For professional photographer Rob Cottle, the beauty of wildlife never fails to ignite a sense of wonder. Find out how a camera change lightened the load of his nature captures.
Rob Cottle is an “image maker, workshop taker, critter lover and vegetarianist” with a love for wildlife photography. Although the three P’s (perseverance, planning and patience) now define his approach, his shooting ethos has changed dramatically over the last few years.
“When I first started, like most, I had a tendency to go out without much of a plan and end up with grab shots. I’d rush from sighting to sighting and mostly end up frustrated,” he says. “I soon realised that patience was the only way, and to not follow action but wait for it to come to you. I will often position myself for the light rather than the subject.”
Rob goes beyond just taking record shots of wildlife. “I try to create an image that evokes a mood or atmosphere,” he says. “I make all my images in camera and use as little processing as possible. I rarely stay out much more than an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset – it’s all about the combining of light, the animal and its surroundings that make up the image.”
Sparrowhawk This bird of prey almost appears to be laughing “You never quite know what to expect with wildlife photography,” Rob says
Besides delivering superb image quality, Rob needs a camera that delivers all the essential functions at his fingertips. “It needs to be customisable to the way I work, responsive, and the autofocus needs to put up with the demands of wildlife photography (which in my case is predominantly carried out in low light). I want to travel light and not feel encumbered by equipment.”
Rob used a Canon EOS 7D Mark II as his wildlife-capturing tool for years, alongside an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I as his ‘everything else’ camera. “I always loved using it, so when the E-M1 Mark II was released and the reviews were extremely favourable for wildlife work, I was extremely keen to try it – especially when I wanted to reduce the weight of my kit!”
After trialling the system, Rob was knocked out that a camera “this sexy” was on a par if not surpassing his previous cameras. “When I pack my kit into my backpack I reduce the weight by over a third and this is a huge help when flying or simply carrying,” he says. “I have now made the complete switch to mirrorless and only own micro four thirds equipment.”
The bull’s eye Rob used the Olympus M.300mm f4.0 for this intimate portrait. “It’s super sharp, weather-sealed and built like a tank,” he says
Rob recently bought the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II along with the Olympus 300mm f4 Pro lens and uses this setup with a previously bought Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro (to go with the first E-M1 Mark I). “This setup has enabled me to replicate my previous Canon gear at a third of the weight but no loss in quality, control or facilities,” he explains. “The autofocus is fast, white balance is the best I’ve used and the wysiwyg display is always a huge help in judging exposure.”
While Rob may have changed his tools, for him, the beauty of wildlife never fails to lose its sense of wonder. “I don’t need to look much further than the wildlife; it engages and inspires and I desperately try to do it justice.”
Puffin in the grass Taken on Skomer Island, Rob used a1/2,500sec shutter speed to ensure that he achieved a pin-sharp result