A perspective on the wild side

By Chris Weston

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is making an emotional connection with the wildlife I encounter. One of the most challenging aspects of my job is conveying that connection in a photograph. To do that, I have to make use of a very important compositional tool – perspective. Continue reading A perspective on the wild side

Never Miss The Moment: A first look at the FUJIFILM X-H1

By Chris Weston

Wildlife photography throws up many challenges. For starters, weather and environmental conditions are rarely ideal. Dusty African savannahs, humid jungles, persistent precipitation in rainforests, sub-zero temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctic – they all demand the very best of the equipment I use, in terms of both performance and reliability. In reality, it’s about confidence – I need to know that when the going gets tough the camera I’m using will perform consistently and uninterrupted. Having worked with X-T series cameras in camera-hostile environments around the world, I already have surety in the Fujifilm system.

I have recently spent time working with the FUJIFILM X-H1, including a trip to the stunning Camargue region in the South France to photograph the wild horses there. It’s obvious the designers and engineers have taken weather resistance to even higher levels with this new camera, with more robust seals to prevent electronics’ two main enemies, dust and water, leaving you high and dry. Continue reading Never Miss The Moment: A first look at the FUJIFILM X-H1

Making your photos WILD! – A Guide to Wildlife Photography

By Ben Cherry

With ‘wild’ experiences becoming rarer as humanity continues its ferocious endeavour to progress, often at the natural world’s expense, how can we treasure those encounters however big or small? I personally think photography is the single most powerful medium when it comes to nature. Continue reading Making your photos WILD! – A Guide to Wildlife Photography

Art and Mind – 10 Days in Japan [Part Two]

By Chris Weston

Part 2: Art and Mind

Hokkaido (Days 6 – 10)

We often hear or read the quote, “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer”, meaning the creation of great photographs is not dependent on having the latest or most expensive gear but on having a keen eye, an open and inquisitive mind and the artistic skills to turn vision into a reality that is a photograph. After sixteen years as a professional photographer, I can attest this is absolutely true. Continue reading Art and Mind – 10 Days in Japan [Part Two]

Photographers, We’re Storytellers – 10 Days in Japan [Part One]

By Chris Weston

When I first became interested in wildlife photography, I harboured a deep fascination with Japan. I used to study the work of some of the great Japanese nature photographers – Michio Hoshino, Mitsuaki Iwago, Nobuyuki Kobayashi – and found, in their images, a hidden depth, an elusive something that I could only describe as “soul”. I also noticed many of my early photographic heroes, photographers such as Art Wolfe and Jim Brandenburg, as well as my favourite artist, Monet, had been inspired by immersion in Japanese culture. Continue reading Photographers, We’re Storytellers – 10 Days in Japan [Part One]

Wildlife Photography: Creating a Sense of Place

By Chris Weston

Wildlife photography isn’t just about frantic action shots and animal portraits. An important area of the genre is capturing a sense of place – images that show the subject in the landscape.

Photographing animals in their environment is a critical area of my work because such images serve to further the cause of environmental conservation, which is a driving force behind my work. The primary cause of decreasing wildlife populations is habitat loss, so revealing the beauty of the land in which animals make their homes is, for me, an important aspect of my storytelling. Continue reading Wildlife Photography: Creating a Sense of Place

10 Tips for Better Wildlife Pictures

Struggling to catch the near-perfect wildlife shots you have seen in top magazines and exhibits? Now that camera technology has become more accessible, many people are branching out into nature. Wildlife photography isn’t for the faint of heart, however, and plenty of professionals and enthusiasts alike encounter challenges.

Photo by Ben Cherry (@benji_cherry), Fujifilm X-T2 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens

Fortunately, with the right equipment, research and mindset — and of course, plenty of practice — you can make major improvements. The following are 10 tips you can use to take better wildlife pictures today.

 

Study Your Subject

 

What kinds of environments do your local fauna love most? Which animals live within driving distance, and what are their migratory patterns and schedules? Will your subjects even be awake when you go to shoot? Wildlife photography is all about catching those fleeting moments that most people never get to see, and being there at the right time and place is a numbers game. Study your subject matter to give yourself the best chance of being in position for a great shot.

