Photography News Issue 35

Photography News | Issue 35 | absolutephoto.com

23

Technique

is gruesome but the image is just so beautiful. The photo has such drama, it feels like it’s unfolding in front of you and immediately you’re hooked; it needs no words.” Gutoski’s picture, which shows the aftermath of deadly fight between vulpine species also has a simple and elegant composition and great contrast in its colours; “the foxes both facing the same way, the clash of red against white and the detail of their furs just makes an image that has real impact.” Barrie’s winning shot, On the edge, stands out for similar, albeit less gory reasons. It’s a portrait of life on the rock face, and is unlike many other photos in terms of its composition and energy. The vertiginous angle, looking down the cliff makes it immediately stand out and the nesting birds lead your eye into the wheeling white subjects over the dark water. The picture gives the viewer a chance to really get a sense of life in the gannet colony, which was Barrie’s intention all along, and it does it with impact and imagination. Talking the field It’s obvious that good wildlife photography is about something greater than just technique; the latter is very important, but a fresh, inspiring view is just as vital. We’ll come onto technique shortly, but, as Barrie’s photos (and other shots in the BWPA competition) show, fieldcraft and observation of the subject will find you angles and moments that happy snappers miss, no matter how classy their kit. To prove the point, although he now shoots on a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Barrie’s winning

picture was captured on a Canon EOS 600D, andheactuallycuthisteethinwildlifeshooting on a Canon G7; “that was a Christmas present frommy parents and, in using it, I soon found that nature photography contented me most. You just can’t beat finding a spot off the beaten track, settling down with the camera and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.” The experience yougain in scoutingwildlife subjects tends to transcend the gear, as Barrie explains in terms of shooting subjects like roe deer and pheasants; “For those it’s very much about fieldcraft and research to understand their behaviour. You have to think about the direction of the wind, cover, every noise, and only move when the animal isn’t looking. It’s very much a guessing game too; you’re never walking straight to the animal, you’re trying to predict where it might move to so that you can get yourself into position ahead of it. Then when you’ve achieved that it’s about trying to capture natural behaviour.” Of course, clothing is also very important and any attempt to disguise yourself from the subject can pay dividends, as Barrie discovered on an early attempt shooting a roe deer lying in the grass. “I had just crawled my way into position when he lifted his head and glanced in my direction. I threw myself onto my back and lay in the long grass. I thought I was being covert – but I wasn’t fooling him with my black trousers and navy fleece hiding amongst straw coloured grass… he just took off into the sunset. Since then, I make sure to wear natural colours.” With the sea birds he often shoots, though, Barrie says fieldcraft is less important, and this makes theman ideal introduction if you’re just starting out with wildlife; “you can often just hike the cliffs looking for good vantage points and seabirds are much less wary than foxes or deer would be.” But the trust of seabirds must be respected he adds, “you have to make sure not to disturb their nests, because if you do, then you expose eggs or chicks to predators, which is completely irresponsible.” Specialist hides can also be very useful, allowing you to blend inwith the environment and capture more natural behaviour, but they

Fieldcraft and observation of the subject will get angles and moments that happy snappers miss

Top Urban Wildlife category winner 2015, London starling gang, by Tomos Brangwyn. Above left Hidden Britain category winner 2015, Dew-covered crane fly, shot in the Peak District, National Park, Derbyshire, England, by Alex Hyde. Left A North Atlantic puffin, shot on the Isle of May, Scotland, as part of Barrie Williams’ work with the Scottish Seabird Centre. Barrie shot with a Canon EOS 7DMark II and EF 100-400mmMark II (1/1250sec at f/5.6, ISO 400): “I went there with the aim of photographing a puffin with a beak full of sand eels. Job done!”

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