From Kaleidoscopic peacock feathers to the courtship rituals of lovesick gannets, the natural world is a treasure trove of spectacular sights and stories. One in which Tesni has truly immersed herself in…
When and how did wildlife and nature become your specialist subject?
For the hugely experienced bird photographer, his camera of choice is the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Olympus E-M1 Mkll, which David claims has changed the way he takes photographs. One of the key features he rates highly is simply the size compared with his old DSLR systems. ‘It’s small and very light. So I’m walking farther and creating more opportunities. And I can be more reactive and dexterous when stalking birds.’ On the front of the E-M1 MkII, David uses a 300mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter, giving an effective 840mm in full-frame terms. This is the perfect focal length for impactful bird photography, and with my set-up being so light, I can be nimble and never feel that I am carrying too much gear.’
How has your work progressed since?
My style is still in a constant state of flux and change, but I’m definitely starting to develop my own ‘style’ of photography. I have also started working a lot more on our own British wildlife species since taking the step to becoming a full-time photographer a year ago, however I’m still eager to work abroad with other species. These days I’m much more focused on the finer details of my work, setting specific targets and goals and thinking about how to go about achieving them.
Is there a profound difference between wildlife and nature?
I think the greatest challenge in photographing landscapes is in the early stages, when you’re looking to identify suitable sites and compositions. From that point, it’s a case of revisiting over and over again until the conditions come together. Wildlife, on the other hand, changes constantly. The unpredictable nature of animals will constantly keep you on your toes. Not only must you locate the subject, you need to be able to approach and spend time with them and hope it behaves favourably. You’re also at the mercy of the light and weather conditions. While I fully acknowledge that you make your own luck by dedicating time and effort to a subject, there’s always an element out of your control.
What are you trying to capture and how do you go about capturing it?
It’s about capturing something emotive or conveying a story. Each animal is brimming with personality and character. Capturing and expressing this through a photograph can be difficult, but it’s always what I’m looking to achieve. It requires spending many hours with specific individuals – over time I can recognise their tendencies and behaviours to anticipate the style of shots I may be able to achieve.
What are your kit requirements?
Confidence in my kit is absolutely essential. There’s nothing worse than feeling that you’ve missed an opportunity due to it letting you down. My go-to kit for wildlife is: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Olympus 300mm f/4, Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and Olympus 1.4x Converter. This encompasses the range of images I seek to achieve and, because of the size and weight, I can carry it with me wherever I go without having to worry about it being too heavy or cumbersome.
What’s the secret to great wildlife and nature photography?
I strongly believe it’s important to take images because you, as the photographer, like them and not to try to please others. Finding a way to differentiate your work and capturing things from a different perspective is what makes an image stand out. Photographing unique behaviours can only be achieved if you take the time to get to know your subject intimately. This will increase your understanding of their personality, allowing you to pre-empt certain behaviours, as well as giving you a greater chance of witnessing something unexpected in great conditions and light.
Tesni’s three Olympus essentials:
1. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Lightweight and with fast AF and tracking, this camera has given me the flexibility to try new techniques. Having migrated from a heavier system, I’d often miss opportunities due to the effort of having to handhold it. I’ve never had this issue with the E-M1.
2. Olympus M.ZUIKO 300mm f/4 IS PRO
It’s not always possible to get up close to wildlife without causing undue stress, so having a long telephoto is a must. The 300mm f/4 is incredibly sharp edge to edge. Achieving a 600mm equivalent focal length, I can capture those up-close and personal shots.
3. Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 40–150mm f/2.8
I have the bad habit of always filling the frame with my subjects and not focusing on their habitat, but this year it’s something I’m looking to rectify. The 40-150mm gives me greater flexibility, while still being sharp throughout the range. This gives me the best of both worlds.
Article featured in Practical Photography Magazine in March 2017