How To Start Wildlife Photography

Updated: Mar 3

Squirrel in the Snow, ISO 160, f6, 1/1000 sec, Lens 400mm

To be a successful wildlife photographer you first need a lot of patience. Something I must confess I don't personally have much of.

Be very prepared to come home empty handed having not secured a single decent shot.

Accept that there is an element of luck in being in the right place at the right time. You have no control of your subject, which is what makes wildlife photography so thrilling when you do manage to pull it off.

I recently spent two and half hours on a photography trip to some local woodland. During that time I heard plenty of birds but actually saw very few. Those I did see were either too far away or obscured by tree branches. You have to learn to accept when it's just not worth clicking that button and just enjoy the moment for what it is.

Woodland can be great in the winter time for photographing birds as they are easier to spot without the camouflage of leaves. However they do tend to sit up very high in the tree canopies which has it's challenges. Be careful of silhouetting if the sun is behind the subject. Ensure you can get close enough for a decent shot if you don't have a large zoom lens. Avoid images of black dots in the sky.

400mm lens, ISO 200, f6, 1/1000 sec

These two Blue Tits were a little too high in the tree canopy for my Canon 100-400mm lens. This image has been cropped in enough so you can identify them. I would have liked a closer shot. Compensating with a post edit crop can help but if you go to0 far the image risks getting pixelated and you start losing sharpness. A 600 mm lens would have made all the difference to this image, so I am currently saving the pennies.

ISO 2500, f6, 1/640 sec, Lens 400 mm

This Image of a Great Tit was the best shot of the trip, but again I would have liked to get in much closer for a sharper shot. Wildlife photography is one of the few genres where kit really does matter. It's important to know your kits capabilities. Smartphones are definitely no match for a DSLR with a large telephoto zoom lens when trying to shoot a shy small subject.

To avoid disappointment it's important to do a little homework on your potential subject. Know the animals habits and habitat. Where is it likely to be and at what time of day.

I had noticed one particular spot in my local park where several squirrels hang out during the day. After identifying the time and place I decided to take my camera out on a walk with me and this time was not disappointed.

ISO 500, f4, 1/1000 sec, Lens 200 mm

I used shutter priority mode with the speed set to 1/1000 sec. The ISO was set to auto. I knew that when the opportunity arose I would have to take the shot quick without having to worry about or fiddle with manual settings. I selected a very fast shutter speed to ensure I did not get any blurred squirrels. When they move they are fast.

ISO 1000, f4, 1/1000 sec, Lens 150mm

I used silent rapid shoot mode with my focal points limited to the centre of the image. I wanted to eliminate the camera focusing on anything other than the squirrels. There is nothing worse than a potential fantastic shot being ruined by the camera focusing on a twig in the foreground rather than the intended subject. Always ensure you have a clear shot of the subject. When your subject moves keep your camera still and let them move within the shot. Don't be tempted to move the camera with the subject,

My recent success with the squirrels has given me a taste for wildlife photography. With the recent snow I decided to revisit the park. This time only one squirrel was brave enough to venture out but I got a massive reward with the following three shots instead.

ISO 160, f6, 1/1000 sec, Lens 400 mm

Now I have a confession with this one. He was very high up in the tree canopies and I actually thought he was a Robin on account of the reddish plummage. I has really chuffed when I looked at the image afterwards to find out that he was actually a Chaffinch.

ISO 3200, f6, 1/1000 sec, Lens 400 mm

Then I discovered this little fella. I have been after a shot of a Robin for years, but whenever I saw one I either did not have a camera with me or it had the wrong set up. This time everything was set up perfectly. Unlike Blue Tits, Robin's are fairly brave and you can normally get reasonably close to them.

ISO 3200, f6, 1/1000 Sec, Lens 400mm

And here we have it. The perfect Christmas Card image of the Robin sitting on a snow covered branch.

Goes to show how a little bit of patience and homework can really pay off when you get that lucky moment.

To find out more about my photography classes, workshops and events visit my website:-

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