Phone photography: it’s not all about fancy gear

One of the most frequent comments I receive is “I wish I could take photographs like yours but I only use my phone”. This week I thought I’d share a few photos that I’ve taken on my iPhone in the last couple of years, to prove that you don’t always need a fancy camera to achieve reasonable results.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my camera – my husband has joked before that I should perhaps be married to it rather than him! That said, I don’t always have it to hand when I should and sometimes I prefer not to take it out. I go with the grand notion of actually experiencing wildlife rather than focusing on the photograph I want to achieve. However, if I find something wonderful I can’t help but want to document it. There are other occasions too, particularly when I’m doing ecology surveys and have my arms full of clipboards and kit, that taking a camera is simply too awkward.

The first few photos are from just such an occasion, starting with a wonderful and memorable day doing reptile translocations in East London. Having collected lots of lovely Common Lizards, I took them to a suitable release site a short way away. They had cooled down during the journey though so, when I came to release them, they just wanted to hang out on my hand where it was warmer!


phone photograph of lizards


Next up, one from a reptile survey; I lifted a mat to find a beautiful pair of mating slow worms. These gorgeous legless lizards have to be one of my favourite creatures – I absolutely love them. My dear Mum by contrast has a fear of snakes and while she knows they aren’t really snakes, she still can’t bring herself to get too close. In her own words, she says that if she did my job her toes would be curled up inside her wellies!




On a similar survey elsewhere, a Ruddy Darter basked on one of the mats trying to soak up some warmth from the sun. I ought to point out here that I don’t use any gadgets or gizmos with my phone and all these images are as I took them, no crop, no filter, no processing.




Under another mat on a translocation site, I came across a lovely little Wood Mouse. It was particularly fond of its dry spot under the mat and I met it twice daily for a couple of months as I did my rounds looking for lizards. Needless to say it got quite used to me and allowed for some wonderful encounters and photographic opportunities. This is my favourite image of several that I took.




Of course, I also photograph flowers and other things I find when I’m out and about. I have done so on surveys too but this next image of a Dog Rose is from a walk I took near home. To my mind there is no reason that you can’t capture almost as much detail in macro photos on a phone as with a camera, it’s a case of a little patience and making sure that you focus properly. This image is proof of that as every crinkle in the petals and each stamen in the centre is clear.




Sometimes I have my camera with me as well but want to share what I’ve found instantly. This was the case with these wonderful lichen covered branches in a tiny patch of temperate rain forest on the east coast of Scotland. Comparing the resulting images on the computer, with the exception of resolution, there is very little difference between the two.




If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you’ll remember one from a couple of weeks ago about fungi. No surprises then that I photograph them with my phone occasionally too. This image was one I almost literally stumbled across while getting out of the car having parked on the side of the road near a small garden centre. I couldn’t ignore the perfect condition of the toadstools in their leafy blanket.




Of course, I don’t stick to wildlife subjects with my phone as much as with my camera. I like to capture moments with friends, family, pets, and my garden too. I particularly like this shot of some crocuses that popped up on the edge of the drive last year. The clump was so thick that I was able to almost fill the frame completely with flowers and for me, as one of the first flowers to bloom each year, the image symbolises spring in all its glory which always brings a smile to my face.




The last thing that I wanted to touch on was landscape shots. Generally speaking I tend to snap the odd image when on holiday to show the area I’m in, and then I sometimes send a postcard home using a handy app called Touchnote. This next image is a perfect example. I took lots of similar shots on my camera but Mont Aiguille, in the Vercors massif in France, is just an astounding piece of geology, and coupled with a field of poppies it was too good not to take a quick photo.




Similarly, while out on an evening walk this summer I snapped this shot of a church spire reflected in the river. It perfectly captures the balmy conditions and lovely location. I didn’t have my camera on that occasion but did return later in the week to get some shots there.




