One of the most sought after inflight poses for birds is the “Heraldic” form.
The doyen of the craft was an Englishman named Eric Hosking. It is hard to appreciate the complexity and technical difficulties that Eric had to overcome, in this day of High ISO values, Ultra fast f/2 and f/2.8 lenses and long focal lengths, electronic flash and electronic release systems. Yet some of his earliest and most influential work was made with a glass plate or sheet film camera. Each darkslide had 2 exposures.
Yet, if you take the chance to view the EricHosking Gallery online or obtain a copy of some of his books, the work still is modern, fresh and extremely well detailed.
In any discussion of his work, several points will always be made.
1 His meticulous attention to detail. His field note books contained observations and details that advanced our understanding enormously.
2. His care for the subject he was working with. No photograph was worth endangering the bird. He went to great care to work in the bird’s world at its pleasure.
3.His endless enthusiasm for the subjects, their surrounds, the technical issues and opportunities to share his work with others.
It is so difficult to think of sitting in a hide, with just one piece of film (a glass plate of ISO less the 10) and having to prefocus where the bird ‘should’ be at the time of exposure, and then making just the right judgement to press the shutter. No burst at 16fps for Eric.
He had a most unfortunate accident early in his career with a Tawny Owl. A hide had been built to photograph a Tawny Owl family, but late one night he had to return to the hide as he thought poachers were at work. On entering the hide, the Tawny flew in, and and to quote from “Any Eye for a Bird”
“There was not a sound, not even the whisper of a wing. But out of the silent darkness a swift and heavy blow struck my face. There was an agonising stab in my left eye. I could see nothing. The owl, with its night vision, had dived-bombed with deadly accuracy, sinking a claw deep into the centre of my eye.”
Eric would lose the eye.
But he soon went back to work.
One of his greatest images is the heraldic owl.
This was made in 1948, and Eric describes it as a “One in a Million Pose”.
The basis of the shape of the image is the typical heraldic form of family crest.
That such a pioneer was able to give us so many fine images and be an inspiration to so many people, not just photographers, but naturalists and the general public is part of the tribute to his skills, and concern for his subjects.
I was working with a pair of Black-shouldered Kites.
The male lifted off the tree, and soon after the female took off along the track.
He was back in less than 30 seconds flat with a mouse. And he immediately began work on devouring it. She turned up a minute or so later, carrying a freshly plucked stick, no doubt intending to do some work on a nest.
On seeing him, she changed direction, swung in, expecting I guess, to get a share of his dinner, and wings out dropped the stick. (the header photo)
Then in a million to one moment, the wings were out in the heraldic fashion, and I heard Eric say, “Well done!”
Both shots have been through Nik Silver Efex Pro, just to keep the historic theme going.