Today I have the honor of presenting an interview that comes all the way from Eastbourne, East Sussex in the UK. Peter Brooks is a talented wildlife and nature Photographer, whose work is a reflection of his appreciation for exploring nature. Through his photography, Peter finds inspiration for conveying the importance of protecting the natural world. Peter, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us and thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses. It’s not every day we get a behind the scenes view of someone with such a keen eye.
Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
My name is Peter Brooks, I’m a wildlife and nature photographer from Sussex in the South East of the UK, I love being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, I work in IT and I’m getting married this summer to my amazing girlfriend Bianca, I’m a proud stepdad to a crazy 11 year old called Ruby.
Where is home?
Eastbourne, East Sussex in the UK.
After browsing through some of your work, I see that you’re truly immersed in the field of photography. What is it that led you towards photography and how long have you been working in it?
I have always been interested in photography but I never really knew what I wanted to do with it. I always wanted to be taking pictures but nothing ever seemed to excite or inspire me so I didn’t really take any pictures or even own a camera, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I accidentally stumbled across the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition’s exhibition in London’s Natural History Museum, this is when I knew what I wanted to do, it all suddenly clicked. I had a small camera at the time but about 6 years ago I got my first DSLR and this is when I started my wildlife photography journey.
Are you self-taught or formally-taught?
I’m self-taught and still learning every time I’m out with the camera.
Where have you found the majority of valuable information along your journey (online, in person, mentor, college, etc…)?
I find most of the information I need online, the internet is such a wealth of information. I also love looking at other photographers work, I find it so inspiring, if I see a shot that blows me away I love to know how they got that shot. I find that looking at all different sorts of photography helps you look at your own work differently too. I have met some great people through photography who have always been helpful and I’ve had the chance recently to meet a few pro’s who have given me some great tips.
Regarding your styles of photography, which do you prefer the most (wildlife, landscape, travel, etc…)?
Wildlife is my passion, this is what excites me, I have always loved animals and the wildlife around me and this is what drives my photography, I do touch on other areas of photography (I recently got commended in the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition) and do enjoy them but wildlife is the real driving force.
Regarding your wildlife photos, which truly are remarkable, what advice can you offer to those who would like to begin taking these types of photographs?
Spend time in nature, take photos of what you love and that will show in the work you produce.
Don’t worry about expensive cameras and all that comes with it get out there learn about your subjects, there is no point having the best camera in the world if you don’t know where your subjects are or how to approach photographing them respectfully in the wild. Also, spend time learning all you can about your camera and how to use it, you don’t want to be putting in all the work on getting to know your subject and their movements for the time to come when the perfect moment is right there to look at the photos after and realise everything was set wrong and you have nothing to show for all your hard work.
Is photography your full-time career?
Unfortunately, no, hopefully, one day but for now I’m an enthusiastic amateur.
What is your favorite part of being a photographer?
It’s got to be the time spent with the amazing wildlife and the memorable encounters, sometimes I can be a few feet from some animals that people can go their whole life without seeing. I then have my photos as a lasting memory of these.
What is the most challenging part of being a photographer?
Time, we all lead such busy lives and wildlife photography generally isn’t one of those things you can just pop out for 10 minutes and do, sometimes there can be hours waiting for a subject to arrive and sometimes it can be weeks of waiting for a brief encounter.
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
I’m inspired by everything, my friends and family are very supportive and inspire me daily to be better. I’m inspired by the great work being produced by photographers around the world, but my main inspiration is the beautiful world we live in and the wildlife we share it with.
How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?
I’m always motivated and excited to get out with the camera and to see wildlife, I always try to show wildlife at its best wild free and behaving naturally, sometimes it can be hard to stay motivated when the wildlife is being elusive and you’re not getting the results you want but I just remind myself of why I enjoy doing what I do and remembering the feeling of getting the shot you are after, the harder it is the bigger the reward and sense of accomplishment.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer just starting out?
Whatever type of photography you are doing, spend time getting to know your camera, learn it inside out so you can react to changing conditions etc and know what buttons are where instinctively.
Share with us your favorite image and why.
My favourite image changes daily but this one of a sleeping little owlet just sums up everything I love about wildlife photography, I had spent a lot of time working up to these shots making sure the owls were completely at ease with my presence, and what I love about this is that this little owl was comfortable enough to fall asleep about 15 feet from where I was and of course it is just an adorable photo of a sleeping baby owl, does it get much cuter!?
What do you hope viewers take away from your images?
I want them to be inspired by what they see, I generally shoot locally to where I live, 90% of my work is shot at a maximum of 20 minutes drive from my house, I want people to see what amazing wildlife we have tight under our noses and what there is to see if we just take a bit of time and look a little closer, hopefully once they see how amazing and wonderful it is they will want to see it for themselves and protect if for future generations.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I shoot with a Nikon camera and lens, my favorite lens is my 200-500 5.6 which rarely comes off my camera.
What is in your camera bag?
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 f5.6, Nikon 24-70 f2.8, Nikon 50mm f1.8
What is your favorite photography accessory?
Its got to be my bag hide, basically, a camo tent with no poles, lets me remain hidden and allows the wildlife to go about their business not knowing I’m there.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
I would love a Nikon prime long lens, maybe a 600mm or the 800mm 5.6 but purely a pipe dream as this equipment has a rather large price tag.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
I use Adobe Lightroom to edit my photos. Photography and editing software go hand in hand, I generally only make small alterations bringing the image to how I saw it as what is caught RAW in camera is never quite the finished product. Generally, I will add a little sharpness and contrast, maybe a small crop for composition or straightening.
Was there a point in your photography journey when you started to feel really good about your work? If so, what did it feel like to get past that “tipping point?”
I think it was when I started taking pictures that I was really proud of and excited to show people. I think this was around the time I won a place in the RSPB calendar, this was also about the time I was setting up my website. This was about 3 years ago.
Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?
Yes, I don’t think it is something I will ever stop doing or enjoying, there is so much to learn and so much wonderful wildlife and so many amazing places out there that I would like to photograph. I’m adding things to my list quicker than I am ticking them off.