Starting ‘Em Young

I have re-started introducing wild bird photography lessons to my 11-year old son Vinz.

Yesterday, June 8, 2014, I brought him along with fellow wild bird photographers from Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines, Inc. (WBPP) to Bangkong Kahoy Valley Resort in Dolores, Quezon. We woke up at 3:30am and we travelled for more than two hours.

I lent him my Canon EOS 7D and EF 400mm f/5.6 prime which I borrowed from UP Diliman Prof. Bert Madrigal. I put the settings into Aperture Priority Mode EV with ISO 800, told him about the proper way to handhold and sling the gear and let him go on his own. Even if his lens has no IS (image stabilizer), he managed to get some pretty good shots to my amazement, a few even at full frames and critically sharp.

I got my Barred Buttonquail four years after I have started bird photography. Vinz got it on his first two hours! After we photographed the Indigo-banded Kingfisher at a drying river and as  we proceed to Bangkong Kahoy Valley Resort, we passed by a quarry site when suddenly Anthony Balbinshouted and made us stopped, backtracked a bit, jumped off Roy’s van and started stalking a couple of quails. I was afraid Vinz would spook the quails as he was walking fast ahead of Prof Reuel Aguila. I didn’t get a good shot. Luckily, Vinz got this one! This was not an easy catch as the subject, a resident bird (it can also be found in other countries) was constantly moving and quickly it did.

I was introduced into birdwatching when my organization KAAKBAY got involved into environmental conservation when it engaged the local government of Candaba for the protection and conservartion of Candaba Swamp and its Migratory Birds. When I saw thousands of migratory birds congregating in a less than a hundred hectares of regrown swamp habitat in Candaba, I was immediately hooked into watching them fly, swim, perch, roost, etc. I was then 40 years old. Five years later, I started with wild bird photography.

I have thought of introducing birdwatching and bird photography to my sons while they are young. Vinz got introduced to birdwatching about five years ago when he was six years old.

Yesterday, Vinz hiked and climbed the same trails we made, and photographed the same birds we photographed. I though exposing him to what we do in birding sorties would give him the feel of the adventure and amazing things about wild bird photography.

When our turn came in to photograph the Philippine Frogmouth, Prof Reuel and I have to tell him thrice not to approach the nesting frogmouth too closely as he might disturb it. He was too anxious to get a closed-up, but I told him to get the whole bird in the frame, and not just a part of it. Amazingly, he got this sharp shot even without tripod!

I told him not many people have seen the Philippine endemic frogmouths and very few have photographed them. Prof Reuel pointed out that they are two chicks in that nest, which I think made him so curious that he attempted to get close to them.

While I was in a hide waiting for the Indigo-banded Kingfisher, Vinz wandered in the vicinity looking for birds to shoot. I did not give any instruction at that time as I was too eager to frame the kingfisher especially after Prof Reuel got his on a rock with beautiful green bokeh of the water reflection. He was able to frame this resident White-throated Kingfisher, although heavily cropped.

We were not able to see the adult Philippine Scops Owl, it was not around when we were at the site, but Vinz was able to photograph one of the Philippine endemic nestling owlets. Time and again we have told him not to approach nesting birds too closely as the parents might get wary and abandon the chicks. We told him that as much as possible we must not disturb the birds, especially nesting birds, even if they appear tame to allow such an action. I hope he would always remember that.

When we went to the restaurant at Bangkong Kahoy Valley Resort to eat late breakfast, he was thrilled to see young Rufous Hornbills and immediately started shooting together with fellow wild bird photographers, forgetting his breakfast which he constantly bugged be minutes before.The Near Threatened Philippine endemic Kalaws used to inhabit Bangkong Kahoy Valley years ago until they were decimated due to widespread hunting and poaching in the area. When the steward Dion Lontoc began developing the place as a nature resort, he banned hunting and poaching and started organic farming. Soon the birds came in and flourished. Bangkong Kahoy Valley Resort is now emerging as one of the favorite birding sites, not only of local birders, but by foreigners as well.

The photos of the Kalaws below are nearly full frames, the middle while the two above are almost full frames. These are handheld shots and they appear critically sharp and already good for exhibit. Not a bad day for novice!

Vinz got five lifers in that sortie, a few nearly full frames, and a couple of frameable shots! Quite a feat for a beginner! It was good to expose him to an actual birding sortie with veteran wild bird photographers so he can see where they go and how they move and take photos. He tried framing the young kalaws in flight and he was able to get them into frames, but he only got blurred images as his settings are only for perched ones. When I readjusted his settings for birds in flight, the birds did not fly in the direction where we want them too. May next time.

Yesterday was Vinz’ reintroduction to wild bird photography.Thanks to WBPP fellows Steve Albano, Prof Reuel Aguila, Prof Bert Madrigal, Roy Daantos and Anthony Balbin for the patience with the little kid messing around. Thanks Roy for the ride!

Three years ago, I initially introduced him to this hobby in Corregidor Island when we joined the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines birding trip to Corregidor Island. It was our first time as father and son to go on an out-of-town trip without his mom and younger brother.

Just like yesterday, Vinz joined our walks and hikes in Corregidor, but he did not last long. When he got tired, fellow birdwatcher Homer Patulot carried him at his back when we returned back to the hotel.

In Corregidor, I lent him my Canon 350D with 35-80mm kit lens, taught him the basics of focusing, zooming and clicking. I just put the settings at automatic mode. He made a total of 284 shots, 148 of these turned out very well, mostly landscapes, still life and people. He even attempted to take series of shots for a composite picture since his lens can not get the entire subject. Here are two pictures which are my versions of cropping his bird pics – Brahminy Kite and Asia Glossy Starlings, both resident birds. I have just twicked a bit of colors, brightness and contrast to his pictures. Check all his photographs at Vinz First Photography Workshop, all framings therein, unless indicated, are entirely by Vinz with no coaching from me or the others.

He was more interested then in birdwatching, in rock formation and in constellations. Fellow WBCP members Lydia RobredoRene Bajit,Jude SanchezBuboy Francisco, Homer Patulot, Cheryll PatulotJames BironTintin Telesforo and others with us mentored him whenever they got a chance. So I waited for three years to reintroduce him again to wild bird photography. 

This year I will try to always bring him with us in our birding sorties, when the days would not interfere with his studies. May next summer, we will spend more days birding together. If you have kids like him and have the opportunity, start ’em young in birdwatching, in bird photography and in any other outdoor adventure. For by exposing them this early to wonders and beauty of creation, we teach them to love nature, the environment and widlife, to appreciate them, to care for them, and eventually to protect and conserve them not only for their generation but for the next ones.

The photos may be viewed larger and higher resolutions by clicking on them. All bird photos above are all taken by Vinz Pascua, with the usual adjustments in color, contrast and cropping for better presentation made by the author.

For other photos of Vinz Pascua, kindly visit:

          Vinz Pascua’s First Photography Workshop

Other photos of Philippine Wild Birds may be viewed at the following sites:

          Alain Pascua Photography

          Alain Pascua Homepage

          Wild Birds of the Philippines Gallery

          WBPP Gallery

Those who are interested in wild bird photography may signup and join:

        Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines, Inc. (WBPP) Group Page

For Philippine Bird Photography Workshops, Tours, Exhibits, etc., please visit: 
          Wild Bird Photography Philippines