In my mind your ‘local patch’ is the most important wildlife
My patch (Conjugated: your patch, our patch, their patch, [not were
patch, as that's an area for human's with a hair growth problem during a
full moon]). Your local patch or area is such an important part of wildlife
photography, it's somewhere where you can go in harsh weather when you
can't reach anywhere else, where you can hone ideas, get used to your
camera etc but more importantly you can get out shooting a much as you
Why am I writing this?
Well I was very lucky that until recently I lived in the humid Welsh
Caribbean (I think the wetness was humidity?) also known as Barry Island
which the locals call 'Barrybados' (not me I hasten to add) and this being next to the coast was a good
area for photographic opportunities. I didn't need to carry out many recces as the subjects were there but after moving in I took plenty
of walks, made a few enquiries and quickly I was able to discern the lie of the
land and more importantly be close enough to take advantage should any
photographic opportunities occur. Now after finding said good area 'Murphy's
law' (the cousin of 'Sod's Law') has occurred and I have since moved from
'Nessaland' (Gavin and Stacey reference, has a lot of lost children very similar
to Neverland but with a few more slot machines) and I am now having to
follow my own text (which is not easy with contact lenses in) and start the
whole process again but that's part of the fun isn't it?. So how have I gone
Read on Mcduff............. and if you are not reading McDuff anyone else will do.
What is a good patch?
The whole point of your patch besides being accessible and allowing plenty of
photography practice is that you can view your subject/s in differing
conditions throughout the year. Changes of light, direction, different
weather, seasons will all change your subject minute by minute and there
is no better way of understanding what each will do to your shots than
seeing it evolve in front of you. Your patch will also allow you to
photograph common areas and species so that you can hone your skills
ready for the times when your skills will be critical and with the added
bonus that you can learn without any undue stress. Besides there is
nothing wrong with common species and you may just achieve a shot that
no one has yet thought of.
Where should my patch be?
Probably not outside the 'Winkle and Ferret', too tempting. Firstly your
patch (can be multiple patches if you are greedy like me) can be
anywhere as long as it's easily accessible and entices you with photographical goodies that will sustain repeat visits. It doesn't matter
how able bodied you are, if you can pick up a camera, then you can pick out a patch (by all means pick up a Penguin too if you are
peckish but please don't pick up a bad habit as nuns can get very irate if
they come back to find them gone!). This can be as simple as your
garden and if you set up some bird feeders, maybe a pond and have
some planted areas you can have your own mini Massai Mara which as
well as finding a few local areas I have done too. Now obviously if you
are able, venture further afield to your park, local nature reserve or (as
below) find your own. If you are urbanised (please get out of there now
before you contract ‘wasteoflifeaphobia’!) even your street or town can
be your patch if you have nothing green nearby, just look at the fox
shots of Sam Hobson or Andy Rouses Grebes all within city limits. Now
as you know from my previous blog (what do you mean you haven't read
it!) as well as the obvious haunts I also try to find my own treasure trove
nearby. The secret however is to make it close by so you can visit often.
So what have I done to narrow down my search?
Firstly I checked out the obvious internet sources and read through any local information and guides. Whilst you are there have a look at
any relevant photographer/birdwatch/mammal watch websites to see if you can garner any information or possible locations. Google
maps is also good for this as they now allow photos to be uploaded should you actually want to view thousands of dreadful
images taken on mobiles, although strangely enough can still be helpful. Next was a gander at the OS map of my area looking for the
public paths and accessible areas, which leads me on from my earlier blog, let's put that walk with no purpose to good use again and
check out your patch (walking for no reason is fast becoming a swearword, 'for walks sake'!). If you have a dog, here's an excuse to
walk it and use that time monitoring your area (if you don't have a dog borrow someone else's). Take a camera to make a few record
shots for memory or actually a mobile is probably better as you know with us photographer types even a record shot can become
engrossing and there has been many a time I forgot that I was walking the dog and couldn't work out why I had a lead in my hand,
knew it was nothing to do with bondage as I'm allergic to whips (although strangely with nut allergies prevalent these days I'm fine with
walnut ones)! When you are out and about you will also be in the proximity of people that may be a useful source of information. I had a
chat with a few people in my area for any wildlife sightings (you women are saying, sensible person, the men are shouting heavens
forbid, I'm a man I don't need directions, I will just aimlessly drive around until I go somewhere I didn't want to be, thank goodness for
the invention of sat navs I say!). I also visited a few farmers for permission to be on their land, quizzed them on what's around and in
the process bumped into a few locals who knew the area well which has proved invaluable (I say bumped into, it was more like get
shouted at by a man with a shotgun because I was trespassing but I managed to turn the situation around with my ousing charm and
disarming smile, oh and the fact I begged to be spared). I also drove around my home and just simply looked out for possible
opportunities and sites (my kerb crawling arrests have gone up alarmingly!).
Your patch will be the area that you take most of your photos and master as best as you can your camera. In my mind it is one of the
most important things to source not just when you are starting out but ongoing throughout your photography especially if you are not
taking photos constantly. It is the place where you can save valuable time and money by honing your knowledge so that you are as
ready as you can be in the field the next time you are snapping ospreys, tigers, leopards etc. I'll let you know how I get on.
All the blog photos were taken within walking distance of my house (admittedly sometimes it took two days to get there!).
© Geraint Radford and Rob Cottle - Copying, displaying or redistribution of these images without written permission is prohibited