Beautiful flowers bloom in each of Japan's four distinct seasons, giving rise to a culture of floral appreciation. The combination of flowers and birds in particular seems to be a preference of Japanese people since ancient times, as indicated by their nature-oriented outlook on the world and the many artworks featuring flowers and birds. In photography also, compositions of birds and flowers are more popular than photographs of birds alone, so I would like you to try taking this kind of photo.
White-eyes love sweet nectar. When I checked out a spot with flowering camellias, sure enough a flock of Japanese White-eyes had come for some nectar. Rather than blooming in bright, open areas of the bush, camellia flowers often bloom in a shaded area, behind other flowers or some leaves. As I was looking to see if there might be a good spot, I found a single flower blooming on the outside of the bush. I waited patiently, praying that a bird would come, and one came just as I had hoped. My chance came in the moment the bird raised its face upwards. I was able to get my perfect shot.
In spring, Japanese White-eyes and Brown-eared Bulbuls gather around flowers looking for nectar. In early summer, when fields of wild flowers are blooming in such places as Hokkaido, coinciding exactly with the breeding season, you can see birds such as the Common Reed Bunting, Siberian Rubythroat, Chestnut-eared Bunting, and Black-browed Reed Warbler.
Your photo opportunities will increase when you get to know when and where you can go to photograph flowers and birds together. With that in mind, explore the parks and green areas near your house as your own backyard. By doing so, you will get to know the seasonal flowers and also become familiar with the birds found in each season, shortening the path to creating great compositions.
In Japan, April is closely associated with sakura (cherry blossoms), however there are many species of sakura. In Okinawa, the dark pink Taiwan cherry blossom comes out in mid January. Just like the Japanese White-eye on the island of Honshu, the Ryukyu White-eye gathers in search of nectar. Your photo opportunities will increase if you find out ahead of time spots where seasonal flowers bloom and the birds that come to those flowers.
A beautiful small blue bird commonly seen around human dwellings in winter, the Red-flanked Bluetail is popular as the “happy blue bird.” They are also appreciated as models since many do not seem to have much fear of humans. Although they usually prefer dark places, they can also be seen in plum orchards, waiting impatiently for the plum blossoms to open. After repeated visits over several days when the trees began blooming, I was finally able to capture a bird surrounded by blossoms.
There is a park where the Japanese Grosbeak spends the winter each year that I often go to take photos. As you would expect, I plan to go there when the cherry trees are blooming. Even though the Japanese Grosbeak will break cherries with its beak and eat them, it does not eat the blossoms. You might think that means that you cannot get a shot of the bird together with blossoms, but you can if you know the spots where they are often perched. This time I waited patiently by a branch that I knew the birds like to perch on before going down for a drink at the watering hole.
Cherry blossoms start to bloom from the bottom of the tree upward. You are probably thinking that getting a bird and a tree in full bloom is absolutely fantastic, but it is actually difficult to photograph because the bird can be completely covered by flowers or it can perch high up in the tree. And, if there is a row of cherry trees, the birds separate, making it even more difficult. For this reason, I am always so happy when the early cherry blossoms do not bloom fully.
As I was photographing a beautiful male Common Pheasant, another pheasant appeared and they walked together side by side. Following the two birds, they began to pass in front of some turnip rapeseed. Since I wanted to capture the birds with their long tails completely in the frame and at a good size, the foreground became narrow but I was happy I could get the shot I was aiming for. One more thing that I was careful about was since the birds were walking on farmyard compost (manure), I tried to get more of the turnip rapeseed in the frame and cut out the compost on the ground as much as possible.
It becomes more difficult to see wild birds in mid summer. The reason is that the breeding season ends and they become quiet. As a result, bird photographers may have time on their hands between the end of July and the beginning of September. However, this does not mean that birds are not around; there are some good spots if you look carefully. At Lake Hyoko in Niigata Prefecture, when the lotus blooms beautifully you can photograph the Yellow Bitterns that mate here as they stop on the lotus stems to feed.