10 Top Tips for Photographing Wildlife in the Cairngorms National Park

With today’s mobile phone technology, anyone can capture amazing wildlife moments on camera. But often the trickiest challenge is spotting the wildlife in the first place and so, to up your chances, it’s a good idea to have an expert on hand (see this blog for why you might hire a wildlife guide).

In May, the annual Cairngorms Nature BIG Weekend is a great opportunity to have access to a myriad of wildlife experts, including photography experts, so it an ideal event for budding photographers (you can always check out the festival events on our What’s On online calendar).

To get you started, here are our 10 top tips on photographing wildlife in the Cairngorms:
  • “Be a naturalist first and a photographer second,” says wildlife photographer Peter Cairns. Always prioritise the welfare of the animals, which means that if there’s any chance you will disturb or distress them, then you forgo your shot, however stunning it might be
  • Be aware that in the UK all birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law. Therefore it’s an offence to damage the nest of any wild bird, or take into your possession any bird or egg. See here for full details of the law
  • Bear in mind that if you encounter birds by the side of a path sitting tightly, they may be sitting on eggs, so stay well back. The danger of coming too close is that the bird may flee and abandon her eggs. This is especially true in the more remote, mountainous areas of the Cairngorms, where you’ll find the visiting ring ouzel, snow bunting, ptarmigan and the dotterel
  • Use a long lens with a good zoom function to allow you to keep your distance and still get that stunning shot. Also, use a fast shutter speed and avoid the flash
  • It may sound obvious, but don’t wildlife spot with a dog!
  • Swot up on your species: the more you know about the wildlife you are trying to spot, the better. Details like what time of year or day they are mostly likely to be seen and be active, and where they make their habitats, can make all the difference. Similarly, if you’re really committed, look into which direction sunlight will be coming from at different times during the day, so you can set up your shot
  • Give the wildlife some distance. “More often than not the wildlife will dictate how close you get and they’ll dart off before you can get too close. However, if you’re after a shot of the red deer rut, for instance, you need to give them a respectful distance and watch them carefully to read their moods,” says Cairns
  • Get a guide, who will significantly up your chances of spotting wildlife, meaning you can focus all your attention on getting that perfect snap. See here for more on getting a wildlife guide
  • Be patient! All good things, they say, come to those who wait. This is definitely true of wildlife photography
  • Take photos and leave only footprints

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