All Creatures Great & Small
by Sophia Smith
"Photography is my happy place, I love seeing new animals and venturing out in the wild too."
Yorkshire lass and former police officer Michelle Howell always has a camera by her side and a phone in her pocket ready to capture wildlife in their most natural and fleeting moments. Wildlife photography is something that many folk would love to do, but very few understand the planning, preparation and patience it takes to seize just one good capture. We chat to Michelle about all creatures great and small…
Highland Cow Lick
WHAT MAKES A PERFECT PICTURE?
A good photograph is one that can make people smile, it must be fun! Or it must be a good representation of what someone is taking. For example, if it’s an animal you need eye contact, if someone’s looking at my photos I want them to see what I see.
WHEN DID YOU START SNAPPING?
As a kid I was always interested in Polaroid and instamatic cameras, I was always out taking photos. When I joined the police, I didn’t really have the time to keep it up. By the time I had retired, all those cameras had moved onto modern ones, they’re all digital. I bought one and started learning how to use new cameras. Now in my retirement, this is what I do for fun, it’s my hobby!
WHAT DO YOU USE?
I use a Nikon D500. Sometimes if I have already put my camera away, if there’s a good shot, I can manage to snap them on my phone. There was a day when red squirrels had the last laugh, as soon as I packed the camera, they all appeared and posed nicely! That’s the good thing nowadays, everyone’s got a camera on their phone. I always use my iPhone as a backup. Recently I was trying to get milk water seascapes and I was struggling. I took some with my iPhone instead, it was better than what I took on the camera, phones are only getting better! You see all these people with big cameras, even I have a camera with a massive lens, but you don’t always need it.
FAVOURITE PICTURE YOU’VE TAKEN IS…
My favourite photograph is the one that won the BBC Countryfile Calendar competition. It’s called ‘An Apple a Day’. It was a photograph of a mouse inside an apple. It came top out of over 42,000 images! I have also published a book, it’s a coffee table book full of my favourite photographs of the harvest mice.
Photography is my happy place, I love seeing new animals and venturing out in the wild too. I took photos of a kingfisher the other week when the sun was setting, it was the first kingfisher I had ever seen in my life.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking what I should do with all these pictures. For example, the photo of the lion I took at Yorkshire Wildlife Park, I added the background in, changed it to mono, popped the eyes! With some of the other images I’ve been adding textures and removing the background if it’s boring or messy, they look good hanging on the wall. I’ve got a shop on my website but from Easter I’ll be a regular trader at Yummy Yorkshire’s Market on the Farm with mounted prints, framed prints and photos I turn into greeting cards. I’ll be there once a month!
DO YOU EVER GET CAUGHT?
Sometimes the animals notice me, especially when I press the shutter on the camera they turn around. It can be good because they’re looking directly at you. You don’t want to see their backside, although, I do have a good photo of a zebra’s backside!
ADVICE TO BUDDING SNAPPERS?
If you want to take good pictures, just practise, practise, practise. Look at how other people take photographs and try it yourself. Add your own little twist on it. Don’t give up, or be too serious, it must be fun! Don’t be too upset when people don’t like your pictures because not everybody will. If other people like my photos, and others don’t, that’s fine!
See more of Michelle’s work at michellehowellphotography.com