Throughout the Easter holidays, I set out to attempt to capture this photo of a wild Red Fox peering into a litter bin to offer a new perspective on the creature that is well-known to many. Whilst the composition and lighting were planned, the rain shower was not, but thanks to durable waterproof camera gear, the resulting image was a success and the 'frozen-in-time' raindrops provide a perfect backdrop to the image, mistaken by some for stars. Whilst this image is a step in the right direction, I am still not 100% happy with the image - compositionally, I feel it is a little unbalanced with the fox slightly too offset/distant for my liking, whilst the lighting is fairly harsh and needs to be softened somewhat in future attempts - but for now, it will do given this was the single image I managed to capture over a period of 4 nights.
So how did I go about capturing this image? This style of shot is known as a 'camera trap', whereby a camera can be left to independently fire in presence of a animal. The crucial piece of equipment used was the Camtraptions PIR Motion Sensor trigger, a device that connects into the camera and fires the camera when it detects motion in the form of heat (i.e. any warm-bodied animal will be able to trigger the camera trap system):
This allows the photographer to compose an image having understood the character and behaviour of the wildlife to identify their track and position in relation to the rest of the frame. In this instance, the camera trap was set up in a back-garden in a suburb of West London whereby it was known that a fox was a regular visitor through the garden, entering though a small gap in the fence, and making it easier to predict where the fox would be stood when within proximity of the camera trap. So let's have a look at the actual set up of this photo:
The set up for the photo: 2 wireless flashes (one on a tripod to give an overhead light, another on the ground to illuminate the fox's face); my Nikon D600 camera placed inside a litter bin looking out; the Camtraption PIR Motion Sensor trigger to the right of the bin, pointing directly at the food (a selection of chicken and peanuts).
The litter bin was laid on its side with my camera placed inside at the back looking outwards, with litter strategically placed in the opening of the bin to provide some foreground interest in the shot - this also provided an ideal way of concealing the food, placed down to lure the fox over, from the camera so as to not ruin the image. To balance the lighting, I used 2 wireless flashes (Nikon SB28), with one set up on a tripod to the right of the bin to illuminate the entire scene (including raindrops, thankfully!) whilst another was set up on the ground pointing upwards on the left hand-side of the bin to illuminate the features of the fox as it came closer to the camera. The PIR Motion Sensor trigger can be seen set up to the right of the bin, the flaps drawn together to create a narrow beam of 'detection area' within which the fox will have to move through in order to trigger the entire system, the cable plugging into the camera in the bin.
Thankfully, after 4 nights of setting up the camera trap, I was finally rewarded with the shot I had set out to capture; whilst not perfect, I am still proud of it and it is a photo that has caught the eyes of people due to its unusual composition and perspective. Over the summer I hope to attempt further camera trap images of various wildlife, using the simple techniques described above, which will require immense patience I can imagine...
Pigeon on the Streets: The Story Behind my Highly Commended Image in the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017
It was with great honour that, on 8th November 2017, I attended the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017 ceremony at the Mall Galleries, London, just a few hundred metres from Buckingham Palace. Now in it's 8th year of running, this competition aims to attract photographers, young and old, from across the British Isles to enter their favourite wildlife images into a sweeping array of categories that range from animal portraits to habitats through to urban wildlife; and it was this latter category that I was lucky enough to have my photo selected for.
Turning 19 two days before the closing deadline in June 2017, I was not able to enter the 18-and-under competition, forcing me to enter the adult competition and compete against many talented photographers, all of whom were older than me. Despite this, I took the plunge, paid my entry fee and selected my favourite images from the year to enter into various categories; in total, submitting 5 photos across 4 different categories. I entered my images with the mindset of "you've got to be in it to win it", and hoped for the best.
It wasn't until mid-August that I found out the exciting news that, despite my age and having to compete against thousands of images from all over the United Kingdom, my image, aptly named 'Pigeon on the Streets', had been highly commended in the 'Urban Wildlife' category of the competition, being placed in the top 8 images. I was ecstatic and honoured when I finally got to see my photo displayed in the exhibition in London, and all across the country, along with it being published in the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017 Book - my greatest achievement with my photography to date.
So how did I go about taking the image? This image, for me, was a satisfying conclusion to a run of numerous trips down to my local park here in Bristol, Brandon Hill Park. I had discovered the park's abundance of wildlife after a one-off trip, with the pigeons being cocky and the squirrels fearless; and it was this behaviour and character that I wanted to portray in an image. I had attempted various different styles of photos after visiting the park fairly regularly for a few weeks, each offering a different perspective and angle on the wildlife in the area:
However, whilst I was happy with these photos, I wasn't satisfied and felt none were potential 'award-winners'. It was a few days later that an image idea came to mind, and with this I set out to get it. On one of my trips, I had to discovered a set of garages at the periphery of the park that had been graffitied on, with both doors being vibrant in colour; with this in mind, I decided that this would prove to be a perfect location to get an image that not only highlighted the urban location, but also echoed the street-wise and boisterous nature of a city pigeon, so head out one afternoon in hope of getting the image I had planned.
Upon arrival, I lay down on the path directly opposite the garages and began to set up my Nikon D600 with the following settings, using my Nikon 24-85mm F3.5-4.5 VR lens:
APERTURE = F8.0
SHUTTER SPEED = 1/80 sec
ISO = 200
FOCAL LENGTH = 34mm
and using an off-camera wireless flash (Yongnuo YN-560 II flash) to expose the foreground subject - in this case, a pigeon. I scattered a handful of peanuts across the path in front of the camera and instantly an array of wildlife filled the area - crows, pigeons, squirrels and robins - and began taking photos, but I soon realised that I needed to isolate an individual bird in order for the shot to look aesthetically pleasing; if not, the image would look busy and crowded. With this in mind, I decided to hold a selection of peanuts in my palm and coax a single pigeon over instead, until it was in the frame, and only then would I trigger the camera and examine the results. This worked, and finally, after a good half-an-hour of shooting (all the while looking crazy to passersby...) I finally got the image I had hoped for, which soon became known as 'Pigeon on the Streets'.
For more information regarding the British Wildlife Photography Awards, head over to www.bwpawards.org