I was born in Ilford, Essex, so was more of a “city boy” than a “country lad”, so I consider myself fortunate to now live in the countryside. I have had an interest in photography, not specifically wildlife photography, since my teens. My parents bought my first film SLR camera, a Praktica TL, made in what was then East Germany. It was built like a tank, but it taught me some of the basics except it wasn’t ISO then, it was ASA – colour profiles and white balance didn’t exist.
Work took me to South Africa and, like many photographers, lack of funds, working life, family and subsequently business commitments etc. took priority over a hobby, and I consequently drifted in and out of photography several times. My first real wildlife experience was unsurprisingly whilst living in South Africa and on a holiday to the outskirts of the Kruger National Park. At that time it was possible to drive a private vehicle anywhere in the park including dirt roads etc. Imagine following a herd of elephants in a car no bigger than a Ford Focus! And this was before mobile phones too – it was a good job we didn’t run out of fuel or, worse still, break down! However, really it is only recently that I have been able to commit some time and effort into photographing wildlife seriously.
I am self-taught, which is not unusual as most wildlife photographers are. On reflection I am surprised I achieved any satisfactory images at all early on. My camera settings were guesswork, a bit hit and miss to say the least, and I didn’t understand f-stops and depth of field etc. My attempts at post-processing were crude and very naive at best. But we all learn that that is part of the journey, and I am pleased to say that both my knowledge and hopefully my photography have now improved!
Over time I have learned to be more selective with my shot taking and I now take fewer images – I try to avoid shots that I know I will later delete, but you cannot be too selective and risk missing opportunities. I spend limited time in the lightroom, partly because I haven’t the skills and partly because I have neither the inclination nor the patience. I appreciate every photographer says the same! I do limit myself to lens correction and colour profile selection, which is done on import, plus minor adjustments in the basic panel. I do try to keep full frame if I can, but if necessary I crop my shots to improve composition – in my view it is not a problem with the large sensors and image quality of modern cameras. I know it is an obvious comment but I do try to get it right in camera – all photographers do – only some are more successful than others.
I very much enjoy the various challenges that wildlife photography poses, the physical challenges and the difficult conditions, the sub-zero temperatures and the remote locations and hand-holding heavy kit by hand can be physically demanding too. I also enjoy the mental challenge, in as much as wildlife photography requires patience (not something I had a lot of in business), sometimes waiting hours for some action. It’s a cliché but it is, after all, wildlife. Weather conditions can play a huge part and, in many respects, it is no different to landscape photography. The phrase “it is all about the light” still applies, but I would add “it’s all in the eyes too” I also enjoy the camera skills required for wildlife photography; it isn’t easy, one opportunity for the shot, miss it, and it’s gone. Gone for good, no second chance! Plus you need luck, lots of luck, to be in the right place at the right time with the right conditions for everything to come together. Photography can be very frustrating – no, extremely frustrating – but there is real satisfaction when you know you have bagged a good shot. Overall I enjoy the whole experience – the adventure, the travel, the basic accommodation, the challenge and the getting close to nature. All this, plus you meet some decent people along the way from various walks of life, but all with a common interest.
For years my images have been hidden on my Mac – this is my first website, which is still “work in progress”, and it will evolve and hopefully improve over time. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome any feedback.