Down here, where the wildlife lives, the world looks very different. All the components
are the same, moss and dry grass, even the barbed wire fence assumes a different
place in your world. It becomes something that you walk under without ducking, rather
than something you step over on tip toes with your fingers crossed. The pheasant
seeks a cozy spot out of the wind, he has fed well on spilt grain and wants somewhere
to rest and watch the world go by before stepping out for that all important top
up before another chilly winter night.
Unless I am away from my home patch now, I hardly ever carry the camera around. Instead
it sits immobile in its box hide, down among the wildlife waiting for something to
come close enough. It works delightfully and I am most pleased with the images I
am getting from this approach. We have always strived to get a low viewpoint. Most
living things make a better picture if you are at eye level with them, but the combination
of short (by wildlife photography standards) lenses and a seriously low angle seem
ideal to me.
I started off using 24-35 mm focal lengths, but while I found the resulting images
informative, they felt somehow remote. Long lenses can create spectacular, detailed,
but uninformative eye candy shots surrounded by a sea of mush, if used close up;
or flat two dimensional painting like landscapes at distance. Both have their merits,
and I am not knocking them, but to my eye the results always look as though they
were taken by an observer, watching from a distance or from on high.
I like the halfway house that my pictures have now. I have settled by trial and error
on lenses in the 100-150 mm range and 135 mm seems to be about where I usually end
up. Using a fixed position for the camera creates its own difficulties, but judicious
cropping and shorter lenses, give plenty of options without having to chase the subject
around. This pheasant actually fell asleep in front of me for about twenty minutes.
A sure sign that they are happy with the camera’s presence and that they are acting
naturally. The difference that makes may not be quantifiable, but it shows in the
resulting images, to me, any road.