I’ve been working on another project in the beautiful Peak District National Park photographing one of the UK’s most beautiful and stunning summer visitors; the Redstart. This attractive cousin of the Robin and Nightingale is one of my favourite summer visitors to our shores. They travel all the way from North Africa to the UK to raise their young before leaving for Africa at the end of summer which I find amazing.
In March’s issue of the BBC Wildlife magazine I have one of my favourite photographs featured as part of their “Inside the image” article. The image was taken on my two week trip to the Falkland Islands last year. In the article I go through camera settings, my vision and thought process to help the readers to understand what was behind the image.
I have always given alot back from my own photography since turning professional in October 2009 making my living solely from this industry that has changed so much during that time. Anyone that can see can take a photograph, what takes time is learning to see, I truly believe in this saying when it comes to wildlife photography.
On the second week with my clients I decided to restrict myself to one lens on each safari and post my favourite image from that day along with how I took the image, the settings behind the image and my thought process behind the image. This will I hope help you to get into the mindset of a working wildlife photographer and hopefully inspire you to think, see and take shots differently.
I have decided to post just one image on my blog from each day which will be very different to my previous trips to Ranthambhore. Hopefully it will demonstrate how one image can really speak for you, how it can tell a story at the same time making you a better wildlife photographer, restricting yourself to one image and thinking more about angles, composition and not just snapping away and thinking first and seeing the image within the image or the story as the title says.
The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected. In this environment the wildlife photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours. Make best use of those and capture that wild encounter with your camera and the result cannot always be predicted .
The first safari of the second week started on Tuesday with new clients and the following images I hope will inspire you, help you and above all go someway into seeing a different way of thinking when you’re looking through your viewfinder. At the same time learning you so much about the subject, the environment it lives in and above all more about you and your own photography.
Tuesday 21st April 2014
Camera Settings – nikon D4S, nikon F2.8 300mm, F4, 1/200, iso 400, matrix metering, -0.3ev exposure compensation.
A mother Bengal Tiger and her one year old cub drink from a small forest pool in the late afternoon sun. On our afternoon drive with temperatures reaching nearly 42 drgees we came across this female and her two cubs. We parked up in a postion away from them and turned our engine off. She was sleeping for round two hours on and off and we just watched her and the cubs it was just magical. After they started to become alittle more active and they moved around and played before heading towards this small pool.
I was working with a fixed focal lens so I couldn’t zoom in or out and I was framing them the best I could. I focused my camera on the cub in the foreground and followed them down to this pool through my viewfinder. I was running out of room and did my best to keep them both in the frame very aware not to clip or cut one out and this was the result. Making best use of what angle you have is key when working with a fixed focal length. Soon after then moved off and all three vanished back into the forest.
Two young Bengal Tiger cubs sit waiting for their mum after they heard her calling for them in the morning light. I was only going to get focus on one and depth of field so I choose the front one. This resulted in the cub in the background being burred and giving a strong outline of another tiger. Both soon moved off into the undergrowth and later found their mother who took them off into the forest.
Thursday 23rd April 2015
Camera settings – nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f5.6, 1/2000, iso 400, matrix, +1.0 exposure compensation.
A Black headed Ibis feeding in the dawn light. I followed the bird through my viewfinder from right to left and placed the subject over the the right so the bird would be walking into the frame.I used continuos servo mode to capture any movement and freeze it with a high shutter speed. The result is seen here with the birds beak open and foot raised which adds a sense of movement to this image. I chose to under expose a little too to gain a strong outline creating a wonderful silhouette.
Friday 24th April 2015
Camera settings – nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f4, 1/500, iso 1000, matrix metering, -2.0 ev exposure compensation.
A Black Drongo bird taken in the morning light. We parked up to just take in the surrounding then this bird landed feet in front of me. I really love these birds and their fork-shapred tails that live in the national park. This bird landed on these naturally occurring grasses and I composed him over the the righthand side of my viewfinder giving space to the front of the bird as I watched through my viewfinder. I waited for a little interest in the form of action or a certain look. Then the bird looked straight at me in something I call first contact. When a wild animal makes first contact with a human and this was the result.
