Capture amazing wildlife images at home
With this series, I wanted to show you don’t have to travel far to take interesting wildlife photos. One night, I spotted a fox in a neighbour’s garden. That prompted me to try to photograph it, and from there the project built momentum. I shot in my own garden over a year, and used a Camtraptions PIR sensor to take most of the images. In the early days I was triggering the camera manually with a Nikon radio release.
Almost all the photos were taken on my Nikon D810s, but there are a couple of photos taken with a D750 and D5500. I almost exclusively used the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G lens. Once stopped down, it’s perfect for wide-angle photos, where you don’t need a shallow depth of field.
The D810 has a really quiet shutter, which helps in the middle of the night when there is little sound around. Although wildlife grows accustomed to the sound of the camera quickly, the quieter that noise the better. The PIR sensor was also essential, as it enabled me to actually start getting some sleep again!
The problem with using camera traps is that you have to previsualize the entire image and hope the animal and weather fit in with those plans as well. I had many failed attempts, and less than 50 images that turned out perfectly. The ebook (see below) shows not just the end results, but also the failures I learned from, as it was important to me to show the thought process, and the building blocks from idea to final image.
There were some technical challenges early on, such as working out the best way of connecting flashes using wired and wireless methods. I also had silly mistakes such as batteries failing, and forgetting to turn things on when setting up in a rush – I’d never done anything similar so it was a huge learning curve.
Originally I thought I’d just write a blog post on this project, but the longer it went on the more involved it became, and I realized it was bigger than that. I started to write a rough book draft, then found out one of the images, Shadow Walker, had won the Urban category of Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and was overall winner of the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year – both in 2015. That put a real deadline into my head, as I knew it would be great to tie the ebook release in with the awards announcements later that year.
Out of the shadows
Originally I thought I’d just write a blog post on this project, but the longer it went on, the more involved it became, and I realized it was bigger than that
Shadow Walker  has become the most recognized image from the project – not least because of the success it’s had, but also because it’s unusual, in that it’s a wildlife photo that technically doesn’t have any wildlife in it. I wanted to capture just the shadow, as a way of conveying the story that urban foxes come out at night as we go to sleep, spending most of their time in the shadows.
For the shot to work, I needed a clear, moonless night to show the stars, and the fox to be in the right position when the motion sensor triggered. It took six months from concept to completion, but the result was worth all the disappointing failures along the way!
I really enjoyed the challenge of learning something new. I’d spent so long looking at the world through a telephoto lens that learning to see through a wide-angle lens – and the technical aspects of working with flashguns and camera traps – gave my enthusiasm a huge boost.
1 The idea behind this fox silhouette was to tell the story of the relationship between fox and human, without showing either 2 Richard wanted to shoot all the images in his own garden, which proved challenging because of its small size 3 With natural green space shrinking, Richard thinks it’s important to encourage wildlife into gardens. He used birdseed, peanuts and fresh water to create a welcoming environment