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8 July 2024 - Expert Interviews, Photo Tours

Q&A with Photographer Will Hall – Get to know your Photo Tour Leader

What is your most memorable photographic experience?

II would say that my most memorable photographic experience was probably working in Java where I was photographing an animal called a slow lorises for an amazing conservation charity: the little fireface project. Slow lorises are nocturnal and extremely sensitive to bright light and so trying to capture images of these animals was particularly tricky! It meant I had to learn a lot about placing flashes and how to position myself in order to avoid any eye shine. I remember one particular evening we had had a torrential downpour of rain, and we had been sitting in the low scrub at the bottom of a tree when one of the young lorises came right down low to feed on some fruit towards the base of the tree. We were only about two or 3 m away from one of the most incredible and rare species I have ever been able to see.

How has your experience as a naturalist influenced your approach to wildlife photography?

I came to wildlife photography relatively; late having studied animal biology and conservation at university beforehand. So my interest in photography is rooted in a passion and interest for conservation and zoology in general. This means that the ethics of wildlife photography are at the forefront of everything that I do and that sometimes I don’t mind if I don’t capture an image so long as I get to see the species! Observing animal behaviour is by far away more interesting any photo captured in my opinion.

What got you into photography?

Covid was actually the starting point for my photographic journey. We had been put into lockdown and only had a couple of hours to spend outside each day. And so I took to YouTube and taught myself everything I could about photography and videography. Then when I took the dog out for a walk, I would also take the camera and everything just kind of snowballed from there! My parents had previously worked in journalism and so they were thrilled to see me taking an interest in media.

puffin sat amongst the grass with a coastal background

What or who is your biggest photographic inspiration?

This is really difficult question, when I first started doing photography, I reached out to a number of skilled photographers asking for their advice and opinion on my early work. One of the guys that I reached out to was a man called Brian Matthews who has won many awards for wildlife photography. I actually met him up at Bass Rock to photograph the Gannets there and so if I had the name just one person who really sparked my interest in wildlife photography it would be him. His work perfectly catches movement and really explores the interactions between marine and terrestrial. I’m a big fan of his work. Cheers Brian!

Talk us through your first and current camera setup and what’s something that’s always in your camera bag?

Learn photography on a Fujifilm XH1 which is a crop sensored camera and I think I had first decided to get that particular camera because I was new to photography and everyone online recommended Fujifilm. I think this was one of my favourite cameras ever. The fact that all of the dials for shutter speed, aperture and ISO  are obvious and tactile on the top of the camera meant that I really had to learn the principles of photography in order to be able to use the camera. I used this camera for a couple of years before I moved over to a Sony setup.  This was my first full frame camera set up and I’ve stayed with it ever since.  I now shoot on a Sony A7IV with a worrying array of lenses from 14 mm to 600 mm! Sony in my opinion are some of the best cameras for wildlife and a hugely customisable which makes a lot of sense for me when I shoot in a number of different settings and locations. In terms of equipment that’s always in my camera bag, I always have my 200 to 600 mm lens, usually a mini tripod that I can set up on the fly, a drone of some sort although I usually tend to be with the DJI mini 3 pro, and most importantly, I always carry snacks with me. (you don’t want to be around me when I’m hungry!)

gannet birds photographed in Scotland catching fish on the surface of the water

What makes the Scottish highlands so special? 

The Scottish highlands is one of the U.K.’s final remote locations. Because it is so vast, it can sometimes seem quite barren. However, when you look closely from the macro through to the micro, there is an abundance of wildlife to be seen. The highlands is a place that is rich in both natural and human history. I love exploring it by myself but even more than that, I love showing other people the richness of the environment there. whether you are on the coast looking for orca and dolphins, or further inland exploring the mountains in search of ptarmigan and black grouse, there is so much to see and so much to explore.

Why are November and Jan good times of year for Hare photography?

I should say that photographing Mountain hare at any time of the year is an absolute joy. However, what’s particularly interesting about this species of hare is that they change colour in the winter and in the summer. During the summer months they turn a dusty brown in order to blend in with the heather that they feed on. During the winter however their coats turn a beautiful blue white in order to camouflage them in their snowy home. So photographing hare in November and January insures that the animals themselves will be white. Scottish winters are unpredictable but usually there has been at least one snowfall by November. Photographing these animals in snow is challenging but extremely rewarding and can lead to really interesting compositions of foreground and background bokeh.

Why is this trip suitable for photographers of differing abilities? 

Although the hare tend to live in fairly mountainous conditions, the routes around the area are manageable for anyone with reasonable fitness. In terms of photographic ability, this is a great activity for any age and ability. I will be on hand throughout to be able to guide and mentor where needed or, at the very least, I will endeavour to get guests as close to the species as possible whilst maintaining the animals welfare.

What can people expect to learn on a workshop with you?

Anyone attending this workshop will learn a lot about photographic skills in challenging outdoor environments, they will pick up tips and tricks on how to get the most out of their equipment especially when working with nervous and smaller species. However, those who attend will also learn all about Scottish natural history, the species specific behaviours and interactions that you might be seeing, and even how to track and find these species for yourself, in the future.

What advice would you give to aspiring wildlife photographers who want to follow in your footsteps?

My only advice would be to reach out to those that you admire and ask for their advice and opinions on any of your work. Photography is all about networking and not being afraid to try new things or put yourself out there. You have to be willing to challenge yourself and not just settle into your own groove immediately. Most importantly though do what makes you happy and what you enjoy. There is a wealth of information on the Internet and in books which can lead you to progress your photographic journey at a staggering rate if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

Join us for an exclusive one-day Mountain Hare Photography Workshop at a top-secret location in the iconic Scottish Highlands.

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