Ong Kiem Sian is a birder-photographer extraordinary (above). For the past 17 or so years, while most birders were only interested in seeing and listing birds, she was seriously studying them. And while most bird photographers (and there were not many then) were taking portrait shots of birds, she was documenting their nesting habits.
Her infinite patience in the forest is legend to those who know her. She can sit quietly for hours, waiting for the birds to return to the nest, to get her perfect shot. And this was at a time well before the advent of digital phpotography, when she could not afford the luxury of taking hundreds of shots at one sitting. Nor could she manage ten or more shots per second at the press of the shutter button.
Through the years she has accumulated a substantial collection of photographs and video clips of numerous species of nesting birds. I suppose, being an excellent photographer, she had the ability to permanently document the drama that unfolded before her eyes. This is an advantage that photographers and videographers have over the typical birders who look at birds through a pair of binoculars.
Sian has been photographing birds more than a decade before the current craze of bird photography, made popular by the availability of digital cameras. Unlike most photographers who either bury their images in hard disks to sometimes share with a few close friends, or post in web-based forums, Sian has been publishing her observations in Nature Watch, magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore). By doing so, she did make an effort to share her observations with other birders and nature lovers.
With editorial assistance from Morten Strange, a well-known bird photographer and author, Sian has now compiled her years of meticulous documentation into a book, A Passion for Birds (left). For a price of S$48.15 including GST, anyone can have a glimpse of Sian’s passion for birds – and at the same time benefit from the information she accumulated.
This book, published by Draco Publishing & Distribution Pte. Ltd., showcases 262 species of birds from 50 families, and comes with a bonus 36 minutes DVD. It is available at the Botanic Gardens Shop from 15th Dec.
(Top image courtesy of Ong Kiem Sian, bottom image by Morten Strange)