Speaker – Tesni Ward – A Wildlife Masterclass

By | 14th February 2024

13 February 2024

Tesni is based about an hour from the Peak District National Park and became a professional wildlife photographer when she was made redundant from her job, having booked a safari and bought a new lens. A conversation with another photography on the trip convinced her to take the opportunity to change career and make a living from what she loves doing.

Tesni’s talk covered the four points she considers most important when photographing wildlife: Understand your subject; Location; Light; and Composition.

  1. Learn about your subject. Tesni advocates learning as much about the subjects you hope to photograph as possible and recommended reference material such as “Animals tracks, Trails and Signs”. Also, what time of year and day we might expect to find our subjects. We were also quizzed on several tell-tale signs of UK animal wildlife.
  2. Location. Use Google for rarer species and for more common species (e.g. Canadian Geese) use Google maps to look for their habitats. Tesni uses Google maps default view first (as features such as wetlands stand out more). Then switched to Google Earth view, to look for interesting features and finally OS Maps, to check for access (public footpaths, car parks, etc.). Tesni stressed that there are free online sites that show footpaths (for example footpathmaps.com).
  3. Light. Tesni’s advice was to use software and websites to help plan where the best light would be for a specific site. (Flagging Photo Ephemeris website, and Sun Surveyor mobile devices). Backlit subjects can look really good in early or late light. Where the light has a touch of orange and reveals detail around the outline of the subject. Caveat: If using a DSLR, be careful looking directly into the sun through the optical viewfinder as this can damage your eye sight. Front light is best for high-contrast subjects (e.g. Badgers), remember to expose for the highlights (i.e. under expose the image). Sidelight is popular for many photographers. Although this can introduce a high level of contrast across the subject, so again be sure to expose for the highlights. And finally Tesni covered the best sort of light, Overcast. This is the best sort of light for capturing wildlife images throughout the day. It can create an even background and much less contrast across the subject.
  4. Composition. Rule of thirds. Something of interest in 2/3 of the image and the remaining 1/3 empty of interest. Always ensure your subject looks into the image, as that is where the viewers eye will follow. But where there is symmetry, place the subject in the middle of the frame. Look out for leading lines. These can be straight (e.g. telegraph wires) or curved (for example the sweep of a birds wing and neck). Another good wildlife compositional tool is using a natural frame. Tesni showed several examples of framing in her images. Finally and possibly most importantly, try to ensure your wildlife images are taken at the subject’s eye level. “Get down. Get lower”.

Finally, Tesni emphasised keeping to your own style and don’t be afraid to fail. Great photographers don’t always take great images, you only see the best of their work.

A great talk with many useful hints, tips and practical examples. Thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.