Wildlife photography is perhaps most different to other forms of photography due to the uncontrollability of your subject. You quickly discover that no matter how hard you try you will always have the wrong lens on, no, that heron isn't going to catch a fish when your looking (that only happens after 2 hours of crouching in a really uncomfortable position when you've finally put your camera down because you just HAVE to stretch), and yes, you are going to have to get dirty....very very dirty.
So here are 3 things that I think are a 'must do' to be a wildlife photographer
1. You have to be ready for anything.
So sometimes I go outside with my Camera with a plan. I'm going to take photos of some frogs and toads today. I grab the best lens for the job, making sure to put on bug spray so I don't get bitten. This time I've got it all planed out. I'm edging my way through the grass and I can hear the frogs splashing into the water as they spot me just seconds before I spot them. My eyes are peeled, scanning the floor in front of me in this game of senses. Suddenly I hear a noise coming from my left. Must be a toad I determine since it is coming from further away from the water. I smile as I creep forwards; I don't recognise the call, perhaps it's a toad I've never seen before. My eyes were glued once again to the ground in front of me, when suddenly the 'ground' leapt up in front of me, and started clucking madly at me and fanning it's tail."oh my! It's a dinosaur! It's a giant man eating bird! It's some deadly zoo animal escaped!" I thought to myself, but determined to record my find I grabbed a few shots before making a bee line out of there. (Of course I totally had the wrong lens on - grin). It wasn't until I was on my street that I stopped running and had a quick look at the photos I'd taken. And suddenly I realised what it was. It's a turkey. A wild Turkey. So In the end I got zero shots of frogs or toads that day, but I did discover that turkeys are a lot bigger than frogs, and that sometimes you have to be ready for anything.
2. You have to be willing to get dirty.
I'm walking home from school one day and I hear toads calling (and yes for those of you who are laughing still, these were REAL toads - not Turkey-toads - grin). Odd, I think to myself - why are so many toads calling in the middle of the day? Suddenly I realise why; it's early may - they're mating! Pulling my camera excitedly out of my backpack, I plunge into the long grass heading towards the sound. It rained earlier that day, so by the time I reach the pond edge my pants are soaked right through from the grass. Still, I'm determined to get some good photos this time, so I creep up to the waters edge. They're not hard to spot - the water is quite literally packed with thousands of American toads doing...well you know; their business. I watch amused for a while, but these guys aren't really who I came for; I want to find one of the males who is still calling. He calls again and I spot him, hiding under a bush, calling for a mate to come. Without a thought ditch my backpack in the mud and lie down flat on my stomach, so I look as small as possible to him. Now I only have a small lens on from photography class (did I mention you always have the wrong lens on?) so I slide my way closer and closer, right up to the waters edge and wait. He watches me for a while, as if trying to decide whether to continue calling or swim away. I hold my breath, camera poised. Finally he turns away and calls again. My finger touches the shutter. Click.
I notice the light is getting quite golden and check my watch - 5:30!! Where did all the time go! Without a thought I wriggle backwards (so as not to scare the toads) grab my backpack and race home, with the biggest smile on my face. Well, let's just say my family may of been slightly alarmed when I came home about an hour late from "school" covered from head to toe in a thick layer of mud....grin.
3. You have to be persistent
Sometimes nature will test you. Push you to your limit. One of my favourite times to take photographs is what I call the 'golden hour' - you know the time, late in the summer evening when the light becomes all golden? I love how it makes everything look just that little bit more magical, even the blades of grass in the garden glow. I wanted to capture this in a photo. So I line my self up with the sun a lie down in the warm evening grass. I have to get right down flat because I want to try to get the sun shining down through the grass at me. I get my settings just right, squish down that little bit more and start taking photos.
Suddenly there is this burning pain on my chest, then another one just above my ankle. I yelp in pain and shoot up just in time to notice that I was absolutely COVERED in red ants! The expression 'got ants in your pants?' comes to mind, only it really was not funny.
Tell us what you are most looking forward to about this years Studio Tour
I'm looking forward to getting to know the other artists in the area better, as well as meeting the public and hopefully changing how they think of the wildlife on our doorstep through my photography. Come visit me at the Studio Tour and I'll have even more stories and photos to see, after all, who knows what I'll get up to this summer!