Park life


In the second of a series of articles featuring the images of local photographers who document the wildlife of Wanstead Park and the surrounding area, James Ball presents his close-up of a long-tailed tit

I’m James, a local estate agent with a passion for photographing all types of wildlife and, in particular, birds. I find it amazing the variety of wildlife we can see almost on our doorsteps.

Here’s an image I took earlier this winter in Wanstead Park. It was an overcast day, which didn’t provide brilliant light but did mean the light was evenly spread with little shadow.

This bird is a long-tailed tit, resembling a pink, white and black ball of fluff, with a long tail. Like candy floss with wings, they can be very photogenic. Gregarious and noisy residents, long-tailed tits are most usually noticed in small, excitable flocks of about 20 birds.

Like most tits, they rove the woods and hedgerows but are also seen on heaths and commons with suitable bushes. They move quickly and rarely stop for longer than a second or two, so you have to try and get a step ahead. I positioned myself in front of the flock and took this image when the bird landed on an isolated branch with a clean foreground and background.

Here are some of my top tips for taking better wildlife photographs. 

You’ll be lucky to stumble across your target subject on the first attempt, even the second or third. Learning your subject’s habits will help you put yourself a step ahead.

Try to position yourself as close to the subject’s eye level as you can, even if it means lying on the ground! This connects your camera to the subject, creating a more emotive and often dramatic image.

Fast shutter speed
This will allow you to capture wildlife whilst it’s on the move. Birds all move at different speeds, depending on their size and how much of a rush they are in. So, you’ll need to adjust your settings accordingly. Gulls over a lake are a great entry subject for capturing birds in flight.

Use ‘continuous shooting’ mode and ‘continuous focusing’ to take multiple bursts of photographs and to continually track the subject. These modes will have different names on different brands of camera.

In my opinion, the best lighting is at dusk and dawn during the ‘golden hour’. The sunrises over Wanstead Flats and the sunsets in Wanstead Park are beautiful, and when you can time this with passing birds, you can achieve great results; well worth the early alarm!

Position yourself so the sun is behind you and you’re facing the bird you’re photographing for the best lighting setup. Shooting into the sun can also sometimes create lovely photographs, especially when the sun is low and the light is less harsh, making perfect conditions for artistic silhouettes.

To view more of James’s wildlife photos, visit wnstd.com/jamesball

Author: Editor