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Shooting British Wildlife: Improving my photography skills

Wildlife photographers

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I’ve been trying to get to grips with photography over the past few years and I’m getting there bit by bit. I’ve learned there’s a lot more to it than ‘pointing and shooting’  and there are lots of resources out there on the web that will help you get to grips with the basics and the terminology and equipment.  There’s no substitute for actually getting out there and taking pictures though, so I was very lucky to be able to visit the British Wildlife Centre on one of their Wildlife Photography Days, courtesy of Emma who bought me a voucher for the day.

Ben and Owl

Tom, our guide and keeper at the British Wildlife Centre.

The British Wildlife Centre

The Centre is in Lingfield in Surrey and is a privately owned organisation which works on breeding programmes, habitat conservation and education.  One of the ways it raises funds is through these wildlife photography days.  Numbers are limited to around a dozen and you have the run of the place, with one of the keepers as a guide. Ours was Tom, a really enthusiastic and knowledgeable guy who clearly loves his job and the animals in his care.

Some impressive kit on display.

Some impressive kit on display.

I got there early and met the other photographers (all amateurs by the way, that’s one of the conditions).  I was a little concerned because it looked like I was seriously out-gunned in the lens department.  My kit is very modest but some of the equipment on display was a little intimidating.  As it turned out I was actually more appropriately equipped than most. You get so close to the animals, within a few feet in fact, that you don’t need long lenses at all.  Although the animals are not ‘tame’, they are used to people and especially the keeper, and the promise of food (mainly dead chicks), would appear to help them overcome any shyness.

Hedgehog at the British Wildlife Centre.

The hedgehog gets a lot of attention.

It was a wet day and unlike the others, I hadn’t come appropriately dressed so there was no lying on the ground for me!  I also needed a plastic bag to cover my camera, luckily someone had a spare .  So off we set from enclosure to enclosure to see the hissing Scottish Wildcat McCaverty; the playful otters; the grand old fox Frodo (who sadly died, aged 13 a few weeks after my  visit); Badgers; owls and many more.   One of my favourite shots was of the little stud hedgehog snuffling around in the leaves surrounded by a bevy of photographers. He didn’t seem to mind.

My wildlife photos

So here are my best shots of the day, I was very happy with them. It’s a great day out, well run and a way to get up close to some of our wildlife in a safe and accessible way and to contribute to their wellbeing and conservation at the same time.

Otter

Picture 1 of 9

My equipment

For the record, I took these pictures on an old Canon EOS 20D I bought on eBay for £70 a couple of years ago. It’s about 15 years old but works well although I’d like a bigger screen and the ability to shoot some video clips.  I’m looking at the Canon 1300D as a potential upgrade.  It’s not that expensive but would be a good step up.

I used a Canon 18-55mm zoom kit lens for most of the shots with the exception of the harvest mouse which was shot with the Canon 50mm f1.8 prime.

2 Comments

  1. Some very nice shots there John. Post processed?

    Quite often those with great expensive gear don’t know how to use it properly. I was once told that the best zoom, in many cases, was your feet. It makes you think more about the shot. It’s not the camera that makes a good image.

    • John Royle says

      Thanks very much! Very little post processing actually, just a little cropping and lifting the light. Agree that it’s not the camera that makes the shot.

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