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Dieser Artikel ist leider nicht verfügbar auf Deutsch
Bertie Gregory discusses his <br class="br_visual" />passion for wildlife

Bertie Gregory discusses his
passion for wildlife

© Bertie Gregory

September 2012

Bertie Gregory is one of a new breed of young wildlife photographers rising through the ranks, and recent experiences with an EOS-1D Mark IV and EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM super telephoto lens have given him a head start when it comes to capturing the quarry. CPN Editor David Corfield spoke to him to find out more.

If you think you need to travel thousands of miles for great wildlife photographs, think again. Try the centre of Bristol in the UK. Or pretty much any city centre around the world for that matter. According to Bertie Gregory, with a bit of knowledge, patience and skill, it’s possible to get great wildlife images wherever you may live.

“It’s very easy to think that exciting and amazing wildlife is only found in wilderness areas,” Gregory states. “By photographing a peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on earth, in the heart of two major British cities – London and Bristol – I wanted to show that it is possible to have incredible wildlife encounters in urban areas,” he says. “I hope it will go some way to inspire young people to get away from the TV and go outside! If they're after action and violence it’s not hard to find a peregrine [falcon] ripping apart a pigeon on a nearby roof top…”

© Bertie Gregory

A juvenile peregrine falcon screeches for its parents as a yellow AA van below provides a colourful background. Shot with an EOS-1D Mark IV and an EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/7.1, ISO 1000.

Gregory is about to start his second year at Bristol University, in the south-west of England, where he is studying Zoology. A degree in the subject is very helpful for a wildlife photographer. In no other branch of imaging does subject knowledge carry more importance. When it comes to capturing wildlife with a camera; knowledge is power. It’s the difference between getting the shot, or not at all. Knowing where to go, and at what time to get the best shots, gives you a massive advantage. And as well as learning from his studies, Gregory has some impressive colleagues to seek further inspiration from…

“I’m part of the 2020VISION project, a nature photography initiative that aims to communicate the link between habitat restoration and our own well being,” he explains. “I’m one of the youngest on the team and have been paired with a mentor in the shape of Alex Mustard, an underwater specialist, whose advice and knowledge has been invaluable to me as I learn more about taking better pictures.”

© Bertie Gregory

An adult female peregrine falcon comes in to land on the Houses Of Parliament in London with a kill. Shot with an EOS-1D Mark IV and an EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/1600sec at f/8, ISO 1000.

He admits: “The support I’ve been shown has been fantastic too. I had some specialist kit, which really helped push my photography that little bit harder. Using a pro body like the EOS-1D Mark IV was fantastic and with the EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM [lens] that came with it, it really helped take my photography to another level.”

Gregory came to Canon to allow him to photograph the more challenging animals. “I was amazed at the focusing speed, and my first mission with the equipment was to photograph the peregrine falcons as they taught their young to dive after the pigeons in the city centre. At a diving speed of up to 200mph it’s a pretty big ask for any kit, but once the lens locked on to the bird it stayed locked I was astounded at the quality of image.”

The falcons were the hardest subjects to photograph, according to Gregory. “I was basically standing on a main road with a lot of kit, waiting for the sun to come up, just as people were piling out from the clubs,” he laughs. “It was quite a sight for the drunk revellers, and somewhat nerve-wracking for me too as I tried to put to the back of my head what I’d say if someone decided to run off with my gear! Thankfully that never happened, and I focused on the job at hand.”

He explains: “The birds would sit waiting, seemingly for hours, as dawn broke and then all of a sudden there would be two minutes of adrenaline as they’d dive and catch their prey. And then it would all be over for another couple of hours. So if you missed the moment, you’d be kicking yourself.”

“I’d talked to a few guys I knew who had used 800mm lenses before, all of whom warned me of hand-holding but, because I was shooting upwards, the weight was channelled through my body so it was easier, and with the Image Stabilizer working I was able to get away with it,” he admits.

