Behind The Shot

'The Good Side'

Nikon D500, 70-200mm lens @ F2.8, 1/2500s, ISO360, 200mm

with Jamie Fraser

JAMIE, TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BACKGROUND IN PHOTOGRAPHY...

I am grateful to be based down in Dunedin – NZ’s wildlife capital! With its stunning scenic locations and wildlife in every corner, it’s no surprise that it is here I discovered my passion for wildlife photography.

My interest in photography initially started during weekend jaunts with my wife to the English countryside while we lived in London. I used my smartphone to capture our adventures and shared them on social media for family and friends. I then received the best birthday present ever about three years ago, my first DSLR camera (Nikon D3500). How lucky was I?! My interest in photography kind of exploded from then on.

Although I tried many photography genres at the beginning of my journey, wildlife photography just blew my mind. I knew nothing about wildlife beforehand (dare I admit, I would confuse a fantail with a tui…), and ever since I discovered the wonderment of our natural world, I’ve been all in. Nature has introduced me to species and locations in Dunedin that I never knew existed. It’s never a dull day out there!

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING WITH?

I like to keep things pretty simple and I usually travel light when I go out for a look. I always take the same kit - a Nikon D500 with a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 lens. Although I do have a tripod and other lenses and equipment etc., I generally only shoot wildlife and always hand-held. I prefer to seek out a subject rather than sit and wait for one with my tripod. I also have a longer Tamron 150-600mm G2 which is great for the extra reach; however, I feel it lacks a bit of sharpness at the longer end, and don’t often use it these days.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PHOTO, ‘THE GOOD SIDE’...

The photo was taken at Cedar Farm Forest a few weeks ago – just up the road from where I live in Port Chalmers. It is so quiet and peaceful up there in the forest. I really do enjoy it and of course, there is a variety of birdlife to photograph. On this particular occasion, I noticed a wee silvereye up ahead on the track and it appeared to be walking along the ground from one clover flower to another. This is not behaviour I have witnessed before from these guys (never a dull day!). As I got nearer, the bird seemed oblivious to my presence and carried on. I noticed that one of its wings was splayed out – I assume it had been damaged or even broken which would explain why it was meddling on the ground. As I inched my way closer I saw that its right eye was all puffed up – it reminded me of a cauliflower ear! It had evidently been in the wars at some point, although it didn’t appear distressed and eventually flew up into the trees (which put my mind at ease). I carried on up the track and as I returned back to head home, I noticed it was again nonchalantly tickling the nectar of the ground dwelling flora. The midday sun was casting a shadow across its face as it poked itself up to the meaty parts. I got myself down low and managed to grab this snap. I felt that for the dignity of the wee fella, I had to show its ‘good’ side. There was certainly another ‘side’ to its story. I prefer to seek out a subject rather than sit and wait for one with my tripod. I also have a longer Tamron 150-600mm G2 which is great for the extra reach; however, I feel it lacks a bit of sharpness at the longer end, and don’t often use it these days.

WHAT WAS HAPPENING BEHIND THE CAMERA?

I had my then 7 month old daughter in my backpack (child carrier not camera backpack!). She was passed out asleep, with her head, arm, and a wee bit of drool spilling out to one side. I consider her my wildlife spotter; although, within 20 minutes of walking she usually falls asleep on me. I’m still to establish if it is the monotonous gentle rocking of my tentative steps that puts her to sleep or just my Dad mutterings…

WHAT EDITING DID YOU DO TO THIS PHOTO?

My style involves relatively heavy-handed exposure adjustments to the subject and background during post processing. I developed this over time as I found it quite handy to remove any distractions, while being able to impress the subject on the viewer with the exaggerated contrast between the background and subject. My workflow involves masking the subject, allowing me more control of the exposure.

I make my global editing adjustments and ‘dodge and burns’ to the image, and from then a lot of my edits are trial and error. I don’t use any presets or anything – I feel every shot has to be edited on its own merits. Depending on the intricacies of the image elements, I can spend anywhere from an hour to several hours editing.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY WITH THIS PHOTO IF GIVEN A SECOND CHANCE?

I would have preferred to capture the shot while lying down and shooting up towards the silvereye rather than down. Unfortunately with my daughter on my back, hanging out all manner of sides, it just wasn’t possible. I had to do with a crouch followed by a half
hour attempt to stand back up again.

WHAT TIPS CAN YOU SHARE WITH READERS FOR DEVELOPING THEIR STYLE?

  • Experiment with different approaches to composition. For example, try breaking some of the fundamental rules, and be aggressive and committed to your approach.
  • Try not to be overly influenced by other photographers, but certainly allow them to ignite some ideas of your own which will assist in developing your own style.

...AND SOME TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING WILDLIFE?

  • Don’t be afraid to shoot subjects on overcast or (better still) rainy days for even and soft lighting, some drama, and to avoid harsh shadows on your subject.
  • Get out there as much as possible. Every venture out is an opportunity to capture that special shot. Don’t be afraid to visit the same spot more than once. You never know what you’ll find on another day.
  • Keep your shutter speed above 1000 and your ISO as low as possible. Shooting with an F8 aperture is ideal for wildlife photography. If it compromises your ISO too much, open it up. It is better to have a wide aperture than to have a crazy high ISO.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD WE KNOW ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY?

I am currently undertaking my third and final year of a New Zealand Diploma in Photography. All going well, I should finish October this year!

WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU ONLINE?