Professional wildlife photographer Simon Roy from Wetherby stunned Club members on 5 February with a series of exceptional images of the natural world. And nearly all the shots were from within Yorkshire.
“I am self-taught,” said Simon, “and I’ve learned to experiment and think ahead.” Simon’s subjects include birds, water voles, squirrels, hares, rabbits and seals. He sells his work to magazines and other publications so he regularly visualises how editors may wish to use his images. He leaves space for text, he acknowledges that ‘cute’ furry animals sell magazines, and he knows which angles will show off an animal to best advantage. “Get down to the level of your subject if you can,” recommends Simon. “But bear in mind that you are likely to get wet or muddy, so waterproof overalls are a good investment.”
He typically uses single point focus. But he does not lock focus in advance. “If I am waiting for a bird to land on a branch it might move the perch slightly when it lands.” He recommends focusing on where the feet will be. “If you wait until the bird arrives and try to focus on an eye then the bird may well be off before you take your shot. With birds, if the nearest foot is in focus then usually the eye will be too.”
He likes to photograph on days with a bit of cloud as this balances the light better and prevents hot spots. He makes sure his backgrounds appear out of focus so that nothing distracts from the subject. But even a blurred background can have distracting colours so sometimes he rigs up a background he has created himself.
The animals do not pose just by chance. Simon researches the animals’ habits, when they are active and what food they like. He puts out treats to encourage them, if necessary hiding the containers from the camera. He likes scenes to look authentic and natural. “When I was photographing a harvest mouse on some recently sawn logs the ends of the wood were too bright. I rubbed them down with tea bags to make them look a bit more aged.”
Simon thinks carefully about the composition of his shots and the impact they will make on the viewer, drawing on skills he developed in his former work as a graphic designer. He can take straightforward record shots of animals but increasingly he now looks out for artistic images, often with dramatic lighting. His dedication to his work impressed Club members and showed that outstanding results can be achieved thanks to patience, pre-visualisation and striving for perfection.
Ilkley Camera Club is currently meeting via Zoom at 7.30pm on Fridays. For more information contact us.