David Tipling – A bird Photographers diary (book review)

What do I know about bird photography?  Heaps. You got to get a good clean shot and avoid all  distractions.  My friend Les calls this sort of image, “a bird on a stick”.  They all end up looking the same.  No wonder people get sick of bird images.  

Bird Photography

Then Frances gave me this book for my birthday.


Here is the author, Davis Tippling, an award winning British bird photographer.


And this is what David is famous for.  Moody and inspired bird images.  I will give it to you in David’s own words.


Penguins from Dawson Lambton Glacier (Similar but not David’s successful image described in the text below)

“After taking voluntary redundancy at the start of the decade I had struggled financially to survive….A burning ambition to spend time at an emperor penguin colony… Nothing prepared me for the next few days of living in what felt like a freezer… We took off in two twin Otter aircraft bound for the penguins…we flew over the Ross ice shelf….I had never stood in a place where there was nothing – no life, no landmarks…When they came into view we were speechless.  It is impossible to describe the spectacle of 18,000 Emperors standing against a backdrop of towering cliffs and shimmering blue pressure ridges….  A plain and simple picture with a clean background…. we took it back on route to my tent early one morning.  It seemed unremarkable and I quickly forgot about it…. But of the thousands of penguin pictures I have taken, it stands as the clear leader in terms of commercial success….making over 400 sales during the first few years for advertising, calendars, greeting cards and in books and magazines.

David is an expert in taking the difficult images of the difficult birds in the wild.  The descriptions of where he has been and what he has done are just plain enthralling.  I could pick up the book in a spare moment and still be reading it an hour later.

Red-crowned (Japanese) Cranes disaplaying at dawn Hokkaido Japan February

Red-crowned (Japanese) Cranes disaplaying at dawn Hokkaido Japan February


David is an expert and a true professional.  However perhaps the thing that heartened me the most were his images that did not fit the “bird on a stick” mold.  For instance, David has no qualms about slipping his camera into a slow shutter speed and taking blurred images of birds.  Do you think that you would see the following images in the annual SAPF exhibition?

I really think that we should.  These are brilliant representations of the respective birds, showing their movement, their colour and their environment.

He also enjoys creating black on white silhouettes,  creating expressive almost graphic like representation of birds in their environment.

David is happy to let the subjects of his photography be immersed in their respective environments.  His images are more that just an identification guide to birds.  He tell us about their lives, where they live and what they are doing.

If you have the opportunity, do yourself a favour and buy David’s book.   He sets us a new standard for bird photography.  I would hope that I could follow his example and go beyond the plain old bird on a stick image.