Many of us are on a constant quest to improve our photography and for some this means travelling to exotic climes (both in the UK and further afield) to photograph what we perceive as more exciting species. Let’s face it – most of us feel that we do not have the luxury of stimulating wildlife subjects on our doorsteps and the thought of photographing commonplace flora and fauna is not that exciting.
But what if travel is not an option! What if you don’t have the time, money or even the inclination to journey far from you local area!
Perhaps the most commonly offered piece of advice given is to persevere and go and find some wildlife near by. In other words “get to know your local patch”.
Unless you’re a full-time professional photographer, very often, you have limited time to invest in your photography. So, to improve your chances of success, you could focus on one or two subjects as a longer-term project. Getting to know your chosen subject intimately will eventually yield results as you start to become skilled at spotting quirky habits and rituals, which can often become heightened and exaggerated at different times throughout the year. You will start to be able to predict when an opportunity is about to present itself.
Realistically, most amateur nature photographers, like myself, working within their local environment will only be able to cover one or two species thoroughly per year in any detail and most of us obviously aspire to do more than that.
But, I don’t see this as too much of a problem? I have a small public access country-park lake (probably ¾ mile in circumference) in my vicinity in Kent, which has all the usual suspects – Mute Swan, Coot, Canada and Greylag geese, Mallard etc and I love trying to capture these in different ways, angles and in different light and weather conditions.
Adult Greylag goose preening - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/5.6, 1/1600sec, ISO 400 - © Andrew Sproule
Adult Great-crested Grebe - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/5.6 with 1.4x extender, 1/2000sec, ISO 400 - © Andrew Sproule
Adult Mute Swan - Canon 1D4, Canon 15mm Fisheye f/2.8 @ f/16, 1/200sec, ISO 400 - © Andrew Sproule
A pair of Eurasian Coot at first light - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/5.6, 1/500sec, ISO 200 - © Andrew Sproule
Adult Canada goose - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/5.6, 1/800sec, ISO 200 - © Andrew Sproule
Adult Mallard drake bathing at first light - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/4, 1/1250sec, ISO 200 - © Andrew Sproule
And there’s always the unexpected visitor. The lake has yielded Kingfisher, Snow, Egyptian and Red-breasted geese, Red-Crested Pochard and more. . .
Adult Tufted duck drake - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/5.6, 1/2000sec, ISO 400 - © Andrew Sproule
Adult Egyptian goose at sunset - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/4, 1/640sec, ISO 500 - © Andrew Sproule
Adult Red-crested Pochard - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/6.3, 1/2000sec, ISO 400 - © Andrew Sproule
Adult Red-breasted goose bathing - Canon 1D4, Canon 500mm IS USM f/4 @ f/4, 1/1000sec, ISO 400 - © Andrew Sproule
I frequent this lake which is local to me, but in your area it could just as easily be woodland, forest, fields, river, canal etc etc (as always please seek landowners permission if not publically accessible).
Pretty much all wildlife is incredibly complex and therefore can be extremely engaging. All wildlife are creatures of habit, and if you take the time to observe them fully, you will see your chosen subject/s differently. The increasing popularity of the BWPA (British Wildlife Photography Awards) is testament to this fact. Other countries have similar photography awards celebrating their wildlife’s unique diversity.
So, when the chance to travel does present itself you will be in a good place to be able to take advantage of any opportunities using the skills you’ve acquired from “your local patch”.