Photo Anatomy: capturing spectacular moments in the wild

Photo Anatomy: capturing spectacular moments in the wild

In our Photo Anatomy series on Digital Camera World we select pictures by famous photographers and explain point by point what makes them work.

In our latest instalment we look back at the runner-up in the prestigious Veolia Environement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards 2011, which was shot by then-16-year-old photographer Jamie Unwin. Here is his story.

Photo Anatomy: capturing spectacular moments in the wild

Timed to perfection
Unwin wanted the sun to be a feature of the photo. “For the sun to be framed top-left, I knew I would have to take the photo between 11am and noon,” he says.

Careful set up
Then-16-year-old Jamie Unwin sprinkled bird seed in his snow-covered back garden on Christmas morning. Then he set up his Sony A350, fitted with a Sigma 18-125mm lens set at 30mm, and waited…

Caught in a flash
Shooting into the sun, Unwin exposed for 1/4000 sec at f/9 and ISO400. To add extra illumination to the bird, he used fill-in flash from a Minolta 5600HS at quarter power.

One-shot wonder
While thawing out, Unwin realised that his expertise and planning had dovetailed in this shot. “I fired one image on 
my camera on Christmas Day,” he says, “and this was it!”

Detailed observation
A great tit landed and fed. Unwin, who says he “had spent a year studying the precise actions a bird performs before taking off”, fired the shutter at exactly the right moment.

We say
“Improve your hit rate when capturing action shots by using an infrared remote trigger, such as the model made by Hama. It uses a photoelectric detector to fire off the camera’s shutter, and is activated by subject motion. It doesn’t guarantee perfect results every time, but it will improve your chances.”
Chris Rutter, technique editor

Famous Photographers: 100 things we wish we knew starting out
How to see photos like famous photographers… every time you shoot
Best camera focus techniques: 10 surefire ways to get sharp photos
Full frame sensor size explained: how to exploit its advantages and cool effects
Free bird photography cheat sheet