Of course, the past year has also seen a big change of direction for me to follow my real passion in life - no not West Ham, but aviation. I don’t regret many things in my life but I do regret not combining my love of aviation with my photography. Now though, I spend as much time trying to get decent aviation shots as I do my wildlife, and my passions are definitely split. Actually, I think it’s made me a better wildlife photographer, as my reactions are quicker and I have to think more about how an image looks before taking it.
Of course, many 'commentators' don’t really understand my change and have come up with all kinds of reasons for it. The truth is that I need more in my photography than my wildlife, and aviation has really reignited my passion for photography full stop. I had fallen out of love with it, mainly due to the way the market is today and the kind of images favoured by competitions, as I have been and always will be too commercial to do really well. But now, even with such limited time, I look forward to photographing both genres equally and the future's looking bright!
So without further ado, let’s get stuck into the wildlife and look at 5 of my favourite images from the past year…
Taken with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, ISO 400, 1/400th at f5.6, WB Shade
I took this whilst on assignment in Ranthambhore, India, working on my second Tiger book (in collaboration with Indian wildlife photographer supreme Aditya Singh). It had been a tough trip as we had been dogged by a lot of mist, which was good for ethereal landscapes in the forest but rubbish for finding tigers. Then, after days of seeing nothing, we found the mother and her cubs on a kill. Ensuring we were there first thing in the morning we waited. I had the Canon EOS-1D X DSLR on the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x and the 7D Mark II on the new 100-400mm (a lens I totally love).
I like to use two setups like this as it allows me to keep tabs on different scenarios - this time the 1D X setup was focused on the mother, while I was hand-holding the 7D Mark II to get cub action shots. I almost missed this shot too, as the mother had just yawned and I was busy photographing her teeth. As I looked up from the 1D X I saw the cubs heading for each other; I grabbed the 7D Mark II and set a nice frame size with the 100-400 that was a lot wider than the action would be. I always do this - it comes from experience of chopping off heads and wings by framing too tight. Since the buffer on the 7D Mark II is quite small I was conservative with my shooting, timing the shots to the peak of the fight - I am always very selective about what I take.
The result is a lovely tiger dance, with a great tiger facial expression and some atmospheric light. It remains one of my favourite tiger shots to date and is a worthy start to this series.
Taken with the 7D Mark II, 100-400mm lens, ISO 800mm, f8 @ 1/125th
Composition has never been my strong point. I tend to look at an image and know instantly how I want to frame it rather than thinking it carefully through. I’m a very reactive photographer and while this has stood me in good stead throughout my career, sometimes I wish I’d have taken a few seconds to think things through! This is one occasion where I did just that - I worked out the composition I wanted, with the mountain hare in it’s cave being dominated by the much larger ice cave above. I wanted to show how they are so suited to their habitat, yet so dwarfed by the enormity of it. I think it works well - of course I could have zoomed right into the hare and just taken a close up, but I think that sometimes less is most definitely more.
Taken with the 1D X, 200-400mm lens, with 1.4x engaged, ISO 800, f5.6 @ 1/320th
I love cheetahs, always have and always will. Getting different images of them from the norm has always been a successful way of working for me, but it’s getting more difficult as restrictions and the number of vehicles increases in the Mara. On this occasion I took a gamble. The female cheetah was walking, leading her cubs to a new place, so I could relax and concentrate on getting good pictures as I would not be in danger of spoiling any hunt. I saw that she was headed towards a small valley and knew immediately that it would allow me to get lower than her, so took our vehicle down until we were level with her eyes. The beautiful light and the out of focus grass did the rest. I positioned her slightly to the left so that those stunning eyes looked into the frame and that was that. Proof that pushing yourself to take something slightly different is ALWAYS worth it.
Taken on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens with Canon Extender EF 1.4x III teleconverter, ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/3200th
This image caused the biggest reaction on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that I have ever had. 100,000 views, 4,000 likes and a bunch of comments. It shows a Great Crested Grebe backlit, swimming across a lake that is backlit by the rising sun. Everything came together at once, the light, the grebe, and the wonderful bokeh. Of course the 1D X Mark II’s amazing autofocus, coupled with the fact I could really push the file without any bad effect, added to the picture too. For once everything worked!
Taken with the 1D X Mark II, 100-400mm lens, ISO 6400, f13 @ 1/160th
Bang up to date and for me this is a very special image as it was taken on my 50th trek to see Mountain Gorillas. It shows my favourite silverback, “Lucky” Muninya of the Hirwa group regarding me with a typically interested look. He’s an amazing silverback and I have photographed him for years - in fact he’s very much my gorilla muse. I always think that Gorilla photography is more like portrait photography than anything else, as the essence is in capturing their personality. Of course, the conditions were tough and with cloudy skies under a canopy, light levels were poor. This is where the 1D X Mark II really came into it’s own, as I could set ISO 6400 and not worry about noise on the fur or when I brighten the shadows around the eyes, as their wasn’t any. A beautiful animal and I cannot wait to go and see them again.
To find out more about Andy Rouse, or the equipment used to capture the images in this blog post, please call Park Cameras on 01444 23 70 70 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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