Being part of a local camera club has many advantages especially when they have arranged for a speaker for the evening. One of these speakers who was talking about wildlife happened to mention about the Westcountry Wildlife Centre in Devon (WCWPC)
Afterwards, I was really keen to try and get some wildlife photos as previously all I had taken was the odd rabbit or fox in the wild along. So I booked a 1-2-1 day in April 2018 at the centre along with a wildlife photographer expert (Chris) that they also organised (as I didn’t have a clue how to take images of wildlife). The photographer was really easy to work with, helped me the appropriate camera settings for each animal we encountered and where the best position would be to get a good composition shot. The lady animal handler was also very experienced and very knowledgeable about every animal.
Shortly afterwards, the camera club arranged a group day out in August 2018 so I managed to get two visits in the same year but during different seasons. Happy Days 🙂
I really really enjoyed the visits. It is a working facility and the have fully enclosed sets that the animals can be transported to for photographing with specifically designed portals to allow unimpeded vision of the animals and to hopefully avoid any distracting background. The sets contain a mixture of rocks, vegetation, logs etc to make it look more natural. The outdoor habitats are a lot bigger and can contain some extra features. But bring your wellies and waterproofs as getting on the floor in the mud and grass helps!
If you are getting into wildlife photography I think this is an amazing start. Learning where to place yourself, what camera settings is best and why. Animals out in the wild are rarely seen or can be very far away, so this day out will get you up close (very up close on some) and no doubt you will come back with some amazing photos to share.
Some tips I learned that may help others thinking of going…
- Take several memory cards (ideally not one big one in case it fails). Ideally a fast memory card if you are likely to be taking lots of high burst shots to capture the moment. My first visit I took 2000 photos in RAW format and that took alot of space.
- Tripod – due to the landscape, weather and constant moving from set to set (and inside the set) this would have been more of a hindrance than helpful. So i was advised not to bring it and I found it was not required. However a really grim cloudy day it maybe of use.
- Bring wellies and waterproofs. Even if the ground is dry, you are in an enclosure where animal poo is likely to be about. So some kind of blanket and waterproofs really helps.
- On a reasonable bright day, flash guns were not required. But if the sky is really overcast then you may struggle to capture a fast moving animal. If you have them, bring them in case the weather turns but I haven’t yet needed these myself.
- Spare batteries – always good to have more and charged.
- Lenses – I brought a selection but found the most versatile for me was my 40-150 telephoto lens. This gave me an all rounder for all animals.
- Camera Settings – Aperture priority but keep an eye on the shutter speed especially in low light and adjust as necessary if you need to increase the shutter speed i.e. higher ISO perhaps or adjust the aperture/EV. I had set my ISO to fluctuate between 100 and a max of 1200 to get the best shutter speed as possible even if the light changed.
Please see the gallery photos below for some taken over my two visits.