Spring and summer is the perfect time to head outdoors with a camera to photograph wildlife and nature. The trees are green, flowers are in bloom, animals are out and playing in the good weather, and the lighting is much better. The UK has loads of native animals, and it is a wonderful experience to capture them in their natural habitats.
Whether you are an amateur photographer who wants to get some practice or have years of experience, we recommend getting some sturdy walking boots, putting on your country shooting jacket and picking up your camera before heading out to various places around the UK to capture shots of local wildlife. Read on to see our suggestions and let us know over our social media channels if you have been to any of these locations yourself.
Farne Islands, Northumberland
The Farne Islands are home to over 100,000 seabirds such as puffins, guillemots and cormorants. There are around 23 species which breed on the Farne Islands and the best time for seeing them is between April and July. The National Trust owned islands gives you a chance to get right among the nesting birds, allowing you to get some close-up shots, but be sure to wear a hat to protect yourself from dive-bombing Arctic terns! You can also take boat trips which go around the island, giving you a view of the vast colonies resting on the cliffs, and a glimpse of the grey and Atlantic seals bobbing in the sea or basking in the sun on the shore.
Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire
The Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve in the East Riding of Yorkshire is home to one of the UK’s best wildlife spectacles, as around half a million seabirds gather between March and October to breed. The towering chalk cliffs overlook the North Sea, and there is other wildlife to see including short-eared owls, peregrines and porpoises. The star species is the gannet with their golden heads and blue eyes, and you can expect to see puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars. The impressive cliffs combined with the array of seabirds make Bempton Cliffs a photography spot to put on your list.
Gigrin Farm, Powys
The red kite is a favourite bird of prey in the UK, and Gigrin Farm in Powys, Mid Wales offers wildlife enthusiasts one of the best locations for spotting them. The farm is an Official Red Kite Feeding Station and has a rehabilitation program. There are now over 600 breeding pairs at the farm, and you can see them wheeling about in the sky. One of the best times to see the red kites is at feeding time, 2pm GMT and 3pm BST, when you can see breathtaking aerial feats as the red kites compete with buzzards and ravens for the best food. Around the 200 acres of the farm there are several photographic hides, which can be pre-booked and give you wonderful views of the area and red kites.
Rathlin Island, County Antrim
Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland is home to a fantastic variety of wildlife. The island is located five miles north of Ballycastle on the coast, near the Causeway Coastal Route, and is attractive to photographers for many reasons. There is the rugged cliffs, lush green fields, iconic lighthouses and shipwrecks mixed in with thousands of seabirds. April to July is puffin season, and it is always exciting to see the brightly coloured billed birds. If you want to see as much wildlife as you can from the seabirds to the dolphins, you can take walks around the island, stopping at vantage points for photographers and birdwatchers.
Cairngorms, Scottish Highlands
You won’t find another place like the Cairngorms National Park elsewhere in Britain. The variety of wildlife found there is due to the different habitats and it is not just the animals and birds which attracts visitors. The Cairngorms have castles, distilleries and plenty of family attractions. For photographers, you can seek out the various deer species including Britain’s only wild reindeer herd at near Loch Morlich. There is also golden eagles and osprey as well as otters, pine martens and badgers in the evening. Out of the shooting season, you will also be able to spot the ptarmigans and grouse on the moors.
Lyme Park, Cheshire
The brown hare may have seen a decline in numbers recently, but one of the best places to spot them bounding about is at the National Trust’ Lyme Park in Cheshire. The open spaces are perfect for spotting brown hare, and though their mating ‘boxing’ matches have passed, they are still active in the summer. With an abundance of wildlife at Lyme Park, you are sure to spot migratory birds, grazing Highland Cattle and red deer. Keep an eye on the ponds and lakes too, as they are home to tadpoles, frogs and other amphibians and water-dwelling wildlife.
Peak District, Derbyshire
The Peak District in Derbyshire has a variety of habitats, from farmland to woodland, bog to upland heath, which is home to an assortment of wildlife. There are owls and birds of prey, grazing cattle, foxes, hares and a considerable number of songbirds, and the stunning scenery provides excellent backdrops for snapping pictures of these beautiful animals. For the best photography locations, head to Mam Tor, Higger Tor, the Great Ridge or Ladybower Reservoir.
Northward Hill, Kent
Northward Hill Nature Reserve in Kent overlooks the Thames Marshes and is home to a wealth of flora and fauna. There is a working farm with cows and sheep, scrubland with nightingales, wetland with marsh harriers and waterfowl. One of the biggest draws to wildlife lovers and photographers are the 150 pairs of nesting grey herons and the little egrets. In the surrounding woodland, you can see carpets of bluebells in spring, and hear woodpeckers at work. The grassland area of the reserve also attracts iridescent dragonflies in late summer, and there are plenty of locations to capture some stunning shots.
Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
The Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides has earned a reputation for being a wildlife haven. It has been nicknamed Eagle Island for the number of white-tailed and golden eagles seen there, and birdwatchers can also appreciate a large number of birds of prey, warblers and songbirds found in the woodland. Around the coast, there are nesting seabirds in the summer months, and inland there is red deer and two small herds of fallow deer. On various locations around the island, you might be able to spot the Eurasian otter, and out to sea wildlife watchers might be lucky to see seals, orca, basking sharks and the occasional humpback whale.
Getting good photographs of fast-moving animals and birds can be tricky, especially for novices. Patience is the best asset, and you may have to wait for hours in one spot for the perfect shot. These tips should help you out when outdoors on the lookout for wildlife to take a photo of.
Background – The background is as important as the subject and should complement but not compete with the animal. The background should indicate the weather, habitat or season.
Close-up – Opposite to getting the background, a close-up of the animal can also work. Keep the frame tight, and strip away the elements, concentrating on the interesting features of your subject.
Eyes – One of the best parts to focus on for close-ups are the eyes, as they make a picture more compelling. Be sure not to startle the animal, waiting for it to look at you.
Light – Be aware of the light, as the direction of the light can affect the mood of the photograph. Side lighting can reveal surface texture, while backlight adds drama.
We hope you get outdoors more this year to take some fantastic photographs of the landscapes and wildlife near you. If you’re out wearing some Fur Feather & Fin country clothing, why not tag us on Instagram or Facebook too? Take a look at our guides to birds and wildlife, from animal fact files to welcoming your birds to your garden.