Thursday, 10 September 2009

British Wildlife Centre - Photo Day

Christmas was nine months ago, but that's when this story starts. Last year the christmas present from my wife was the chance to visit the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey and get up close with the animals. If you've not heard of The British Wildlife Centre, here's a link.

For a few days every year the wildlife centre closes it's door to the general public and opens the enclosures to photographers. Living only a few miles from centre, I'd been there before, but getting the chance to go inside the enclosures was a little out of the ordinary.

This was a photography day, not a guided course so there were no rules on the standard of camera to bring. I packed my trusty Canon 40D and a 100-400 IS lens and I felt confident I had the right equipment for the job. My fellow photographers (there were around 20 of us) sported a wide variety of equipment ranging from the professional wildlife gear complete with camoflaged lenses, right down to the happy amatuer with their point and shot digital compacts. Everyone was welcome.

The day started with a visit inside the fox enclosure. With the help of Laura, one of the british Wildlife centres' excellent keepers, the foxes were just a few feet away. No need for expensive lenses here as you can see from this photo. (clicking the images makes them bigger)

After that the group split in two. Half of us went to photograph the scottish wild cats and the other went to find the hedgehogs. After 30 minutes the groups swapped over. Stangely enough the the hedgehog proved to be the most challenging animal to photograph.

The day progressed at a gentle pace. Everyone was given as much time as they needed to take the photographs that they wanted.

As lunch approached we we're given some free time to have a break or move around the centre at our own pace. I decided to try and get some pictures of the red squirrels. These fast moving animals were tricky to photograph and during the free time we were not able to go inside the enclosure. Still, if you're patient and know how to make fences disappear from photos (no, not using Photoshop) then the rewards are there to be had.
By the way, I mentioned that this wasn't the kind of photography day you attend to learn. None the less I'm always happy to share my knowledge, so if you were the gentleman who asked me how to photograph through bars, I hope your pictures came out as well as mine.

The afternoon saw us in the otter enclosure. This was probably the moment I was very pleased with my choice of lens as otters are quite small when they're splashing around in the water.
The day was rounded off by a visit to the badger enclosure and the chance to get close to the owls.

So on to the big questions.

Was the day worth while? For me the answer is yes. I was able to get some great photographs of animals in a natural settings. The keepers were very knowledgeable and accommodating and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

What equipment should I take? A DSLR is the minimum I'd consider and learn how to use the burst mode before you leave home. A lens at least 300mm is required if you want to fill the frame. Finally bring lots and lots of memory cards, you'll be taking many hundreds of photos.

Would I recommend this day to other photographers? Yes as long as they had a fair level of camera skills. If your looking to receive training or guidance you'd be better booking for one of the workshop days run by outside companies. Of course you could always ask me to tag along...


Konfral said...

Thanks for sharing Gavin, I'll be certainly paying them a visit this Autumn.

Gavin Hoey Training said...

Hi Konfral.

The photography days are excellent value for money (around £60) but book early as they fill up fast.

Anonymous said...

Nice post and pictures Gavin. Interesting to get blog posts now in addition to the video tutorials. I really like your work!

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