Wildlife photographer Paul Hobson shows three AP readers how to photograph small British mammals up close using a macro lens. Oliver Atwell picks up some tips

Framing and Composition

It’s
important to have a good idea of where you want to have your subject
within the composition and how you want the shot to be framed because a
bad composition or framing decision can ruin a shot.

‘As your
wildlife subjects are surrounded by things such as branches, grass and
leaves, you have ample opportunity to experiment with framing,’ says
Paul. ‘The environment offers you lots of natural framing devices. Think
about what you want in the foreground, up top and around the sides of
your subject. Even empty space can be used to your advantage.

Photo by Pam Sherron

‘It
is also worth experimenting with where you want the animal to sit
within the frame. You can have the subject central, just off-centre or
quite low down. Each position says something different. Sometimes your
composition will be dictated by the environment or the behaviour of the
animal itself. However, more often than not it is down to you to
previsualise and know what will look best.’

Captivity vs the Wild
‘With
small animals in the wild your biggest challenge is going to be how to
get close to them,’ says Paul. ‘While you could potentially shoot them
in those conditions, it would take a lot of preparation and baiting.
You’ll actually find that many shots of mammals such as dormice and
harvest mice are done in captivity. The chance of getting them in a good
enough pose in the wild is almost non-existent.

Photo by David Morton

‘Most
of the shots of harvest mice that you see are done in captivity,’ says
Paul. ‘It’s incredibly rare to see them in the wild. When you see a shot
of a harvest mouse it will be among barley. That’s the classic harvest
mouse shot, but it’s completely false. In the UK these mice don’t live
in places like barley fields – in fact, they haven’t done so for about
50 years. The fields used to be full of weeds and insects for them to
eat, but then we started spraying the fields with pesticides and the
environment became too hostile for the harvest mice to survive. There’s
also not enough cover in these areas now. So even though shots of
harvest mice on barley are common, they’re unreal. When taking pictures
of harvest mice, as well as tackling the classic barley shot, it’s worth
attempting to get it on some weeds, which are more common to
its natural environment.’

  1. 1. Would you like to take part?
  2. 2. Page 2
  3. 3. The Background
  4. 4. Framing and Composition
  5. 5. Using natural light, fill-flash
  6. 6. Page 6
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