Monday, December 12, 2016

Birds in the Holy Land - a new book by Thomas Krumenacker

In this post I want to present a beautiful new book published recently by my dear friend Thomas Krumenacker. This is not a book review (I write book reviews for Dutch Birding); it is rather a celebration of this wonderful creation by my friend. I am too involved in the book, and too close to Thomas to provide a critical book review. But anyway, it is not an ID guide, nor a generic 'Where to Watch Birds at...' book, so it deserves a differnt approach anyway. It is first of all a book full of beautiful photographs of the stunning birds of Israel. Thomas really is a very good photographer - and this is the foremost virtue of the book - the brilliant photographs. Through his endless visits to Israel, Berlin-based Thomas has captured some of the best wildlife photos I have ever seen taken in Israel. Already the front cover is gripping, demonstrating that the book contains not only field-guide photos, but also lots of artistic and aesthetic beauty.

In the book Thomas showcases his best photographs, some of which have become his trademarks, like this shot of Eurasian Cranes in the Hula Valley that won the 2011 Best World Press Photo in the nature category:

Or this dramatic photo of an Eastern Imperial Eagle giving a young crane the kiss of death:

But it is more than just a coffee-table book. The book is structured in a way that it takes the reader on a journey through Israel. Thomas treats some of Israel's main biomes in separate chapters (The Hula Valley, The Arava Valley and Eilat etc.), and combines introductory text, bird photos and landscape photos to provide a complete experience. I found the text very well written, full of life through personal experiences and feelings, and spiced up with some good humour. Though Thomas is not a native English speaker, the English is excellent. I must confess that only after scanning this page I found a Freudian German slip in the caption...

Though as I mentioned above this book has no proper site details and maps, it does provide a good introduction to the most important sites like Hula Valley and Eilat. The captions by each photograph are informative and often tell a little story of provide useful information:

As I mentioned earlier, I worked with Thomas in the field during some of his projects in Israel. He always produced better photos than me... But I am glad I could contribute a little to his book. We took the Moustached Warbler photo above shoulder-by-shoulder in the Hula in 2011. I held the torch when Thomas photographed this Desert Tawny Owl in a bloody night in 2014 (sorry about the dirty scanner):

In March 2009 Thomas started a fascinating photo-project on Sinai Rosefinches and other desert birds in the Eilat Mts., using fisheye lenses and remote controlled cameras capturing unique photos of the birds and their environment. Thomas attracted the birds to a small drinking puddle specially created for them:

To create stunning photos like this:

I sat away from the setup, and watched in awe how the birds perched on the cameras and tripods without a problem. Magic.

Thomas's main profession is a news reporter for Reuters. Through his work, Thomas got know all the different aspects of life in Israel, often complicated and less-than-idyllic. However, I think that Thomas truly loves Israel, not only its wildlife but also the country's people, cultures and diversity. This love of Israel is clearly evident in the book, and for this I personally thank Thomas.

If I could offer a small piece of constructive criticism to Thomas (which is unfair as Thomas has sent me an early draft and asked for my comments, but I failed to comment properly back then), I would like to see an index of species and sites, and perhaps a page in the book could be dedicated to more information about birding in Israel (useful websites, literature etc.). But maybe this can be done in Thomas's website.

I strongly recommend buying this book. If you have been to Israel before, this book will make you nostalgic and want to return to Israel. If you haven't been to Israel yet but have an interest in birding in Israel or in the region, hopefully this book will convince you to visit Israel for the first time. And if you just like beautiful books on birds - this is the perfect Christmas gift.

The book comes in two versions - English and German. The English version can be ordered through the Israel Birding Portal. Both English and German versions can be ordered through Thomas's website.

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