Lastly, my most common subject for phone photography has to be sunsets – if you follow me on Twitter you may well have noticed! Like most people, I’m a sucker for a colourful sky and while I do see rather a lot of sunrises too, I’m usually a little more awake to photograph in the evenings! I’m lucky that here in Cambridgeshire we have fewer hills and big skies giving rise to some fantastic sunsets. This last image is one of a great many that I’ve shared from the end of my garden.




Next week I have another wonderful guest blog lined up, this time from friend and colleague, Ashley Grove. Watch this space as he will be sharing some of his favourite autumnal photographs and tips about how he achieved them. His work is truly stunning so I know it will be a good one!








Superb Spiders, not so scary after all!

Misty mornings and heavy dew are almost synonymous with autumn in my mind and so it will come as no surprise that I enjoy photographing them too. One particular subject is favoured by many a naturalist and photographer in these conditions; spider’s webs. These natural wonders are all the more spectacular when bejewelled with hundreds of tiny droplets glinting in the morning light. It therefore seems a particularly fitting way to start this week’s post with just such an image that I took recently.


jewelled spiders web


For some of you, I expect that spiders are not a particularly welcome sight. I know that as a youngster I was not at all keen on them. I have to say that handling spiders is still something that I don’t always enjoy, but as I’ve grown to understand what incredible creatures they are, I certainly have a new found sense of wonder at their complexity and variety.

For example, while all spiders produce silk in one form or another, some can create up to seven different types to perform different functions from the obvious web to capture prey, to gossamer for dispersal of young on the wind and delicate cocoons for their precious eggs. In this next image, you can see a Marbled Orb Weaver (Araneus marmoreus) using a thicker type of silk to immobilise the prey that has become tangled in her web, in this case a wasp.




The next photograph is of a species that many of you will be familiar with, even if you don’t know much about it. The Labyrinth Spider (Agelena labyrinthica) is widespread and easy to spot because of its habit of building a funnel-shaped sheet web in which it hides. It takes its name from the maze-like mass of tunnels which spread out from the narrow end of the funnel and conceal the egg sac full of developing young.




Another familiar arachnid for many is the Garden Cross Spider (Araneus diadematus). Whilst not confined to our gardens they are one of the more likely species to find lurking in the flower beds. They do vary in colour but all have a characteristic white crucifix shape on the abdomen that gives them their name. This particular individual was quite a vibrant rust colour compared to others I have seen.




The Four-Spot Orb Weaver (Araneus quadratus) is another which takes its name from its patterning. I had only seen them once before this year but hadn’t had my camera with me at the time so I was pleased to find them on the Norfolk coast. Unfortunately for me it was quite a breezy day and I had immense trouble focusing as the web was being blown all over the place. This image does show the markings on the abdomen nicely though. I have since found one in the field margin next to my house – typical! Needless to say I’m sure I’ll be photographing them more often in future.




I didn’t have so much trouble with this next image, the subject was most obliging. This one is a Furrow Orb Weaver (Larinioides cornutus) which is most often found near water. I actually photographed this one in a hide overlooking a lake so, while it may not be obvious, it was in the right place!




My last spidery image for this piece is my personal favourite. I have wanted to see one of these beauties for a number of years, and despite looking in several known locations I didn’t manage to find what I was looking for until much more recently, and with a little help.

The Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) has to be one of Britain’s most spectacular invertebrate species. It is in fact a recent arrival from the continent and has slowly colonised the south of the country. You can’t mistake the female’s striking wasp-like colours, but there is another interesting feature in the web which is not common in other British species; a stabilimentum. This is a wide zig-zag feature in the middle of the web, though nobody knows what purpose it serves. I have read about them but never seen one before and despite my best efforts this gorgeous lady had not built one into her web so I am still on the lookout.




These are, of course, only a few of a great many species with which we share our homes, gardens and countryside. I hope that these photographs have highlighted the beauty that can be found in the world of British arachnids. I know that there will still be some of you that fear spiders, but perhaps by sharing some of their amazing adaptations you can learn to love them a little more like I have.