Laurie Campbell s Life in the Wild

 fisheye lenses

 Ever since Laurie Campbell discovered the impressive amount depth of field that can be achieved using wideangle and fisheye lenses in nature photography, he has been exploring new ways to use the technique to record a wide range of wildlife

I often write about the benefits I of using wideangle lenses as I a way of showing subjects in I context with their surroundings, and my own personal interest in this technique goes back over three decades. My curiosity was first aroused after watching a natural history programme, which included an extreme wideangle shot of a dragonfly resting on a lily pad. Everything from the faceted eyes of the insect to the distant horizon appeared to be sharp. The image had a real impact on me and spurred my desire to achieve likewise in my stills photography.

After much experimentation with various wideangle and fisheye lenses —used with and without accessories such as extension tubes and supplementary close-up lenses —Inever really managed to achieved anything like the same amount of depth of field we see on film. My suspicions are that this is closely related to the difference in format sizes between full-frame 35mm stills cameraas and motion picture cameras. It seems that, with any given lens aperture, the amount of depth of field is always less with larger formats than with smaller ones. The smaller the subject, the closer the front element of the lens must be, resulting in more magnification and less chance of getting all of the background in sharp focus. Despite this, Ipersisted and now look constantly for opportunities to apply what

 Laurie Campbell

Ilearnt to photographing a wide range of subjects using different combinations of equipment. A basic requirement is to get the front of the lens as close to the subject as possible. This is easy enough with inanimate subjects, such as plants and some insects, but rarely so with most birds or mammals, unless you use a little ingenuity and combine the technique with a remote triggering system.

Earlier this year I had the perfect opportunity to put this technique into practice when, following a prolonged spell of dry weather, we began to receive nightly visits to our garden from three different badgers. With their staple diet of earthworms difficult to access, they were hard pressed to find alternative sources of food, and they didnhesitate to target our bird feeder, which was filled with sunflower seeds. After spending a few evenings photographing them from the kitchen window.

I began to think about shooting them from the badgerperspective, with a view looking towards the house, and including as much of it as possible in the frame, with the interior lights switched on. At about the same time, Ipurchased a Sigma 15mm diagonal fisheye lens to use with my full-frame Nikon D3X, and thought this would be the prefect subject to try it out on. Over the next few days I set about acclimatising the badgers by gradually moving an old tripod and flash stands into position around the feeder. With my camera less than a metre from the badger, I shot some test pictures via a homemade electric cable release to check their reaction.

Each badger quickly ignored the shutter noise and I soon had almost all the pictures I wanted. With the advent of Wi-Fi triggering systems that remotely offer live view on smart phones and laptops, itnot difficult to imagine the huge potential in using wideangle lenses to photograph wildlife at closer range than ever before.

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