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If a camera is your birding tool of choice or is a consideration, here is a book focused sharply on you.

Few tips can be offered for binoculars beyond don't drop them. Cameras are a bird of a different color.

"100 Flying Birds: Photographing the Mechanics of Flight" is a new book discussing that subject and much more. It is not a definitive how-to book. It is more a story-adventure-travel-technique-biology book, most everything seen through the lens of a 35mm digital camera.

The camera is in the hands of Peter Cavanagh, resident of the state of Washington, former 15-year-old darkroom assistant, honored with Audubon Society photo awards, earning Ph.D. and DSc degrees in England, professor emeritus at Penn State University and the University of Washington, and holder of NASA's highest civilian honor for medical work with astronauts.

His stories define what sounds like a delightful and generous field companion, sharing the best of how he does bird photography along with why it didn't always go as planned. He'd be a fascinating guy to share a beer with.

The 100 birds chosen to illustrate particulars are shown, of course, in the author's fine color photos, full page.

My reluctance to take more than 300 images of one bird comes apart when Cavanagh writes of 4,000 images of one bird producing five photos considered good enough to use. My standards obviously are insufficiently high.

Macaws, from “100 Flying Birds: Photographing the Mechanics of Flight” by Peter Cavanaugh.
Macaws, from “100 Flying Birds: Photographing the Mechanics of Flight” by Peter Cavanaugh.

Provided by Firefly Books

Cavanagh's interest in birds in flight began when he was studying flight aerodynamics for aircraft pilot qualification. He also has training in anatomy and biomechanics. He can clearly explain what the bird in flight in his photo is doing and why.

He tells us precisely how he used his camera to get the photo — camera and lens models, light and shutter speed settings, exposure compensation for dark birds against a bright sky, and so on.

He writes of what he calls the asymmetrical intellectual power balance: the bird giving no thought to its instinctual flight while the photographer's brain is overloaded with camera calculations.

Cavanagh takes photos wherever in the world birds are found. He chooses captivating places, then wanders a bit. His background on the naming of Belcher's gull, for example, ends in the White House's Oval Office.

One of his stories: "I was able to crank up the ISO setting just in time, preserving high shutter speeds on this cloudy day, and add a 1.4 extender to my lens to generate substantially more pixels in the bird than my 500mm lens would have provided."

Understand all that? Doesn't matter. The story immediately moves to wetland habitat and the uncommon saddle-billed stork, an image of which once was used for an Egyptian hieroglyph. (Who knew?)

Cavanagh's flexibility as a writer wraps this book around any birder with or without a camera.

Each of the 100 birds comes with a story I wish I could tell, camera detail, and, usually, description of technique. Bird specifics are included — species, size, conservation status, population trend.

Each bird includes the particulars of the effort: an osprey photo for example — Canon EOS 50D, EF 600mm, 1/800 sec at f5.6, ISO 500, meaning camera model, lens model and length, shutter speed, aperture setting, and light sensitivity. (Cavanagh favors Canon equipment.)

Firefly Books is the publisher, its mid-November release just in time for gift-giving. It's a large-format book with hardcover, 320 pages, color photos, notes, miscellany, further reading list, index, $49.95.