 

Stand Back, Zoom In

 

Animals are tough enough to shoot in urban environments; in nature, they can seem impossible to catch up close. To capture wildlife acting as naturally and unafraid as possible, you may need to rely on a long telephoto lens. When dealing with the most skittish creatures, the longer the focal length, the better.

Photo by Vincent Yuhiko, Fujifilm X-T1 with XF18-135mm R LM OIS WR lens

Broaden Your Horizons

 

As helpful as a long, narrow focus can be, you don’t always need to catch creatures up close — nor do you need to isolate them from their environments. Some shots are actually more powerful when taken with a wide angle that gives the viewer context. Experiment with both broad and narrow focuses to see which suits your tastes and subject matter. You’ll probably find that different shots are best for different situations.

 

Practice Patience

 

Nature is unpredictable. Even if you rigorously study the animal you want to shoot, you’ll probably have to play the waiting game once you get into position. In fact, patience is one of the defining factors of a great wildlife photographer, and some of the most iconic shots have only been possible after hours or even days of waiting and returning to the same spot.

Photo by Vinh Le (@mylittledistraktions), Fujifilm X-M1

Don’t Wait for Every Opportunity

 

At the same time, patience isn’t everything. You can’t always wait for great shots to materialise, especially when you only have a small window of decent lighting and weather. If your only goal is to capture a specific animal in a specific moment, then yes, you’ll need to wait. But if you just want to capture interesting shots within an environment, make the most of your time and seek out opportunities for great shots.

 

Simplify Your Backgrounds

 

Photography is all about using depth and contrast to highlight your subject, and wildlife photography is no exception. While some photos will be inherently “busy,” you can often create a dramatic effect by simply capturing an animal against a non-distracting background.

Photo by Daniel Bradford (@dbrad1992), Fujifilm X-T1

 

Keep Both Eyes Open

 

When you control neither your environment nor your subject matter, you’ve got to be ready for anything. To stay aware of your surroundings, keep both eyes open as you look through the viewfinder. If you’re only focused on what’s in the frame, you’ll miss far more opportunities than you see.

 

Focus and Exposure

 

A few setting tweaks can make all the difference between a clear shot and an indecipherable photo. If your camera allows, set your focus mode to “continuous” and your focus area to “zone.” Use a larger grid setting for larger animals and a smaller setting for small subjects. As for exposure, you’ll want to choose a small area for a shot that emphasises the subject and de-emphasizes the background.

Photo by Nina Dos Santos, Fujifilm X-T1 with XF27mmF2.8 R

Know Your Equipment

 

During a daylong shoot, you’ll encounter — at best — mere minutes of photo-worthy material. What’s more, each moment of interest may only last a few seconds. If you’re not familiar with the capabilities and settings of your camera and lens, you could miss once-in-a-lifetime shots. Know your equipment’s shutter speeds, memory card speeds and focal lengths, as well as all the options you have for toggling focus points and modes.

 

(Perfect) Practice Makes Perfect!

 

Last but not least, practice, practice, practice! Analyse the shots you take, and consult experienced photographers for advice on how you can improve. The more hours you can spend, the better you’ll become, but you can fast-track your progress by seeking feedback and making the most of each shot you take.

Failing to scratch the surface of Russia – Flight of the Swans – Part 2

X-Pro2 XF35mm F2 ISO 200 1/5800
X-Pro2 XF35mm F2 ISO 200 1/5800

X-Photographer strip BLACK

Recap – My name is Ben Cherry, I’m a Fujifilm X-Photographer focusing on environmental photojournalism. Currently I am part of the WWT Flight of the Swans conservation project, where Sacha Dench is flying from Arctic Russia back to the UK; following the declining Bewick’s swan as they migrate to overwinter in warmer climates. You can find the first blog explaining how I got involved in this unique project and what I’ve brought along with me here.


Flight of the Swans has finally left Russia, only ten days behind schedule… Ten extra days I am very happy to have spent in this dramatic country. Enormous in every sense of the word, we barely scratched the surface, but what we did see left a lasting impression. From incredible generosity to gorgeous autumnal scenes, this rugged place has wilderness to truly get lost in.

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X-Pro2 and XF10-24mm F4 ISO6400 30 Seconds

Hazard lights cast against the roadside trees as the convoy headed to Kimzha. We were very much alone on this dirt road and the stars were simply spectacular! 

