Farne Islands, open air classroom
There is no doubt that the more you practice something the better at it you become. This is as true for wildlife photography as it is for anything else.
It is very common for people to spend the first few hours in Africa just ‘getting their eye in’; familiarising themselves with the way animals move and the way birds fly.
Whilst this is an essential part of getting in tune with your surroundings, the more you have been using your camera equipment prior to your safari, the less time this process will take.
To make the most of your time on safari it really makes sense to spend some time practising your photography techniques before you travel; that way you can hit the ground running.
This is even more true when it comes to photographing birds. Which is why the Farne Islands make such a brilliant outdoor classroom.
The islands are teeming with sea birds and the weather is typically British; changing every few minutes from bright sunshine to dull and overcast, to wind and rain.
There are birds roosting on the cliffs, amongst the grass and in burrows underground; and there are birds flying in every direction.
Capturing birds in flight against a variety of backgrounds is a great way to learn how to strike the right balance between shutter speed and aperture.
You’ll need to get your exposures right too as many of the birds have black and white plumage; you want detail in the blacks without blowing out the whites.
The sheer volume of birds around you means that you are never short of subjects; you can spend all your time actually taking photographs, not searching for something to shoot.
You’ll very quickly find that you become much faster at locking onto your subjects and much more confident at tracking them.
That’s the beauty of digital photography; you can take as many photos as you want, try as many different settings as you want, work out which lenses are best for which situations until your camera feels completely natural in your hands and you can find all the controls by touch.
Even if you never make it to Africa, the Farne Islands are well worth a visit.
They’re not just a great place to learn but also an amazing place to be and it just might be the most fun you’ll have with your camera.