera with lots of menu settings. And understanding the merits and disadvantages of the three main types of sensor technology. And brand loyalty.
(In case you really have to know: a deprecated, inexpensive DSLR camera, an affordable lens.)
Q. Seriously, how many mega pixels does your camera have?
Seriously. Less than your average supermarket camera. Are we done talking about this topic yet?
Q. Why do you take photos of birds?
Out of sheer amazement. There is little in this world that I find as beautiful and amazing (in the truest meaning of this word) as flight. Birds, because they partake in it daily, in a thousand different ways all better than ours, draw me towards them. By photographing them, I can express this, as a witness… the foreword of the book perhaps expresses it best:
If birds weren’t common, mostly un‐noticed animals to pass by,
but instead, extraordinary beings; graceful dancers capable of flight…
then these photos would be my recording of what it’d be to stand by.
Q. Why do you take photos of gulls, rather than other birds?
One reason is that it is usually not too difficult to stay with gulls for long periods of time. But most importantly, they obviously enjoy circling and gliding, together and alone… this makes for wonderful moments together with them, which I cannot always share (or record) with other birds.
Q. How is it being there taking photos of birds?
The real answer is: it depends, but I am tempted to reply: quite wonderful.
On some days I will arrive by the pond and only a few gulls can be seen far away, resting at the surface of the water. It is cold, the weather is gray, there is noise from the nearby road, and apart from a blackbird passing swiftly, nothing will happen. I usually leave after half an hour.
On some days it will be like meeting a few good friends. Standing there by the side of the pond, I will be smiling all throughout, as the gulls peacefully fly above the water. A sense of deep and simple joy; as I write down what I see with the camera… Clear light, a mute and calm moment, a sense of timelessness. What a joy.
And finally, some days the exchange will burst into pure magic. At some point, unpredictably and without a sound, the birds will start circling and playing, in a slow, cyclic flight path. And I, standing there beneath, am dancing as well. Who knows who is dancing for whom? For whom, and through whom, the photos are happening? It is impossible for me to describe this relationship. When I walk back, I am exhausted and happy.
Q. How often do you photograph birds?
When I can, I usually drive to a nearby pond once a week. But it is difficult to protect this privileged moment against the corrosion of everyday life…
I have been photographing birds for a little bit less than four years.
Q. Is it difficult to make that kind of photos?
No. In case you use large lenses (“lots of zoom”), there is a little bit of skill to acquire in using the manual focus, because birds typically move towards and away from the camera too quickly for an auto‐focus to work well. But the rest of it all is easy. It is just about pressing the button. Don’t over‐think it, spend your time with the birds, not with the camera…
Q. I want to make a book like this myself, where do I start?
Don’t buy an expensive camera. Take lots of photos. Only keep the ones you would give as a gift to a lover. If it all starts to be meaningful and important to you, it is time to make the book.
Q. What does the licensing mean?
The license the book is published under, the Creative Commons CC‐by‐nc‐sa, is just like traditional copyright but with some additional permissions added. In practice, this means that you can do what you want with the book, as long as you meet these three requirements:
1. Credit me (the author, Olivier Cleynen) appropriately (Attribution clause);
2. Do not make commercial use of the book (Non‐Commercial clause);
3. Keep this license when you distribute this book or any work derived from it (Share‐Alike clause).
Making copies (physical or digital) of this book, sharing it with anyone, making new things with of the photos, printing your own versions of the book, is all explicitly permitted. If you wish to make commercial use of the book, please let me know.
Q. Why did you choose this licensing?
It’s a Creative Commons license because I don’t want to control the copying of my work (for more, you can read Lessig or see him talk). It’s a non‐commercial license (this is not a irrevocable decision) because these photos are very dear to me, and it would tear me away to see them used to sell soap.
Q. I paid $43 for the book including shipping! How much do you earn for every copy sold?
Q. Have you had a real professional review your book?
No. But my family and a close friend have lots of good and sincere things to say about it.