How to Photograph Wildlife Close Up

A purpose built bird hide at Slimbridge

I’ve always really wanted to take my own photographs of wildlife to use for reference photos for my paintings. But how to photograph wildlife close up on a budget, that was the question? Unfortunately I am rather constrained by time so I cannot currently justify a good camera with a decent zoom lens! I simply wouldn’t have the opportunities to use it. I think I need extra hours in the day then I could choose to be a photographer and a painter.😉
Occasionally however, I do get the time. This is what I do and how I built up to this way of taking photos without breaking the bank.

Blog post on taking my own photos - baby robin photo
Baby Robin

I am really fortunate to have some fantastic photographers who allow me to use their amazing photographs for my paintings. However, being able to take my own photo and create a painting from it is just a really nice thing to do.
A few years ago I therefore decided to buy myself a bridge camera at around the £250 mark. I went for a Fuji FinePix HS20 *  with a cracking little zoom. OK, on an overcast and dull day it simply won’t compare to a professional camera. But it does take some cracking close ups and I just choose a nice day for taking my wildlife photos! 📸

Photo of a nuthatch

So I got to thinking….what else do I need to take some decent photos? A tripod and a portable bird hide. Well a tripod wasn’t a problem and not too expensive but the bird hide was another matter. Well, let’s just say a purpose made popup bird hide was sooo expensive, so what else could I use? Well…… goes…..

How to Photograph Wildlife Close Up on a Budget
Bird Hide - Mark I
Mark I

Now I had the ideal kit including my first ever bird hide set up in the garden. I know you are thinking ‘that’s a clothes drying rack and an old bedspread!’ Well, yes it is, but beggars can’t be choosers! I simply set up the clothes rack in the garden, draped the old cover over the top and cut a few camera holes into it. I even had cushions.🤣 I sat behind with my camera and tripod and got some really nice photos of our garden birds!

Close up photo of a bullfinch
Male Bullfinch
How to Photograph Wildlife Close Up on a Budget
Bird Hide - Mark II
Mark II

The Mark II featured seating, more head room, some waterproof trousers, some pegs and even a bit of ‘carpet’!!

How to Photograph Wildlife Close Up on a Budget
Bird Hide - Mark III
Mark III

But then came the Mark III. Made with a garden cane framework and a bespoke cover made by Jo on the sewing machine. The Mark III featured various window slots. These were covered when not in use with net curtaining. (How posh!) The whole thing was easier to set up, taller and very nice to sit inside. I even made a little table for my cup of coffee and biscuit!

The detail you can achieve in your photos from a bird hide
So close to the birds, I could later make out the ring details on this Goldfinch
Mark IV

But then of course came the inevitable Mark IV. Now this final bird hide was actually bought, are you ready for this, are you sure………’s a portaloo tent! *   Yes, it really is. This is tall and ideal to fit a chair and tripod inside and it’s even in a camouflage material! Unlike purpose made bird hides, this retails at a lot less and folds up into a small, lightweight bag.

How to Photograph Wildlife Close Up on a Budget
Bird Hide - Mark IV

You had better not be giggling to yourself! Remember it works and it goes to show you don’t need much to be able to take some nice photos of your garden birds. Just using your mobile phone through a tent hole (moving your hand very slowly) will get some nice photos too. I hope this little insight into how to photograph wildlife close up on a budget is helpful. Do let me know how you get on I would love to know.

Photo of a robin
Good enough for a painting……
Robin painted in watercolour
You bet!

So if you take photos of birds or wildlife, do you have a homemade hide you can tuck yourself inside?

Until my next blog, bye for now,
Paul 🤓


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