Snakes alive . . . it must be spring
PUBLISHED: 09:38 03 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:56 03 March 2015
Young wildlife photographer Kyle Moore from Lowestoft won a top award in the RSPCA Young Photographer awards at the end of last year. He shares his love of wildlife with Suffolk Magazine and his tips for taking great shots
Spring officially starts in the UK on March 20, but these days no two years are the same so there’s no telling exactly what the weather has on offer.
Spring is a brilliant time of year for lovers of the great outdoors – the days are gradually getting longer, the weather is hopefully getting warmer, and the natural world is once again springing into life.
There are endless opportunities for photographers, but it can sometimes be tricky knowing where to focus your attention during this wonderful yet short season. So, I’m going to share my favourite subjects to photograph over the next month or two, along with my top tips and techniques for bagging that perfect shot!
This time of year sees the emergence of adders after spending the long cold winter hibernating underground. Try searching for adders on warm sunny mornings when they venture out of dense undergrowth to bask. I always try to get on location as early as possible as this is when the snakes are at their most docile. With great care, they’ll be easier to approach.
Once the snakes have basked for an hour or two they’ll be much more active, and more often than not will retreat into dense cover after sensing your approach. Males are the first to emerge and get straight to work competing for the females by ‘dancing’ with rival males – although this behaviour is rarely seen.
We’re extremely lucky – Suffolk is a great place to observe adders due to the abundance of suitable habitat. I tend to look in areas with rough woodland edges, or on heathland. One of my favourite spots is the National Trust Dunwich Heath reserve, where adders are regularly spotted and can be easily observed. If you’re having trouble spotting them feel free to ask a member of the reserve staff as I’ve found they’re more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Choose a mid-range telephoto lens if you have one – 100mm-400mm, or a 70mm-200mm are both ideal – as this will enable you to capture close-up images without needing to be on top of the snake, resulting in more natural images. Many compact system cameras feature this range of focal length, and usually at an affordable price.
Shoot hand-held or use a bean bag. When photographing adders or any other reptile, I tend to shoot hand-held or use a monopod. Without a tripod I can move freely and quietly through the undergrowth without getting the legs of tripod caught up, which tends to make the snakes retreat into cover.
If you accidentally disturb a snake while searching, sit quietly close by with the camera ready. Often, after a few minutes, the snake will return to the exact spot. If you watch it carefully you’ll soon realise they have preferred basking spots – under a particular tree stump, on an area of flattened bracken, or maybe on a south-facing rock.
If you’re lucky enough to own a garden pond in March it will most likely be alive with the sound of croaking from spawning frogs – or, if you’re really lucky, toads, which sadly have declined in numbers. Local parks or nature reserves with ponds are also ideal locations to watch frogs at this time of year.
I’ve had a passion for wildlife since I was a young child, however this passion grew even more after my 12th birthday when I received my first ever camera. From that point on I could photograph and document what I had been seeing on my walks. Now aged 16, my passion hasn’t faded at all!
Probably one of the main reasons I had such a strong interest in wildlife from a young age is that I’m lucky to live here in Suffolk, which means I never have to travel too far to photograph wildlife. We have such great habitats for animals here, from the coast to farmland, ancient woodland, heathland, we’re basically got it all. I feel so many people take it for granted, so I try to show people through my images what amazing wildlife we have on our doorsteps just waiting to be discovered!