Announcing a new wildlife workshop I’m doing in conjunction with Calumet Photographic covering fieldcraft. After the great response to my article in Practical Photography giving my top ten tips and advice on fieldcraft I will be running this workshop over two days enabling you to learn one of the most important elements to wildlife photography. The dates for this workshop are Saturday 27th October and Sunday 28th and can be seen by clicking here
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. For me, it’s how the person deals with that level of fear and stress using their fieldcraft that’s important.
Good fieldcraft is especially important for the effectiveness of wildlife photography. Concealment is what keeps you from being seen and allows you that private window into the subject’s life. Fieldcraft is the art of looking and reading the animals behaviour in parts dealing with the visible signs the animal will show you.
Come and join me on this two day Fieldcraft/Rutting Deer workshop. On the first day I will present some slideshows, go through what fieldcraft I use within my own work. I will demonstrate what you need to do in order to improve your own wildlife photography. The second day will start just before dawn and fingers crossed with get a frosty morning with some nice light as this will add a great deal to your images.
You will be able to put into practise what you learned on the first day on the ground on the second day. Wind direction, smells and watching for the behaviour that will be around us all. The month of October is a key time in the Deer’s own calendar, it’s a time when the males fight to keep control of their females that they will later go on and breed with.
Many male Fallow Deer’s want this chance to mate and so the rut is born. The air will be thick with testosterone as we witness one of autumn’s magical times. You will learn many skills during these two days,where fieldcraft for me is one of if not the most important tool in any wildlife photographer’s box.
For more information or to book this workshop then please click here to be taken to Calumets website 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.
The days just flew passed during our time in Ranthambhore, India. We settled into our routine with twice daily safaris surrounded by nature, culture and the colours of this amazing country. By now all my clients had seen and captured some amazing images of Bengal Tigers which I was over the moon with. As the host of this trip I organise and run myself with great help from my friends in India. Everyone’s wish was to see these animals at the same time and maybe capture them on camera and that’s exactly what they all did.
There are seven ‘old’ gates within the national park and twice a day we’d pass through the main gate, which is the way to one of the 5 zones that you are allocated before each trip. Each zone is around 25 km plus in size, where your jeep has to stay on a small path which takes you around the chosen zone. There is a very strict code of conduct on board eg. no shouting/loud noise and you cannot get out of the jeep, it’s all controlled really well with the Tigers welfare being paramount.
It was great to see some of the guards which I had made friends with during my many trips to this place over the last several years. They do an amazing job with limited resources keeping just over 30 Tigers safe from the ever presence of poaching. They showed me around and were very kind and helpful to my group by letting us pass through the main gate and onto our zone for that day with minimal fuss. The photo below shows the ‘chef’ as he’s known, he’s worked for 38 years in Ranthambhore and knows every inch of the place, his wisdom and experience you just couldn’t learn overnight.
I took some presents this year for them, images of Tigers for their homes. I always get out of the jeep at checkpoints to shake their hands and introduce my clients to the guards. A warm embrace and smiles all round. They all deserve respect for the job they are doing and I try to show that to them in my way, as respect is earned not given my late mum always taught me.
I only wished the many politicians and people involved with Tiger conservation around the world could see the frontline in the battle against poachers and give them more equipment and resources, because on the ground we are asking these fellows to risk their lives against a well organized band of poachers. Once these Tigers have gone the whole area falls and the Tiger will not return, very sad but money has to be channeled into helping the guards around India in keeping the Tigers alive. I was shocked and saddened by how these guys stop poachers with their limited resources.
As on so many other safaris the lady of the lake-T17 was hunting and patroling mainly in the morning. Both jeeps had some wonderful moments photographing this lovely Tigress. Its real heart in the mouth stuff though as they seem to except the small jeeps we are in but I truly don’t think they know there’s an easy meal for them inside. This is always going through your mind as you take photographs as they pass by your jeep. Nothing can ever prepare you for this, you have to witness this for it to truly make sense. I hope these images convey those special and priceless moments I took with these amazing and extremely rare Tigers, showing just how beautiful they are.
Salim my guide headed off on one such encounter and we parked up alone some distance in front of this patrolling Tigress. We could hear the distant calls of Peacocks sounding the alarm, letting the whole area know a Tiger was around, we just waited and waited until she came over the hill, paused and walked down and pass our jeep. I chose to shoot with my fisheye lens trying to convey the habitat which I love to show in my work and give the subject a sense of scale among her kingdom.
