Hi, I was born 1st April 1963, yes April Fools Day; friends would say that explains a lot!
I'm a Northamptonshire based photographer and from a very early age I carried a camera, trying to capture on film the wonderful colours and comical habits of British wildlife, especially those that visited our garden whilst learning the fundamentals of camera handling and picture taking as I went along. Lots of mistakes were made and lessons learnt both in the field, taking the pictures, and back in the darkroom.
Throughout my working life I have been greatly involved in photography in many ways: working in professional photographers and labs, managing photographic retail outlets and mini labs.
Now, as a professional wildlife photographer with better quality equipment and a deeper knowledge of both my subjects and equipment, those early efforts seem quite feeble and mistakes almost laughable. But the lessons I learnt in those early days have stood me in good stead for the high standard of images needed for today's competitive market.
There are many people still making the same mistakes that I did, but I now enjoy helping and advising people from different walks of life how best to avoid the pitfalls into which I stumbled, offering talks and workshops.
The major part of my sales and image library are of British wildlife, to which I have a special magnetism; I find it a challenge and a great thrill to photograph. Getting close to our birds and mammals is a challenge which I enjoy. In recent years, I have photographed some of our rarest breeding birds; being awarded Schedule 1 Licenses by the appropriate governing bodies which has been an immense privilege for me. I travel widely throughout the United Kingdom, continually adding to, improving and enhancing my image library.
I exhibit and sell my work at a number of Country and Game Fairs up and down the country including the British Bird Fair, CLA Game Fair and Falconry Festival. I also produce a range of photographic goods, lecture and run photographic workshops.
I also offer Commissioned (Natural History) photography, personalised greetings cards, and corporate calendars.
As I lecture and exhibit around the country I get asked certain questions over and over again, what equipment do I use? And how do I get so close to my subjects? etc
Well up until very recently I have been using Nikon 35mm film cameras, but as a current professional photographer today’s market forces dictate and demand that I use the latest DIGITAL EQUIPMENT. The arrival of digital technology has not only cut my cost in wastage of film but has definitely changed the way in which I work. The ability to view images as soon as they have been taken enables revision of the picture, and allows the deletion of poor quality images, which in turn allows me to experiment with the lighting conditions, my exposure and composition, along with the advantage of being able to keep shooting up to a thousand images in a session.
So now when I go to work I carry in my backpack, two camera bodies, a D3 which is a Nikon DSLR with a Full-Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor (dubbed the 'FX' format) which takes a 12.1 megapixel file, and to back this up a Nikon D2X a 12.4 million effective pixels with an aspect ratio of 3:2 which gives me a greater magnification. Both are well built solid fast action auto focus SLR cameras which are reliable and give an image file size of around 70 megabytes.
With these bodies I use a full range of Nikon Nikkor lenses from 18mm wide angle up to 500mm f4 telephoto. I also use a couple of teleconvertors 1.2 x and a 2 x which takes the magnification up to 1000mm and with the sensor size on the D2X I have 1500mm.
I use a set of three Nikon speedlite flashguns, one for fill-in, just to give a small amount of light on the subject, which on bright sunny days brings out greater detail on hair and feathers or all three for those times when the light is to low or when I attempt any night photography.
When using such well built cameras and heavy lenses, they need to be held steady to avoid camera shake, so I use a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod together with a side kick head, which is a light (to carry) but stable unit. This tripod and head will allow me to shoot from as low as 8" off the floor and up to 6' high and will glide free and easy for moving and flight subjects.
To carry, keep and protect my equipment I use Lowpro bags, from card storage, individual lens pouches to full backpacks. These bags are very tough and durable as well as being waterproof.
Getting close enough to the subject to be able to watch, study, and take photographs takes good fieldcraft, time and lots of effort. The clothing I wear along with the field craft I employ and hides used, together with good subject knowledge is the key to getting a good image. I wear a photographic suit and other clothing from STEALTH WILDLIFE who are designers and manufacturers of quality, affordable wildlife watching supplies, products and equipment for wildlife photography. I also use their camouflage lens covers, camera supporting bean bags, and bag hides. The hides I use are all or almost all homemade, suitable for lying on the ground to being 60' up on scaffolding. I have thick plastic, coated with canvas hides for using in cold wet weather. I have light weight canvas hides for summer work and a portable wooden hide for any long-term projects I am working with Stealth on producing a portable hide for all uses. I also do use canvas screens and army camouflage netting which I throw over the car on some occasions.