showcase-2022-winner:-cameron-azad

Showcase 2022 Winner: Cameron Azad

Artist’s statement

The Cape starling is an attractive but relatively common bird in many parts of Africa. In shadow, the bird is mostly unremarkable, but in the right light, the feathers become iridescent and garishly beautiful. My goal was to capture an unusual image of this pretty animal, so on this trip I tracked many Cape starlings in my viewfinder, but ended up taking only a few images of them. Most of the birds at this watering hole carefully avoided the African Mantis, fearing the deadly raptorial claws that allow the Mantis to prey on much larger animals such as the starling. Here, the bird attacked one of the Mantises claws and quickly flipped the Mantises head into it’s beak, and finished it off. Game over!!

Dining at Dawn, Mkuze, South Africa, 2022 Showcase Runner-up, Birds © Cameron Azad

How I got the shot

I was shooting in the dawn’s light, with a wide open aperture, at 1/250th of a second, clearly way too slow for birds, when this Cape starling dropped next to the Mantis for the attack. In the blink of an eye, without time to change settings or focal length, I fired off three frames. In the next moment, the bird had devoured the Mantis. Luckily I was on a tripod with gimbal head, otherwise there would be no image.

What I used

I was shooting a Nikon D850, with vertical grip, at Continuous High, using a Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens, on a Benro head and tripod. The settings were ISO 1000, f/3.5, 1/250th second at 170mm. Nothing special was done in post, I just added contrast and a few local adjustments.

About me

I’m a working hobbyist photographer. I’m a career Financial Advisor for a large Swiss-based bank, residing in Los Angeles, California. My job offers the flexibility to go on periodic trips. My travel is mostly to Indonesia, Philippines, Micronesia, Bahamas, Africa, and within the United States, and I’ve been doing nature photography for about 25 years. While I enjoy almost all genres of nature photography, underwater photography is my favorite due to the significant technical difficulties in capturing underwater imagers. A quirky and funny fact relating to my start in photography: the first time I was handed a camera underwater, I swam around like a whirling dervish, madly snapping photos of anything that swam…and quickly ran out of air at 75 feet. I had to buddy breathe to the surface with my dive guide.

My journey in nature photography started in Palau, Micronesia shooting a Nikonos underwater film camera. Over time, I started shooting other types of nature, but mostly did so in order to improve my skills for underwater imagery. I’ve had several high-level mentors that guided me, and still do. And as always, the guides I employ are critical to image captures – it’s truly a collaboration between me and my guide.

NANPA and me

I’ve been a NANPA member for about 6 years. I was a NANPA Best in Show winner and the Expressions cover photo in 2018.

Learn more

My images can be seen at: Flickr.com/Macdaza

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