Part 2 of a 2 Part Blog: A Photography Day at the British Wildlife Centre, Lingfield, Surrey
Ethics statement: all these images are of wildlife held in the care and captivity of the British Wildlife Centre.
With lunch over we headed back out to the centre where the photography could recommence. The second half of the day started with a Tawny owl. With a nice perch ready to go on the tree the Tawny owl obliged and we got some really natural looking photos...
The next subject for us was a hedgehog. Hedgehogs are amazing creatures but unfortunately they are under threat in the UK. They used to be a common sight in people's gardens but more and more of us are closing garden properties off and this restricts there ability to traverse through gardens into their natural habitat areas. Hedgehogs are on the top 10 list of the UK's most endangered species.
It was then back to Owl's. This time a barn owl.
Photographing this barn owl made me realise that I wanted to do more owl photography. About 18 months ago I did some birds of prey photography in the UK where I was able to photograph a couple of owls. But I missed out on the Barn Owl. I have seen some stunning images, particularly from Andy Rouse, or owls and barn owls in flight. Having photography this one, I realised its time to get myself on a specialist owl mission!
So with this trio captured and in the bag, we were now in store for something a little less sedate. We went to the otter enclosure.
There were three otters in the enclosure and it was impressive to get so close to them. They really were very curious about our presence and were constantly on the move. They advanced towards us and then retreated to the water, often having a swim and doing some twirls and acrobatics, then resting on the small island before approaching us again. It is in this instance it is good to observe and watch for a while before shooting some images. If you can watch the behaviour you get a better idea for the type of shot you might achieve. There were a couple of behaviours I spotted I wanted to try and capture. One was the otter swimming on its back, which looked particularly impressive. The other was the otter bounding out of the water and up onto the bank. After watching their behaviour I was able to time it just right...
The otters were a lot of fun. I think with animals that are constantly on the move it keeps you on your toes and you have to think about anticipating the shot. I think this is the best scenario in wildlife photography for keeping your shooting skills sharp.
Next we stopped to photograph some deer. Now, I will be honest...I've had better occasions to shoot deer in the UK, so whilst I took a few shots, for me I didn't concentrate too much on the deer. Unfortunately the landscape was looking pretty ragged and personally I think if you are going to photograph deer you need the backdrop to accentuate the subject.
If I thought the otters were fun then nothing prepared me for what was to come next: the weasel. It just started to rain and so we went to the enclosures for polecats, stoats, badgers and weasels. As the rain got heavier I was having little success tracking the weasel which was moving at what seem to be, the speed of light. So I went and took some shots of the very cute polecat, before returning to the weasel determined to get at least one shot!
The polecat: one of the cutest animals I have seen. Looks like a small bear!
The weasel: these things run and just don't stay still.
With the weasel shot in the bag, that pretty much drew the day to a close. Our guide had spent the whole day with us, from 10am through to 4pm, a total of 6 hours. We'd photographed a diverse range of species and had a lot of fun. We'd managed to get relatively close to each of the animals in a way that didn't stress the animal, and this is really important. I also learnt some things I didn't know and discovered one species I was unaware was native to the British Isles: the muntjac. And I think that was a good sign, because as I drove back to where I was staying I spotted a muntjac at the side of the road grazing...and could now identify it (definitely not a deer!).
So in part 1 of the blog, I mentioned that the cost of the day was £90. I asked the question "is it worth it?". The reason I asked the question is because as photographers and more importantly as this day was open only to amateur photographers, our budgets are always stretched. We have to get the most out of our gear, and we often don't have revenue streams from our photography like the pros do. Having said that, I can't argue with the price. To be fully guided for the 6 hours of the day and have the entire centre to ourselves gave us amazing photographic opportunities. We were a group of 12 people and I think that is probably the maximum number of photographers that could be reasonably accommodated in some of the enclosures. As a wildlife photographer, I also know that centre's like this one do a lot of great work in rescue animals, conservation, education and habitat maintenance. So "is it worth it?" - yes, it is. A great day out, great photography and great company.