I’ve never been the sort of photographer to walk great distances (by that I mean over 2 miles!) taking a shot here and another there. Unless I am after a specific subject I much prefer to “work” a small area. I still shoot in the same woods, downlands and marshes that I did when I first got interested in nature (a little later, photography) almost 30 years ago. I’m a firm believer in working your local patch. By visiting a site near to home in all seasons and weathers you uncover nature’s secrets. Where, at certain times of the year, you can, for example, expect to find a bee orchid, fox earth or rare fungi. By getting “under it’s skin” your images, I feel, will have greater feeling and depth. This is something, almost, impossible to do on a short or occasional visit. It also means, that when the weather is exceptional or if you just have a spare hour, there is always some place for you to visit. To remain, photographically, productive.
The images, below, were taken in one of South East England’s largest woodlands but all within an area no bigger than 900 m2. I could have walked and walked, looking for the finest specimens and views in which to capture autumn. Instead, for several days during October and November, I remained in a very compact area, often scrambling around on all fours or laying on damp leaf litter, searching for tiny mushrooms which, ultimately, gave me focus. More often than not I would, simply, just be led by the light.
I was taken by the relationship of the miniature with the gigantic. How the mature beech and minute fungi are as important as one another for their survival. With this in mind, I strove towards illustrating that as best I could.
With my reluctance to leave this wonderful place and with darkness closing in, I turned to using a flash-unit to illuminate spore release from a common puffball.
I must admit, I’m a little reluctant to give all the technical data for each image as I think we, so often, get so bogged down with the technicalities that we lose sight of the image we are trying to take. Yes, it’s important to know your f-stops and shutter speeds, differential focusing and depth of field and, given the time, all these things can be learnt. Spending time in the field and in all kinds of conditions is the best way to become farmiliar with your camera and, most important of all, to develop your “eye.”
But, in order to satisfy your curiosity, I used a nikon D300, 12-24, 28-105, 105 micro and 200mm. Occasionally, I would use extension tubes or a 2-element close-up filter and when working at ground level, a right-angle viewfinder. A Manfrotto carbon fibre 055 tripod was used much of the time with a Markins head and when I needed to get lower still, a small beanbag was employed.
I’ll be giving a talk at Marwell Photographic Group on Wednesday 5th December for their Christmas Presentation and I have been informed that there are a few tickets available. If you’d like to attaend, tickets are available from Kath at a cost of £7.50. She can be contacted at email@example.com and can be collected at the door. It will be held at Marwell Wildlife’s Science and Learning Centre and starts at 7.30. Here’s a link to their programme page.
With the presentation containing more than 100 images, based on my favourite shots taken over the last 12-18 months, there will be a broad mix of flora, fauna and landscapes, taken in the UK and abroad with, as per usual, lots of technical info and useful hints and tips thrown in!
I’ll be giving a talk at Folkiestone Camera Club tomorrow (26th) illustrated with my most recent images taken over the last year with bison and the northern lights making an appearance! I have spoken, many times, to this group over the years and I always enjoy returning as they are such a friendly and enthusiastic group. All are welcome as you do not need to be a member to attend.
Just under 2 weeks ago I returned from a week in the Peak District, more specifically, the Dark Peak (northern) region, leading 3 workshops. A 2-day residential and 2 one-day workshops. Over all, we had good weather in that, prolonged spells of rain were absent. You never know what Mother Nature will throw at you here and, I guess, that is what draws me, and others like me, back there time and again. Also, as a “Southerner” it makes a welcome change from the flatness of North Kent! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore photographing the North Kent Marshes, but everyone needs a change, right?!
Arriving 3 days prior to the first workshop gave me time to explore new locations and reacquaint myself with the familiar.
Whenever I lead workshops I rarely take pictures for my own purpose. Clients, after all, have paid me to spend time with them and be on hand whenever they require advice. I am forever amazed when told storied by guests of workshops they have attended where the photographer shows them how to set up a picture then disappears, some distance away, to do their own photography or of a lottery system to decide who captures sunrise at the water’s edge and who stays in the minibus. Incredible!
Having led countless workshops over the last 20 years (with, and thank you all, a significant percentage returning) you do learn when to approach and when to leave alone. No-one wants someone looking over their shoulder all the time and as a tutor, it’s important you give the attendee time to explore and experiment and then for you to guide and advise. It is on these occasions that I keep my eyes open for an image that I can set up, leave to discuss something with a client and return again. More often than not, it will be a close-up or detail and the image, below, is a case in point.
On the final morning of the 2-day workshop we were fortunate to have a very nice sunrise.
That evening, with a relatively clear sky forecast, we headed to Higger Tor. Extremely strong winds forced us from our first-choice spot to the eastern end which provided a little more shelter. At least our tripods remained upright!
The morning after my final workshop, I arranged to meet one the guests for a sunrise shoot on Curbar Edge. It was a beautiful crisp morning and a great way to end a week in the Peaks.
I shall be doing the same again next autumn so should you be interested in attending, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
I’ll be giving 2 digital presentations this week. The first will be at Canterbury Photographic Society where the title of my talk will be Field Techniques in Nature Photography and the other, on Friday, will be at Ashford Photographic Society speaking on A Nature Photographer’s Year. Each lasts, approximately, 90 mins with a break mid-way and you don’t have to be a member to come along. All my talks give lots of information on how I capture my images so, hopefully, you will leave inspired and full of ideas.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
Read more about Robert Canis