Norfolk photographer Tom Welton gives tips for photographing wildlife in your garden
PUBLISHED: 14:38 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:52 27 April 2020
With some of the world’s greatest photographers turning their hand to garden wildlife photography during lockdown, Kate Wolstenholme talks to Norfolk wildlife photographer Tom Welton to get his hints and tips on successfully capturing the life in our gardens.
During lockdown, it seems that many of us have become budding wildlife enthusiasts for the worlds of creatures living on our doorsteps. Photographing these animals is a great way to learn about them, develop a new skill and be entertained during lockdown - and spring could not have come at a better time.
Tom Welton’s biggest tip for photographing any animal is to get them to place themselves where you want them to be. This can be done by creating small habitats or placing food out for them; “It is all about setting up different scenarios and scenes.” He recommends leaving the scenes for a day or so before getting your camera out, to give the wildlife time to get used to it being there. Depending where you live, you can tempt in a range of species with the right habitats and food.
“Set the feeders up either where you can see them from a window, or where you can be fairly inconspicuous. Make sure the background is clean and all one dark colour and that you are not facing the sun.” Mr Welton mentions that blue tits and robins are easier to photograph as they will be more willing to come closer to you.
“If you set up a feeder, set up an aesthetically pleasing branch or prop, to encourage the birds to hop onto before the feeder, that way you will get natural looking photographs of the birds. I have got an old wooden fork handle that I set up nearby. You could also drill a hole in that and put some seeds in the hole.”
Mr Welton suggests that another interesting way to photograph birds would be to make a reflection pool using a wide, shallow tray filled with water and built up at the back with logs, food, moss etc. for the birds to perch on.
You do not have to own a lot of photographic kit. Mr Welton says, “Things which would be good to photograph with a phone would be things like butterflies, or toads and frogs, which are now starting to venture into gardens.” He suggests setting up a terracotta pot on its side, with lots of moss for the toads and frogs.
This is the perfect time of year to be planting pollinator friendly flowers (bulbs and seeds can be ordered online), which will attract butterflies and insects. You could also create bug hotels from bamboo sticks, which solitary bee species particularly love.
For those of you using a DSLR on manual mode, Mr Welton’s go to settings when photographing wildlife would be ISO 100 and aperture of f/5.6 (f/11 to get a group of animals sharp, or a bigger aperture for a more artistic depth of field). He then sets his shutter speed between 1/250 and 1/1000, depending on the light.
For the best results whilst keeping your distance so as not to scare off the animal, Mr Welton suggests a remote shutter release. If you do not own one of these they can be purchased relatively cheaply online, with the options for a cable or a radio signal. These allow your camera to be much closer than you are to the subject.
For photographing at night, Tom suggests setting up a high post with food on top for owls, or a water bowl and a little food for hedgehogs as part of a scene (meal worms or cat food is their favourite). A flash or a continuous light source would be needed for this and from Mr Welton’s experience, the wildlife are not bothered by the light.
Birds are most active at dawn and during the ‘golden hours’ at sunrise and sunset. Mr Welton suggests that this is the best time to be photographing them as well as it being the nicest light. For insects, the best time is when it is warmest and for owls and hedgehogs, after-dark is best.
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