Category Archives: Wildlife photography

Cheating in the Garden.

The following could be called cheating by the purist or utilising a situation by the rest of us.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden which is visited by birds you can set up to get that more natural shot.

I have a bird table which is frequented by Blue and Great Tits amongst others particularly when they are feeding chicks. I noticed that they tend to alight on a perch to have a check around  before going on to the table.

Using a high degree of craftsmanship I nailed a dead branch to my table and found some used that as their “approach” perch.

It already had chicken wire around it to deter the pigeons and collar doves from nicking the food so the overall look wasn’t at all natural.

However, by setting the camera on a tripod focussed on the branch I was able to sit quietly clutching a long cable shutter release and shoot away. The depth of field was set so the bush behind was out of focus which highlights the foreground subject.

It is tempting to blast away every time a bird lands but a period of observation can give more hints such as which particular section of branch one prefers. Surprisingly, to me anyway, I find different individuals of the same species have different “personalities”. One pair of blue tit parents using my nest box a while ago was very different. One would fly straight on to the table and take off with a beak full of meal worms whereas its partner would alight on the branch, peer down at the sleeping cat shuffle along the branch a bit then go on to the table.

By noticing this behaviour I got the spot on the branch in frame and waited for the timid one to make an entrance for its photo call.

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Adopt a philosophy.

Wildlife Photography for the vast majority of us is a hobby. You are supposed to relax and enjoy your hobby. That’s not to say your patience will be intact every time but the idea is to appreciate your subject first then get a good picture of it.

These thoughts are more about how I approach the subject than how I actually take the photographs.

I started out again after a period of inactivity caused by my Pentax 35mm film camera packing up.

I eventually got back into it and bought a Canon 300D.  I soon realised that everyone and their dog were trying to sell images and the required standard was rising as the availabilty of images became huge.

Therefore, at the outset, be realistic about what you want to do with
your shots.

Being ambitious can be rewarding but often disappointing. If
you hope to capture the last crystal clear drops of water leaving the dazzling
feathers of a kingfisher as it is frozen in action plucking a minnow from a
stream don’t hold your breath.

That is not to say you will never get a shot like that. You
may have lottery winning style luck one day.
Something rare and spectacular may occur right in front of you with your
camera focused and exposure and aperture set just right in perfect light with
the right lens fitted.

Much, much more often the subject will have been scared off, the shutter will be too slow/fast,the light will have changed for the worse
and the result is unlikely to have National Geographic magazine beating your
door down to buy it. More of how those shots are obtained later.

I preferred to build up my chances of getting that very
rewarding picture by practice and experience. I started out by trying to create
a sort of wildlife species collection. The advantage of digital photography is
the ability to add or delete images at will. So initially I went and
photographed all sorts of animals and plants.

I am happy to photograph any wildlife or you may want to
specialise in birds or flowers for instance. Bear in mind the wider the scope
you leave yourself the more opportunities you will have to shoot throughout the
year. Let us say for example you go into your garden or park and photograph a
blackbird. You download it and you have an addition to your collection. Later you are out again and the light is better or you get closer to a blackbird. The background may be more pleasing or the image
sharper. Download that picture and you have improved your collection. I delete the shots I have bettered just
to save space but you may wish to keep them or archive them.

By adopting this system I am encouraged by small successes
and sometimes big ones. That great shot can happen on any trip. Remember the
subject need not be rare to make a great photo. It can be a flower, butterfly
or bird less than ten meters from your home.

I will be discussing how to cheat your way to better pictures in another blog.


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