#07 – Not a Wildlife Photographer

I’ve been here before…

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In fact, one of the perks of my job is the time away from the office at places like this. Milton Hill House sits in Oxfordshire, a pocket of green in not far from Didcot. It also happens to be the location of our yearly graduate academy.

During most of the conferences I end up going to, I find myself in a Premier Inn or Travel Lodge, which is all well and good, but Milton Hill House has a little extra to offer, and in the middle of summer, when the sun doesn’t disappear before 9pm, you can get out and enjoy the grounds. They are tucked away at the back, and from the looks of things they consist mainly of set-aside. The wildflowers are the give-away, fields of them adjacent to pasture that you would otherwise expect to also be farmland for cattle.

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It was blisteringly hot through the few days we spent here and on the Wednesday evening, after spending all day in a conference room training, I really wanted to get out and have an explore.

The 80D goes everywhere with my now, conferences, weekends away, not-weekends away, everywhere, and Milton Hill House did not disappoint. Though my continued attempt at wildlife photography did disappoint.

Rabbits are all over Milton Hill House, so they provided the perfect subject to practice my wildlife photography on. Ahead of Sri Lanka, it has been a priority of mine to work on this area and improve my skills ahead of safari and general travel around a place I have never experienced before. But even rabbits pose a problem for me, they’re small, lightning quick, and because of their neighbours, foxes, and red kites, they are super shy and skittish. My biggest problem is getting the focus right, and once that is nailed, ensuring that handshake doesn’t compromise my shot at a long focal length. Too many shots remained blurred to an extent that it was unsalvageable, but there were a small number of shots worth showing.

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The next issue I have with wildlife photography is getting an interesting photo. A photo of a lion yawning can look fantastic because the lion is a figure worth looking at, but a photo of a rabbit sat in a field is neither inspiring or interesting. So when a muntjac reared its head amongst the wildflowers, I really wanted to nail the shot.

I was close. See for yourself.

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The conditions weren’t great for shooting a fast shutter speed and it shows, but the shot is interesting and the 80D can grapple with a higher ISO compared to my old 1100D, so I’ve learnt to be more liberal when thinking about constraining the settings. This was a shot only achievable because I was in the right place at the right time. If I lived here I think I would make an effort to visit the same spot more and more, and for longer times too. That’s essential with wildlife photography – at least that’s what the discipline as taught me. With wildlife photography, there seems to be no substitute for effort, knowing your subject or your habitat is key because the shot you want is gone in a split second.

I didn’t get a shot of a red kite. That’s my biggest disappointment from the week away. I was dying to get a shot of the resident female being mobbed by crows as she circled her nest looking for food, but the opportunity never arose between working and sitting through conferences. I can, however, recommend Didcot for photographing red kites if that is what you are looking for.

All in all, it was a decent week away from London, things are changing fast down here, I move house in just over a month, and with charity events, weddings, and parties all the way through to September now, hopefully there will be some great events to show you all.

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