Saturday 24th April 2015
Camera settings – nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f8, 1/1000, iso 200, matrix metering, -1.0 exposure compensation.
We spent a wonderful few hours in the morning sitting and watching this family of Bengal Tigers. There were three cubs and a female Tigress that would come from the safety of the long grass, then play and then vanish back into this long grass. So I chose the aperture F8 so I could gain more depth of field. Under exposing for the light as it was very bright and we were shooting into the light.
Once all three cubs came out from cover composition was hard as I was using a fixed focal length lens and so I had to really try to keep them all in the frame. I placed my focus spot on the cub in the middle and this was the shot I took. I have changed it to black and white because more often and not images that are contrasty look better in this format.
Sunday 28th April 2015
Camera settings – nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f 5.6, 1/1000, iso 400, matrix metring, -0.7 exposure compensation.
A young Bengal Tiger cub sitting near a forest pool makes first contact with me. A saying I describe when human meets wild animal and for a split second theres an intense stare that can often look straight through you. Composition wise I composed him over to the right, placing my focus spot on the eyes and leaving negative space over on the left. I took a few images and was carful not to spook him with the noise from my cameras shutter button.
Those are my images from week two, I have lots more but I wanted to post these hoping to inspire you and try different things within your own photography. Being more selective and disciplining yourself to a few images or using one lens I feel makes you work harder and inevitably a better wildlife photographer. two weeks and twenty-four safaris for me have flown by once more and Id like to thank everyone one of my clients for your time and I hope you enjoyed the time you spent searching and photographing Bengal Tigers here.
Thank you to Sealskinz for the products that have helped me on this two week trip to India which have really protected me and my gear in some hot and tough conditions.
If you’d like to join me on my 2016 trip then please see the following link, many thanks.
One of the most important tools in wildlife photography is fieldcraft. Getting to know the subject, spending time watching, listening and looking, learning its behavior, its habits and calls. In turn all of this will reward you with a far better chance of capturing images that show the subjects natural behavior.
Regardless of the level of photographic skill your at you will need to learn fieldcraft to capture those images you see while among Mother Nature. With this though comes a great responsibility and integrity to your own work and your own foot print you’ll leave behind you when you leave the wildlife and go home.
Wildlife photography’s power rests on the belief that it represents an event that occurred naturally in the wild, something witnessed and recorded by the photographer with his camera at that given time. Clever use of friendly animals, hot spots, bait and the per-arranged perches or props along with digital technology has forced everyone to re-evaluate and question the validity of images they see now.
Living animals have feelings, emotions not to dissimilar to our own, tap into that whatever the subject maybe and you will see the real and true beauty of wildlife unfold in front of you. Apply your passion and respect on top of fieldcraft and the images will come.
Many species of mammals and birds will allow you to approach them closely if you are careful and take your time, no fast movements and using the correct techniques. Read the land for yourself, see what’s in front of you, in between you and the subject, use natural gulley’s and shapes to break up your approach. Never make the mistake of walking directly towards your subject as the chances are the animal will have long gone.
All wild animals that have no or very little contact with humans are scared and fear man. They see and smell us the moment we enter their world of which they are designed for and we aren’t. They have an in built fear of man and see us as a threat to their lives to put it bluntly. For me its how the person deals with that level of fear and stress using their fieldcraft that’s important.
Animal tracks tell you so much about what’s happening around you. It’s their highway, the way animals navigate their chosen habitat. Look for darkened earth a clear sign there’s life around. Just standing still for several minutes and look to see any natural lines, faltered grasses or earth moved or piled up. This then will give you a bigger picture of the main routes in and out of a forest say or farmland track leading to a wood and so forth.
Look towards the sun when studying tracks, you will see the shadows better. Footprints in soft ground will begin to deteriorate around the edges within 2 hours depending on the humidity, sunlight, and breeze giving you vital clues to what and how long ago an animal passed by that spot. The depth of the tracks and length of the stride can indicate the weight of the subject and the physical strength of the animal that made them.