This image below captured her as she walked past our jeep and then vanished into the cover of the jungle, this was close, an experience I can see so clear in my head as I type now, but truly magical.
During one safari my clients and I witnessed a part of history, for a few minutes but what seemed like hours we were priviliged to witness something that’s been rarely spoken about in the past and even rarer to see. A male Tiger rearing his young, totally unheard of in the tiger world. Only the female tigers were known to raise the cubs, but the male Tiger known as T25 has shown that the males also do it. Wildlife experts say cubs are usually raised by their mothers and male tigers often kill cubs they come across. Officials believe there is no recorded evidence of males behaving like this.
It is common for male tigers to never even set eyes upon the cubs they father, especially when the mother is not present and many male tigers will simply see cubs as food. Their mum died on 9 February 2011 and ever since T25 has reared them and looked after them which is just an amazing story in its self but to see them on this day was magical, truly magical.
We had been in place for over an hour, waiting at a small natural drinking hole that had been refilled with the overnight storm we’d had. Then without warning we saw T25 coming from the shadows of the jungle, walking with great strength and power. The males are completely different to the females. They are shyer and very aggressive in their nature. Their physical size is alot bigger, with a rounder head and massive frame. You know when looking your witnessing a top predator with great power and presence.
We had gone through apertures, shutter speed, iso and making the adjustments to our cameras with the fading light, making sure should anything happen that we were ready. T26 a male Tiger walked down first, slowly but full of life, he sat down close to the water and began drinking fully aware we were there and he gave us a look to let us know that. An air of total confidence and control with no fear of nothing, thats when you know your king of the jungle. We watched him quietly.
We heard a few small calls as he looked around at the different noises he’d heard as he was drinking. Then from nowhere one of his cubs appeared from the forest. She stood there few a few seconds looking for reassurance it was ok to join her dad before heading down to the water to drink.
She settled alongside her father as they both drank aware of the shutter noise from our cameras. It was a moment I’ll never forget, but at the time you’re just concentrating so much on capturing the moment it really doesn’t sink in until after. He was always on guard, so to speak, and you sensed his protection of her by just seeing them together so close. The other cub never showed but both are doing very well I am told.
They drank for a few minutes before T25, the male got up and headed back into the dense jungle with his cub following.
He led the way as he’d done when first visiting the watering hole, his cub waiting behind until he went first. I managed to capture him here just looking back and giving a slight call to his cub. She then came from behind a tree and followed her father into the jungle. It was very touching to see this bond between them both played out before us, thousands of miles from home as we witnessed history in Ranthambhore one of if not the best place in India to see Bengal Tigers in the wild.
The whole week was brilliant and each evening my clients had their own best images from that day to talk through. Each year the trip seems to get better and you really have to see one of these amazing animals in the flesh to truly appreciate their beauty. With so much wildlife in Ranthambhore the photographic opportunities are everywhere. A paradise in more ways than one for a wildlife photographer.
There’s something very human like when we look into the eyes of primates. Something that touches deep inside our soles where we see so much of our own human mannerisms. I did a close up of this young black faced langur monkey sitting close to his mum. I slowly walked forward as not to disturb the young one or the mum and this was the result making best use of the side lighting to bring out detail, shape and texture to the image, another wonderful and touching moment from Ranthambhore, India.
The week there passed far to quick and before we knew it the time had come to leave Ranthambhore and head off home. I wished I could have stayed as I really love this place and its Tigers. It has a magical feel to it, an old fort taken over by nature. We headed for the airport the same way we came, packed lunches in hand as we started the journey home.
A big thank you to my clients for your company and another big thank you to Rag and Salim for your help and expert tracking and guidance with the Tigers. Many thanks to the staff at the Ranthambhore Bagh where we stay, great food, warm welcome and a great base for this trip.
I will be releasing a few more limited edition prints very soon to go along with the 3 others I currently have, where 50% of the profits go to a charity I work with to help rise money for Tigers around the world; 21 Century Tiger. Where they spend 100% of your money in helping Tigers around the world, these animals are in real danger of extinction and need as much help as possible so that future children get the chance to see this amazing animal in the wild.
