With an early connection to the natural world as a child and now as an adult, wildlife and nature photographer Paul Abrahams effectively captures the beauty of his surroundings. Paul can be found photographing a variety of wildlife and nature close to his home just outside Epping Forest, England as well as through his extensive travels throughout the UK. Through these travels, Paul has captured an array of extraordinary and captivating images. I believe this is conveyed through Paul’s creative approach as a highly-skilled photographer. As you browse through his images below, I invite you to take a moment and share in reconnecting with nature through the lens of a man with extreme talent and a true passion for what he does.
Paul, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us and thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses. You have given the readers an opportunity to glimpse into the mind of a person who has a deep appreciation and true respect for the natural world. I believe you have found your true calling and undoubtedly enjoy what you do.
Where is home?
Just outside Epping Forest, England
What inspired you to be a photographer?
As a child, I grew up with a love of the natural world and as an adult, I realise the awful situation we have got that world into and what that now means for our children. In my lifetime, we have lost over 60% of wildlife through our own impact and the UK, where I live, is one of the worst places for biodiversity decline in the whole world.
I believe that’s the result of our society becoming totally disconnected from its natural environment and I hope that through my photography of UK wildlife I can help reconnect others to that which we all depend upon.
Are you formally taught or self-taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshop, online forums, classroom, mentor, etc)?
I bought my first DSLR about three years ago and I’m pretty much self-taught since then. Throughout a career in graphic design, I’ve worked very closely with many excellent photographers which have proven extremely beneficial and given me an eye for a good picture as well.
When shooting subjects, what do you find most challenging?
Birds in flight, getting away from people and 4 am starts!
What would you say your most remarkable wildlife encounter has been?
The first day I went out with my camera I went straight in at the deep end to catch a local kingfisher I’d regularly spotted along a stream within Epping Forest.
I completely failed at that and anything else with the exception of my first ever encounter with a mink. As I was testing out firing my camera remotely on a tripod aimed at a perfect kingfisher perch he swam right past me. I fumbled at the camera before missing all opportunity of a shot as the mink climbed onto the bank on the opposite side, went behind a fallen tree, and disappeared.
I thought that was it but then I noticed its tiny feet moving in a small gap running along the underneath the tree before eventually coming to the end, poking its head out and staring at me intently. Without taking its eyes off me, it then brought out the rest of its body and walked to the edge of the stream to get closer to figure out what I was. Then it got into the water and actually swam across to the bank I was laying and looked directly into my lens from point-blank range! Looking slightly confused about the situation, it then returned exactly the way it came, shooting me quick looks over its shoulder to make sure I wasn’t trying anything funny.
I didn’t manage one single shot!
Location and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect of a successful photograph. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
Extreme weather and locations can add so much to a picture in the right circumstances. When you’ve struggled to the top of a snowy Scottish mountain through wind and hail and you eventually find a Mountain Hare just sitting there because that is just how it lives its life, it’s really quite a humbling experience – and that’s exactly what you’ve got to try and show in a photograph.
How did you develop your style?
Not sure I have one!
What is your favorite part of heading out to a new location?
I was unbelievably untravelled before I got into photography and I’ve loved experiencing some incredible parts of the UK since but travelling to new locations raises a lot of obstacles when it comes to wildlife too. I’m sure all wildlife photographers know the wildlife on their doorsteps – where to find it, when and everything else that helps gets great shots, and that knowledge is priceless. Turning up somewhere completely new you often have very little to go on no matter how much you research. But talking to locals and discovering what each place has to offer slowly becomes one of the best parts and then when you eventually get what you’ve come for it’s worth all the hard work you’ve put into it.
Share with us your favorite image and why.
My favourite shot is my running badger picture. It’s quite unusual, you don’t often see badgers running at full speed and especially at eight in the morning. It’s got a nice story behind it too which I’ve written a blog about on my website.
Do you have any tips for new photographers who want to take better wildlife photographs?
The subject should always be the most important consideration. Research and be respectful of the life you are imposing yourself on – be aware of the laws for protected species and cause as little disturbance as possible.
Learn your fieldcraft – spending hours waiting out with nature, joining wildlife in its natural habitat gives you an understanding of their lives and gives you a connection with both your subject and its environment which will come through in your photography.
Leave nothing but footsteps, take nothing but photos, and just love what you’re doing.
And stay away from AUTO mode!
What photographic gear do you currently use?
Canon EOS 5D IV. Canon 600mm f/4 ii, 100-400mm ii, 105mm macro & 24-70mm. 1.4 & 2x extenders too.
Am also very excited about the R5 at the moment…
What is in your camera bag?
Because the 600mm is quite a weight to carry, I travel as light as possible. I try and just use a leg bag with an extender or two, a spare battery, and a very thin folded up camo sheet I can make a DIY hide with when needed.
What is your favorite photography accessory?
Love my leg bag but I recently got a red dot sight for helping tracking birds in flight which is my current favourite (when I’m using a tripod, it’s like being in a gunner seat in the millennium falcon – what’s not to like!)
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
Canon EOS R5 – that autofocus!!!!!
What are your thoughts on raw images vs images that have been worked on (photoshop)?
I shoot all my images in RAW so I have total control. I don’t mind a bit of light tweaking – as long as you’re not turning a blackbird into a flamingo I guess it’s ok!
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
My first photographic trip was a disaster. I drove for about five hours to stay in a truly awful hotel before realising I’d gone at completely the wrong time of year to catch anything remotely successfully. The following day I drove a few more hours to a new spot where I was catching a boat the following morning. So I camped for the night – through a thunderstorm, my inflatable bed punctured and my tent leaked. I left at 4 am to get the boat and after a day of standing around through delays it ended up being canceled.
I gave up and went home after that but it taught me a lot!
Can you tell me about one of your favorite or most memorable photo sessions? What made it so great and why did you like it so much?
Photographing wild boar in the Forest of Dean. After several failed attempts and countless hours of frustration, just before I was about to leave on my last trip I was finally rewarded with much more than I hoped when I was surrounded by a whole bunch of humbugs (piglets) which are so far the most gorgeous things I’ve managed to photograph.
I’m not sure if it was adrenalin but I actually started shaking uncontrollably which messed up an awful lot of shots!
I recently photographed the incredible Snettisham Spectacular in Norfolk, England, where thousands of wading birds got pushed off the mudflats by the incoming high tide causing incredible displays that are just jaw-dropping. The sound of a thousand birds flying just a few feet above your head is simply unforgettable.
I took more photo’s in just a few hours here than I have anywhere in the country.
Do you have any new projects coming up or plans to expand your portfolio?
Currently planning a mammoth tour of Scotland and its islands for a landmark birthday next year – I’m not saying which one!
Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?
Oh for sure. I’ve not been going long, I’ve so much to learn and I’ve never been so at peace with anything in life than I have through my photography.