Find out which way the wind is blowing making your approach better as most animals have a great sense of smell and it’s the first thing to give you away. The wind always wants to be blowing into your face, this will blow your scent away and remember to forget the aftershave or perfume along with soaps that are high in perfume as these will be picked up from great distances away. It is also important to recognize and learn the signs of stress within the animal so you know when to stop and leave the animal well alone. The last thing you ever want to do is cause undue stress and disturbance through your actions in order to get the shot.
Clothing, wind direction, covering the ground, shape, shine, staying low, can all help in capturing those moments in nature where you have to work harder with some animals than others. Some species will accept human presence quicker, taking only hours, where as other more sensitive subjects will take weeks if not months.
It’s the way I work while capturing wild animals in their their natural habitats while working very ethically alongside nature. Composing the wildlife to show others how they go about their lives,where they live and conduct their lives. So correct fieldcraft is an integral part to the way I work as a wildlife photographer. Being at one with nature is amazing and with time and effort and applying good fieldcraft everyone is capable of capturing those beautiful moments I am blessed with seeing each time I enter the natural world.
In July’s issue of Practical Photography I give my top ten tips and advice in order to help you, whether you’re just starting out or more accomplished in regard to fieldcraft the article is written passing on my many years of experience in this field over the years. Fieldcraft is the foundation to my work and style as a wildlife photographer today and has been since the moment I picked up a camera.
Look at the Foxes ears below, he couldn’t see me, but he could just make out the faint noise of my shutter noise from my camera. Each ear is facing in a different direction, one facing forward and the other facing towards where he heard the noise. He’s doing this to locate the sound in a bid to locate me, wonderful animal behaviour you can learn to read by using your fieldcraft skills.
Today people really want to see how you got the image and as a wildlife photographer you not only have a duty of care to your subject’s welfare but also to the general public who buy your work or follow you I feel. Showing and explaining how that image was taken, the skills you employed to achieve the image are paramount today.
The most important tip and piece of advice I can give in improving your fieldcraft is respect your subject, let wildlife live their lives without fear or stress from your presence. Apply all my tips from the article and the animal will benefit first and foremost and be able to carry on with their lives. Applying these tips will also allow you to capture images with a real story. Leaving little or no disturbance from the photographer is the best piece of fieldcraft you can learn and apply.
People then can see your fieldcraft and subject knowledge behind that particularly image. Learn the basics of fieldcraft and you can implment these to any real time situation within the amazing world of nature you will come across. I hope you enjoy the article which you can see by clicking here, many thanks.
Following on from my previous Wildlife Photographic tip ‘Back-Lighting’ which gives your subject a strong outline and adds a great atmosphere, with a great deal of impact to your image, it’s counterpart ‘Side Lighting’ emphasizes a great deal of texture from the use of light highlighting your subject from the side, and when put to use in your image carefully it can produce a wonderful and dramatic image again with bags of atmosphere, giving the image a three-dimensional feel. A word of warning though from my own personal experiences ‘Side Lighting’ gives you the best results when the sun is low in the sky eg. Sunset, Sunrise.
Side Lighting does not work very well if the background is really cluttered or messy with lots of detail and other things going on so keep it as clean as possible, the idea is to isolate the light against your subject with a clear background illuminating your subject from the side bringing out all the texture in the feathers or fur at the same time creating a great deal of depth to the image. Always expose for the sunlit side of your subject, even at the cost of losing some shadow detail.
The way you use light in Wildlife photography is very important for the overall effect you are wishing to capture, Side Lighting is really effective when shooting close up portraits of wild animals and birds. The contours of the face are really well revealed, the texture of the fur and feathers really stand out a great deal more due to this mode of lighting. Try when possible to use the widest aperture you can on your telephoto lens rendering the background blurred, creating a smooth backdrop to your image.
Use ‘Side Lighting’ alongside ‘Back lighting’ as a part of your everyday Wildlife Photography, from the garden to the air, creating two very different images through the use of natural light which is at its very best during sunrise and sunset, illuminating your chosen subject from the side or the back in the case of ‘Back Lighting’.
