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An Insight into

Wildlife Photography
with Will Nicholls

www.naturettl.com

Introduction
Thank you for downloading this free
eBook!
My name is Will Nicholls, and I am a young
professional wildlife photographer from
the UK. I live in Northumberland, where I
am surrounded by wildlife. It is a wildlife
photographers dream!
This eBook will look through some of my
favourite images I have taken, and tell
you how I got each shot. Ive also included
all the technical details of each image, to
help you work out what kind of camera
settings are good for different scenarios.
Any techniques described here have been,
or will be, covered by Nature TTL in more
detail. Stay subscribed to our newsletter,

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and we will send you the latest and best


tutorials from our team of experts. Our
contributors are some of the best nature
photographers in the world, so you are in
good hands!
I first started taking photographs in 2007,
and have loved it ever since. The first
photos I took were of some sheep in the
fields around my house, and I thought they
were great images! Looking back, they
were not very good at all!
However, with a lot of practise and
persistence, I have managed to improve
my technique and capture better images.
Nobodys photos are perfect, and every
photographer will be able to tell you
imperfections with their own work.

We are all still learning, including myself


and all the contributors at Nature TTL!
If you are reading this and you are new
to photography, then I hope this eBook
provides you with some inspiration for
your next shots.
Once again, thank you for downloading
this eBook and I hope you enjoy reading it!

Please note, images in this eBook are


under copyright protection and cannot
be reproduced, redistributed, or altered
in anyway without written permission
from Will Nicholls.
Prints and other products can be
purchased at www.willnicholls.co.uk

How Do You Do?


Northumberland, UK

Red squirrels make up a large portion


of my portfolio. They are extremely
charasmatic and a joy to photograph.
After taking thousands of images of
them with my telephoto lens, I decided
it was time for a change. So, I picked
up a wide-angle lens instead, and tried
some remote-triggered photography.
I put the camera in position in the
woodland, ensuring that the backdrop
had some interest within it. The nature
of the wide-angle lens includes detail
of the surroundings in the image. I
attached a remote-controlled trigger
to the camera, allowing me to fire
the shutter from the hide. Focus and
other settings were chosen manually
beforehand, and I would pray that

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conditions did not change drastically


while I was waiting.
After some time, the first squirrel
investigated. The click of the shutter
sent him running into the trees,
chucking angrily at me. Even so, the
lure of the hazelnuts was too much
for him, and he quickly returned for a
snack.
Soon enough, the squirrels were happily
posing in front of the camera whilst I
fired off a burst of images.

THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D700

Lens

14mm

Shutter Speed

1/125 second

Aperture

f/7.1

ISO Speed

1250

Equipment

Nikon ML-3
Remote

This technique is extremely good fun to


do, and it feels like Christmas has come
around once more when you get to look
through your photos at the end.

Immature Little Owl


Northumberland, UK

Little owls are not native to the UK,


but they seem to fit in very well to
the British countryside. Luckily for me,
there was a pair of little owls nesting
nearby to my home. I acquired access
to the land, and set up a hide facing the
nesting area.

A couple of hours passed, and there was


no sign of any owls. I was disappointed,
as it seemed to me that they were
frightened of me being in the hide. I was
considering abandoning the project,
when I heard a soft screech nearby.

I left the hide in position for a couple of


weeks, allowing the owls to get used to
it and so minimise disturbance. These
owls come out in daylight, which is a
photographers dream.

I looked out of the left window, trying


to see the animal which was making
the sound, and to my surprise spotted
an owl staring straight through the
camouflage netting at me. Their
eyesight is very good it seems!

The first time I visited the hide, I was


planning to see if they would accept my
presence or not. The last thing I want to
do is disturb an animal at its nest, so I
was just testing the water.

The entire family of owls had suddenly


descended on the area. Luck was on my
side that day, as a juvenile owl chose
this very gnarled branch to perch on,
allowing for this shot.

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THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D700

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/200 second

Aperture

f/4

ISO Speed

500

Equipment

Manfrotto Tripod

Great Grey Owl

Finland

My favourite animal is the great


grey owl. They are very hardy birds,
surviving at very low temperatures
thanks to their thick downy feathers.
When I was younger, I took part in a
falconry day and was given the chance
to fly one of these owls. Ever since Ive
wanted to photograph them in the wild!
In January 2014, I booked a very
last-minute flight to Finland to try and
see these owls. I had only two days to
get a photo, as I needed to be back
in the UK later in the week. So, the
pressure was on!
The guide and I drove around many
snow-covered fields, searching

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desperately for the owls. I was told a


goshawk had been killing a few of the
local owls, further reducing our chances.
Eventually we spotted an owl sitting in
a tree at the back of a field. Creeping
up with my camera, I positioned myself
in the snow. The vole you see it landing
on is dead (sourced ethically by using
voles already killed for research or by
locals trapping in their houses).
To our joy, the owl swooped down on
one occasion, and I managed to snap
this photo.

THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D4

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/1250 second

Aperture

f/8

ISO Speed

3200

Equipment

Manfrotto Tripod
Wimberley Head

The snow reflected the light on the


underside of its wings, making it almost
look like a painting.

White-tailed Eagles

Hungary

I dont go on many trips abroad for my


photography, but another trip I have
done is to Hungary. The aim of this
was to see the impressive white-tailed
eagles that live there.

The 7-foot wingspan of these birds is


truly a sight to behold. This photo shows
an adult (left) and a juvenile (right)
having a bit of a disagreement over
who should be getting the fish.

I waited for 9 hours every day, for


5 days, in a small hide dug into the
ground. Fish were laid out as bait, which
helps the eagles through the winter
time. This is necessary as the fisheries
they usually take their catches from
have been emptied of fish.

The hooded crow you can see on the


edge of the scene is just one of many
crows that surrounded the area. In fact,
it became quite difficult to get a picture
that didnt have an out of focus crow
obscuring part of the picture. Every
situation has its own unique challenges.

The first day was extremely misty,


and the weather was not looking like it
would improve. Still, the first time I saw
an eagle appear from the thick mist
was magical.

Each day the weather improved


on the last, and by the end I was
photographing in relatively clear
conditions, much to my relief. A fantastic
trip with some fantastic birds!

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THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D700

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/640 second

Aperture

f/4

ISO Speed

2000

Equipment

Manfrotto Tripod
Wimberley Head

Black Grouse Lekking


Northumberland, UK

Black grouse have a tough time in the


UK. As a result, they are the elusive
bird of moorland habitats. I was lucky
enough to stumble upon a location for
black grouse one winter.
I was driving through some moorlands,
and spotted what looked like a black
cat on a wall (it was pretty far away).
As I got closer, I realised it was in fact a
black grouse. It wasnt in its impressive
breeding plumage, but it still demanded
a photo to be taken.
I carefully moved forward in the car,
taking as many images as I could. I then
drove off, having taken as many shots
as I could get, to find 10 more grouse fly
off from behind the wall.

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I remembered the location, and


returned in the spring. Arriving at the
area at 3am, I set up my hide in the
pitch black. As soon as I zipped up
the hide door and got settled, the first
glimmer of light appeared.
I still couldnt see anything, but I heard
the downbeat of grouse wings as they
landed in the fields. Soon the air filled
with rumbling calls of challenging
grouse.
Battling with extremely low light was
difficult, but eventually there was just
enough light to capture some lekking
photographs. They are extremely
violent in their displays for female
attention, making for great images.

THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D700

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/160 second

Aperture

f/6.7

ISO Speed

2500

Equipment

Manfrotto Tripod
Wimberley Head

11

Dont Talk With Your Mouth Full


Farne Islands, UK

The Farne Islands are famous for its


vast population of seabirds - puffins
in particular. Nicknamed the sea
parrot due to its brightly coloured
beak, puffins are very popular subjects
amongst wildlife photographers.
Every year they come to the Farne
Islands, which is a short drive from
where I live, and nest underground in
burrows there.
This image shows just how many fish a
puffin can carry after one fishing trip.
Their beak structure ensures that the
two parts are held parallel, instead of at
angles, to ensure that they dont drop
all the fish when they try to scoop up
more.

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They use their rough tongues to push


the fish up onto spines on the roof of
their mouth, holding them in position.

THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

These short, stocky birds look comical


when they fly as they flap extremely
fast. This is because they are built more
for swimming, rather than flight.

Camera

Nikon D700

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/250 second

Wandering around the Farne Islands


is highly recommended for a wildlife
photographer, and with patience you
will come away with photos you are
proud of.

Aperture

f/5

ISO Speed

640

Equipment

Manfrotto Tripod

This is just a simple portrait, but I like


it because of the detail in the sandeels,
and the sheer amount of them is quite
something!

Wimberley Head

13

Red Deer

Highlands of Scotland
Red deer are the biggest species of
deer we have in the UK, and the males
also sport an impressive set of antlers.

you can see from the photo the antlers


are still covered in velvet. At this time of
the year, the males are not aggressive.

The Scottish Highlands are home to


many wild red deer, and you can often
see them from the road when driving
through the hills. On such an occasion,
I pulled over and crept through the
bracken to try and get closer to the
deer.

