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MV: We’ve written the book in a relaxed and easy-to-read manner. We sourced our archives to find the best
photos to support the text. We wanted it to be a visual
PDN: Are there particular hallmarks of good bird
photography? What separates the really good photos
from the average ones?
BENCE MATE: I think it is not a secret that for me, action photography is the most challenging. To show interesting bird behavior is much more difficult than to
take a good picture of the bird itself.
PDN: Is it true that if you really want good bird
pictures, you need a 600mm lens?
BM: No. Most of my pictures were taken with a
300mm lens. I try to get closer to the birds and stay
“invisible” [by using hides]. I think I can manage
a better quality action picture with a smaller lens
MV: I work a lot without a hide and for this type of
photography, long lenses are necessary. I recommend
getting a 500mm lens. If you can pack more options in
your camera bag, shorter lenses and wide lenses are
good too. I use my 70-200mm quite a lot; it allows me
to take pictures with birds in the landscape, which are
less common and thus stand out better from the mainstream material.
PDN: What is the most basic and essential gear for
MV: A camera, a suitable lens and a good tripod. It’s
more essential to invest in a good lens than the latest
PDN: Is most of your bird photography done with a
BM: Yes. This is how you can get clear shots easier and
it is important in action photography.
MV: My action shots are roughly 50-50 hand-held and
tripod, but the harder the subject is to track and follow,
the more likely I am to photograph with a hand-held
PDN: Do you shoot with controlled setups—i.e.,
feeder and perches you provide—or do you shoot
birds only in their natural habitats?
BM: I set up some perches but I have no feeders.
MV: About 30 percent of my material is taken from
hides with carcasses or other food to attract birds.
Mostly I photograph without hides in the birds’ natural habitats.
PDN: What are the biggest challenges of bird
MV: First, getting everything to fall in place for that
good picture: the right weather, light, background,
nice composition, a bird [and] action. Second, hunting
makes birds very shy here in Europe, which makes photographing them even more challenging.
PDN: How do you overcome those challenges?