I hope my photographic tips on ‘Side Lighting’ has helped you understand just how important light can be and how it will change and effect your photography, should you have any questions or queries then please drop me a line here and I will be more than pleased to answer them. Lighting and how to use this to the best effect is one of many things I go through on my one to ones, where the sole aim is to improve your own wildlife photography. For more information on these days then please click here to be taken to my one to one page, many thanks.
Back lighting can give your subject a strong outline and add a great atmosphere to your image with a great deal of impact at the same time. Allow where possible you’re subject to be the main feature of your photograph with the use of simple composition with the sun directly behind it. The best times for back lighting to be at its best is dawn and dusk when the sun is low in the sky, creating the warm colours and glow from this wonderful time of the day. If the shape of the subject is easily recognizable through its strong outline it will make for a beautiful photo.
The correct exposure for backlit shots can be tricky so you will have to experiment with darker and lighter exposures in order to get the desired effect and overall feel and mood of the image you want. Use single selected focus point and spot metering where you can take a reading from the subject’s body and set the exposure in camera. Dealing with the ever unpredictable subject of wildlife though the subject may not allow you the time to take a reading for the perfect exposure. And always try to keep the affect of lens flare down by keeping out of direct sunshine as much as possible when taking the photo.
So in closing back lighting can transform an image, adding a beautiful atmosphere within the photograph with loads of impact to the main subject. Great care must always be shown not to point the lens directly at the setting or rising sun as it will damage your eyes. The lens must be clean and free from smears and dust, and sometimes the effects of flare can add a lot to the image so don’t throw the images away until you get them home and reviewed them on your computer. I hope that has helped you a little in understanding back lighting in wildlife photography, if you have an queries about anything I have mentioned then drop me a line here and I’d be pleased to answer them.
I will be presenting my presentation; Dawn to Dusk at Calumet’s spring open days in Manchester and London over the next couple of weeks. Click here for details and dates. I will be available all day to answer any questions or general help or advice you may need for your own wildlife photography. I also run one and two days seminars in conjunction with Calumet, for more details click on their seminars page.
I have officially joined PhotoTraining4U today as one of their masters, covering my passion of wildlife photography. The films I’ll be shooting over the next 12 months with the team will follow me as I work the land, from dawn to dusk. I will be showing members how I work, photographing wild animals within their habitat, showing their different behaviours and characters within photography. Going through the camera settings and what skills I employ myself in order to try and work with the wildlife I encounter out in the field.
Their website offers quality training for all photographers at an affordable price. The site is based on streaming video that capture photographers at work. PhotoTraining4U is aimed at both professional and amateur photographers alike and is structured into bite size learning films, over 800 at present, each around 20 minutes.
I have always loved helping people throughout my life and when I first started in wildlife photography this carried through. I know how hard it is to get help or advice when you are first beginning to take photos of wildlife – What works? What bag to buy? Is this lens any good? What camera settings? the list goes on. I like to show others the techniques that I have taught myself, what works and what doesn’t while on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife.
In this first film we go through where and how my love of wildlife, nature and photography began, forming the great passion I have for the natural world today which is the foundation to my work and images. The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected and in this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours. The result cannot always be predicted, which makes fieldcraft one of the most important skills you have to learn to be fully connected to wildlife.
I always try where possible to ‘work the land’ as I put it, and stay away from staged or set up shots preferring the more natural image, as seen or shot when I encountered the subject, not changing an animal’s behaviour to obtain an image is so important to my work. You just never know what will turn up working in this manner, so being ready to capture what you see is key through composition, fieldcraft and the correct and simple camera settings.
I am not from the techie camera settings background, glued to the histogram strangled with numerous settings and different buttons and functions. I show simply and real techniques in camera that work. I know they work because they are what I use within my own work. An image should come from the heart via the human eye, the camera only captures what the person behind it sees most of the time. This interview in February’s Practical Photography illustrates perfectly how I work and where my true love and passion comes from for wildlife, in this case waders and spring tides in Norfolk. Click here to see the interview in PDF format or you can buy the magazine which is out now.
It’s important to me that in every image I take it represents an event that occurred in the wild, something that I witnessed and recorded with my camera. My skill lies in interpreting and presenting this in a way that invokes the beauty, mood and emotion of that special moment I captured.
