WE’VE SALIVATED AT your mouth-watering food pictures and been blown away by the sheer diversity of your portrait photography and now it’s time to turn your camera on the natural world that’s around you, and to share with us your very best wildlife shots.

Yet again, you’ve got a huge blank canvas to work with, because you don’t need to head off to the other side of the world to find subjects to focus on. Even if you live in the heart of a bustling city, if you look hard enough wildlife can be found all around you, from the urban fox that roams the streets as dusk falls, through to the busy spiders spinning their webs and the birds visiting your feeding table. Head out into the countryside and the list of subjects for your camera grows ever longer and this is one of those areas of photography that can become truly addictive.

While you might think that a long lens is a must to tackle this genre, you could well find instead that a macro becomes your best friend, while with a little imagination you can photograph wildlife subjects with virtually any lens or, indeed, any camera. Photography provides a golden opportunity to stop for a moment and take a closer look at the world around you, so get out there and shoot a classic!

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll know the ground rules by now. We’re running Pro Academy in tandem with the excellent Nikon School and, over the next few months, we’ll be setting a total of six testing challenges to see what you can do. You’re cordially invited to enter just one category or to go the whole hog and to take part in all six.

We’re inviting you to send across your best single shot from the assignment to our expert team at Professional Photo and, if you’ve met the required standard, we’ll send you back an e-certificate to prove the fact. Successfully complete all six assignments and you’ll receive a further e-certificate to confirm that you really are an excellent all-round operator! We should add that it’s not a competition and there are no prizes to be won, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your skills have been recognised and it’s a chance to dip into some fresh genres.

How to Take Part

You don’t need to be a professional photographer or a Nikon user to take part in Pro Academy, and don’t feel shy about sending in the best shot you’ve been able to achieve, even if it’s perhaps not up to the high standards of the work you can see here. It’s all about learning and rest assured we will be making allowances for newbies! Enter your photo below by clicking on the green submission box.

Challenge number Three

Wildlife Photography

WE WANT TO SEE your best single shot related to wildlife, and you’ve got complete free rein in terms of the approach you choose. Our expert photographer sharing tips this month is Nikon Europe Ambassador and multi-award-winning wildlife photographer and National Geographic contributor Andy Parkinson. With a philosophy that sees him as concerned about the welfare of his subjects as he is about the quality of his pictures, Andy is truly immersed in his subject and a fund of useful information for those looking to develop their wildlife photography skills.

Technical Tips with Neil Freeman

“It’s easy to think that all wildlife photographers need extremely long lenses to be able to take decent pictures,” says Neil, “but the fact is that there are plenty of wildlife subjects where you can get a lot closer and don’t need the huge telephotos, especially if you’re prepared to be patient to let the animal come closer to you.

However, for times when you do need to shoot from a distance, this is where you’ll find working with a croppedsensor camera, such as Nikon’s DX range, can help, since this will effectively increase the focal length of your lens, in this case by 1.5x. So, if you’re working with a 300mm this means that it’s immediately boosted to a 450mm, and if you’ve got a 2x converter then you’re up to a 900mm, which is a seriously long optic and probably more than most people will need. I usually work with a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S on my Z 7II, and with a doubler this takes me up to 400mm, which I find to be plenty long enough for most wildlife subjects. There’s also the point that this camera features a 45MP sensor, so there’s plenty of resolution if I need to crop in a little to make the subject larger in the frame.”

With the pandemic now thankfully easing, the Nikon School experience courses are now back up and running and they’re booking out fast. There are plenty that relate to wildlife photography, so check the website for details of upcoming events.

nikonschool.co.uk/courses/wildlife

Submit your photograph here.

Andy Parkinson Wildlife Specialist

Each month, we’ll feature a top professional from the genre we’re covering to get some idea about what they find so compelling about their chosen speciality.

Camera Gear

As a nature photographer, Andrew works in some extremely hostile conditions and he relies on the quality and robustness of his pro-spec Nikon D6 and Z 6II to never let him down. The lens he uses most regularly is his Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR, but he’s also recently taken delivery of the latest Nikon 600mm f/4 E FL ED VR AF-S.

AS SOMEONE WHO deeply loves the natural world, Andy Parkinson has discovered his dream job, travelling widely with his camera recording the superb variety of wildlife that’s out there. Totally committed to his craft, he’s considered to be one of the top exponents in his field, with over 85 awards to his name to date and a coveted role as a feature contributor to the prestigious National Geographic magazine under his belt.

“I was inspired by my uncle, semiprofessional wildlife photographer Rick Packwood,” says Andy, “and while I’m self-taught, I learned a lot from him and I’m following in his footsteps. My career started back in 2000, in the days of film, and the most critical lesson I picked up from back then was the importance of accurate exposure, and the vagaries of it. I also find all of my own wildlife subjects and even now I prefer to work close to home, with species with which I have an encyclopaedic knowledge.”

A glance at Andy’s impressive portfolio makes the strong visual point that, while there are obviously some memorable pictures to be achieved in far-flung places, there’s still enormous potential in the world around us, so long as the person behind the camera has the imagination and the patience to tap into it. Some of the most striking shots Andy produces are of easily accessible subjects such as swans and garden birds, and it’s his masterful use of lighting and composition that delivers shots that can stand comparison against anything produced on a distant safari.

“I would recommend those who are new to wildlife photography to work locally and to begin to notice the fall of light and the types of animals and birds you have access to,” Andy says. “You should never put an image before the welfare of your subjects and, where possible, shoot them from their eye level. Be sympathetic and patient and invest time sitting, watching and, most importantly, learning.

“Respect is my number-one priority; an understanding that it’s simply an image, as opposed to the life-and-death consideration of the subject. It’s also important to see wildlife photography realistically, not some romanticised version of exotic trips to faraway places. In reality, wildlife photography tends to involve getting up at dawn and then lying in a muddy ditch for six hours!”

andrewparkinson.com

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