Call me lazy. Call me unadventurous. Call me whatever. I admit I am one of them pea-shooters. Or to be more technically precise, a "P-shooter". The "P" of course, stands for the Program mode setting of modern DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras. In this setting the camera automatically sets everything by itself - the aperture and the shutter speed. With this, a person just basically points the camera at the subject and then takes the shot. That person is a P-shooter. And that's what I am. In other words, I am your typical, albeit a little glorified, point-and-shoot picture taker (at this point, it seems rather inappropriate to refer to myself as a photographer). My rationale for being so is that I wouldn't want to twiddle with the camera settings when my intended subject could disappear at any moment. Despite this amateurish stance on taking pictures of birds, I did get some pretty good results of which I am quite satisfied. I am happy and contented as a P-shooter.
A bird photographer friend of mine posted this on Facebook:
Not surprisingly, this taunting illustration elicited a barrage of comments. One particular comment from another bird photographer friend of mine got my attention. In effect, he said that what's the use of having an expensive camera and lens if they are on P mode all the time. A cellphone camera could have gotten similar results, he said.
I was hurt! I was shocked! I was embarrassed! It was as if a knife had been plunged into my photographic soul. I know for sure that this friend of mine never intended his comment as a personal attack on me (we haven't done any bird photography together yet, so he couldn't have known my camera settings while in the field).
After the pain of self-humiliation subsided, I once again began to think rationally. I recalled the time when I first got started in photography many decades ago. Of course I was using film then. With fixed ISOs. In those days cameras still don't have any automatic settings in them. Which means I knew how to adjust the apertures and shutter speeds in order to obtain decent pictures. But then, I wasn't taking pictures of birds yet. Manual settings were easier to manipulate with my favorite subjects then, which were: People (I can always tell them to stop moving) and Landscapes (I can change aperture openings and shutter speeds and the majestic mountain would still be there in front of me). Now that I'm into birds, I resolved to accept the challenge that presented itself to me. Going back to manual settings - it's just like riding a bike, right?
Saturday, my wife and I decided to go to Antipolo to check on the status of the Slaty-legged Crake family. It was a drizzly morning - a perfect opportunity to once again hone my skills in photography. To make the challenge even more formidable, I opted to bring my aging Canon 40D instead of the better light-responding 5D MkII.
It wasn't very birdy that morning - the Crakes were even a no-show - but I was able to take pictures of some birds, using manual settings, under a dark and gloomy uncooperative weather.
Pied Bush Chat - manual setting and exposure, ambient natural light: 1/125, f5.6, ISO-1250, partial metering
Spotted Dove - manual setting and exposure, ambient natural light: 1/320, f5.6, ISO-400, spot metering
White-throated Kingfisher - manual setting and exposure, ambient natural light: 1/100, f6.3 ISO-400, spot metering
I was pretty happy with the results of my "experimentation", if I may say so myself. Perhaps now I can say that I am no longer just a P shooter. I am into M too!