Mike Warburton Photography

EQUIPMENT

By far the most useful of all available camera types for the Nature Photographer is the Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR).This is primarily due to the wide range of different lenses available to suit every eventuality.For close up work on subjects such as Fungi,Insects etc you can get away with using the standard kit lens (usually 18-55mm) that came with your camera.This has a very close minimum focussing distance so suits this work perfectly.It is also very handy as a landscape lens.

For subjects such as Birds and Wild Animals then either a large zoom or prime lens is a must.Try to buy the best quality you can afford as its the glass that determins the quality of the image.Also try to get the longest focal length you can as with Nature Photography reach is everything.Personally I use a Sigma EX 50-500mm zoom.The image quality is excellent but I also like the flexibility of being able to zoom back for composition.With these longer focal lengths camera shake becomes an issue so the use of a tripod is a must.Again,buy the best and stongest you can afford or alternatively get yourself a beanbag.These are small bags filled with polystyrene balls that you can rest on fences,walls,car windows etc as a form of portable support.  

Macro/close up work

When working with close up subjects Depth Of Field will always be an issue.This means stopping down the lens as much as possible and will nearly always require the use of a tripod due to the slower shutter speeds.Subjects such as Fungi are much easier due to the obvious fact that they wont run,hop or fly away and are a great place to start.Once you have found your subject you need to get either eye level or below it for the best effect.As I said,either a tripod or beanbag will be a necessity for this kind of work.Set your aperture to between f16- f22 as a start point and focus on the stalk.This should ensure the whole of the Fungi will be in focus depending on its size.Reflectors are a great way to light up the gills underneath the fungi and with different coloured foil card from any stationers you can get some really good effects.I apply the same techniques to insects etc but just have to work faster

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Perched/feeding station Birds

As with all Wildlife species Birds can move very quickly and very rarely pose for you so you have to try and get them to land where you want them too.A good way is to either go to a recognised feeding station or set one up yourself.This method of Bird photography is becoming more and more popular with photographers due to the comfort of shooting from a warm hide where the subjects are just a few feet away.The methods I use at my feeding station are to have the food set out lower than my eye level and have the attractive lichen/moss covered perches set higher as birds will nearly always use these to `drop`onto the food.You will only have have a split second to take the shot before it drops down to feed but that is all it takes.You should build/position your hide facing North so that the sun/light is always behind you lighting up the scene in front.Take care with which material the hide is built from though as the birds will see any movement in strong sunlight via your sillouette and its a good idea to build/position it backing onto a hedge or similar.

 

Birds In Flight

This is one of the more difficult aspects of Bird Photography and every photographer has his/her own different techniques.These are some of mine.

Firstly you need light,and lots of it especially if you intend freezing the action.I find the best BIF (Birds In Flight) shots are ones with a background rather than a plain sky.These are much more difficult to obtain though as you need to keep the focus point on the bird or your focus will quickly shift to the background.My method is to shoot in manual mode as with all my photography nowadays with an exposure reading taken from a neutral part of the scene such as grass.This will ensure the shots will be correctly exposed whether the background goes from ground or to sky.Selecting the centre focus point only will make it easier to follow the subject although it still isnt easy and takes some practice.Taking a loaf of bread to the local park or lake and practicing on the Gulls will have you shooting pin sharp flight shots in no time.After this you can be more creative by purposely setting a slow shutter speed and panning with the bird.This will give lots of wing/background blur for a sense of movement.

STALKING WILDLIFE

All wild animals have a natural fear of humans so stalking can be a very rewarding method of Wildlife Photography.

Firstly you need to get yourself camouflaged up to blend in with your surroundings be it woodland,coast or open hill.You dont need to buy the latest state of the art gear either.My camo clothes are over twenty years old and still get me the shots.Then you need to disguise your scent as this is usually the first thing a wild animal will pick up on so no after shave or deodorant.I also recommend that you never wash your gear either as all the dirt,leaf mould and goodness knows what you crawl through will help to disguise your scent.You also need to position yourself downwind of your intended quarry to also aid in disguising your scent.Next is to avoid breaking the skyline as the human shape will have everything running/flying in the opposite direction very quickly.Look through cover and around rocks rather than over the top of them.Sunlight is also a great way of concealing your approach as all wildlife will struggle to make you out with the sun in its eyes especially when its low in the sky.Sound is also a big giveaway to a humans approach so silence is the key here.On the open hill and even in woodland sounds/voices can carry a very long way which is why I work alone 99% of the time.Another good way to shoot wildlife is to study your subjects habits.It is well known that to get good wildlife shots you need to gain as much knowledge of  your intended species as possible.This will help when staking out a Fox earth,Badger sett,Deer rut or similar as you will learn when to go there,where to position yourself and at what time of year.