Wild at art: Sidmouth photographer reveals top tips

PUBLISHED: 12:15 12 May 2019

Keeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor Hutchinson

Keeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor Hutchinson

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Sharks and wildlife predators are my primary passion to photograph and paint, but seabirds are a close second.

A brown hare on the run. Picture: Mark Taylor HutchinsonA brown hare on the run. Picture: Mark Taylor Hutchinson

Most of my shark assignments tend to take me to far flung destinations, but I am fortunate living in the UK as we have some amazing seabird and wildlife habitats on our very own doorstep.

More locally I have photographed sandwich terns nesting at Brownsea Island, Dorset. There is a decent guillemot colony at Berry Head near Paignton and even the River Sid has its own resident kingfisher as featured previously in the Sidmouth Herald.

In Sidmouth I have witnessed gannets feeding in the bay which either travel from the gannet colony at L'Etac in the Channel Islands, or Grassholm Island in Pembrokeshire. This gives an indication of how far gannets will travel to feed. In fact the UK is blessed with having the world's largest Northern Gannet population at Bass Rock, near North Berwick, Scotland with 150,000 gannets nesting prior to their migration back to the West coast of Africa in October. If you are lucky you can land on the island under special guidance and walk amongst these noisy seabirds. But be prepared to be pooped on, and the stench of ammonia is pretty knock out to say the least, but Sir David Attenborough rated this site as one of the wildlife wonders of the world so it certainly has some pedigree. Slightly closer are Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire which hails a gannet colony. In 2017 even a black-browed albatross joined the melee and was seen resting in the area.

If birds are not your thing then we have some pretty interesting mammals too. I have photographed Atlantic grey seals and common seals in various locations in the UK, mostly Cornwall. We even have occasional seal sightings near Jacob's Ladder.

Keeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor HutchinsonKeeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor Hutchinson

My most recent assignment was to photograph mountain hares in the Peak District. This is one of only two locations in the UK where they have colonised successfully. They are the same family, if not the same species, as the Arctic hare. The brown hare was introduced by the Romans, and it is possible to have good sightings of brown hares in Dorset and Wiltshire.

Then of course we have badgers, foxes and various species of deer.

Photography tips:

Keeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor HutchinsonKeeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor Hutchinson

Do your research to avoid disappointment. When photographing mountain hares I was escorted by Tesni Ward who had a lot of experience in fieldcraft and showed me how to get close to hares without spooking them. This kind of knowledge is vital.

Having a good prime lens is a must for wildlife photography. I tend to use a beanbag to rest lenses on as I find tripods too restrictive. Unfortunately you pay for speed with lenses.

Lots of memory cards are a must and in winter you need good outdoor kit - it is not a fashion show.

Wildlife photography can be both frustrating and exhilarating and very cold at times given it does involve remaining static for long periods. High concentration levels are a must too as I can guarantee at a point of distraction is when the magic happens which can be missed so easily. I was photographing an osprey feeding on trout at 4.30am at Rutland Water and the bird dived only once catching a trout, but my colleague missed it as he was distracted and went home shot-less.

Keeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor HutchinsonKeeping very still to not spook the mountain hare. Picture: Mark Taylor Hutchinson

Mark Taylor Hutchinson is an underwater and wildlife photojournalist, specialising in shark encounters.

He was a previous editor of a UK Dive Magazine and has written for the dive press for the past 19 years.

His images have appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine and various travel brochures.

He is a keen wildlife painter and utilises his photography as reference sources for his paintings. His painting of a great white shark painting was nominated for Wildlife Artist of the Year 2018 by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and he has exhibited at the Mall Galleries, London.

A close up of a Shag.Picture: Mark Taylor HutchinsonA close up of a Shag.Picture: Mark Taylor Hutchinson

A Sidmouth resident, Mark's next trip this year will be to dive with and photograph crocodiles.

Mark will be giving a talk and presentation of his shark experiences at Kennaway House on the 24 May. For details visit www.kennawayhouse.org.uk/meet-the-artist-and-diver, email mail@kennawayhouse.org.uk or telephone Kennaway House on 01395 515551. 20 per cent of ticket sales will be donated to the Shark Trust to aid global shark conservation efforts.

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