With an interest in wildlife and nature from an early age, wildlife photographer Chris Murchison focuses on capturing stunning images of animals in their natural surroundings. Chris resides in Milton Keynes in the UK and photographs an array of creatures locally as well as through his travels. Chris’ work is exemplary of his passion for the natural world and shares both an intrinsic and extrinsic value with its viewers.
Thank you, Chris, for spending the time to share your story with us and view of the world through your camera lens. Your body of work is truly inspiring. I too, share your fondness for the avian world and I truly enjoy your photographs. I look forward to viewing more of your future works.
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Unfortunately, I’m not a full-time photographer, I work as an IT technician in the week and do my wildlife photography mostly at the weekend.
Where is home?
I live in a town called Milton Keynes in the UK. It’s pretty much in the middle of the UK but still has a wide variety of wildlife for me to photograph.
After browsing through your website, I see that you have built up an extensive collection of wonderful photography. When did you first become interested in photography and how long have you been involved with it?
I have been interested in photography and wildlife since a young child, my dad’s hobby is wildlife photography so I was introduced to it through him. I stopped in my teenage years and picked it back up in 2017 when I started planning my honeymoon – a safari in Kenya.
Before you go out, do you plan your route and/or what animal(s) you are wanting to shoot?
I never used to plan anything really, I was very much a go and see what I find kind of photographer but recently I have been thinking a lot more about the places I visit. I have visited the same locations locally a lot and it’s given me a good idea of what I might see. Due to this knowledge I started to think about how I could improve the pictures from these locations, I would have ideas of shoots in my mind beforehand and how to accomplish these like finding good backdrops and perches for birds and going at the right time of the day.
If I am planning a trip somewhere like a seabird colony I will research what I am likely to see so I’m prepared and hopefully improve the photos throughout my stay.
What is your favorite animal to photograph and do you have any specific strategies for photographing them?
I think birds are probably my favourite. The best strategy I have found for birds, especially small birds that move very quickly is to let them come to you. Try to find a good location, wait it out while observing the birds and return to the same location multiple times. I have been doing this lately in a local wood and the results have been great, some of the best I have ever taken. When you try to follow the birds you are just concentrated on getting the picture and forget to look at the composition and background. Here is a photo of a Blue Tit that shows this technique and what you can achieve after a few visits.
Do you have a wish-list of shots you still want to get, maybe an animal that has eluded you?
Yes, so many. I would love to get some images of kingfishers, they have been my favourite bird since I was a kid and so far I have only glimpsed them in the UK. I would love to take a trip around Scotland and capture wildlife like red squirrels, otters, deer and all the birds you can see in that location.
What is your favorite part of heading out to a new location?
I think it’s the excitement about what you might see, I have been to new locations to look for certain wildlife and come away with something I wasn’t expecting and it’s always great to have that surprise. It even happens with places I visit regularly, wildlife is so unexpected and when it all comes together it can be very unexpected.
Which is your favorite image? Could you explain the background story behind it?
This is one of my favourite images. This was shot in Kenya on Lake Naivasha. My wife and I decided for our honeymoon that we would do a 5 day safari followed by a week on the beach. It was an amazing trip and Lake Naivasha was pretty special. We arrived here on the 3rd day and only had the afternoon so decided to do the boat ride on the lake to see the wildlife. There were a few really good experiences on the lake, I was a little apprehensive at first as I’m not very comfortable on boats and this was a little speed boat seating 7. My wife was terrified of the Hippo’s as they continued to appear on her side of the boat. I managed to snap this photo before the heavens opened and we had to shelter for a few minutes on an island in the middle of the Lake. To be so close to these impressive creatures was scary but very rewarding. On the lake, we also saw a group of Pied Kingfishers hovering and diving for fish and the African Sea Eagle coming down to snatch up fish. As mentioned previously, Kingfishers have been my favourite bird for some time, so I was in awe.
What do you hope viewers take away from your images?
I hope they get a little joy out of seeing the wildlife I capture and realise that there is more nature/wildlife out there even in big towns and cities that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Do you have any tips for aspiring wildlife photographers?
I believe the best tip is to do it because you love it and you love being out in nature. If you’re not having fun then there is no point. If you then want to improve, my advice would be ‘if you’re comfortable when taking the image, then you could probably be in a better position’ obviously this isn’t always true but I do find myself in some odd positions trying to get low and at eye level with my subject. Sometimes just dropping to the floor can dramatically improve your images.
What photographic gear do you currently use?
My main camera is the Nikon D500 and my main lens is the Nikon AF-S 200-500mm F/5.6. I have another camera body and a few other lenses but my go to is always the above as it gives me the reach I need to get the images without disturbing the wildlife.
What is your favorite photography accessory?
I don’t know if you would call it an accessory but I love my gimbal head on my tripod. I purchased it recently and it has been an amazing addition to the bag. It has helped me when sitting and waiting as I don’t need to hold the camera and then when I need to jump into action the movability it gives is fantastic.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
I would love to get a Macro lens so I can get some really good images of all the insects and creepy crawlies.
Do you use Photoshop, Lightroom or any other software programs for post-processing your images?
I edit my images in Lightroom and will occasionally jump into Photoshop if needed.
What are your thoughts on raw images vs images that have been worked on (photoshop)?
If you shoot in raw you have to edit your images, raw images contain a lot of information but they are flat until you edit them so adjusting the highlights, shadows and vibrance is a must in my eyes. I see some people go wrong by overdoing this and it makes the images look unnatural. I like to enhance and represent what I was seeing out in the field. If you don’t want to or don’t have the time to edit then shoot in Jpeg as it will give you a better image as the camera will adjust it to what it thinks is the best and most modern cameras are pretty good at this.
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
My trip last year to Donna Nook, a grey seal colony, didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I never got that killer shot that made me really excited. Experiencing the location was fantastic. It was the first time that I had seen a colony with pups and it was wonderful to witness it all. Unfortunately, that need not translate to photography. We didn’t get great light due to the position of the beach and where the sun was rising. By the time it hit the beach it was already quite harsh and a lot of the time I couldn’t get low enough to get to eye level with seals and create a new blurry background. I am eager to try again but will pick a different location next time.
Was there a point in your journey when you started to feel really good about your work? If so, what did it feel like to get past that “tipping point?”
To be honest I still do not feel like I have gone past that tipping point. I am my harshest critic and try to better the images I take every time I go out. I think in a way this is good, as it drives me forward, makes me always learn new things to improve and doesn’t let me sit back and think I can get great images every time I go out.
What are your upcoming travel plans?
I had a trip planned to Skomer Island to try to photograph Puffins and other seabirds but this has been put on hold due to the pandemic, but hopefully, I can still get out there at some point.
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I’m just going to continue to do what I love and photograph as much wildlife as I can. There are still many species and locations on my wish list so I will continue to plan trips and enjoy being out in nature. I would love to get to a place where I could make some money from my photography. But if that doesn’t happen, then I will have still had fun going out with the camera and experiencing it all in person.