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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brian Sweeting 2011

I contacted Brian Sweeting before leaving for England to see if I might have a chance of visiting him again this year. He was a little aloof and come to find out he is known to be that way from time to time. When I saw him at the club show I walked up to him to say hello but not before I snapped a few pictures as he was chatting with Les Martin. As I approached I made some silly excuse for the pictures then Brian turned to Les Martin and introduced us. I have only met Les from a distance with great admiration for his accomplishments in the hobby including winning the club show 2 years running. This years bird was the longest I have ever seen, its head touching the top of the show cage and tail the floor easily by 2 inches. Les made a joke about who had the bigger camera. 

Brian is quite passionate about his picture taking and sported a new camera this year a Cannon 7D. With so much to learn about our cameras I attempted to explain how I use the manual function to shoot everything, thus manipulating light to add a 3D effect on my work. We set our cameras to the same setting so Brian could experiment with what I was doing using his camera. Being new his camera had much more control with the new ISO settings allowing to shoot at much faster speeds yet getting the required light to the image sensor. Often people compare the quality of a camera by the size of the mega pixels but it is actually the size of the image sensor which carry the quality along with other keen factors like sensitivity and software capabilities. I again asked if he thought I would be able to visit to which he suggested I call after the show. I did and he fit it into his schedule.

My Wall of Fame

We arrived at Brians home and I walked into his kitchen. I noted his wall of accomplishments again which was updated from last year. I recently have added my wall of fame as I call it noting my accomplishments. I believe it isn’t bragging but is a display  of many hours of hard work, that keep me motivated those times when things aren’t going as I hope they would.

The front section of the Aviary showing hoses of the watering system
Long view of Brians 2nd bird room


Les Martin BIS 2011, Doncaster
All American 2nd BIS

We walked into the bird room and straight away focused on the birds. I think Brian was interested in working with me to try and get top photographs. Last year Brian showed me his photo cage to which I patterned my own. It is long and the perch is placed horizontal far enough away from the background as not to cast a shadow on the background. I like the idea of such a cage because a bird will naturally follow the length of the perch when uncomfortable as apposed to flying out the door of smaller cages. Instead Brian pulled out the Photo cage that was designed by Gerald Binks. I wanted to purchase this cage before I visited last year. It’s a nice cage in that the center perch pivots and the background can be changed to any color. The cage builder wouldn’t ship this cage over to the States so I was obligated to build my own.

I obtained a rectangular cage missing the back wall and created a frame to fit inside where I formed a threaded stud so that I could fit my own background. I since have taken this cage to shows over here in America and photographed winning birds.
Brian wanted to use his new photo cage and thankfully his birds are calm used to being handled which made taking pictures easy. I have not counted but I may have photographed 20 to 30 different birds in his photo cage. I have heard birds described as charming or elegant. These birds have that and more. Brian has been consistently winning every year some of the top awards in England. I have heard it said that because he has not won at Doncaster that he is falling backward yet didn’t believe it for a second. The issues this year at the club show was the temperature, and now the show has been pushed back from the beginning of October into November.

The Colliers at last years visit

How does one approach photography when visiting an aviary? I have always tried to use perspective as a way to capture an event. I used this when I was doing video work. It makes pictures different, another perspective but in a way that draws your attention without being distracted. I always look for subjects that tell a story. What is the main point of the picture you want to take? Who are you taking it for? How would a child view what you are seeing? Are your pictures authentic another words do they prove that you were actually the photographer? I’m a people watcher, and I’m learning to listen as it is a way to learn to write in a conversational way. The birdroom is painted white with a large amount of light coming from a skylight in the ceiling. I noted the nest boxes are made of plastic, just as they were in Andy Hinds bird room. This gave me an idea to change back home. Brian is using plastic concave pieces that he says are easy to clean. You don’t have to worry about mites burrowing into things as in a wooden box. I decided to show the boxes in the room from a high angle. 

Last year when I visited Alan Adams I used birds in a photo cage as the main subject for capturing his bird room and decided it would work perfectly for this occasion. The cobalt bird was such a good contrast to the white in the room and I took the shot. I also noted that Brian is using an automatic watering system but he has it nicely covered so it doesn’t draw your attention. In fact I only noticed this after I was at home editing pictures. More and more breeders are moving in this direction because it saves so much time vital to enjoying the hobby which already has plenty of things to do. He can focus more time on the birds.
We went outside to have a picture before it was time to go. I asked Brian if I could sign his guestbook to which he said he didn’t think anyone had signed it since I was there last year. Well I signed it anyway. I took this picture of Brian while I was setting up the camera for a shot with him. I posted the picture on Facebook in the Exhibition Budgerigar UK forum to which Rick Watts commented what I thought Brian was saying…I thought it was funny and sort of sums up Brian to a degree.