The 19th September greeted us with a 32 hour stay at the Estonian – Russian Border, an experience that I’ve recently had a case of deja vu with as we returned from the other direction on the 19th October for a 18+ hour stay to return to the EU. In-between that time we have raced up to Kimzha, Arkhangelsk region, 1800+KM away within five days, via roads where for periods our trailer towing vehicle had to crawl at 6kph. It was a mental run, marred by a diesel spill in the trailer at 2am and paramotor pilots arriving at the collection point ahead of schedule, resulting in some all-nighters.

Once we linked up with the pilots who had just crossed the tundra section, things were marginally less hectic, marginally.

Sacha has done an amazing personal journey so far, she even dislocated her knee! But still going via a trike to take stress off her legs. The Flight of the swan’s team have been featured on news channels all around the world and the ground team are doing their best to engage local communities, particularly through school programs. All to raise awareness of the Bewick swan and other migrating wildfowl. The aim is to improve international awareness and cooperation, to find out more and to sign the WWT’s petition to help their conservation, which can be found here.

Personal highlights included witnessing the northern lights and catching a glimpse of a wolf as it slinked off into the darkness of a moonlit woodland road. But the biggest surprise has the be the incredible generosity that our team witnessed in Russia, I haven’t experienced anything like it before, where families would happily take in 8-12 people, feed us, give us a place to stay and even offer us a banya (Russian bath)! We were welcomed with open arms. Meeting conservationists, or simply random families along our journey, all seemed to have a deep connection for nature and the importance for managing it suitably, including the declining Bewick’s swan. We would be let into the lives of these people and get to know them, usually over a skinful of vodka.

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One too many..

Time-lapse taken with X-Pro2 and XF16mm F1.4 using the in-camera intervalometer.


Cine Fujinon Lens

As well as using my personal X-Series kit on this project we are very proud to be sponsored by Fujifilm with a  Fujinon ZK3.5×85 (85-300mm). Our media team are documenting the project in as wide a means as possible, from virtual reality experiences to documenting the project with various filming equipment, to hopefully continuing to share this project to a wider audience and help communicate the importance of Bewick’s swans conservation.

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Here is one of our cameramen, Ben Sadd in the Gulf of Finland, Russia searching for swans.


instax

Because so much of this trip is about communicating with as many people as possible, I have been using my instax SP-1 printer a lot to leave little mementos. It always gets a fantastic reaction, the business card sized prints are perfect for travelling with. Giving a physical print has such a positive effect on an experience compared to simply tagging someone in a digital photograph. instax has for a long time been one of the first things in my bag whenever I travel, this feeling has been encouraged further. The benefit-to-cost ratio isn’t even worth talking about as the effect it has on a situation is huge, it sounds cheesy but seeing the smiles appear as the photo develops on the instax is worth it.

I’ve found that it develops a situation from a set of friendly acquaintances to the start of friendships, leaving both the recipient and photographer with lasting, fond memories.


Connectivity

As well as directly sending images to my SP-1 printer, the ability to send lightly edited files (via the in-camera RAW converter) to my phone and then share on the Flight of the Swans social media channels has helped to massively streamline my image sharing process. You can follow these channels here:

Facebook – Flight of the Swans

Instagram – @wwt_swanflight

Twitter -@wwtswanflight

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X-T2 XF100-400mm (370mm) F5.6 ISO 1600 1/2400

Live Map Update

The team are now in Estonia. Russia was an amazing experience but the project is still very much on the move. There is a major set of wetlands in Estonia which we want to visit and hopefully witness more migrating Bewicks. You can stay up to date via our live map, with trackers on birds, vehicles and of course Sacha! Click here.

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Summary

Flight of the Swans is a fascinating project, where WWT has taken a big leap into the unknown to try and reach a new level of engagement to help improve conservation of wildfowl. If you’re interested in travel, extreme sports or wildlife then hopefully this project will be of interest. If so, then please help us by signing our petition here. Until my final instalment in a month’s time, here are a few more photos from our Russian experience. In the next blog I will update you on the project as well as talking about the 4K capabilities of the X-T2 and how it has been incredibly helpful to film the swans.

The Ugandan gorillas and chimpanzees

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by Peter Delaney

Bio

11830097_1148874931796385_1664940048_nIn 2001, I made a decision to quit a career in finance to pursue my dream of travelling Africa in a 4×4 Landcruiser. The sheer size and magnitude of this continent was overwhelming. I travelled the forests of Bwindi to the peaks of Kilimanjaro, to the shores of Lake Malawi and the red dunes of the Kalahari. I have spent many months in the African wilderness looking for that unique photograph to showcase the rich variety of wildlife and beautiful landscape that Africa has to offer.

