Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

An early morning stroll with a compact camera.

North Woods, Tophill Low

I’m often asked if I could recommend a camera or lens for nature photography. It’s a question that usually fills me with dread as there’s no simple answer. Of course, if your ambition is to photograph small birds, then there really is only a limited and expensive choice of equipment. However, I maintain that wonderful and evocative landscape images can be made with just about any camera. You’ve just got to be aware of both your own and the cameras limitations.

Saturday morning saw me at Tophill Low an hour before dawn. The walk through North Woods was a little eerie and I could only just about make out the path. North Marsh hide was cold and damp and the early morning mist was lying over the surrounding marsh and fields. Rory and his Mum turned up at sun-rise and with a little trepidation, I handed over the big camera and lens. I arranged to return at 9:30 and set off with my trusty compact camera. I use a Canon PowerShot S95. A decent enough compact by modern standards but with the ability to shoot in both Raw and Jpeg.

The light was fantastic. A low mist shrouded the base of the trees and the grasses were gloriously back-lit by the early morning sun. I spent over ten years of my life developing and printing in monochrome, so I was eager to see if I could reproduce some landscape images in this digital format. I have always maintained that a great black & white image should show subtlety of tone and I tried my best to capture nuances of the trees and grasses. I didn’t use a tripod and left the camera’s ISO at 400. The picture below of the grasses is a fine example. There is no obvious focal point within the image—just a wonderful combination of grasses and dew-covered spider webs.

Webs and Grasses, Tophill Low

As the sun rose above the horizon, I wandered slowly through the woods towards the newly excavated Hempholme site . The pile of logs from Sergeant-Major Woods looked interesting. I focussed on the logs and positioned myself so that the composition linked to the fence posts and the moon in the background. These trees will probably end their life as wood-chips but perhaps fence posts would be another end-product too.

Logs in the Mis, Tophill Low

I then turned around and made a couple of exposures of the excavated site with the sun peeping through the mist. You can just about make out two piles of earth but there is plenty of shadow detail.

Misty Sunrise, Tophill Low

Even the humble thistle looked interesting, wrapped in their dew soaked cloak…


I returned to North Marsh hide at 9:00 am very satisfied with my little adventure. One thing for certain, I will be repeating the exercise very soon—maybe with a larger camera and tripod. Nevertheless, I hope this inspires others to try something a little bit different. There is a lot more to Tophill Low than Kingfishers, super-long lenses and crowded hides. Why not give it a go? You may well be surprised at the results you can achieve with a humble compact camera and a little imagination.

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One thought on “An early morning stroll with a compact camera.

  1. Dear Tony,
    My name is Martine. I’m artistic director of a youth theatre in GHENT, Belgium.

    We make theatre on special locations. For the moment I’m browsing the internet to find a beautiful picture of owls. I saw some very exiting ones at you website.
    I was wondering if maybe with could use one of your pictures for a poster for our new theatre piece. We can of course pay you to use the picture (if it’s not too expensive…).
    Really looking forward to hear from you.
    Kind regards,
    Martine Decroos

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