Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The dominant eye !


During one of my talks on similarities and differences  between  the human eye and the camera delivered to students of photography some years ago, two questions  emerged. When I took to bird photography,  these appeared  more relevant and over the years their explanation got richer in content. Therefore, I avail this opportunity to share these questions and their explanation with birders as well as photo-enthusiasts.

I assume many of us are aware that both the eye and the camera have a lens, an aperture, both receive light and have a system  to see that light as an image. Sounds interesting, but there is a need to look beyond it to satisfy the inquisitive minds.

The first question is,  do we have a dominant eye  and the second , while composing photos why we focus on eye, may it be a human eye or that of a bird or an animal.

Experts  say that about 70 per cent of us have right eye as the dominant eye and rest of the population either have the other eye as the dominant  eye or none of their eyes is dominant. Here the dominant eye means the eye with which we prefer to see  or say  with which we feel comfortable to see through the view finder of the camera. In other words, it enables us to provide a greater input to our brain. Therefore, it is essential for photographers and shooters to be aware of their dominant eye, if any, and they must use it appropriately.

If we focus our subject  with the dominant eye and with the other keep watching the activities around the subject, it will enable us to be  aware of the possible distractions around. Also, there will be no need to keep an eye closed all the time which may be inconvenient and tiring. Some shooters and experienced photographers emphasise  the need to shoot with both eyes open as that splits vision. While we see through the view finder with one eye, we keep watching around with the other. Its a bit difficult, but can be practiced. Shooting with both eyes open is not like getting a binocular equipped with a camera because in that case vision of both eyes will be controlled  for space around. The other eye should not see through any optical devise. One may shoot with one eye or with both eyes open, it is necessary to be conscious of our dominant eye.

The camera manufacturers have designed camera bodies keeping in mind two aspects. One, most people have right eye as the dominant eye and secondly majority  of us are right hander. Its the reason that  camera bodies have most of the buttons to their right side.

Second question, ever  wondered  why we focus on eye or why every photo-enthusiast is advised  to ensure that the eye is  prominently highlighted in an image. I remember, initially I too was advised by some of the experienced bird photographers to focus on eye of the bird and ensure that the eye has catch-light, but it was left up to me to understand why ? To me  that was a half backed serving.

I know a few bird photographers who would delete those photographs that do not show  eye of the bird as a significant  part of the body or the eye is without  a catch-light. They  are right in doing so, but why we should focus on the eye ?

The focus system of cameras is designed in such a way that it acts successfully if focused on contrast. The eye, for instance the  Iris and the sclera provide good contrast to let the camera focus without hunting.  While considering the significance of sharp eyes in a photograph, over the years some camera manufacturers  have added a unique feature of AF Face Detection and even AF for Animal Eye. With a view to quickly facilitate the existing users of a few camera models, a manufacturer had introduced a firmware upgrade for Animal Eye AF. It can’t be termed as a marketing gimmick, because sharp eye holds the key to a good photograph. Another camera manufacturer brought out two new models of its digital camera with similar features and the experts say these have the capability to detect and track even the eye of a dragon fly. This is a technological revolution as its not easy to detect eye on faces of animals having different shapes.

The eyes aptly reflect emotions and personality of the subject. Its like silence speaks louder than words. Apart from this, the eye’s location is such that  if we focus on it, we get such a depth of field which makes  both nose and  ears look sharp. In case of birds, the area around the eye would get good sharpness. Also, the colour and shape of the eye, especially of birds help  in their identification, say a male or female. Here a word of caution. Although sharpness of an image depends on several factors, yet emphasis should be to get sharp eye preferably with glitter.

Although its important for every photographer to understand his gear, it takes months to understand a camera, its equally important to be considerate about the factor of dominant  eye, may it be of the photographer or that of a bird or animal in an image. Remember, camera manuals do tell us how to adjust the dioptre at the view finder, but they leave it to the user to think of the dominant eye.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Honorary Distinctions


The World Photography Day-2020  became unforgettable for me as two more honorary distinctions  were conferred upon me by the Wildlife Photography Association of India (WPAI) and Tricity Photo Art Society (TPAS), Chandigarh. It was because of the guidelines concerning Covid-19 that these distinctions were awarded online.

My sincere thanks to the Board of Directors of WPAI and Mr.Chitrangad Kumar for electing me as Hon. WPAI. I am also grateful to TPAS team, especially Mr Vinod Chauhan, Mr Deep Bhatia and Ms Neetu Katyal for the distinction of Hon. Master - TPAS (Hon. M TPAS).

Two years ago, on this very day-the World Photography Day, I had received my first honorary distinction of Excellence-USPA awarded by United States Photography Alliance at a special function organized by Andhra Pradesh Photography Akademi, Vijayawada. I am grateful to the USPA and General Secretary of the Akademi, Mr Tamma Srinivasa Reddy.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Elusive Black Redstart


Mirzapur check dam near my native place Chandigarh is a well known hot spot for birding. Situated at a distance of about 25 kms  in district Sahibzada  Ajit Singh Nagar in Punjab, it is easily accessible by road. I have been to this hot spot twice, first on July 4, 2020 a cloudy day to just see the location for birding in future and second time it was in the morning hours of July 25,2020 with a hope to make some photographs of birds. On both trips I accompanied my friend Lalit Mohan Bansal, a fellow birder of Chandigarh Bird Club.

My second trip to Mirzapur Check Dam became unforgettable when one day I received an email from an ace birder Mr S.S.Cheema. His email was via e Bird and in response to my observations uploaded in my e bird checklist. Mr Cheema wrote that he was writing about the observation concerning  species Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) dated July 25, 2020 at location  Mirzapur check dam, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Punjab, India. He had mentioned the concerned URLhttps://ebird.org/checklist/S71795446 and pointed out “There have been no recordings of Black Redstart in the months of Jun till Mid Sep in this region. This record is very interesting in the Mirzapur Dam area. May I please request you if you can please describe the observation or upload a picture. That will help us immensely and will also help us study the implications of birds in this area at a time when it is otherwise not observed. Photos and audio recordings are the best possible supporting information, so if you do have those please do upload them to your checklist.Once your checklist has been edited to include additional details, I will be able to give this sighting additional consideration. Minimum standards of documentation are required for observations to be used publicly, although they still will appear in your personal lists.

“Thank you again for your contributions to eBird India—your sightings help to make eBird useful to millions of people each year, providing real-time bird sightings and powering eBird science around the world” he concluded.

When I received his email I was out of town, but luckily I had my record and equipment with me which enabled me to respond quickly and that too with the photograph of the Black Redstart made at the said location on the said day.

I being a novice birder and poor at identification of birds, I was a little disturbed  with his query fearing that I may not be wrong. Although in my reply to him, I had explained how I had identified the bird, but before sending him the digital image in question, to be doubly sure, I had once again checked it for id and it was correct. 

Mr Cheema promptly responded to my reply with a cheerful note which made the incident unforgettable for me and turned out to be a great learning experience. I like to quote here how he replied.

“The picture is very clear and will do the needful. Thanks a ton for prompt reply. Only request is - please do upload the media on the ebird site also if possible”. I followed his advise and edited the checklist by uploading  the said image of the Black Redstart. 

I had kept  Mr Bansal   posted about the interaction with Mr Cheema.

Although the story ended with my uploading that image to my ebird checklist and thanking Mr Cheema for his guidance, yet I being a novice learnt another lesson. Ttry to photograph all birds that you see at a birding spot, may these be record shots. Or keep record of all sightings or calls of birds. The Black Redstart was no longer elusive.

 Subhash Sapru