Do you know that there is a wealth of wildlife a few
metres from your back door? No matter where you live, be it city, town
or country, there are animals, birds and insects living in your
vicinity and flora abound. If you like to get out and about, there are
even greater opportunities within a short journey.
The equipment you will need starts with a camera. Any
camera. The one you have will be fine to start with, whatever it is.
You may want to get more suitable gear once you progress a bit, but in
the meantime why not have a try with what you've got. You may also like
to take along a black bin liner to kneel on or use as an out of focus
background to isolate wild flowers.
How you find your subjects, and more importantly, how
you photograph them, is down to your own circumstances and ingenuity.
There are a few things you can do, however, in order to increase your
The first, and most important of these, is to open your eyes and look!
That may seem obvious, but it is the best advice you will get. Start by
looking for subjects that you may not normally notice. Try looking at
your immediate locality with a outlook. The things that you take for
granted because you are so used to them are the first source, if only
you can stop and look at them with a different point of view!
90% of all my photographs are taken within 5 miles of
home, and some are literally taken in the back yard! The first place to
look is just outside the door. The webs of spiders make wonderful
subjects early in the morning with the dew still on them. Birds are
everywhere and can even be shot through the window if you are a little
careful about reflections. Turn over stones in the garden for all sorts
of bugs and crawling insects. Watch flower beds and blossom carrying
trees for flying ones which may only stop for a moment, but if you are
there ready when they do, you have a better chance of getting your shot.
Local public parks and gardens are another source of targets, so there
is no excuse if you live in an apartment. Every town and village has an
old cemetery that is quiet and normally has a number of mature trees
that support all sorts of wildlife, but please respect the surroundings
that you are in and leave them as you find them.
There are also literally hundreds of small local nature reserves around
the country, most with a small car park and planned short walks
signposted. Many of them are free to enter, so that's no excuse either.
Local rivers and streams have an abundance of photographic
opportunities along their banks and if you go and sit quietly in these
places for a few minutes, you will be surprised what you see.
Try getting to them during quiet periods rather than on a sunny Sunday
afternoon when everyone else is out and about doing their own thing.
Very early morning light has a quality that cannot be described or
matched and anything you see will be slower to react before the
temperature rises. Evenings also are a good time, as many, more
nocturnal mammals will be starting out on their day and others will be
looking for somewhere to spend the night.
If all else fails, the are many wildlife parks and Zoos dotted around
the country that can produce great shots if you are careful how you
frame them. Try to avoid enclosures with small mesh or galvanised
netting with the sun on it, as it is almost impossible to hide. Try to
have a lens hood that can be put against the glass of enclosures to
avoid reflections and use a wide aperture to throw backgrounds out of
focus. Look for angles that have more natural backdrops. Some, but not
all of this type of establishment have thought about photographers, and
will have an area or corner of the pen/cage that will look acceptable
if it is out of focus.
Once you have given it a try, you may well find that you
have a liking or a knack for being a bit more specialised. You won't
know this until you have had a go, but when you do you might find you
enjoy photographing butterflies more than birds, or plants more than
mammals. Most modern cameras have the capability to cover all of these
in their simple form. Close up facilities and zoom lenses are the norm
on all but the most basic cameras in this day and age and although they
may not be super zooms or true macro lenses, they give you enough of a
spectrum to allow you to find out what you enjoy.
You don't have to fill the frame with the subject to
produce a pleasing picture. Although you don't want an unrecognisable
speck in the middle of the frame, the inclusion of habitat is a very
acceptable way of producing fine wildlife shots. Look for ways of
composing your shot to frame or separate the subject within the picture
in order to overcome any shortfalls in the equipment you may have.
Learn a little about depth of field
in order to help separate your subject from the background or to
include other elements into the frame.
Now what's stopping you going out and have a try at it, keep your eyes
open and always have the camera handy! And good luck.
A butterfly taken with the equivalent of a standard lens (55mm on 35mm
Canada Geese taking off with habitat in the background.
Minolta Z1 at mid zoom
could have been taken with any camera.
A picture showing more habitat than subject. Medium
zoom, early morning.
A plant picture using natural light. Taken with a medium
Man Orchid taken with a 1:2 macro facility
Hazel Dormouse taken through glass in a wildlife park.
Water Shrew, again through glass in a wildlife park.