Now this cobalt was of my best Sky pied that was a sister to my best spangle hen that was bred from my best young birds at the club show in 2006, that was from a Mannes cock that Jo bred from my grand champion grey green that was best opp/sex at Western counties, that was a great grandson from my best young birds sky pieds best young bird at the Wold Show, brother to his mother that was best opp/sex at the BS Spring show in 2003. I'm sure that right, or is it the other cobalt?

                                                             Brian grabbed my hand and held on to it as our picture was taken. That was it, another great visit. Who knows when I’ll get this chance again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Andy Hind 2011

We are all in a challenge, those of us who are serious about breeding show quality budgies. So what features do you think are the most important? Many features dominate on the show bench, like length, spot size shoulder. We want all of these features in one bird don’t we? More then anything the head features are what dominate the show bench. So in my view the place to start is the head. Andy planted this idea in my head a few years ago once we started talking about our birds. Is it possible to recognize early on if a bird is going to carry the feather direction we are looking for.


I thought it would be interesting to compare babies that Andy bred and at the same time be able to tell the difference. I wanted to see if I could recognize the quality early on. Another feature drummed into me last year was backskull by my friend Dave Collier. When I arrived home after my trip to England last year I felt overwhelmed by the quality I had seen. It helped me immensely  however giving me ideas of what I wanted to strive for and so as I walked through my bird room I began to pick out the pieces I could find in my flights. Sure enough they were there. Not through out the stud but enough to give me motivation to keep trying. Its funny, you walk through the room and instantly see what isn’t going to help.

Andy has 28 cages for breeding and when you ask him he will tell you that he is interested in breeding quality and not numbers. If there is one important lesson that I have learned from Andy it is that you have to be ruthless in what you decide to keep. The quality of the cocks are most important to him, but the hens are the back bone to carrying that quality across the entire stud. Line breeding will take you to the places you want to go. The features we talked about are brought out here using related birds carrying a dominance. 

If I was to buy from a breeder this is what I look for. Consistency across the stud but also the greater chance of carrying those features. I’ve decided that if you buy, why just obtain 2 super birds. What guarantee is that? However knowing the families to what you are getting will give you a better chance of  getting those features.


Andy tells me that his original stock was 100 percent Mannes and he has used Huxley and Marchant blood for the length of feather and super backskull. The Luetolf blood has given him softer feather along with the quality of direction in the head. His focus is establishing the quality of feather direction in his cocks across the entire stud. One of Andys favorite breeds in the dilutes which he has been introducing into his normals and cinnamon's. In 2005 Andy sold all of his birds except 7. In 2007 he introduced the 11 Mannes birds 4 cocks and 7 hens all of which were siblings. As I have followed Andy through the year on Facebook he has posted pictures of his birds from time to time. The quality is evident.


As we visited this year I wanted to get to know Ruth, Andys wife a little better. One of the things I learned about Andy is that he and Ruth celebrate their wedding vows every 10 years. I sat down with her and looked at pictures of the family. Ruth enjoys her Italian Spinone dogs and occasionally show them. I wanted to get pictures but we had 2 hours of driving to do and it was getting late. I feel often our wives are easily set aside if they have no interest in the birds. This I understand completely as my wife has no interest. How can one be so passionate about something yet a partner simply have no interest? Its just the way it is. I find it hard but must say that I have a wife who recognizes my passion. Such a trip would not take place without her blessing. She mentioned that the next time I come I was to bring my wife and the 2 of them would go shopping.


Ruth made the most delicious chocolate cake that we washed down with some English tea. I think I could have finished the entire cake all by myself. It was still warm, fresh from the oven. It made me home sick as my wife is a great cook. Ian my traveling companion this trip, was sure to advise me that there is no tea like the English tea. To which I asked “Isn’t tea grown in China or India”? Doesn’t it just take hot water? I smiled because I knew he was making a point about a tradition of culture in England. I loved every last drop.