Gregory’s next mission was to photograph badgers. “They were a real test of a camera’s performance in super low light, and a test for any sensor, but yet again I was blown away,” he reveals. “I was often shooting at ISO 3200, in near darkness, but the noise in the dark areas of the badgers was very low. I was shooting RAW, opening the images in Lightroom, and then using Photoshop to convert the images. I have to say I was really impressed.”

© Bertie Gregory

A juvenile peregrine falcon chases its father carrying a recently killed pigeon. Shot with an EOS-1D Mark IV and an EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/2500sec at f/8, ISO 640.

“[The] Canon [camera] really impressed me with its ergonomics. I loved how big the viewfinder was on the EOS-1D Mark IV,” he recalls. “At 800mm you can really fill the frame with an animal, so accurate framing is made so much easier.”

The EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens was one of Gregory’s favourite optics and really came into its own with an assignment to shoot some sandwich terns. “I haven’t seen many super close-up shots so I was in a really great position of being able to really get close to them with the 800mm and study their behaviour.”

Gregory went to Brownsea Island, which is owned by the National Trust and home to one of the Dorset Wildlife Trust's nature reserves. “They have a few hides there and I was given special permission to stay in one pretty much round the clock,” he reveals.

© Bertie Gregory

A badger cub stares down the lens, “a wildlife photographer's dream!” laughs Gregory. Shot with an EOS-1D Mark IV and an EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/400sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600.

He adds: “Sandwich terns don’t shut up at night, though, so I didn’t get much sleep. In total I had a week in the hides where I’d spend the whole day just waiting and focusing on a pair of birds. In a situation like that you realise exactly what it takes to be a wildlife photographer. You need lightning fast reactions as well as the patience of a saint."

He reveals: “Ordinarily I don’t have much patience, but when it comes to wildlife I have all the time in the world. It is a solitary experience, but the social pleasure comes afterwards in giving talks and showing my work.”

Gregory is committed to finishing off his degree and then wants to become a professional wildlife photographer, presenter and filmmaker. “The camera side of things I think you can teach yourself just from doing it,” he states. “It’s the knowledge of wildlife which is more difficult, which is why I chose to study Zoology. I want to use my photography as a way of spreading awareness of the natural world around us.”

© Bertie Gregory

An adult sandwich tern flying home to feed its hungry chick with a large sand eel. Shot with an EOS-1D Mark IV and an EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/2000sec at f/8, ISO 400.

That said, he’s a bit of an inventor, too, when it comes to getting the picture. “I’m always trying to photograph from new perspectives,” he says. “When I was in Canada last year I invented a ‘Bear Box’, which in effect is a Peli case that I’d cut a hole into, from which I mounted a camera. The bears would come down to feed at low tide and they would walk along the beach where my case was positioned. I haven’t got the shot just yet, but I’m working on it!”

Gregory is quickly realising the variety of skills needed to cut it in the world of professional wildlife imaging. Knowledge of subject, though key, is actually only one of several strings to a rather large bow. The ability to communicate at every level – from talking to children in schools to presenting to managing directors in a boardroom when looking for sponsorship – is paramount. But you can guarantee that at any given moment Gregory will be thinking of his next challenge. And it will invariably be a solitary one, just the way all wildlife photographers like it.

“You sit there for five hours thinking ‘why am I doing this?’ and then, for a split second when all the action happens and you get the shot you’ve been after, you realise why you love the job so much,” he smiles. “I’m never happier than when I’m staring down the lens, wide-eyed, at something I am totally in awe of. For me, that’s the magic. And having the right equipment helps make that magic happen.”

Biografie: Bertie Gregory

Bertie Gregory

Bertie Gregory is a 19-year-old aspiring professional wildlife photographer, filmmaker and presenter. He is currently studying Zoology at Bristol University, England, and has particular interests in photographing both urban and North American wildlife. He is one of 20 young UK photographers involved in the 2020VISION project that aims to communicate the link between habitat restoration and the well being of humans.


A juvenile peregrine falcon screeches for its parents as a yellow AA van below provides a colourful background. Shot with an EOS-1D Mark IV and an EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/7.1, ISO 1000.