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ePHOTOzine Member Feature: phil_j - Nikon user phil_j takes beautiful photos of plants and wildlife. Here's his story.
'D U C K' by phil_j
How did you get into photography?When I was younger I had always enjoyed taking and studying photographs, but had never really made it a full time hobby as such.
I would point my cameras at all different types of subjects and then, not having the facility to process the film myself, eagerly await for the prints to come back from the developers to see how successfully, or invariably unsuccessfully I had done at recording the scene.
To this day I have packets and packets of prints and negatives in cardboard boxes dotted around the house containing a myriad of images of sports, landscape, family portraits and animals and every subject in-between.
None I would want to show to anybody, but all with a memory for me. As I grew older, and work/family matters took precedent taking photographs would only really happen on holidays or days out.
It was only really in 2005 that I became as interested and involved in photography as I am now. It was when I reached the wonderful age of 40 and my wife brought me a DSLR for Christmas, a Nikon D50. I was amazed at what it could do compared to everything I had owned before, and I was determined to push myself in to developing a skill.
A Holiday to Isle of Mull the next year helped me to get that goal underway, and reading a host of magazines, books, and eventually finding ePHOTOzine helped me to improve. I am still using the D50 to this day.
What is your favourite area of photography and why?I focus mostly on the natural world, Flora and Fauna, although I am also keen on sports photography.
I have always had a great love for nature in all its forms and it seemed only natural to spend most of my time trying to capture images of things that I would often spend time enjoying looking at or watching.
I have also tackled aviation, architecture, macro and put myself through the torment of shooting 5 weddings to date, and intend to keep trying new and varied techniques.
I am still using the now very battered and bruised Nikon D50 body that was my Christmas gift in 2005, I shudder to think what the shutter count would be on it after all this time, although I did once have a D80 on loan for a day.
Talk us through the equipment you use.
My bag contains a small selection of lenses, including a Nikon 70-300mm and the standard 18-55mm lens that came with the body.
I also use a tripod and monopod, beanbag, remote shutter release and a flashgun. I record onto Sandisk SD cards and process my raw files in Capture One, before tweaking in Photoshop. I have when required hired a number of specialised lenses for photo meets, courses or weddings.
Why Nikon?Probably just purely and simply because it was the brand that my wife gave me for Christmas. That said I found that it was very easy to get to grips with the D50, and I was soon shooting images of reasonable quality quite quickly after getting it.
I also found the borrowed D80 simple to use, and if and when finances allow, and with the blessing of my better half, I intend to upgrade soon and will stick with Nikon. I have my eye on a D7000, I just hope the D50 lasts long enough!
Talk us through how you would set up and take a shot.It is not very often that I get a chance to "set up" a shot these days. Being a full time self employed Driving Instructor I do not have as much time to spend on photography as I would wish.
I have in the past, when time allowed, taken advantage of a bird feeding station at my local country park, where I would set up an attractive perch on the feeders for the birds to use, set the camera up on the tripod and lock it off pre-focused on to the perch and wait, often for nothing, but sometimes I would be lucky enough to get a shot of a hungry Blue Tit, and Nuthatch.
One of my favourites using the technique shows a Blue Tit on a blossom covered branch which was attached to the side of a peanut feeder and the Tit was just queuing up for his go.
I have managed to get some successful images of Puffins on the Treshnish Isles in Scotland, which involved a lot of scrabbling around at ground level just waiting for the little guys to pose nicely, and also been luck to get some good images at a couple of Photo-meets at a bird of Prey centre. My portfolio header image of Kaln the Eagle Owl is one of my favourites.
However, most of my images come by way of what I call a "drive by shooting", something that has caught my eye whilst driving to or from a driving lesson pupil and I have managed to grab a shot of it quickly. (The camera bag is often in the boot).
A good example of this would be an image of a Deer in a crop field that I spotted as I drove through a country lane 5 minutes after leaving a pupil. I managed to park up safely, get the camera from the boot, stalk up to a gap in the hedge alongside the field and fire just 2 frames before the deer turned tail and fled. It is one of my favourite shots so far.
What draws you to wildlife photography?Just my love of the natural world I guess, I like to take photos of subjects that I would like to look at and would like to have on my wall. That combined with the unpredictability of the subject, the times I have just managed to frame up on a shot with a small bird that in my eyes would be a prize winner in any competition only for it to fly off and leave me with an empty frame, you don’t get that problem with a building, or a model in a studio!
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