Gar­den sa­fari

Cap­ture amaz­ing wildlife images at home

NPhoto - - Front Page - See more of Richard’s Back Gar­den Sa­fari ebook at www. richard­peters.co.uk/ebook En­ter the code nphoto at check­out for a 25% dis­count

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 [1] 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

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