Shooting through the grass

The Black-breasted Parrotbill, a globally threatened bird classified as VU in the IUCN classification system. There are 62 such species in India of the 1300+ species that have been recorded in the country. That basically means that it is just a matter of time before these birds move up the IUCN list to Endangered (India has 22 species classified as such), Critically Endangered (we have 19 bird species classified as such) and then, finally, out of circulation. While I would like to believe that a reverse flow is not just a theoretical possibility, I can’t think of any specific instance where this has so happened in the country.

This bird is typically a plains and foothills species found in the Brahmaputra valley with recent records only from Roing in Arunachal and Manas and Dibru-Saikhowa in Assam. These pictures were shot at the grasslands outside Roing.

While this picture has come out quite ok, believe me when I tell you that getting a half-decent picture in those grasslands was quite a challenge. The height of the grass varies from 2 feet to well over 2.5 meters and the are all around you. And spotting a bird moving in the grass is quite an experience in itself, let alone trying to acquire a focus lock on any subject.

The way I managed to acquire focus on this bird, through blades of grass, was by manually assisting the focussing by rotating the focus ring – a bit of an unwieldy affair while using a 600mm prime lens given where the focus ring is. The trick here is not to try and completely move to a manual focus but to try and get the subject reasonably sharp, as you can see through the view-finder, and then getting the auto focus to lock on by half-pressing it. This takes a bit of getting used to, but I couldn’t really find a better way to manage this situation.

Here is a completely different perspective of the bird, for a comparison.

The images are not strictly comparable given the distance to the subject, but the earlier one does a much better job of conveying the grassy habitat than the one above. I reckon that this is a personal preference thought.

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