Next years dates and information is up on on my website here, so if you wish to see these amazing images and capture some beautiful images working alongside myself and two of the best guides in India then contact me for more information.
I’ll be giving my top tips on fieldcraft in July’s issue of Practical Photography, which is out the second week of June. Fieldcraft when working with wild animals with their natural fear of man, away from per-planned perches, baited set ups and captive animals is the most important tool in any wildlife photographers toolbox.
Capturing real images as seen on the ground and not changed by the hand of man is what wildlife photography means to me as a professional, its the way I work when among nature. I go through what works on the ground and how you can almost think like wildlife and become part of the landscape. All built on respect for your subject and wildlife around you, this is the foundation to my work today so I hope you enjoy the article.
And just before I go there are still a few places left on my Summer Tide workshop in Norfolk in conjunction with Calumet Photographic, for more information and bookings please click on this link. or click on their seminars page for Manchester and Drummond street branches with more workshops and talks planned very soon. For an idea of what you may see on this day then click on a previous interview I did here with Practical Photography covering my passion for this amazing event.
A New year and new life, with 2012 a few days old now it won’t be long before the air is filled with Spring bird song and new life, a real favourite time of year for me. You can just about witness anything by wondering around anywhere during the season of spring. Between then and now I am hopeful for a bit of winter weather and maybe some snow as I will be concentrating my efforts on Mountain Hares, Foxes and Owls during the next couple of months.
I have also been spending a lot of time with the adorable Red Squirrels, watching, photographing them and generally enjoying their unique characters over the last several weeks. Capturing a little of their behaviour and antics as they comb the forest floor looking for food and other food items they’ve stashed some weeks previously. Over the time I have watched these mammals I’ve become aware that it’s all about the size of your ‘ear tufts’ that gets you noticed, way before any introductions have taken place between the two sexes.
There is also a wide range of colouring between some of the squirrels at this place, ranging from really dark red to an almost light, red- ginger colour. The lighter coloured Red Squirrel seems to even detect or know he’s different in colour and seem more jumpy and whenever he appears the dark ones try to run him off, getting him away from the area in which the other squirrels seem to be.
It’s funny at times, as their seems some outward jealousy displayed, but quite cruel to see him have this amount of unwanted attention from those darker and more self aware Red Squirrels sharing this same habitat. But by just watching as I do, a whole community comes alive in front of you, animals living their lives right in front of you and most of the time these behaviours are just not seen.
I’ve watched and witnessed Magpies, the ever opportunistic bird watching the squirrels find food and bury the food, only to be dug up once the squirrel had gone. Here as you can see this Red Squirrel buries his stash while being watched by this Magpie who has other ideas about that food, again how cruel nature can be at times, witnessed by just spend time simply watching.
I made the best use of the light and cover, which slightly hid my presence from the shy squirrels, the result was a more relaxed and less jumpy subject, this approach allowed me some wonderful views. Often not knowing where or when they will turn up, you have seconds to compose and take your shot before they’ve gone. I always use the natural habitat and vegetation that is around, which the subject is naturally using of his own free will. This makes for a more “as seen” image which I feel is so important in today’s wildlife images.
The above image was down to luck and beautiful morning light as I captured this squirrel looking into the forest with the morning rays of light illuminating his beautiful coat. The image below captures this squirrel using this small branches to come from the tree canopy down to the forest floor. I used the two trees left and right to conceal myself, shooting through the middle to give this out of focus frame to the image. Such wonderful and beautiful mammals to spend time with.
There will be more Red Squirrel moments captured, fingers crossed, throughout 2012 I hope. I don’t like to use the word project as its too formal and as a wildlife photographer I never put a time limit on photographing a certain subject as its never ending for me. But I can guarantee I will be spending as much time as possible photographing these very endearing mammals. Over the next few weeks I have a number of workshops, Mountain Hares, Red grouse and Dippers, so I look forward to welcoming my first clients of 2012.
In February’s issue of the Practical Photography magazine there is an interview with myself covering my obsession with waders. In the interview I reveal the reasons behind my passion for these birds and these amazing Spring Tides in Norfolk, and I also discuss the field craft techniques, capturing these amazing events in natures calendar. I touch on what wildlife photography means to me and how I hope to inspire people to see the beautiful world of wildlife which is everywhere. Click here to see the interview in.