When the stag heard me, he popped


up his head in surprise. He looks quite
shocked to see me, with his lunch still
hanging from his mouth.

Camera

Nikon D700

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/800 second

Photographing from eye-level allowed


me to use the bracken in the foreground
to obscure the deers body. The aim
of this was to show an almost comical
image of the stag.

Aperture

f/4

ISO Speed

640

Equipment

None (handheld)

There were two males feeding ahead


of me, and everytime they bowed their
heads I would move a little closer.
Eventually, I got a lot closer than I
expected: just 10 metres or so from the
male. If this was in the rutting season, I
would be too close and risk injury, but

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THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

When stalking animals, you may find


that at first they always hear you
or smell you and run away. But keep
practising, and youll get closer.

15

Jumping Red Squirrel


Northumberland, UK

Red squirrels spend most of their time in


the trees, leaping to and from branches.
They are capable of some impressive
acrobatics, and this was something I
wanted to capture on camera.

To get the shot, I set up a post with


some hazelnuts on top of it. I then
positioned a vertical stump next to
the platform, hoping that the squirrels
would leap from one to the other.

I have a red squirrel hide near my


house, allowing me to spend thousands
of hours photographing them alone.
This is ideal when trying to capture a
specific shot that I have in mind.

Eventually they did (apart from one,


who instead climbed up the pole and
stole the nuts), but it still took many
attempts to get this image. I would
manually focus where I thought they
would leap, and hold the shutter down
as soon as they jumped.

Capturing a photo of red squirrels


leaping through the air comes with
many challenges. First of all, you need
a lot of light, to ensure a quick shutter
speed. But the biggest challenge I found
was ensuring the image was actually in
focus.

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They are just too quick to pan with, and


so I have a lot of out of focus images.
However, luckily I have a handful of
focussed ones! It is fun to do, although
quite frustrating at the same time.

THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D4

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/2500 second

Aperture

f/4

ISO Speed

10,000

Equipment

Manfrotto Tripod
Wimberley Head

17

Puffin in Flight
Farne Islands, UK

Photographs using a panning technique,


like this one, are sometimes marmite
shots. Some people like them; some
dont.
I dont really ever use this technique,
however I wanted to achieve a new
type of puffin image. There are so many
flight shots around, but I have not seen
any panned puffin shots. They will be
out there I am sure - but I havent seen
them yet!
So, I slowed down the shutter speed
of my camera greatly and hoped for
the best. Panning the camera with
the puffin, trying to achieve the same
speed, allows you to get a sharp head
and body with blurred background

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and wings. This gives a great sense of


speed and movement, which was what I
wanted to achieve in this photo.
On this particular day, my Nikon
D4 decided to develop a problem.
This meant that the focussing
wasnt working properly, and it was
increasingly difficult to get a sharp
image. I was getting very frustrated,
and eventually gave up trying.
When I got home, I reviewed the images
and was surprised to see that I had one
frame that had actually worked. This
is the result, and I am quite pleased
with it. When you are panning, shoot as
many frames as you can and cross all
your fingers (yes, at the same time).

THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D4

Lens

200-400mm

Shutter Speed

1/160 second

Aperture

f/6.3

ISO Speed

50

Equipment

Manfrotto Tripod
Wimberley Head

19

Sky Scanner

Bass Rock, UK

Bass Rock is a famous location in the


UK, as it contains a colony of over
150,000 gannets.
Ive tried twice to land on Bass Rock,
and only once did the boat actually sail.
Upon landing, you are greeted by the
inevitable stench of a rock inhabited by
so many birds.
You are also greeted by the welcoming
snapping beaks of gannets that can
reach onto the path. Once theyve
settled down, it is great fun as you are
surrounded by potential photographic
opportunities.
I switched to a wide-angle for this
image, as I wanted to show the entire

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scene of Bass Rock. The gannets will


take turns on the nest, whilst the other
of the pair goes to catch fish. The
waiting bird will continually scan the
sky, looking for the return of its mate.
This shows one gannet doing just that,
and you can see in the background
the sheer amount of gannets that are
nesting on the rock. Its amazing just
how close their nests are to each other!
When the gannet thinks it has seen
its mate, itll rush forward making
a honking noise, only to look
disappointed as the bird flies on.
Eventually, its mate does return and
they reaffirm their bond by batting their
beaks together.

THE TECHNICAL DETAILS

Camera

Nikon D4

Lens

24-70mm

Shutter Speed

1/160 second

Aperture

f/9

ISO Speed

80

Equipment

None (handheld)

21

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