As  I was sitting enjoying my cake and tea I made a comment about using our connections as an advantage to the way forward in the hobby. It didn’t come out right and as I though about it I realized it sounded selfish. I didn’t come here to take advantage of Andys good will. What I was thinking is that if we take our time and get to know those who are successful in the hobby it can work in our favor. Why, because we earn trust and loyalty which is a rare thing these days. So many are trying to take advantage withholding information and sometimes telling half truths.


We walked out to the bird room again and as we entered the room I noticed a yellow canary in a training cage up on the shelf. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen the bird the first time we were out. I focused my attention down the flight and realized that this year Andy had opened up the entire flight which was about 16 feet long. His flight reaches down below ground and is approximately 6 foot high. It is a walk in flight. He has since added automatic watering to his breeding cages and loves the time saving ability it gives. It requires weekly cleaning and water changing.

Andy begun to bring birds up to a photo cage he has set up. I really wanted to get quality pictures because I feel like I missed the chance last year. It was clearly evident that the quality was there. I’m totally amazed at the feather direction Andy has developed.

 We walked out of the bird room where we could get one last picture and a cup of hot tea before we were on our way to home base. I always enjoy my time with Andy. He is considerate and helpful, and a great example for the hobby.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011 Budgerigar Society World Show

                                                                                                                          Why would you spend money and travel to a world show? 


                                                                                                                                            What makes you want to attend a bird show?

The Trophy Stage

I live in South Central Pennsylvania, USA

 Is it the birds or the people?

I never thought that I would be back in England a year later. Things seemed to fall into place and before I knew it I was planning the 3850 mile trip over to Doncaster. When you under take a trip like that you need to have good connections and mine seemed to fall into place. My friend Ian Anderton offered a place for me to stay and transportation to the places I wanted to go.
1st stop, Doncaster.

Last year was an opportunity of a lifetime. I was able to steward the show and support our local club BS panel judge David Collier, but this year I was on my own. Maybe I had more room to move around with less commitment, but my goal was to get the pictures. I had considered obtaining a press pass but found it difficult to do this by snail mail. I decided to contact the show manager Dave Hislop once I arrived in the show hall and also security officer Pete Smith and everything was agreed to before I started taking pictures.  One thing I have learned is to be respectful of what I do, to shoot pictures quickly in order to not make others feel uncomfortable. As a photographer I have learned how to be where I need to be in order to get the shots I'm looking for. Sure I may push those boundaries but expression is what l look for and when I step across those lines when told respectfully retreat.

BIS Sky cock, Les Martin

Why did I come?

I love the experience, the opportunity to see this many birds in one place and the best ones I can find. Mostly I love the contacts, putting names of people I've read about and connecting the faces. I was standing by the major winning birds displayed in the center of the hall. Three gentlemen walked up to me and I instantly recognized them. Christian Back, Clemens Keller, and Leo Enders from Germany. It was such a pleasure to speak with them because to me they are like the royalty of the hobby and to approach me is an honor. I mentioned this blog to which they said "oh yes we have seen your blog". I was very pleased that this blog has reached so far and wide. Someone suggested taking a picture and we did. As one behind the camera I don't often have the chance to have my picture taken. Klemens invited me to the German national show to which I asked, "can I get a press pass?" Then he went on to say that there are 50 breeders inside of a 200 kilometer area. Only time will tell if this trip is possible.

Much like last year this years numbers were about the same. I'm told there were approximately 1800 birds benched not including birds for sale. Numerous people mentioned the difficulty of getting their birds into condition and I was not surprised considering the temperature which was quite warm for the times.

How does one capture a show such as this?

I always think we breed our birds because we love them first and the challenge of breeding second. We love comparing our ideas with our friends. If you have accomplished much people pay attention. I look to those successful people in the hobby and study their birds carefully. In many circumstances you ask yourself how they could attain so much feather. Understanding that there isn't a fast track to success. The lesson to be learned is time and paitence. Making friends on the way up the ladder may just be the ticket to the way forward. Its the big picture and what I call "My Challenge"!

What can we do to support the hobby?

