Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dr. Robert Sofferman

I have been following Ray Barlow’s website for at least 3 years and have enjoyed nature photography through the use of a manual 500mm f4 lens which served me well but had some limitations. I had agonized over a new long lens purchase and re-kindled an interest in the special elements which Ray has continued to place on his website.

His avian images are truly remarkable in terms of resolution, variety of subject, and unparalleled skill in documentation. When I realized that most of his photographs were obtained with a Nikon 200-400mm lens and occasional amplification with tele-extenders I decided to follow suit.

This lens has become my favorite in a variety of situations which include a recent canoe trip on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe and lots of hobby work around Vermont where I reside. In spite of loving the lens and feeling comfortable with it in most situations, I wanted to understand how Ray can use it hand-held and obtain wonderful macro images of tiny subjects.

Most importantly, bird flight photography requires lots of practice and acquired skill, and I clearly admit that most of my best images were probably accidents, more a product of auto-focus and high speed motor drive than unbridled skill.

In early April of this year I traveled to Toronto for a several day meeting and planned to extend my stay to spend a much anticipated day one-on-one with Ray Barlow. In the weeks prior to the visit he maintained e-mail and telephone contact and helped me to understand just what we would be doing for the day. It was one of the most important photographic experiences I have had, with Ray helping me to clarify camera and lens settings for rapid sequence photography.
He understands the environment which surrounds his subjects and has become as much a naturalist as a master photographic technician. He has a unique method of finding whatever bird is in the migratory path or indigenous to his Canadian locale. He is understated and very friendly.

As I read the comments from others who have had the privilege of working with Ray either in a workshop or just some advice long distance through his website, it is apparent that everyone has the same positive experiences I have described. We spent most of the day talking about photography, finding and photographing bluebirds, and eventually locating some red-necked grebes which are indeed especially beautiful subjects.

As a physician who is involved in teaching medical students and residents on a daily basis, I am particularly interested in how others get their points across. Ray posseses a special quality that endears him to HIS students and allows them to ask whatever is on their mind without feeling intimidated or uncomfortable. I am fortunate to have been one of those students and am privileged to realize that I have a new friend who likes and understands my extracurricular passion.

Bob Sofferman

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