Today’s interview comes from the county of Lancashire, Northwest England and features a very skilled nature and wildlife photographer. His name is Ian McGill and he has taken what was once just a hobby and turned it into a passion to share with his viewers. Respect for the natural world and Ian’s keen eye for capturing moments in time have provided the perfect formula for his impressive body of work.
Ian, thank you for allowing us to learn about your love for photography and for allowing us to get to know a bit about you. You are a remarkable photographer and your body of work is truly inspiring.
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
I am married with two grown-up children and four grandchildren. After starting off work as an apprentice in an engineering factory, I changed my career to become a Firefighter which I did for 30years before I retired.
Where is home?
My home is in the county of Lancashire, Northwest England.
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 always been interested in nature and photography since I was young but never really had the spare time to get into photographing nature and wildlife seriously until I retired.
What type of shoots do you look forward to?
I love nothing more than photographing the local Barn owls, we are so fortunate to have a few pairs locally. I also enjoy planning bird Photography trips around the UK and look forward to the day I can travel internationally again to my favourite places, Canada and Spain.
When shooting subjects, what do you find most challenging?
Most of my photography is of birds, the most challenging aspect of which is birds in flight. Some birds are easier than others to get a good shot of. Those that tend to glide or hover are obviously easier than those that have a fast undulating flight pattern or those that twist and turn constantly. So it is very important to know your subject so that you can set up and shoot accordingly.
What would you say your most remarkable wildlife encounter has been?
My most remarkable encounter was the day I first photographed a White Tailed Eagle, they are such huge majestic birds, to watch them at close quarters totally focused on their Prey, the concentration in their eyes as they skim the surface of the water with talons outstretched ready to snatch a fish from the water is truly awesome.
How did you develop your style?
I think my style came to me naturally, I would not class myself as very artistic so I just factually document in camera what I see in the field, trying to capture any environmental and behavioural aspects.
What do you hope viewers take away from your work?
I would hope the viewer would be able to say that they find my photos to be a good representation of the subjects I take and that they contain a good detail, but also for them to get a sense of the subject’s environment, and behaviour.
Do you have any tips for aspiring wildlife photographers?
The best tip I could give is to learn your subject’s behaviours and recognize its environment. My favourite subject is the Barn Owl but it’s no good looking in a dense woodland setting for one. When the light is poor, I often just observe my subjects without my camera. Noting, for instance, their hunting grounds, do they follow the same route? For example along hedgerows, can I find their roosting site? are there any vantage points along its route that I can utilise? Does it have favourite perches? Note everything. These are all little things that can help you plan to get the shot you want.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I shoot with Nikon cameras, I have a D500 which is my work horse camera and I also have a D750 full-frame camera, which I find better in low light conditions. My favourite lens is my Sigma 150-600 contemporary lens. I am one who chooses not to spend thousands on a lens, for me, it’s not about who has the best equipment, it’s about getting the most out of what you have and being happy with it.
What is in your camera bag?
On a typical shoot, I tend to travel as light as possible as I am always on the move. My bag will contain both cameras and the lens mentioned above, along with a Nikon 18-300mm DX lens for the D500, a Sigma 105 Macro lens for insect photography, and my Tripod with Gimball head.
What is your favorite photography accessory?
I don’t really have a favourite accessory.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
I have kept an eye on the Mirrorless camera market and have toyed with the idea of switching, maybe to the Sony system but I am not ready for that just yet.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
I shoot everything in RAW, so I do use Lightroom and Photoshop to edit my images. I have also recently started using Topaz Denoise AI for high ISO shots and am quite pleased with the results so far. I think it is important to try and get as much as possible right in the camera so as you don’t need too much processing.
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?
I enjoy all my sessions because it gets me out in nature and that’s where I feel at my best. One that sticks really sticks with me though was a sad occasion where I went through a whole range of emotions. Sadly it involved a local Barn Owl that I had been photographing daily for months. On the shoot it was hunting too far away to get a good shot, it dived down into the grass, as it came up I tracked it through the lens to see if had caught Prey. As I tracked it something came from nowhere and my owl had gone. It had been ambushed by a Common Buzzard and after an epic struggle, my Owl was never seen again. An awesome sight to witness but heavily tinged with sadness, but that’s Nature for you.
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
Not so many project failures but there have certainly been times when I have shook my head for sure. It’s ok to make mistakes, annoying when they are big ones but remember everyone makes them, the important thing is to learn from them.
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
To be honest, I have no plans, I will just keep on taking photos as it keeps my mental health in good shape. I will keep on entering the best of them into my local clubs’ nature competitions and hopefully enjoy some more success. I always let my photos do the talking for me and that will dictate where my photography goes next.