enough to my subject. Most birds and mammals, particularly in the UK, are very timid and difficult to approach, so I often find myself stalking my subjects, and using hides – both on land and water – in an attempt to get close enough. I believe subject knowledge and the art of fieldcraft is a huge part of wildlife photography. PN: Howdid you pick the projects that are featured in the book? BH: Both Ross and I decided on the assignments together. We made several Skype calls to discuss the book and we also met in person to do some shooting together and finalise the plans. We then had discussions with our publisher and we all agreed on the final 52. I feel we have come up with a nice mix of assignments that should have wide appeal, and be suited to both beginner and more experienced photographers. PN: What do you suggest to readers, keen to try out nature photography, shoot in the comingmonths? BH: As travel is still difficult, I would encourage people to look closer to home. Setting up a bird feeder in the back garden is a great way of attracting subjects to you, and with some carefully positioned natural perches, just a simple set-up can produce wonderful results. Winter is my favourite season for wildlife photography, the harsh weather can be used to great effect. Head out in the snow and you should find it possible to capture high-key images, which we cover in one of the assignments. In fact, shooting in adverse weather is a great way of telling a story. A flurry of snow, an intricate layer of frost, or even driving rain can portray a feeling of isolation and extremity. These are my favourite type of images, and probably why winter is my favourite season! PN: What handy hints and tips do you offer our readers wanting to get a deeper involvement in nature photography? BH: My first suggestion would be to learn as much as you can about your intended subject. The next step
Photography News: In terms of your nature photography, what has your pandemic year looked like with limited overseas ’ travel and three lockdowns, andwhat have you been photographing to help keep yourself busy? BenHall: It has been a very difficult year and the travel restrictions have, of course, had a huge affect on my work. I have had to cancel a couple of overseas’ trips, including a commissioned job to Australia. Looking at the positives, it has also meant I have been able to spend a lot more time than usual at home with my family. It has also given me the opportunity to work exclusively on local subjects, which is something I love to do anyway, but don’t always have the chance. I updated my garden bird images and I’ve been frequenting my local patch to photograph red deer, great crested grebes and a host of other subjects that can be found within a few miles of my house. PN: What nature subjects do you normally specialise in? BH: Although I enjoy photographing every aspect of nature, I specialise in bird and mammal photography. I like to capture images of nature in the environment and aim to produce images that tell a story, and hopefully connect with the viewer on an emotional level. I like to use the element of weather and light to conjure a particular atmosphere and seek out images that combine all of these factors. I began my photographic journey concentrating solely on UK wildlife, but as my work evolved, I started to travel more. As much as I enjoy visiting new places around the world, I still gain the most satisfaction from shooting locally and working on subjects that I know intimately. PN: What’s the biggest challenge inwhat you shoot? BH: I like to visualise my images, so often the most difficult part of realising my vision is to find a suitable location. Once I have found a reliable site, the next challenge is to simply get close
should be to just get out there and observe its behaviour, noting down any patterns that you see. Try to visualise your images and return to the same locations, this will allow you to build up knowledge of not only the subjects, but also the place itself, as well as small details in the light that would otherwise go unnoticed. It might sound time-consuming, but nature photography shouldn’t be rushed. Put the time in, and you will be rewarded. PN: Have you gonemirrorless yet? If so, which systemdid you opt for andwhy? Or, if you are sticking with your DSLR outfit, do you think you’ll ever switch tomirrorless? BH: For now, I am sticking with my trusty Canon EOS-1D XMark II. I have been very tempted by mirrorless, however, and the ones that I’ve tested I have been impressed with. I am constantly struggling with weight when it comes to taking flights abroad, so in this regard, a mirrorless system would be big advantage. A concern for me is howwell these smaller, more lightly built cameras cope in extreme environments. I am hoping to test this over the next year or two, and if I’m happy, I may well find myself switching to mirrorless in the near future. PN: What’s your favourite lens? BH: That’s a difficult question: I have two! If I’m limited to one, I would have to say my Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS. It is a true workhorse, which has been all over the world with me and has never let me down. I love the compressed perspective that this lens gives – its ability to separate the subject from its surroundings never fails to impress. I’ve even taken plenty of environmental images with this lens, so while it may not seem very versatile, it can still be used in a variety of situations. PN: What is your singlemost useful non-photographic accessory in your camera bag? BH: A roll-up mat to prevent myself from getting covered in mud when I’m lying on my stomach! PN: Finally, what are your key aims for this year? BH: I have a few projects in the pipeline, but much will depend on the Covid situation. I have trips to India and Finland planned, but will also be looking closer to home. There are plenty of local subjects that I have neglected over the past couple of years, so I plan on updating my coverage of those, as well as seeking out new opportunities, wherever they may be.
ABOVE Using a low viewpoint, along with a long lens, will throw everything except your subject out of focus
Field notes Depending on the terrain, time of year, and weather, shooting from ground level can be dirty work. Wear suitable clothing, or, if the opportunity allows, use a groundsheet of some sort. Ground-level photography can suit all wildlife: birds, mammals, reptiles, wild flowers and fungi.
TECHNIQUE l At a low angle, it may be easier to use your camera’s articulated LCD screen to compose your image using Live View l Resting your lens on a beanbag offers all the support you need and makes setting up quick and easy l Be careful not to obscure too much of your subject. Avoid vegetation that distracts from or covers key parts, such as the eyes
IMAGE The dark sky in this image helps to give a sense of atmosphere. The weather, the mountainous environment in the background and the delicate birds all combine to tell a story
ABOVE This image by Ben Hall is taken from Assignment 39: the decisive moment . Capturing a burst of images in high-speed drive mode increased the chances of securing a successful picture of this red squirrel in mid-air
Issue 85 | Photography News 19
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