Early summer is the time to photograph dragonflies and butterflies, but before you dash out with your camera in-hand, it pays to make sure you have the right kit.
To get pin-sharp images of these often flighty and capricious bugs in the wild, you are better off with a long focal length lens that has a short minimum focus distance (a macro / telephoto lens) than a shorter focal length that can focus to within a few centimetres of the front of the lens.
This is to give a bit of room between you and your subject and still be able to have a reasonable close image. Something like a 100mm or 150mm that can focus to within a metre or so is ideal.
I prefer to work with natural light, but a flash can help punch up the colours on a grey day. I personally steer away from ring flash since it gives such a clinical look to the final picture.
You will of course have to use a tripod. I go for something substantial, like the Manfrotto 504HD head with 100mm bowl
. This is great for quickly finding level whilst at the same time having a rock solid platform to eliminate wobble. You will still need to use a relatively fast shutter speed to eliminate wobble of your subject in the breeze, but anything you can do to increase your depth of field to maximise the amount of your subject you get in focus is a good thing.
If you have birds raising a family in a nest box in the garden, make a simple homemade hide and get some images of the adults coming and going.
The most basic hide comes in the form of a sheet, suspended on poles, which you can sit behind. Both Blue and Great Tits will generally ignore you if they can't see you once they reach their nest. An even better hide is a small tent (a camping loo tent is ideal or of course you can use a purpose built portable hide). You will need the longest focal length lens you can get; nothing short of 300mm and preferably more, and this in turn will need a solid support system.
Set up with an oblique view across the front of the nest box, rather than directly facing it. By doing so, you are much more likely to get views of the birds' faces as they arrive with food. Make a note of the time when the best light is landing on the box - I prefer hazy bright to direct sunlight, and have patience. If you suspect the adult birds are nervous of your presence at any stage, pack up and try again another day.
To find out more about Simon King's work please visit www.simonkingwildlife.com