Photographing Scotland's wildlife with Neil McIntyre

Days out, Nature

Posted by Dawn on 21st September 2020

Photo credit: Neil McIntyre

Neil McIntyre is a renowned wildlife photographer based near the beautiful Cairngorms National Park.

Having won coveted prizes in competitions such as the British Wildlife Photography Awards, Neil is inspired by Scottish wildlife.

We caught up with him to find out more about his spectacular photos and what advice he can give to budding wildlife photographers.

How long have you been photographing Scotland’s wildlife?

Must be about around 30 years now. Gosh! It sounds a long time, but does not feel that way, I have to say.

What inspires you about the country?

For such a small country we are very lucky to have such a wide range of habitats and wildlife. The fact that Scotland has its own wildlife is what makes it extra special to me. Going to exotic locations abroad is great but when you can step out your back door or drive a couple hours and have encounters with amazing wildlife and places, that’s special and is all the inspiration I need. Even the weather, yes I curse it many times but as you can see in some pictures below you can make it work for you and it can add a special element to the picture. See the rain in both the otter and red deer stag images for example.

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Do you have a favourite place to photograph?

Yes, my home area in the Cairngorms National Park is obviously one but very close second would be the Isle of Mull. It has fantastic scenery and amazing wildlife all crammed into one small island.

Can you tell us about your favourite photo?

It’s difficult to pick one photo but I have chosen one of a red squirrel very small in the frame, almost lost in among the old giant pine trees. I spent many days over the years photographing red squirrels in all sorts of ways but this picture just sums it all up really in a very simple way. This small mammal is tiny in comparison to its surroundings but looks so at home and part of it all. These types of images rather than a real close up show so much more. Yes the squirrel is crucial but the trees and rest of the habitat is just as important to how they are all linked. I think this picture shows this.

Red Squirrel in old caledonian pine forest

Are there any species you have yet to photograph?

There are quite a few but I prefer to concentrate on fewer species and get to know them rather than just getting a few shots of everything. Although I have a few pictures, I would like to do more with pine martens.

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Do you have a favourite species to photograph?

It is difficult for me to pick just one, as I have many favourites really and all for their own reasons. Red squirrels in particular and red deer but if had to plumb for one it would be the otter. They are such engaging charismatic creatures and provide a real challenge wildlife photography-wise.

If you could provide one piece of advice to budding wildlife photographers, what would it be?

Get to know your subject, watch it, learn about its habits, sometimes with no camera is best as you will not be distracted by taking pictures and in the end you will become more familiar with it and the better your pictures will be. Also get to know the basic fundamental settings on your camera. It’s not that complicated now with digital cameras. A lot of time with wildlife means you don't have time to be fiddling about with settings etc. so having all that sorted beforehand or doing it second nature is crucial. Getting out and using camera and experiencing situations is the best way and also half the fun.

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What’s in your kitbag?

I use Canon cameras. My main wildlife one is the 1DX and a 7Dmk2 as a second backup. For landscapes I use the 5D mk3. Lens-wise my main wildlife lens is a Canon 500mm f4 mk2 IS lens and also a 100-400mm mk2 IS zoom lens. On occasions, I use these for landscapes as well and in addition to that the shorter main landscape lenses are both zooms and these are a 12-24mm and a 24-105mm. For close up macro work I have a 100mm macro lens. To carry all these about I use F-Stop mountain series backpacks.

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