Africa has become the new chapter in my life and I have dedicated the last 15 years photographing this diverse continent.

My dedication to the craft has been rewarded with publications in the National Geographic, Deutsche Geo and many others. My photographs have won numerous awards including the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of The Year in 2011 & 2013.

Photography has become my life, it maybe a cliché, but it’s true. I live and breathe photography. No matter where I am, “my minds eye” is making photographs. It has taught me to see the world in a different light, and for that, I am so grateful.

Recent assignment and what I was hoping to capture

In June, I spent a week on assignment for a client who asked me to photograph Ugandas Gorillas and Chimpanzees. The brief was to photograph the impact of conservation tourism on local communities and the Wildlife. It was a fantastic opportunity to photograph Mountain Gorillas, whose numbers are less than 1000 worldwide, and Chimpanzees whose numbers are under increasing threat from habitat lost due to logging and oil drilling.

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When I photograph my subjects there are few things on my mind. First and foremost is the well being of my subjects, I never want them to feel threatened that they may enter a “fight or flight” scenario. The other is that I photograph my subjects aesthetically, so that my photographs resonate with the viewer.

fishing-boat-lake-victoria-3On assignments there are always opportunities to photograph different subjects, on my photography wish list I have always wanted to photograph Fishermen casting nets from old wooden boats.
On this trip I had an hour waiting for our transport to a nearby island. It was a surreal morning with huge storm clouds approaching over calm waters. Local fishermen were fishing close by. I had one chance to get the photograph that I always wanted. I am glad to say I succeeded.

What kit did I take why?

Since 2007, up until last year, all my work was photographed with pro DSLR body.

To be honest, I was never truly happy with this bulky equipment, I would often come back from trips and be dissatisfied with the lack of sharpness and detail. This was mainly due to vibrations from the mirror and shutter.

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I have been monitoring the mirrorless platform intensely over the last few years. When Fujifilm brought out the X-T1 and a lens roadmap, I got in contact with Fujifilm South Africa. I had a wonderful meeting with their team and I was convinced by their passion, commitment and dedication not just to the products, but to the Fujifilm community too. The support I have received from Fujifim has been amazing and I’m so excited about the release of the upcoming “big lens” from Fujifilm. I am sure it will live up to my expectations.

On this trip I packed the following gear:

  • 2 x Fujifilm X-T1’s
  • XF18-55mm
  • XF50-140mm
  • Laptop
  • Hard drives
  • SD cards
  • Spare batteries & chargers

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I knew photographing the Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees was not just going to be a challenge physically for me, but also to push my Fujifilm equipment to the limits.
I have to admit, I was a little bit apprehensive but I needn’t have been. I cannot emphasise enough how well the X-T1 and the 50-140mm coped with low light, high contrast and wet, humid conditions. It performed beautifully.

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Carrying these cameras and lenses around for hours while trekking the Chimpanzees and Gorillas I never once felt tired, or that my equipment was too heavy and cumbersome as it use to be in the past with my old DSLR.

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Since I was working for a client, knowing whether the trip was a success or not was down to their reaction. I found my client to be ecstatic with the results, and so was I.

This trip put to bed any lingering thoughts I had about making the switch to Fujifilm “exclusively”. I love my Fujifilm equipment and I love being part of the Fujifilm family as Fujifilm’s X-shooter in South Africa.

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General tips

First and foremost, enjoy your Photography.

Secondly, no matter how good you think you are as a photographer, you can always be better, never stop learning.

Thirdly, respect your subject, be ethical in your approach and remember your reputation is everything.

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What’s next for me ?

I’m just back from a self imposed year off as I became a father for the first time. And I am now slowly weening myself off fatherhood and getting back out into the field.

Because I love to travel and explore, I am planning trips to Asia, Europe and of course my beloved Africa. I have further work booked with clients who love giving me challenging briefs. I am hoping to work with Fujifilm South Africa next year coinciding with the release of their “big lens”. I love sharing my stories and passion for my photography so I will be giving short presentations both locally and internationally.

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Email – delaneypeter@icloud.com