Wildlife Photography - Getting Your Best Shot Easily
Do you struggle to get fantastic photos of wildlife you love?
Are they difficult to find in the kind of light wildlife photography demands? Or plain difficult to find?
Have you tried rescue centres and animal sanctuaries only to be disappointed with the cages getting in the way?
Have you tried demonstrations only to get shots with unnatural backgrounds?
It's a common struggle.
But there is a secret behind many professional shots that you can use too.
If you want to get your best-ever wildlife photography shots - read on.
Wildlife Centres Photography Days
When you turn up at a Wildlife Centre on a normal day, you'll wander around and view a variety of animals in their habitats. There is always a fence or plexiglass screen between you and the subject. If the subject isn't hiding away, of course.
However, if you book in advance for a specialist wildlife photography day, you'll get to meet the wildlife in the company of the keepers inside the enclosures. They'll encourage the animals to come out, often by offering their favourite snack.
One of my favourite such places is the British Wildlife Centre at Lingfield in Surrey. I spent two days there; the first day was for photographing gorgeous British Owls, and the second was for photographing some amazing mammals.
The owls were brought to a 25-acre wooded site and an adjacent field where they sat or flew in their natural surroundings. A good amount of time was spent with each bird so that all members of the group got the shots they wanted. There were only around 10 people allowed per group, so there was plenty of room. It was possible to get really close to each subject, so massive long lenses weren't a necessity.
For the mammals day, which included foxes, otters, wild cats, red squirrels, hedgehogs and harvest mice, we accompanied the keepers into the enclosures where possible, or the smaller ones were brought out to a naturalised area. There were no obstructions between us and the subjects.
Feeding Stations and Reserves
If the idea of captive animals, no matter how well treated, doesn't appeal, another option is to visit a reserve with a hide or an official feeding station.
Living in Wales, I'm lucky to be close to feeding stations for Red Kites. These magnificent birds of prey were all but extinct in the 1990s, but a programme of reintroduction and feeding at Gigrin Farm has been vital to their recovery. More recently, regular feeding has taken place at the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest visitor centre, further supporting the growing population. All these birds are completely wild and free; they simply know that food is available at their favourite restaurant!
Reserves run by organisations such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts provide hides or viewing platforms to observe wildlife, with information boards on regular visiting species. There's a tiny reserve near where I live, which has a beautiful hide overlooking a small lake. This is home to a surprising number of water birds, including a Little Egret.
Reserves are not only for birdlife; mammals such as the Red Squirrel can also be seen from specialist hides in places such as the Dingle, Anglesey. Boat trips to the Farne Islands get you up close and personal with rare Grey Seals (as well as the charming and comical Atlantic Puffin.)
Get Your Best Shot Yet
If you are a beginning wildlife photographer, I would highly recommend a day at a Wildlife Centre that provides specialist photography days. you'll definitely go home with some great shots.
Once you've started honing your skills, try visiting feeding stations where wildlife will congregate at a preset time.
Don't forget, though, your own garden is a great place to set up feeding stations for your local wildlife. Hedgehogs, foxes, bees and butterflies can all provide hours of fun, especially if you provide them with a desirable habitat.