The wildlife photographer from the Fylde who almost stepped on a crocodile
PUBLISHED: 11:05 06 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:56 20 February 2013
Standing on crocodiles and being charged by angry tigers are occupational hazards for wildlife photographers, writes Paul Mackenzie
His eyes fixed on a weaver bird nest, Ken Clark stalked across the Ghanaian grasslands, hunting for the perfect shot. Moving stealthily, his tripod poised on his shoulder, he sneaked nearer until a signal from his wife brought him to a sudden halt. His right foot was hovering just above a dozing seven foot long Nile crocodile.
I hadnt noticed it, he said. I was fixed on the birds and, even though we were in a crocodile reserve, we were quite a way from the water and it didnt occur to me. In the end though the crocodile just turned, looked at me and went back to sleep.
He has also been charged by an angry young tiger and had a few run-ins with feisty roe deer, but Ken takes it all as he almost took that crocodile in his stride. It tends to be the case that if I behave myself properly, then the wildlife does as well. But I accept that as a wildlife photographer I am going in to their environment and the animals are entitled to want to know what Im there for.
Ken is originally from Stirling but now lives in Wesham, having moved to the Fylde in 2003 to study wildlife photography. He had intended to return to Scotland but met his future wife on the course and has since developed a love of the Lancashire countryside.
I am quite used to the wilder areas and there are parts of Beacon Fell and the Trough of Bowland which remind me of home, he said. I have spent quite a lot of time in the Brock Valley, too and I get out to the Lakes and Formby as well. There are some wonderful and varied places around Lancashire to get great photographs of wildlife.
It often amazes people how much wildlife there is locally and many people are surprised to see shots of deer and hare taken not far from where they live. In the future, wed like to concentrate on promoting the beauty of these areas and some of the more remote parts of Britain
We do occasionally travel farther afield to areas such as India and Africa but its good to have a local patch, somewhere you can get to know really well, so you can be aware of changes and can develop an understanding of how the animals there live.
I try to do my homework before I set out so I have an idea what to expect. I tend to go out to photograph something in particular, hares or deer or foxes for example, and Ill have an idea of how I hope to photograph it.
Ken runs Wolfshead Photographic with his wife Kitty, who now teaches part time at Blackpool and The Fylde College where they met.
The business is based in Blackpool where they have staged two exhibitions and they also attend craft fairs around the region.
Kitty is also a photographer and while her interest is in images of plants and insects, Ken focuses on the larger subjects.
I tend to go for birds and mammals, he said. But I must admit that tigers are a particular weakness of mine. Our last exhibition was about a tiger family living in Ranthambhore National Park. A percentage of print sales from the exhibition is being donated to 21st Century Tiger, a charity set up to help tigers in the wild.
And we have also donated images to ARKive, a not-for-profit photo library that works to encourage conservation around the world. Its nice to know that your work can have implications for the survival of an entire species.
Kens wildlife photography tips
1. Learn how to work your camera. Wildlife doesnt generally hold still long enough for you to look up the necessary settings. If youre not sure where to start, try asking in local camera shops. Staff are generally photographers themselves and you wont be asking anything they havent come across before.
2. Know your subject. If you read up on the species you want to photograph, it gives you a good idea of what you can expect to see. Also looking at other images can give you an idea of what kind of shot youd like to take and maybe some ideas on how to achieve it. But always remember the subjects welfare comes first.
3. Buy a good quality tripod. Many modern lenses feature some form of image stabilization but you still have to stand there and hold the camera. After a few hours this is tiring and youll find it nearly impossible to hold the camera steady.
4. Find yourself some local ground. A piece of local woodland, or a local park can give you endless photographic opportunities. The more time you spend there, the more in tune youll become to that particular environment. As a result, youll notice more and hopefully get more photos as a result.
5. Its better to get it right first time than to fix it later. Setting the camera to achieve the best results will save you hours of time trying to process poor quality images on computer.
And when youve taken brilliant photographs upload them by clicking the red button below
To see more of Ken and Kittys photos go to wolfshead.photoshelter.com
The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Lancashire Life
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