The first interview on their site can be viewed here. If you’d like to join this site and see the amazing advice, videos, and help from many different masters not just myself then there is £100 pounds off the marked price of £229 per year. Please quote JONES which is the discount code. This then will give full access to the site and all the help and advice. I will be filming several short films in the wild over the next 12 months, going through different advice and help that will offer you the best chances to capture those beautiful images of wildlife you want, at the same time learning more about the habitats and behaviours of the subjects your watching.
I really do hope the films and advice I will be offering here will be helpful, twinned with the help I have always given on my blog, facebook and twitter pages, which all form a strong base in which to show the beauty of wildlife and help and inspire you all into seeing just how beautiful wildlife is. Its been a great start to the year for myself, with a full page image in the BBC Wildlife magazine, a 6 page interview and images in Practical Photography, click here to see the article.
Thanks to all the people who have booked onto my 2012 photo tours and workshops. My India trip is now full, this will be the third year in a row now I’ve visited this magical place in search of one of the most beautiful animals on the planet, the Tiger. My Magical Mull June trip is full with a few places left for my October trip. I do have places left for my Madagascar trip which you can view here, Masia Mara trip, view the itinerary here and a few others. I’m really looking forward to 2012 and all the trips, plans and filming I have got in store. I hope you all make the best of your time within nature and capture those wonderful moments you witness yourselves, good luck.
And just before I go wanted to say there were some great winning images in the WWT photo comp for autumn, I had two category’s to judge which was nice with a very good standard all round so well done to all that entered. I have been asked back to judge the remaining 3 rounds where the overall winner will be announced later in the year, so good luck to all those that enter.
I have just returned from the Welsh capital, Cardiff after two wonderful days filming for the online training company PhotoTraining4U.The site offers quality training for all photographers at an affordable price. The site is based on streaming video that capture photographers at work. PhotoTraining4U is aimed at both professional and amateur photographers alike and is structured into bite size learning films, over 800 at present, each around 20 minutes.
On the first day we went through where and how my love of wildlife, nature and photography began, forming the great passion I have for the natural world today which is the foundation to my work and images. The second day I was out among nature, my office as I call it, watching and looking at the beauty of nature all around. The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected and in this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours. The result cannot always be predicted, which makes fieldcraft one of the most important skills you have to learn to be fully connected to wildlife.
I always try where possible to work the land as I put it, and stay away from staged or set up shots where bait is placed out while you wait, preferring the more natural image, as seen or shot when I encountered the subject, not changing an animal’s behaviour to obtain an image. You just never know what will turn up working in this manner, so being ready to capture what you see is key through composition, fieldcraft and the correct camera settings.
I have always loved helping people and when I first started in wildlife photography this carried through. I know how hard it is to get help or advice when you are first beginning to take photos of wildlife, what works? What bag to buy? Is this lens any good? What camera settings? the list goes on. Emailing professional wildlife photographers asking for help or advice most of which never return your email, so because of this I like to show others the techniques I have taught myself, what works and what doesn’t while on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife.
During the first day Mark Cleghorn, Director and founder of PhotoTraining4U went through several interviews with me on film, going back to the beginning, where it all started which was fun. As I was talking I was reliving some of the funny moments I could recall, the tiny things that made all the difference, which all set me onto the path today. We went through some of my images where I explained the motivation behind each shot, how and why I captured the images on show while being filmed, which was very new to me as I am normally behind the camera a lot of the time, when not working with clients on various workshops and trips.
That evening we went to a local marshland area not far from Cardiff town centre, this for me was perfect to go through some basics within wildlife photography. I had not visited this area before and upon arriving to a new site I wanted to demonstrate that you can always witness something within wildlife. A saying I have said from the beginning of my own work is that there is always an image to be taken no matter where you are.
When I arrive somewhere new I always look for the light and get a feel of the place, where the wildlife is or may turn up, direction of light, possible different images and so on, I find my brain is almost scanning around and presenting me with choices in an almost automatic way, if that makes sense? While the photography was going on, Jay the cameramen was filming and I was explaining what I was doing and looking for, giving useful tips and advice. Both Mark and Jay where brilliant in helping me to relax in front of camera and I think my sheer passion and true love of wildlife carried me through.
