What do you think of when someone say’s the magic words ‘wildlife photography’?
This was just one of the questions asked and discussed when teaching wildlife photography at Denmark Farm. It is one of those deceptive questions that at first glance has an easy answer but which quickly leads to hard realities.
On asking this question people’s heads are often filled with idyllic scenes, rolling landscapes filled with rivers and waterfalls, miles of forest and great towering trees or sweeping grasslands and huge mountains touching the clouds. These scenes are often populated with very friendly, large and perhaps colourful exotic animals that love to pose for photos and in this imaginary world our budding photographer is often decked out with all the latest kit, including professional cameras and lenses that just cannot miss when they are raised to take a photograph.
I can completely understand if this is the image that comes to mind when asked to think on wildlife photography (indeed this dream is one that I myself have from time to time) because we are spoilt here in Britain by an exceptional natural history unit at the BBC that regularly brings us the most amazing natural wonders that our planet has to offer. The quality of the camera work in these documentaries is outstanding, and even though there is now a trend towards to explaining how difficult it was to get the shot, this understanding is somewhat suspended when we are watching the edited film from the comfort of our home (it is hard to imagine just how cold, hungry and tired the camera man really is). Many natural history film makers double up as wildlife stills photographers and their documentary work is often backed up by stunning photographs. On top of this each year yet more photographs are submitted to the big wildlife photographic competitions within the UK, particularly the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the British Wildlife Photographic Awards. Each year the quality of the entries seems to take another step forward; particularly I think in respect to the raising of the overall standard i.e. there have always been a few exceptional photographers but there are now more and more very good photographers coming through and so it must be slowly getting harder to judge these competitions.
It is in the light of the above that I consider those that are coming to wildlife photography for the first time. Wildlife photography is challenging, I think it is possible to consider it as an extreme sport: you have to know your camera well and be able to use it outside in all conditions, it helps to at least have some knowledge of your subject, you have to be able to put up with the changeable British weather and more than anything you have to be patient; add a dollop of endurance and a spoonful of luck and you are about there. It can mean long days, a fatigued body and lots of disappointments. From this point of view it is a wonder that anyone starts the process of becoming a wildlife photographer but start it they do and on beginning they often find it a wholly satisfying and rewarding activity. In fact I believe that it is the challenge that makes this such a satisfying activity; it is extremely difficult to take a good, natural, wildlife photograph. Many people struggle, some fail, maybe some cut corners but nothing beats the feeling of managing to take, even one, genuinely good wildlife photograph. There is a real sense of achievement gained and a very real connection to the species that you have managed to photograph.
All of these photographs were ‘snapped’ last year whilst Simon was teaching a similar wildlife photography course at Denmark Farm
Is it impossible to learn? No I don’t believe this is the case, difficult perhaps but it can be broken down and those different elements can be taught and learnt and quite quickly newcomers can improve their wildlife photography; this is a very rewarding process.
Each year I run a series of wildlife photography courses at Denmark Farm and time and again it proves to be excellent location. The central teaching rooms, the onsite accommodation and facilities surrounded by acres of woodland, meadows, ponds and streams means that it is a joy to teach here. Denmark Farm has just the right balance of teaching space verses natural habitat and it is also excellently located in terms of the wider landscape, with a number of varied and interesting wild locations close to hand; I find that it makes a great base from which to go out and explore this area of West Wales. When all is said and done it is the perfect place to learn wildlife photography.
Simon Tune – Proprietor of ‘Adar Nature Optics‘ and ‘Simon Tune Photography’.