Behind the Lens with Barry Cook

, 02 May 2022
Behind the Lens with Barry Cook
Barry Cook

Tell us a bit about yourself

I live near Heathfield in East Sussex. I moved here from Kent with my wife about two years ago when we both retired. We were both attracted to Sussex by the countryside and wildlife. I spent most of my career in the pharmaceutical industry.

When and why did you develop an interest in wildlife photography?

I don’t remember exactly, although my earliest memories of being interested in wildlife are probably when I was about five years old – lifting stones in the garden and watching the ‘mini-beasts’. My dad made me a Blue Tit nesting box when I was very young. I watched them nest and fledge - for hours every day, making sure they were safe. I started photography in my teens. Film in those days of course; very different to today’s instant digital world. I was inspired by my very good friend, Tim, who taught me the basics of photography.

Do you have a particular subject matter you favour, and why?

Birds mainly; varied and fairly easy subjects to attract and photograph. But I love macro photography of insects and flora.

What are the biggest challenges?

Birds in flight are always tricky. I’ve tried various techniques with different degrees of success. And then there’s the overall… when you see some of those superb shots that some photographers get, both in terms of quality, composition and subject matter, you wonder whether you could ever achieve that perfection.

What equipment do you use, in brief?

I’ve got a camera and some other bits and bobs. I intentionally don’t specify. People ask “what camera should I buy?” when perhaps they should be asking “how do I take good photographs?” The answers are different. I’ve got a DSLR which weighs a ton and a smart phone which can take reasonable photos.

What’s your favourite shot?

Difficult. I do like my ‘Swan Wake’ photo, perhaps because no one else likes it that much. Oh, and the bumble bee entering the nest shot (top). I spent hours peering through the nest hole to get that photograph.

What are you trying to communicate with your photographs?

Hmm…It’s not uppermost in my mind when I take and process a photo. I just go for the ‘best’ shot especially with regards composition and quality.

Have you ever had any surprises when you’ve been out with a camera?

Not me, but perhaps the people watching me… I once waded into a swimming pool, DSLR in hand, to get a shot of a Black Kite!

Any tips? 

First and foremost, take care of the wildlife. Lead by example – don’t jeopardise the wildlife for the benefit of getting a good photograph.
Then, learn the basics of photography. Film speed vs Shutter speed vs Aperture. Depth of field, Composition, etc etc. Loads of stuff on YouTube. Then, importantly, focus on the processing as much as taking the shot. It makes a big difference. Cropping, getting the histogram correct, sharpening etc. Oh, enjoy it too.

Follow Barry on Instagram @barrylawrencec

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