A whole different world
Rupanyup’s Ian Morgan likens his love of bird watching to that of a more popular Wimmera past-time – fishing. “Some people are keen on fishing, I’m just keen on birds,” he said.
“At least I can see what I’m after most times.
“And, unlike fisherman, I don’t tell stories about the ones I missed…”
Ian, 74, started photographing bird wildlife in the mid 1970s, but his fascination with the subject started at a young age.
“I’ve been interested in birds since I was a kid. Don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those things,” he said.
“As a kid I was always fascinated with getting as close to birds as I could, just to get a good look at them.
“I suppose photography was just an extension of that, when it’s all said and done.
“I occasionally take photos of other things if something catches my eye, but about 95 percent of my photos are of birds.”
Ian said he liked how photographs allowed him to see the delicateness of a subject.
“Binoculars don’t do them justice sometimes,” he said.
“Some of the feathering on some of the birds is spectacular.”
Ian has never had formal photography training, perfecting his craft through advice from friends and trial and error.
He said he preferred not to complicate things.
“I stick to the basics when I try to take photos and it usually works out better than if you muck around too much,” he said.
“Cameras are like computers now. There’s so many things on them and a lot of them don’t make a major difference anyway.
“You just can’t beat good days to take photos, no matter what. If it is cloudy, sometimes you’ll still have a go, because there might be a bird you haven’t seen before and you might not get another chance.
“But you can’t beat nice, fine, sunny weather.”
Ian said advances in technology had changed the game.
“You couldn’t go out and take 1000 photos in a day with a film camera, it’s just too expensive,” he said.
“Digital cameras have changed the scene completely.”
Ian said although digital cameras allowed him to take more photographs, he was still a stickler for quality over quantity.
“It depends on the standard you set for yourself,” he said.
“Some people are happy with things I wouldn’t be happy with. I’m probably a bit fussy.
“I might take 1000 photos on one day and then I don’t think any are any good.
“Then on other days you might get a few photos you’re pleased with.
“It is good to nail it.”
Ian pooled his knowledge and skills with his sister and brother-in-law, Maree and Graham Goods, to produce a book, Birds and Plants of the Little Desert.
He speaks about his experiences and showcases his work during speaking engagements several times a year.
Ian said the Wimmera had 266 recorded bird species.
“It represents 30-odd percent of all the birds in Australia. It’s a pretty good ad for the Wimmera, as far as birds are concerned,” he said.
“We’ve got a huge range of habitat in the Wimmera. We’re lucky.”
Ian said his advice to budding bird enthusiasts was simple:
“You’ve got to get out there,” he said. “There’s no point sitting inside or sitting in the office.
“You’ve got to be out there looking – the more you’re out there the more you’ll see.
“That’s the advantage of me being a farmer – if I just go down the paddock, sometimes I will see something quite interesting.
“Other people, because they’re not interested, wouldn’t take any notice.
“If you’re interested in birds, then in a sense, you’re bird watching nearly all the time.”
Ian said he had four or five favourite birds he could not resist photographing over and over again, including the Major Mitchell cockatoo.
He said some of the birds he came across were quite engaging.
“They become inquisitive and if you sit down quietly, it’s amazing how they’ll come over and have a look at you,” he said.
“It’s magic. I’ve always been able to totally relax when I get out there. It’s a whole different world.
“Certainly, since I’ve lost my wife Janice, it’s been a big help, because you can just get out there and forget everything. You can just concentrate on what you’re doing.
“Some people get a bit disappointed if they go out and don’t see anything, but I never do. It’s part of the deal and part of the experience. If you miss it today, you might get it next time.”