Wildlife Photography In Norfolk
Summer is a great time to take photos of nature, Bressingham Gardens are looking beautiful at this time of year, but what if you want to elevate your wildlife photography to the next level?
We spoke to local wildlife photographer Mark Ollett about what got him started and why he loves taking photos of Norfolk’s wildlife.
How did you get into wildlife photography?
I've always been interested in photography and wildlife, and, coming from a farming background had a reasonable knowledge of the natural world.
My dad and a few friends were into photography and when we went fishing I used to take photos of my catches. I started doing it for friends and they used to return the favour, but I was never really happy with what they did - the quality wasn't good enough!
I came into some money about 12 years ago and I went and bought a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera and started taking photos with that and I realised that there was a lot of wildlife that we all take for granted in Norfolk.
Once I went behind a camera, I started noticing more and more!
What makes Norfolk a great place to photograph wildlife?
Because of where it is, Norfolk has a very diverse habitat. You can go from the Broads where you find all your water birds - then there’s the North Norfolk coast, salt marshes with wading birds. You’ve then got Heathlands and Breckland which is another distinct environment.
On top of that is the urban environment, which people don’t always consider when thinking of wildlife, but places like Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft have got an abundance of wildlife.
In Norfolk you can be on the coast, go 20 miles down the road and you’re in Heathland, then go the other way and you’re on the Marshlands.
The other good thing about Norfolk is because of where it is on the east coast, when birds migrate from Scandinavia in Autumn, Norfolk is one of the first places they hit. If the winds are right, because Norfolk sticks out into the sea some rare birds that don’t come to the UK, if they get blown off course tend to end up here!
Last year, for example, there was a snowy owl that ended up in North Norfolk which is pretty much unheard of in the Uk - If you’re inland you won't get that opportunity.
Another great thing about taking photos in Norfolk is the light. Because it's so flat you get a very good evening light. If you're somewhere with mountains and hills, when the sun sets you get a lot of shadows whereas in Norfolk you get light from the sunset until it disappears below the horizon.
That’s brilliant for photography. When the sun's high in the sky you get shadows underneath the subject, it's hit from the sides and the top which is not ideal. If the sun is lower in the sky and is over your shoulder, the subjects’ front will be lit, bringing it out really well.
What has been your favourite experience photographing wildlife?
I've got a hide at Postwick, just outside Norwich where I have a motion camera set up just like the ones you might have set up in your garden. Every time something goes past an infrared beam it records whatever’s there.
I've been in Postwick since I was a kid and I’d never seen a Badger, but about 2 years ago the motion camera caught a Badger!
Also I knew there were foxes down at the hide, but I never got to see them. Then last year I the motion camera caught two little baby Fox cubs playing in front of me. I knew they were down there because I could see where the grass had been flattened, but they never seemed to come out.
It took me four and a half years of trying to catch a sight of them - it was brilliant after putting in all that work!
What advice would you give to the first-time wildlife photographer?
I give photography lessons and I think what a lot of people tend to do is buy cameras they don’t fully understand. It’s really important to understand the piece of equipment that you've got in your hand.
Most cameras have got an automatic setting on them - most people will shoot using that but the auto will give you what the camera thinks you want. What you need to be able to do is understand how to tell the camera what you want.
There's nothing worse than doing all your research, getting an opportunity to take a photograph and then you mess it up because you haven't got the camera setup correctly.
We've all been there and done it!
The most important settings to understand are exposure and shutter speed.
Exposure controls what lights and darks will appear in the photograph. If this is set incorrectly your picture might be pitch black or completely "blown out" (too much white).
The Shutter speed is the difference between a blurry image or a sharp image. A little tip with shutter speed whilst doing handheld photography is that it should be set to at least the size of your lens to keep your pictures sharp.
For example, if your camera has a 500mm lens, your shutter speed should be set to 500th per second - if your camera has a 200mm lens set it to 200th per second, and so on.
On the photography lessons I give I go right back to the basics. There are alot of people taking up photography now, but you can have the best kit in the world but unless you know how to use it properly you may as well just take photos on your phone.
Cameras are quite complex, but about 80% of what you need to know to take really good photos is quite simple if explained simply, which is what I try I do.
Is there anything we should’ve mentioned?
Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on wildlife photography?
Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?
By Alastair Baker at 3 Jul 2019, 00:00 AM