Si­mon Roy

AD­VEN­TURES OF A WILDLIFE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER LET IT SNOW

Practical Photography (UK) - - January -

Mak­ing the best of the weather, be it rain, shine or snow.

AS THE DAYS SHORTEN AND THE COLOURS of au­tumn fade away, the first frosts of win­ter roll in like a bell tolling the bit­ter sea­son to come. The con­trast can be al­most as se­vere as the con­di­tions, ut­terly bleak one day and to­tally mag­i­cal the next. When it’s dull, it’s dark, but the light qual­ity on a clear win­ter’s day is stun­ning.

For the wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher, this can be a sea­son of plenty, as nat­u­ral food dwin­dles and wary crea­tures adapt in or­der to sur­vive. Mam­mals are seen more reg­u­larly, as they for­age new ar­eas closer to man-made habi­tats. Raptors such as buz­zards and red kites will scav­enge road­kill or search field edges for earth­worms.

Song­birds, or passer­ines, are a com­mon sight dur­ing the colder months in gar­dens, parks and na­ture re­serves, where bird feed­ers are used. I will al­ways try and have a win­ter feed­ing sta­tion es­tab­lished some­where close to home as this is a re­li­able source of pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­ni­ties in a sit­u­a­tion that is rel­a­tively easy to con­trol.

Un­for­tu­nately, one thing you can never con­trol is the weather, and in­clement con­di­tions will se­ri­ously in­flu­ence the set­tings you use and the qual­ity of the re­sult­ing im­ages. There are some oc­ca­sions when you just have to make the best of it, when trav­el­ling for ex­am­ple, but at lo­cal sites I sim­ply won’t shoot in sub­stan­dard con­di­tions. For many peo­ple, quite un­der­stand­ably, a fore­cast of frost and snow is bad news, whereas chil­dren and pho­tog­ra­phers love it. This is es­pe­cially true if a sub­ject is al­ready vis­it­ing an area reg­u­larly as you now have all the in­gre­di­ents to make highly commercial im­ages. A robin on a gar­den fork han­dle is a nice pic­ture; in the snow it’s a front cover!

THERE ARE SOME OC­CA­SIONS WHEN YOU JUST HAVE TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT…

A num­ber of years ago I worked with a fam­ily of bank voles that lived un­der a flowerbed near to the bird feed­ers in my gar­den. Al­though I had stopped pho­tograph­ing the voles by mid-au­tumn I still spot­ted them reg­u­larly through the win­ter, and this led to an un­ex­pected op­por­tu­nity. The tem­per­a­ture had dropped and Arc­tic con­di­tions were fore­cast de­spite it be­ing late in the sea­son. My thoughts turned to the voles and how to cap­ture them in the snow. Us­ing a flat piece of wood, about 50cm square, I cre­ated a plat­form above the ground, just high enough for the voles to move un­der. I then drilled out a 5cm hole to­wards the cen­tre so they could climb through.

Later that day it started to snow and by the fol­low­ing morn­ing the gar­den was cov­ered. I set up my gear close to the ground and pushed a stick through the hole in the wood so I could com­pose the scene. Stick re­moved, I laid some food par­ti­cles in front of the hole, hid­den from view be­fore sprin­kling a hand­ful of fresh snow over the top – the trap was set. My hope was that a vole would tun­nel un­der the wood and then push up through the snow to feed. Af­ter about an hour I no­ticed move­ment and then a lit­tle head ap­peared. I shot us­ing a sin­gle fo­cal point with the aper­ture stopped down to in­crease the depth-of-field. A touch of over­ex­po­sure helped to high­light the sub­ject against the snow. 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. si­mon­roypho­tog­ra­phy.co.uk

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