Birds of Britain  
  The Monthly Web Magazine for Birdwatchers   
Home Guide to British Birds Birding news and events Bird reserves Birdwatching Clubs Mystery Bird Quiz Birdwatching FAQ's Bird Shop
 
More Features

More feature articles

 


Wildlife Photography

by Magnus Carlsson


Red Fox and Black Grouse

Who Am I?

I was moving around in the woods already when being slightly taller than a hand breadth, riding the back of my father and helping with picking berries - probably mostly eating them to be correct - but the important thing is that I was enjoying. Living next door to nature, slightly south of the arctic circle in the northern part of Sweden, has fuelled an interest into a passion of the very same. After dedicated having followed in the footsteps of Diana, having learnt how to read and find what I was looking for in nature in terms of wildlife I stumbled into photography and a whole new, wonderful, world was about to open!

Arctic Fox
Arctic Foxes

Most photos are exciting stories themselves, often with fierce ants in a minor part. It can be, troublesome to say the least, to sit absolutely still in a path of ants waiting to take the shot(!) I love challenges and I'm close to allergic to idleness. Harsh elements, warm and cold weather fascinates but it has to be extreme. I'm today freelancing as a wildlife photographer with the whole world as my work field. My current project is to gather the last pieces of material for a coffee-table book on Scandinavian wildlife.

Black Grouse
Black Grouse

What equipment would you recommend?

There's a jungle out there when it comes to gear for the presumptive buyer! I would need a platinum card to bear the costs, do I really need it all? No, you don't! Sure, big glass costs a small fortune but a good knowledge will get you far on the way. My main setup today consists of a Canon 1DsMkII and lenses ranging from 16-600mm. That being said one of the lenses I use the most for wildlife, aside from the fabulous 300:a, is my 24-70mm lens and we're talking close-ups! It all comes down to knowing your motives:

  • What biotops do they prefer?
  • What do they eat and what's the best place for this ie where can I expect to find them?
  • When are they active/eating in the day?
  • Would you be better of using a hide?
  • Does weather affect their moving pattern?

The more you know about your subject the easier you'll be able to anticipate their moves and get that price winning photo that you've already visualised or that marvelous photo which would look simply stunning matted & framed, hanging above the fire place.

Salmon
Salmon

CapercailleI still don't know what do buy, what would you recommend?

Go for one of the bigger brands: Canon or Nikon, both are fairly equal, make your choice based on personal preferences and needs. You may compare different camera specs on www.dpreview.com. A good starting setup for wildlife would be a 300/4 lens with an 1.4x extender and a digital camera body. Don't plunge down your credit card spending too much money on the camera body, instead try to invest in higher quality glass. You might also want to have a lens giving you an 80mm equivalent in focal width for people portraits and: don't forget about getting yourself a good - read heavy - tripod!

right: Capercaille

"Everyone who can see are able to photograph, what takes time is learning too see" A common mistake many commit is staying indoors when the weather gets nasty: rain, snow, mist... then missing out on conditions which all have potential of giving that extra edge to your images. The professional photographer always used to take a series of photos while the amateur took merely one or two. Historically the pro was the only one being able justify the film processing costs of taking say 50 photos and in the best case scenario ending up with one sellable"keeper". Today, thanks to the digital cameras, taking photos never has been cheaper. Practice makes a master and the direct feedback you get on your digital camera's LCD - learn how to read a histogram properly! - significantly shortens the learning curve.

Get down low!

Don't be afraid to take a step away from the conventional and experiment with different angles, go close, take a step back. Maybe a higher viewing angle would look better? As a rule of thumb, try to work from the same viewing angle as the subject, meaning you have to get down LOW when it comes to small mammals and some birds.

Do you like me just hate to haul around that 4½kg tripod? Put a better tripod head - a ball head - on your wish list, something that will make life a lot easier. Furthermore, don't underestimate the potential of the "around-the-corner" nature. As previously stated it's a lot about planning, knowing your subject and where do you have more time for this than on your own backyard?

Osprey

Workshops

Altogether it might feel overwhelming and somewhat abstract at first with the abundance of things to keep in mind. I'm arranging workshops for the beginning, advanced amateur photographer or the avid bird/wildlife watcher alike. We'll be working from pre setup hides, focusing on capercaillie, red-throated diver, black grouse, jumping salmon, beaver and sea eagle. You'll find more details on my homepage:www.taigavision.com

See you in the woods!

White-tailed Eagle
White-tailed Eagle (Sea Eagle)

Magnus Carlsson is a 24 year old Swedish photographer. His website has many more stunning images which are available as prints. You can also find details of his photography workshops. Magnus has agreed to judge our 'Photo of the Month' competition next month where the prize will be one of his stunning prints.