Nature Photography Lesson: Patience is a Virtue

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720,000 Shots and 6 Years Result in Perfection

Read how this nature photographer aimed for the perfect shot in honor of his grandfather:

nature photo Kingfisher diving by Alan McFayden

Although touted at taking 6 years to get this shot, in reality it started over 40 years ago.

That is when photographer Alan McFadyen was taken to see this kingfisher nesting spot by his grandfather. McFadyen was just 6 years old at the time.

The spot is by a beautiful lake in Scotland. And we can see why it was so memorable.

McFadyen took up nature photography just 6 years ago after a back injury. Having never forgotten this visit with his grandfather, he vowed to return and capture the “perfect” shot of the Kingfishers. It wasn’t an easy task.

Over the last 6 years he went to the spot approximately 100 times each year. His kingfisher portfolio grew to 720,000 before getting the desired shot. The bird diving into the water without a splash.

Mr McFadyen, who lives in Dumfries and Galloway said: “There are not many people in the world who have got this shot. Kingfishers dive so fast they are like bullets so taking a good photo requires a lot of luck – and a lot of patience.

“The photo I was going for of the perfect dive, flawlessly straight, with no splash required not only me to be in the right place and get a very lucky shot but also for the bird itself to get it perfect.

“I would often go and take 600 pictures in a session and not a single one of them be any good. But now I look back on the thousands and thousands of photos I have taken to get this one image, it makes me realize just how much work I have done to get it.

Out of 720,000 shots, he got one that absolutely hit the mark. He has a handful of others that are any good.

Part of the challenge in getting the shot was not just about the speed of the birds. The birds must also live and practice so they have the skill to enter the water flawlessly. In this spot the kingfisher nest was repeatedly washed away, drowning countless birds. Not only was McFadyen a nature photographer, he decided to help Mother Nature and give the birds a more sturdy nest.

The beloved grandfather who inspired this work passed in 1994 at 78 years of age, having never known his grandson as a photographer.

kingfisher perched by Alan McFayden

McFadyen is the owner of Scottish Photography Hides. He offers numerous hides, and his scouting services, to photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. Whether your goal is to capture the perfect kingfisher shot or you have other nature photography goals in Scotland, this might be just the ticket you are looking for.

We know he would be proud of the photographer, and the man, called Alan McFadyen.


From the original article by Colin McNeill of the Herald Scotland which can be read here.

All photos by Alan McFadyen

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