By Macel Feliciano
‘I find wild birds very challenging because you simply can’t dictate them to pose for you, or to sit still. You’re actually under their whim. When you see them and you’re about to shoot, the next moment, they’re gone.’- Win Paler
Winfred Paler is a hunter. He plans meticulously. He stalks stealthily. He successfully captures the precious object of his desire.
Don’t fret. Before you call the nature police and DENR, know that Winfred or Win is a wild bird photographer.
Win is an entrepreneur managing three companies. But his photos showcase where his heart truly lies.He officially started wildlife photography in 2013 when he bought his first gear, a Nikon D810 with a Nikkor 400mm, 2.8 lens. He later upgraded to Nikon D4S and Nikon D5 with 600mm and 800mm lenses.
He may act like a wildlife hunter and is probably as tenacious. But Win’s actually more on a lifelong quest. He’s in pursuit of his boyhood dream. With wild birds as treasures to be painstakingly sought, gems of the forests to be cherished.
Nuthatch (Win Paler)
Olive-backed Sunbird (Win Paler)
Violet Cuckoo (Win Paler)
Blue-Naped Parrot (Win Paler)
Brahminy Kite (Win Paler)
Copper-throated Sunbird (Win Paler)
Pacific Egret (Win Paler)
Philippine Eagle (Win Paler)
Philippine Coucal (Win Paler)
Blue Rock Thrush (Win Paler)
Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher (Win Paler)
Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher (Win Paler)
Southern Silvery Kingfisher (Win Paler)
Philippine Duck (Win Paler)
He fondly recalls, “I was born in the province of Misamis Occidental, in Mindanao—an area so rustic and bucolic. Our house was surrounded by so many trees and mangrove forests, that I woke up to the beautiful singing of the birds. And I thought to myself, one day, I will get pictures of these birds.”
Win tried other genres like portraiture and landscape photography. But it’s the magnificent creatures that make his heart sing. “To this day, that scene of the beautiful birds gaily frolicking, their shifting rainbow colors teasingly painted by the sun, and shimmering radiantly, their colors becoming iridescent… is one of the most beautiful memories that continues to haunt me. That is the reason perhaps why I started my love affair with wildlife photography,” he enthuses.
Indeed, his avian loves are worthy of all the admiration they receive. Birds are minstrels of the woods, bashful beauties perched on trees, heralds of a healthy ecosystem.
Despite the hardships they go through just to get a glimpse, he knows it’s worth all the trouble. “In our genre, our resulting image always has an upbeat and colorful quality to it. Most of us are just too happy to get pictures of birds, considering the great distances and difficulties a wild bird photographer has to be subjected to just to get his target bird,” he joyfully remarks.
“I find wild birds very challenging because you simply can’t dictate them to pose for you, or to sit still. You’re actually under their whim. When you see them and you’re about to shoot, the next moment, they’re gone,” he exclaims of the elusive beauties.
He successfully conveys his great affection for the gentle creatures through his images. “Photography for me should represent a whole gamut of emotions like one’s life experiences, from a lover’s first kiss, to a child’s tender touch, to a loved one’s dying embrace.”
Such sentiment and talent are evidenced by the multiple awards he’s received from photography clubs and eco-tourism groups.
Other photography stakeholders have also taken notice of Win’s skill. Together with other photographers excelling in their respective genres, he was chosen to test and validate a popular camera for the wildlife category. He was also tapped by a major camera brand to share his knowledge in a talk on wild bird photography for those wanting to pursue the dazzling creatures.
His great affection so abounds for the multicolored charmers, that he cannot stop from waxing poetic. He extolls their virtues in poems and bird lores, even creates back stories for his feathered friends.
More importantly, Win knows that to truly love these evasive sweethearts is to protect them. The Philippines has more than 600 bird species, with new ones being discovered and recorded. At least 200 are endemic, to be found nowhere else but in the country. But our avian treasures are slowly disappearing. They are threatened by the loss of their habitats, poaching, disease, accidental deaths in urban settings, and ultimately, extinction.
He proves his devotion to the alluring creatures through his active involvement with the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines (WBPP), where he is currently the president.
The WBPP has a membership of 14,500 the world over. “Our mission is to be the leader in the development of the art and science of wildlife photography and to disseminate informationtoward the conservation of our vanishing avian treasures,” he explains.
Through their lenses, the group showcases the unique charm and diversity of bird life in the country. Their masterpieces are featured on social media and in various photo exhibits to create more awareness and appreciation for our avian wild life.
This is perfectly aligned with Win’s philosophy that photography “evokes a feeling, perhaps an emotion hidden in the recesses of one’s mind, to move the viewer toward a positive goal, a rallying point for a cause.”
If wild birds are portrayed in a way people can enjoy and admire, it might cause them to value the winged jewels of the forest even more. It might just pave the way for the rebuilding of our feathered friends’ deteriorating habitats, and in turn restore our country’s essential ecosystems that sustain human life.
Let us then celebrate and support the immense beauty and rich bird life of our country through the eyes and efforts of Win Paler.