A veteran photographer who has dedicated 10 years to capturing various species of birds in Vietnam with his lens is organizing the country’s first-ever exhibit on wild birds.
The “Chim Rung Mua Ket Ban” (Wild Birds During the Mating Season) photo exhibition opened on Saturday and will close on Wednesday at the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Culture House, at 4 Pham Ngoc Thach Street, District 1. The exhibit, the first of its kind on wild birds in Vietnam, features 130 photos of wild birds, including rare and extinct species, which were taken by Tang A Pau, a veteran local photographer who is also a businessman.
Among them are 12 photos which ingeniously depict red-headed cranes, an endangered species.
Two red-headed cranes are pictured fighting in front of 'spectators' in one of Tang A Pau's photos.
Pau, 61, said that over the past seven years, he has taken pictures of almost 500 of the 850 bird species found in Vietnam, while the remaining 350 may elude his lens until his time runs out.
The photographer added since he became infatuated with photography, particularly with taking snapshots of wildlife some 10 years ago, he has led a “double life,” spending four days in Ho Chi Minh City and the rest of the week in the jungle.
Over the years, he has made his way to many national parks across the country including Nam Cat Tien and Tram Chim in the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Dong Thap; Bidoup and Kon Ka Kinh in Lam Dong and Kon Tum Provinces in the Central Highlands; Hon Ba and Bach Ma in the central provinces of Khanh Hoa and Thua Thien- Hue; and Cuc Phuong in the northern province of Ninh Binh.
Four red-headed cranes, members of an endangered species, are captured in one of Vietnamese photographer Tang A Pau's pictures.
Seasoned landscape photographer Hoang The Nhiem thinks highly of Pau’s dedication and skills.
“He’s a businessman who has spent quite a lot of money and time taking photos of birds in forests. One can see how much energy and effort he has put in just by taking a look at his artwork,” Nhiem noted.
The job involves taxing forest treks to locate the birds and requires specialized gear including a sturdy motorbike which can cross rough terrain, a device which mimics bird calls to act as a decoy, and high quality cameras and lenses.
A red-headed cock crane is shown performing a spectacular dance to flirt with its potential mate in one of Vietnamese artist Tang A Pau's photos.
His persistence and efforts have paid off.
Pau's collections of red-headed cranes taken in Kien Giang Province in southern Vietnam are of great scientific significance, as the breed is rarely seen in the area now.
He also boasts a treasured collection of “khuou” (a small bird scientifically named “Timaliidae”), ranging from ordinary to rare types.
However, the photographer revealed a species of “khuou’ indigenous to the Kon Ka Kinh park in Kon Tum Province remains elusive despite his perseverance.
He painstakingly traveled from Ho Chi Minh City to Kon Tum four times to little avail, as the birds either did not show up or were natural “escape artists,” leaving him little chance to take snapshots of them.
Each of these trips cost him around US$500, he said.
A variety of "khuou" (a small bird scientifically named “Timaliidae"), which is indigenous to Lam Dong Province's forests in the Central Highlands, is seen in one of Vietnamese artist Tang A Pau's photos.
“Some varieties of ‘khuou’ are native to Ngoc Linh Peak [in Kon Tum Province]. I had to hire porters and scaled the 2,500-meter peak to get to their habitat. I planned to include photos of the birds in the ongoing exhibit, but they remain out of my reach. I’m set on achieving this goal this year,” Pau divulged.
The photographer added that there are also times when luck smiles on him, as individuals of rare species show up and allow him ample time to capture them on his camera.
A variety of pheasant captured in one of Tang A Pau's photos
Pau noted that professional bird photographers are hard to find in Vietnam, and they mostly take photos of the species around the cities they reside in.
“Meanwhile, bird photography has thrived around the world. Clubs dedicated to the pastime have over 20,000 members in Thailand and 10,000 in Singapore. They roam the world for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to catch glimpses of the most coveted birds. I sometimes acted as their guides when they came to Vietnam,” he said.
A gorgeous wild bird species which is native to Indochinese jungles is closed in on with Tang A Pau's lens.
In Pau’s experience, the mating season for birds is from December to April every year. During the remaining months, migrant birds seek shelter or return to previous areas based solely on instinct.
He added that the best time for birding in the jungle is from 5:00 am to 8:30 am, when the birds have just woken up and are singing their first songs to welcome the sun.
It is also when they are too hungry and busy pecking their wet feathers to pay attention to what is going on around them.
Two cute members of a variety of "khuou" (a small bird scientifically named “Timaliidae”) depicted in one of Tang A Pau's photos
What makes Pau’s thousands of photos of birds unique is his focus on minute details, such as the color streaks on the birds’ feathers and their sharp eyes.
The photographer remembers the common and scientific names of every species he photographs.
He also knows their practices and personalities well, as if they were in the palm of his hand, and is thus well informed of exactly where to scout for them in the dense jungles.
Pau will donate a large part of the revenue from selling his photos at the ongoing exhibit to Wildlife At Risk, a non-profit organization which is based in Ho Chi Minh City and active throughout the southern provinces of Vietnam.
His remaining turnover will go to funds for needy children living in the Central Highlands.