It’s important to accept that wildlife photography in the UK rewards patience. At the risk of making an obvious point: this ain’t Africa, where any guide with a jeep can get you within photographic distance of incredible megafauna. Patience and perseverance are everything, and that means… it’s project time.
A good photographic project – wildlife or otherwise – aims to tell a compelling story, so start there. Perhaps you’re trying to tell a story about the wildlife local to you, or the story of a particular individual. Think about journalistic aspects and try to come up with a rough narrative for your story – “pictures I took in my back garden” does not a photographic project make.
One of the great things about wildlife in the UK is the army of volunteers who spend their time trying to keep our native fauna healthy. Consider picking up the phone to, say, your local hedgehog rescue crew or wildlife trust and see if they’ll let you document them at work. You might also try a few farms near you: farmers are up at all kinds of antisocial hours and might be able to clue you in as to interesting wildlife on their patch.
Telling the story of how wildlife relates to a place forms the basis of many an interesting project. Take the Royal Parks, for example – everyone thinks of Richmond and Bushy Parks as being amazing places for deer photography, but you’ll also find reptilian, bird and insect life teeming away, and a project that takes just a few weekends a month for a few seasons will yield some incredible, unusual images that go far beyond the Saturday afternoon deer snappers.
Not all wildlife photography projects need to be mammalian or birdlife. We’re blessed with some truly fascinating bug life in the UK, and for the cost of turning over a few logs in your garden you could be rewarded with some incredible macro studies. Photographing close to home will also allow you to be more ambitious with your photographic setups. Set up a bird feeder in your garden, for example, and you could set up a few lightstands nearby to catch crepuscular birds coming and going – just try doing that that at your local RSPB reserve.
Not all stories need to be strictly “this-happened-then-this-happened”. Pick a theme for your wildlife photography project and you could come up with something just as interesting – if not more so.
For example, you might decide all the images in your project will be shot at under 1/25th of a second, giving you not only the chance to perfect your panning technique but also allowing you to demonstrate how a camera captures the movement of unpredictable wild animals.
Or, you might try only photographing abstracts – with patterns and details forming the basis for your work. Alternatively, if you’re photographing at home, think about setting up plain backgrounds in places you know you’re going to find wildlife – studio-style, high-key effects are unusual in wildlife photography but can work splendidly.
What’s the end game for your photographic project? Remember that simply bombing Instagram with a load of images will rob people of your carefully planned themes and narratives, so consider writing a story somewhere like Maptia or Medium about your work so you can deliver a proper narrative.
Got a project worth shouting about? Hit up our Flickr group or tag us on Instagram with #OlympusUK and we’ll take a look. If you’re doubting your wildlife photography chops, we’ve got you covered for that as well – head to our Image Space events calendar to check out our upcoming wildlife photography events with wildlife pro Tesni Ward.