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.
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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
If 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.