I always think about this. Mentoring is vital in keeping those coming through the ranks motivated. Its easy to speak to the difficulties in a calm way that we have experienced so many times. I have tried to support as many local shows as I'm able. Not many have the means and I do these things by saving my money over the year. Because I am self employed with no employees I have the luxury of taking the time off that many can't. I choose to use my skills in media to give back at my level. I get pleasure from offering what limited knowledge I have to build up a junior or a beginner. I think that we all need to give back to the hobby as much as we love breeding and showing our birds, if you are able be pro active. I think it is vital for me to present interesting pictures that attract and promote everyone including the children in the hobby who we know are the future. I love getting down on their level so we can get a perspective of what they see. Lets carry on a tradition of including the lesser ones who have a long hill to climb.

This day ended and as I look back I remember how concerned I was that we arrived late but by then many people left the show hall so I had time to shoot pictures as I pleased without getting in the way of others. Ian Anderton and his wife Sharon had reserved a room for us at the Holiday Inn 8 miles away from the show hall. It was a tiring day filled with the stresses of driving and the pressure of finding the right pictures. I was tired but ready for a restful night. There is nothing like a tub of soothing hot bath water and a bed for a king, and a peaceful night of rest.

Having fun while working the show

A peaceful night was not to be had. Evidently an event was going on down stairs from our room and loud noises radiated into the early morning hours. I woke up exhausted. Then we left for breakfast at McDonalds where we experienced an over zealous inexperienced manager who just didn't seem to get the orders correct and had the propensity to argue at her every whim. In my American accent I attempted to persuade her to slow down and try to listen to her customers yet I felt unsuccessful.

My model for the day

It was a relief to enter the show hall and a plethora of familiar faces. I had really captured most of the bird pictures the day before but I wanted to go over the birds one more time. As I was looking at the Grey Greens someone asked me if I had seen the Lutino. We walked over to this amazing bird of which I had never seen in its variety.

I continued looking for people pictures especially young and well known people. I met Luetolf once again he had just spent time with a friend of mine and I wanted to talk with him about it. First I wondered if Daniel world remember me and he did. Last year I sat around a table at Chris Snell' with our group, Geoff Tuplin and Daniel Luetolf. I decided to sit at a table where Ron Payne was and next to him was Mark Gully, later Mark Ramshaw appeared all friends from Facebook. Its so good to put a face to a name and have a conversation. Later I ran into Brian Sweeting a fellow photographer who branded an new camera since last year. He introduced me to Les Martin the winner of this and last years show. In fact Les won 2 years running with two different birds a feat not accomplished before.

I walked over to the birds in the major awards looking for reactions where I saw Gren Norris taking a picture of the Best Young Bird in show. As I walked over to the Best In Show winner once again I met a champion breeder and we began a conversation. I noticed that the tail of the winning bird laid on the bottom of the cage by at least 2 inches and I asked if he thought it has Longflight characteristics. He seemed to think that it might and so I decided to find my closed friend in the hobby in England Steve Holland.

He began to explain what characteristics make a Longflight and right away he said it wasn't one. One of the first things to take note of a Longflight is the tips of the wings in reference to where they lay next to the rump. The rump should extend beyond the wings. I then heard stories of breeders trimming tails in order to show their birds. Later I had a conversation with Rodney Harris who confirmed this among other things the number of flights being one of them.

I planted myself again this year at the front left of the awards ceremony. My goal was to capture the emotion of those who walked past me after receiving their award yet still capture some of the formal shots from the side. Many got their awards who I didn't know but some I did of which I was sure to capture. As the awards were given out along came Geoff Bowley one of the major winners. Blaring from the speakers came the song ----.  Everyone had big smiles as Geoff bowed to the master of ceremonies later to have a big relaxed face for the camera. What fun it was to watch with well deserved admiration as he received his award.

As he left the stage the song changed to "We are the champions" as Les Martin approached the stage for the top award. A well reserved man Les received his award and you could see the jubilance in his expression and later as Dave Hislop raised his hand high in the air trophy in hand. A lasting image of the show and a pleasing one at that.

After arriving at home someone brought up the idea of why this show is called a World Show. Many countries are not represented including to breeders in Europe, South Africa and Australia. I argue that the ability to show is available to anyone abroad and obviously there are many reasons as to why some could not show cost being the major point. Whatever the reason I would argue that this show has in fact some of the very best birds anywhere. I'm not sure how a true World Show could take place outside of the internet but then that wouldn't be the same would it? 

Brian Sweeting
David and Alex Woan

Chris Snell

FA-1 Stud, Ian Ainly and Mick Freakley

Gren and Pat Norris
T & A Luke

Albino hen

Grey cock
Grey Green cock
Grey Pied
Opaline light green
Violate cock