This article is written by Yong It Ching and has appeared in ‘Bird Diaries’ in Asia Times Pulse
Retirement during the time of MCO can be a blessing.
I was looking for something to keep myself occupied and remain active. I was fortunate as I had two options – one was to complete the project assigned to me by my late father and second, an invigorating hobby of bird watching and photography.
Before I embarked in bird photography, I acquired this camera as a reward to myself to celebrate my retirement. I was so proud to own the camera and holding it with a telephoto zoom lens that made me felt like “Yay I am in control”. Learning the features and how each function, how to manage the setting etc, etc. There are so much to learn! it got me thinking – did I choose a wrong hobby?
I still remember how clumsy I was with the camera settings and photographing the birds was like chasing after it without understanding the birding ethics.
Soon I learned to be patient and picked up the right tactics and techniques as I progressed. While out birding I get to meet good professional birders and photographers who are willing to share good tips about birding and how to maximize camera’s features with appropriate settings under different conditions.
For example, to shoot beautiful images of birds on a consistent basis, it is important to understand the camera features and how each of them works. Then combine them to make a good photo. This includes exposure, composition, light, sharpness, perch, pose, and background. I was very fortunate to have shortened the learning curve as both teacher and student use the same camera brand.
My initial practice was shooting bird portraits. For a while I was very excited but soon it became boring. As I moved on, I began to understand that birding photography is not just a hobby, it also gives you a great sense of achievement when you get your targeted birds. It can be so therapeutic by looking at the character and expression of the birds how they behave while their photo been taken.
One won’t get bored photographing birds ranging from shore to montane birds. The movement and different characteristics of each species create further the excitement. There was never a dull moment when out with nature and the birds.
Birding helps you connect with nature. With their songs, plumage patterns, colors, and behavior, birds invite us to learn about them and the ecosystems they inhabit. If you start bird photography as a hobby, you’ll start to pay closer attention to nature.
I read an article which says the birding activity helps an individual to improve the physical and mental health. Birding can be a very meditative activity, and often provides those taking part with the opportunity to spend time in a quiet place without any distractions. Additionally, for those living with dementia, getting out and experiencing the nature around them have proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Comparing birding experience in East and West Malaysia
As I developed greater interest in bird photography, I wanted to explore further afield and to discover other birding locations have to offer. When interstate travel was allowed, I accepted an invitation to experience birding photography in West Malaysia.
Both East and West Malaysia have beautiful birding sites to go to. One can get common birds, endemic birds to migratory birds and the beauty about birding is it gives you the sense of being connected to the nature in any place of the world.
When going to different places to bird, it is good to have good buddies who have local knowledge.
Birding in own home state of Sabah, the birding sites are only 15 or 20 minutes by car to the padi fields, the beach, a lagoon or a forest nearby – we can just pack and go to the location at short notice.
Having a home in Petaling Jaya is an advantage as there are beautiful parks and small forest patch near the city area where you can go bird photography.
It is advisable to do a simple itinerary a checklist of the target birds, how to get there and whether an overnight stay is required and place to dine.
Having the opportunity to bird in both place like in Fraser Hill and Kinabalu Park is really amazing. With similar cool temperature, you feel cozy and nice. You will enjoy a good walk whilst looking out for birds.
When birding in Fraser’s Hill in the nature I was very fortunate to sight a Sun Halo formed in the sky. It was breath taking to say the least. You are surrounded by beautiful trees and up there a beautiful formation of the sun Halo.
In Kinabalu Park during the walk up the road you could at times find beautiful endemic birds perched in the trees at eye level. On other times they will fly and perch a short distance from you – creating excitement as photographers scrambles to try and get the best shots.
Looking forward to travel again, taking Birding photography as a hobby allowed me to appreciate that both East and West Malaysia have so much to offer. Both are ideal tourist attraction for birding and wildlife conservation.
I am enjoying my retirement with an exciting hobby – Bird Photography.