That evening we all went for a lovely meal and I got to see the passion and resolve behind the company and I was very impressed with all of the team and their future plans. Then it was back to my hotel in readiness for the early start and the amazing light I was hoping for. Mark had found a place not to far again from the town centre which was surrounding by housing, a little oasis within the urban environment which supports many different species of wildlife.
We wanted to show and demonstrate that when you are just starting out or have started out that wildlife is everywhere, lakes and marshland/grasslands are everywhere around the UK, ‘green lungs’ as I have called them in an early blog posted a while back now. These areas have often been left to their own devices, brimming with wildlife which makes a great addition to the urban habitat surrounding them, which can be photographed in close proximity to where you live, capturing those moments with your camera.
Both Mark and Jay came with me on that early morning start, after the first days interviews I had told mark of my affection with cold toast,so it was a nice surprise to see two slices prepared and wrapped up in foil as I was picked up, which was really funny and made me laugh in the darkness of that morning. When I arrive in a new place that I have no knowledge of, I always find myself looking around, smelling the air and really trying to build a picture in my own head of what’s going on around me and tell tale signs or clues to what wildlife may or may not be around.
I always find east with my compass, knowing where the light will come from will really help in capturing images in the morning light. I had a look around the lake, worked out where I’d like to settle and got myself into place and all set up for the rising sun, which had slowly started to creep up before me. Jay and Mark set up their cameras and again just left me to it and started to film and photograph me while at work, as I explained all the time what I was doing, looking for ,camera settings and so on. The light was amazing, calm water with no ripples giving you that affect that the birds, in this case Mute Swans were floating in space.
Swans are big and powerful birds that are really beautiful when you take a closer look. They have a calmness about them if left alone which shows off their great elegance and beauty. I wanted to capture that beauty within these images as they calmly drifted effortlessly around where I witnessed at times them closing their eyes and sleeping. Such gentleness and calmness I saw and that I hope I have captured with these images.
These Swans kept me company throughout that morning coming in close to see if they would be fed, then retiring to a safe distance should I present some bread or other food for them. I didn’t use any food as I just wanted the birds to come and go as they wished, even though they had a slight tolerance to humans they were still wild animals and free to come and go. As it happened I captured some wonderful moments using my trusted long lens and much loved wide angled lens which is perfect for wildlife and getting those wider shots I love seeing and photographing.
I spent a good several hours around the lake and surrounding area that morning and had some wonderful moments, making several short films, all explaining my craft for PhotoTraining4U. I will be going live on the site in January 2012 when I will officially join the site as one of their masters, covering my passion of wildlife photography for them. The films I’ll be shooting with the team will follow me as I work the land, from dawn to dusk. I will showing members how I work, photographing wild animals within their habitat, showing their different behaviours and characters within photography.
I had a really good time, big thanks to Mark, Jay and the rest of the team. Thank you all for your hospitality and warm welcome, and I look forward to working with you guys. As I mentioned I will be going live on the site in January 2012, becoming their master on wildlife photography. Where all the films I will be making can be seen on there website, so if you’d like to know more information then visit PhotoTraining4U’s website or email me direct here.
And just before I go I heard back from the British Wildlife Photographic Awards – BWPA last week and my short-listed Red Grouse image in the Habitat category was beaten by a Red Grouse wide angled shot, almost the same as mine, without the light, so I was a little gutted there, the winning image there was amazing. I entered some amazing images captured in the wild but they didn’t get anywhere, with alot of images doing well from set up sights which aren’t the same as finding the image through your own hard work in my eyes.
It really puzzles me to what judges are looking for within a wildlife photograph for a competition, where it comes down in the end to the photographers integrity to disclose the facts of the shots, that can be judged alongside the image. Good luck to all those who won or where commended. Here is the image, 15 minutes crawling forward to capture this male Red Grouse calling down the valley which was covered in morning mist, shot with a 24-70mm wide angled lens
And one of my favorite images entered into the same competition, two Great Crested Grebes going about their courtship, captured here swimming alongside each other in a show of affection towards each other.