Si­mon Roy


Practical Photography (UK) - - Contents -

Prov­ing wildlife can be at­tracted to al­most any gar­den.

TO­WARDS THE END OF LAST SUM­MER, I moved from my old house, at the edge of a small vil­lage, to a new-build in a more ur­ban set­ting. The gar­den I left be­hind was large and wild, with ma­ture trees and dense hedges where it bor­dered arable farm­land. Over the years I had man­aged the habi­tat to en­cour­age wildlife and it had re­paid me with won­der­ful en­coun­ters and some of my most suc­cess­ful im­ages.

In com­plete con­trast the new gar­den was rel­a­tively small and to­tally bar­ren – three fences and a heap of poor-qual­ity earth. Once I had set­tled in, I lev­elled the soil, re­mov­ing weeds and sift­ing out de­bris ready for seed­ing the fol­low­ing spring. The house is an end plot near to a busy road but for­tu­nately, be­tween the two, stands a good-sized sycamore tree whose outer branches creep over a fence and into my gar­den.

One of the things I find most sat­is­fy­ing is ob­serv­ing and pho­tograph­ing wildlife from my home and I was de­ter­mined to con­tinue this de­spite the chal­lenges pre­sented by the new lo­ca­tion. I’d ad­vo­cated to oth­ers that good im­ages could be made in al­most any gar­den, no mat­ter its size, and now I had to prac­tice what I had preached.

Over the fol­low­ing weeks I heard lots of birds in the de­cid­u­ous sycamore as its leaves grad­u­ally turned from green to gold. Hand­some finches fed on the last of the he­li­copter seeds and flocks of long-tailed tits passed busily through. There is an­other, near-iden­ti­cal tree, about 30 yards away and the birds use these trees en route to a small copse.

I de­cided to set up a few feed­ers near to the over­hang­ing branches against a piece of wood where I had op­ti­misti­cally


at­tached a clothes line. Af­ter sev­eral days I started hear­ing a pair of coal tits call­ing to one an­other as they came in for their break­fast, stop­ping off in the tree first to make sure the coast was clear. One of the birds would of­ten land on the clothes line be­fore drop­ping down to feed. In­spired by this be­hav­iour I be­gan my first project at the new house hop­ing to cap­ture the coal tit next to an item of cloth­ing to il­lus­trate the bird’s tiny size. I dug out an old pair of jeans and hung these on the line at a point where they could be pho­tographed from a win­dow. The weather was fine so I left the jeans out for a few days to al­low the birds to get used to them.

When work­ing in lim­ited space, depth-of-field, com­po­si­tion and sub­ject po­si­tion be­come even more im­por­tant. I needed to use a wide aper­ture to blur out the back­ground but wanted all the main el­e­ments to be in fo­cus so I sewed the jeans to­gether to stop the but­ton sag­ging for­ward, pulling it into the fo­cal plane. I at­tached a small pot of food to the back-left pocket of the jeans and this was filled with some ex­tra tasty treats.

By now, great tits and blue tits were also vis­it­ing and typ­i­cally they would all come in at the same time. Coal tits are ag­ile and tena­cious lit­tle birds and they soon dis­cov­ered the food pot be­hind the jeans. On this oc­ca­sion the tit landed in the per­fect spot and glanced back at me which re­ally makes the shot.

Si­mon Roy is an award-win­ning wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher based in York­shire. His im­ages have been highly com­mended in both the Bri­tish Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­phy Awards and In­ter­na­tional Gar­den Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year com­pe­ti­tions. si­mon­roypho­tog­ra­

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