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Fascinating Birds

Art / Photobook

By: Markus Varesvuo

160 pages, 150 colour photos

New Holland Publishers

Hardback | Jul 2012 | #197477 | ISBN-13: 9781780091785
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $25/€24 approx

About this book

Bird photographer extraordinaire Markus Varesvuo has picked his 100 favourite species, and in this sumptuous book they are illustrated using his stunning camerawork and shown as never seen before by readers. Markus has selected the very best images from the thousands he has taken over the decades, and in the accompanying text he explains why they are so special as well as the stories around them. Species covered range from the spectacular golden eagle that adorns the front cover through more familiar wildfowl and garden birds to eye-catching owls and exotic bee-eaters. Fascinating Birds showcases 150 amazing photographs of birds in the wild. The book is a celebration of birds that is sure to captivate any bird lover or wildlife photography enthusiast.

Also available in French.

"The blurb on the dust-wrapper says: ‘Marcus Varesvuo has selected his 100 favourite European species…’, and these species are illustrated with 150 superb photographs. The majority are taken in his native Finland, and are of the charismatic Finnish species (including seven owls, hazel Tetrastes bonasia and willow grouse Lagopus lagopus, Siberian jay Perisoreus infaustus and nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes), but others were taken elsewhere – Norway, Iceland, Spain Hungary, Estonia and even Oman and Canada. Some images made me wonder whether they were taken at one or other of the commercial bird photographic locations as they portray birds at sites seemingly familiar from other photographs.

As a photographer, I was raised to follow the mantra that in the ideal natural history photograph the main subject should occupy one-half to one-third of the image, so the habitat is properly shown. Like all ‘rules’, this one is made to be broken, as it is by many of the images in the book, which are frame fillers! These certainly have impact – a great grey owl Strix nebulosa head-on in flight, and a common snipe Gallinago gallinago on a post gaping (or yawning?) and flexing its upper mandible are both superb examples of this. But in other images, particularly where smaller species are concerned, the bird appears too large in the frame, at least for my taste. Examples are a whinchat Saxicola rubetra, a rather poorly lit ring ouzel Turdus torquatus tossing a berry down its throat, and a white wagtail
Motacilla alba with a mass of moss for its nest.

But not all images are frame fillers, some showing birds that occupy only a small portion of the image – a willow grouse in snowy landscape, a feral pigeon Columba livia with its head just emerging from its nest hole in a Spanish stone wall, and a hawk owl Surnia ulula on a tree stump, neatly framed by out-of-focus ice-coated twigs and branches.

In all, the book contains a fine collection of images of European bird species – though the snowy owls Bubo scandiacus were photographed in Canada. A short description accompanies each species, sometimes with information on how the photograph was taken. Technical details are given of all the images, which will be of interest to the photographers; I found myself referring to these details, and, in particular, admiring the quality the author gets when using converters (or extenders), even the highest magnification ×2, which needs careful handling and good technique.

This is a coffee-table book, or one to pull off the shelf periodically for an enjoyable browse; it will make a handsome Christmas present – or ‘self-gift’ – for any birder with an interest in European, and particularly Finnish, birds."

- Richard Chandler, www.britishbirds.co.uk, 06-01-2013

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"Now this really is a coffee-table book. But why not? It is another collection from Markus Varesvuo: the purveyor of the very best of modern European bird photography. And, from the stunning Golden Eagle on the front cover and the Black Grouse close-up on the frontispage to the last page drinking Hawfinch and the Redstart on the outside back cover, it does not disappoint. Lengthy captions describe the birds which feature in large format colour photographs on every page. These add greatly to the interest of the book, but it is the photographs which are its clear raison d'etre. As well as those already mentioned, the Hazel Grouse, Black Vulture, full-page Oystercatcher, Common Snipe and flying Snow Bunting flock are amongst my favourites, but check out that male Red-flanked Bluetail too!

The book is a little shorter than A4 and square in shape. This is a good compromise between showing the photographs to best effect and sitting well on the shelf, although still a few birds are disappointingly spoilt by being cut across two pages (this also occurred in the author's 2011 photographic collection, Birds: Magic Moments, even though that was a wider format).

A most welcome point for photographers who strive to approach the quality so consistently achieved by Markus, is that the basic photographic data for each photograph (lens focal length, exposure and ISO) is given in an appendix. The date the photograph is taken is also given, as is the country, making the close-up photographs also useful for students of moult and geographical variation. At just £20, this collection is excellent value for money."

- Steve Gantlett, Birding World 25(12), January 2013.


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Biography

Markus Varesvuo has been a professional wildlife photographer since 2005, though he has been photographing birds since 1988. He is a founding member of the website www.birdphoto.fi. He has won numerous awards for his work, and his photographs have appeared in many publications. His published books include the award-winning Birds: Magic Moments.

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