Monday, 27 October 2014

Tom Langlands - Getting into Their World (Part 1)

Red Squirrel

We all observe wildlife from time to time. It may be sitting at the window watching the birds on the garden feeders or it may be heading up the hills or into the woods in the hope of seeing a deer or perhaps a red squirrel. Hundreds of thousands of images of our nation’s fauna will be taken on such trips and yet many people looking at their photographs later will feel a bit disappointed. Somehow the photograph they took doesn’t quite capture what they were seeing. Why is that and how do you go about getting good wildlife images?

One of the main reasons many people will be disappointed with their first attempts at wildlife photography is that they took the picture ‘from their world’ of a subject ‘in its world’. Good wildlife photography bridges that gap. Wildlife images become more believable and much more powerful when you convince the viewer that you are inside the world of your subject.

Common Lizard

There are a variety of techniques you can use to achieve this illusion and over my next few blogs I will give you some pointers. Like all rules they don’t work on all occasions and they are not always applicable but they are a good starting point.


Let’s start with one of the most basic:-

Get to the same eye level.
Many times I see people standing upright while looking down on an insect or maybe down on a friendly squirrel on the ground or a lizard on a rock. The problem is that as bipeds our height distances us from the very thing we want to photograph. When we take a photograph from that viewpoint we are taking it from our perspective and not from the perspective of our subject. We become observers rather than participants.


If your subject is a fish get in the water beside it and share its environment. If you can’t realistically do that, then make it appear as if you are in the water with it by photographing it through the side of an aquarium. Alternatively, if it skims around on the water surface get down to the same level and occupy the same space.

Cabbage White Caterpillar

If you are photographing an insect that crawls about on the ground or low grasses then get down there with it. If it crawls about on the reeds at the edge of a pond get down beside it. I carry a cheap camping mat around with me for that very reason. It protects me from the worst of the cold and damp. I also carry midge repellant!

Whooper Swans

If your subject is a bird then either get down on the ground beside it or use a high vantage point to create the illusion that you are flying with it. This latter technique can be highly effective and I have used hills and observation towers to make it seem as if I am in the sky with them.


Getting to the same eye level is probably the best of all advice for creating the illusion that you are in the same world as your subject. The resultant photograph will make your viewer feel that they too are inside your subject’s world and once you achieve this your wildlife photographs will begin to come to life.

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