Learning Wildlife Photography with MyPhotoSchool

One of the things I wanted to do this year was improve my photography. I have always been a point and click photographer and while that gives passable photos it does not create photographs with great impact. I still use autofocus and have yet to read my camera manual to find out what the other settings do. When I was offered the chance to learn about wildlife photography with MyPhotoSchool. I was really excited. I love observing the wildlife we have locally and wanted to learn how capture them on film. MyPhotoSchool offers on-line photography courses and you get a chance to learn from photography experts in your own home. It sounded like a great opportunity to learn more about my camera.

MyPhotoSchool The course itself is easy to access. Once you have logged in you can view the classroom. Each week a new lesson becomes visible and you can watch the video, download the course notes, and find out what the assignment for that week is. When the assignment has been completed you can upload your photographs and comments. Your tutor then provides feedback and  you also have a chance to chat to the others taking part in the class and learn from their assignments. The interaction is invaluable as you can see what others have done well and badly, which really helps the learning experience. The course can be done at your own pace, you can watch the video whenever you want. You can still access the classroom at the end of the four weeks allowing you to revisit parts of the lessons that you want to try again.

If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a wildlife photographer then you will find out on the Introduction to Wildlife Photography course by Heather Angel. Heather has been a wildlife photographer for many years and her photographs are spectacular. Listening to the videos on the course her enthusiasm for wildlife really comes across. Taking those amazing photographs requires an instinctive knowledge of how to use the camera, getting to know the habits of the  wildlife being photographed and being in the right place at the right time. Wildlife photography takes patience, you could be in the right place and watch for hours but not see anything. At other times you might get lucky and be rewarded with a great shot. It is all about being observant, listening for the bird call that indicates there is a bird nearby or hearing a rustle in the undergrowth and finding a hedgehog. You need to be quiet and stealthy so you don’t scare the animals away. You also need to get to know their habits, watching the flight of a bird to work out where it might land.

HedgehogI was a bit worried when I started the course that I did not have the right equipment to take animal photographs. I would love a DSLR with a long telephoto lens but currently just have a compact camera. I did not need to worry, Heather’s tips can be used with all cameras. Although some of the information about setting ISO and shutter priority was beyond my knowledge it has given me an enthusiasm to learn more. I have started to practice finding these settings on my camera in order to improve my photos. The lessons have given me an indication of which setting I should be trying and I am gradually getting to grips with these.

What has amazed me that even in a city was the range of wildlife I found. At this time of year the animals are quite active, with birds busy building their nests and feeding their young. Just watching though the window of my back garden I saw lots of birds collecting material for their nests.

MagipieWood pigeonI got a big surprise when I was washing the dishes in the kitchen and saw a sparrowhawk fly into the tree in my back garden. Luckily I had my camera close to hand and managed to grab a shot. I have never seen him before or since and it was amazing having a majestic bird so close.

SparrowhawkI used my early morning walks with the dog to search for wildlife in the country park nearby. I glimpsed rabbits from a distance, who bounded away quickly as we approached. In the streams and pools around the area I found moorhens, swans and ducks.

MoorhenDuckSwanEven outside the park there was plenty of wildlife to be seen. Walking to the shop  I found a jackdaw strutting his stuff beside the road and a blackbird searching for worms.

JackdawBlackbirdI even caught some birds fighting on the rooftops on an early morning walk.

Birds fightingIf I had not been taking the wildlife photography course I would have missed most of these animals. The photograhy course is well structured and set up, in the four weeks you learn about getting started, animal portraits, taking pictures of moving animals, macro shots, editing images and photo stories. The assignments are well structured to each lesson and offer a challenge. Whilst I know I still need lots of practice I managed to get some decent shots that I was pleased with. The feedback  I received from Heather though the course was very helpful. She suggested tips for things I could try or how I could have taken the shot differently to create more impact. It has given me plenty to think about while I am out with my camera.

What I was not expecting was to become really enthusiastic about photographing wildlife. I am hoping to build on what I have learnt during the course and learn how to use my camera to get stunning shots of our local wildlife. If you get a chance to take a class at MyPhotoSchool I can definitely recommend it. I really feel I have learnt a lot.

I was given access to the course in order to provide an honest review. All the photos and opinions are my own.

A Rain Dance

When I was about nine or ten I was presented with my first camera. In those days cameras were not easy to use, you had to set the distance and the type of picture you were taking. The camera used real film, which you had to load into it carefully, making sure you did not expose any of it to the light. Every time you took a picture you had to remember to wind the film forward or you would get two pictures superimposed. My dad used to develop the pictures himself, in black and white. I remember him shutting himself into the kitchen and we were banned from entering or turning on the lights. I ended up with boxes full of black and white prints, some good, some blurry but all of them memories and windows on the past.

Recently I had a look though them and this photograph caught my eye. We had been on a trip to America and spent some time touring around Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. One day we visited a Cherokee Indian reservation and one of the Indians was telling us about how they used to live. It was really fascinating listening to stories of teepees and hunts whilst sitting under the hot sun.

IndianAt the end of his talk he jokingly said he was going to do a rain dance, got out his feathers and swooped them up into the air. That was it, he said it was so fast we had missed it. Just as I was taking the photo a young boy ran out of the crowd and stood next to him, looking up in wonder. I managed to snap the photo just at that moment and love the way it contrasts modern and old.

The photo was scanned in from a battered print so some of the quality has been lost, but the picture brings back memories of a holiday and adventure long ago. I love the way the black and white shows the contrast in the image, the leaves on the trees look so stark.

Magix Photo Manager Deluxe 12 Review

With the advent of cameras in phones and digital cameras it has become easier than ever to take loads of photos. If you are like me then you will find you have lots of pictures all over the place, on external hard drives, your computers hard drive and it is next to impossible to find the one you want. Magix Photo Manager Deluxe has come to my rescue, with its solution for storing and archiving pictures. Now I can find the photos I want, optimise them and share with friends and family from the one place.

When the Magix Photo Manager starts it imports all your photographs, from external hard drives, flash drives and anywhere else. It then adds them into it’s database. This means that you can easily find the photo you want when you want it, there are a range of search options. You can even search for a person’s face and find all the photographs of them. If you are stuck there is are plenty of videos which show you different features of software to help you out.

Magix Photo Manager

The photos are shown as thumbnails so you can easily find the one you want. If you see a photograph that needs some work it is easy to do this. Magix photo manager contains a number of tools for photo editing.
Magix Photo Manager
You can change brightness and contrast, remove red eye and add different effects. These are all really easy to do using the various sliders and other tools supplied for this task. If you do something wrong the original photo is unchanged so you can experiment to your hearts content.

When you have finished editing you can share your photos on line easily. There are options for sharing on facebook, you tube and flicker or you can create an album only family can see. The software also reminds you to back up your photos to CD or DVD and you can set up how often you want to be reminded to do this. I am finding this software really useful and now can find photographs when I want to, which saves me hours searching random directories.

Magix Photo Manager 12 is RRP £49.99

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the software in order to provide an honest review. I was not told what to write and my opinions are my own.