Garden wildlife photography has become a passion of mine. It amazes me sometimes at the vast diversity of flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi living in our home gardens.
I'm particularly interested in imaging bird species - the common (and not so common) 'garden bird'
Having spent time watching and understanding the different habits and traits of each type of bird I've adapted different feeders and setups to enable me a better chance of capturing the images I'm hoping for in my work.
I'm continually tweaking setups, coming up with new ideas and adjusting feeds to best try and create what I want in each image, and although I'm always aware and ready to take an unplanned grab shot outside of my sets, it's often more a case of just sitting and waiting knowing that everything is in place for the image to be created once the bird comes in, and all performed calmly and quietly without disturbing the animal in its natural habitat.
Patience plays a key role to all wildlife photography, but knowing your subject is just as important; what they feed on, where they feed and how they approach.
Good field work, along with the ability to camouflage yourself into the environment also dramatically enhances your chances of capturing a good image.
I always aim to keep my setups as clear from visual clutter as possible, allowing the viewer to concentrate on the subject and not the surroundings.
One of the only elements I don't have control of is the quality of light. As I rely on natural light alone the sun plays a major role in my photography. I have my current hide, and adjacent setups positioned so that I get the low morning sunlight coming from behind my left hand side onto the subject, and then travelling across the sky behind me throughout the day and continually lighting my photography setups for the birds. Also, using more than one setup station at a time allows me to switch should one drop into shadow as the sun moves position and the light passes over any foliage.
I have the trees surrounding my setups cut and thinned to allow a certain amount of light through without flooding my sets. Early morning dappled light can be quite beautiful when the low sun flickers through foliage, especially in bird photography.
Maintaining a regular supply of fresh food and water at your chosen setup is also important. There’s not much point in randomly putting food out and hoping birds will turn up while you’re sat there if they aren’t use to it. They need to learn that there's a continual supply of food and water, and become comfortable with returning time over to feed….
I once noticed a woodpecker that landed on a certain tree in the garden, so I started to offer a continual supply of fresh nuts and suet for it in that area. Both the male and female from the pair now return on a daily basis to feed. However, once I had them regularly returning I set upon slightly moving the position of their food, slowly over a period time. I now have them in a better position on the tree that offers me a good chance of capturing the image I want in better light and a little less cluttered (I just need them to come at the right time of day now, and sunlight is good – easy!! Ha)
Below is an image of my feeder setup in the trees at the end of the garden, and what was a newly installed reflection pool (in the summer of 2014) that I built from an 8ft sheet of timber and some batton timbers
The area has somewhat changed a little since. There are logs all around the reflection pool, to hide the walls, and I have moved the feeder positions, opting to use Gardman feeder poles instead of hangers. These allow me to place individual feeders at differing heights and in different positions in front of the feeding branches rather from hanging within the tree itself. That way when I get the birds landing on the props they're hopefully facing my hide (and camera), before jumping on to the feeders, bettering my chances of a good image!
My make shift hide sits opposite under a tree (Shown below), which is essentially a garden chair with a fishing umbrella over the top tied into the tree, and some camo closing the gap in front of me. Access is made from the side. Its quite comfy and dry, all be it somewhat breezy sometimes!, but most importantly it looks natural and conceals me quite well.