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Urban Wildlife Seen Through a Lens

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Posted: Thursday 8th February 2018 by WildBlog

By Toby Pickard

Student and amateur wildlife photographer Toby Pickard has recently allowed Avon Wildlife Trust to use many of his stunning urban wildlife photos. Here he talks about what inspired his interest – and passes on some top photography tips.

I am a 19-year-old wildlife and landscape photographer in my second year studying Geography at the University of Bristol. At the age of 13, I picked up a camera for the first time and, since then, have hardly ever put it down. With an interest in wildlife from an early age, I began to realise I could document my animal encounters with my camera, and, combining this with a love for creativity, I soon developed a passion that I now want to use and transform into a professional career.

As a wildlife and landscape photographer, I am regularly exploring the natural world around us. Whether it be bumping along in a Jeep in Namibia in search of wild dogs, hurtling along the coastline of Canada’s Vancouver Island in a speedboat in search of humpback whales, or simply walking around a park in London in search of urban foxes, wildlife can be found everywhere. And whilst I have captured images of some incredible landscapes and wildlife, some of my favourite images have been captured back at home in the UK, particularly here in Bristol. Most recently, my image, titled ‘Pigeon on the Streets’, was highly commended in the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017 in the ‘Urban Wildlife’ category, and this photo was taken right here in Bristol. Brandon Hill is a favourite location of mine to photograph urban wildlife – squirrels are fearless and pigeons are cocky - and because of their abundance, it allows you to get creative and experiment. This image of the pigeon was a photo I had been planning for a while after discovering the vibrant graffiti at the edge of the park, and took several attempts to get. Once I had identified the location, I set about getting the shot. I lay on the path, my camera set up and the scene composed. Then I coaxed the pigeons over with a handful of peanuts, eventually isolated this individual, pressing the shutter and triggering an external off-camera flash to correctly expose the pigeon in the foreground. This, for me, was one of my best images of 2017.

As well as Bristol, I occasionally head to London in search of urban wildlife. A fellow young wildlife photographer invited me along to a park in London to photograph a local fox he has been following and, despite it being 3pm on a sunny June afternoon, the fox was active and stayed with us for two and a half hours whilst I experimented with different angles and lenses to get the shots I wanted. Again, I lay down on the grass and, using a scattering of dog food on the grass, encouraged the fox over, capturing this image while I lay a mere half a metre away from the wild animal – an awe-inspiring experience.

Here are my most important tips for improving your wildlife photography:

1. Get out and explore – none of these images would have been possible if I hadn’t made the effort to head out with my camera
2. A small amount of food always helps, but never overfeed the animals!
3. Get down low
4. Look for eye-contact – this captivates the audience!

Good luck!

To see more of Toby’s photographs, you can go to his website


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