Some subjects need a lot of patience. Andreas Hütten sits for hours in his hiding place with his SP 150-600mm G2 until he finally spots his prey in the viewfinder.
If you visit Andreas Hütten’s weekend abode, at first glance you’ll see – nothing at all, actually. That’s because that’s what he’s aiming for – the animal photographer, who hails from Nordhorn, has constructed a well-hidden hut. This is where he has been waiting for hours this Saturday for a hawk to finally appear in his angle of view.
Robins, blue tits and squirrels have all already stopped by the small pond right in front of his photography hatch. Birds, small animals and even deer have headed into the shallow water to quench their thirst. For the photographer, the surface of the water makes a perfect backdrop for picturesque mirror shots. To get the perfect angle to capture the animals, the small hut is entrenched about a metre and a half into the ground. This means Andreas can look through his SP 150-600mm G2 at almost exactly the level of the water.
When a tit comes up to the pond again, Andreas wants to capture it in the frame, even if though isn’t the large raptor he’s actually waiting for. But when the bird first appears, Andreas doesn’t move. The small bird first needs a minute to get used to the surroundings. “Experience shows that you scare away a lot more animals by rushing to get a picture than when you just wait a moment,” he explains. In his opinion, there is much less of a risk that the bird will fly away again this way. Finally, he slowly turns his lens towards the tit; he captures it in the viewfinder, and a moment later, on his memory card.
Half an ornithology textbook has already flown by Andreas’s camera: the long-eared owl, screech owl, woodpecker, and the crested and long-tailed tit, to name just a few. After a lot of patience, he also managed to track down a hawk and a buzzard. But the passionate animal photographer doesn’t just want to lure in feathered subjects to his hide-out; he captures squirrels, foxes, deer and stags as well.
To get perfect shots of wild animals, Andreas needs the right equipment. He uses the new SP 150-600mm G2 on an APS-C camera. The crop factor of 1.6 means he gets a focal length of almost 1000mm at the extreme tele setting. That lets him fill the frame with even the smallest songbirds in full format. “More than anything else, I like the light weight of the SP 150-600mm G2. As an animal photographer, you’re on your feet for long periods,” says Andreas. “The autofocus is very quick as well, which can be absolutely crucial in animal photos.”
In the week, Andreas works as a wholesaler and export merchant and also as a lecturer at local education centres. He sees animal photography as an outlet to balance his often very stressful everyday life. “It’s just very relaxing to sit in the hide-out in the peace and quiet, switch off a bit and catch a few great photos.” He doesn’t just hope for random snapshots, though; he usually has a very specific target in mind and is meticulous in making it a reality. “It’s sometimes a year before I can make something a reality,” he says. “But it always works eventually.”
For instance, Andreas was recently on the hunt for a brown owl. He got the first tip about where to find the creature from a photographer he had befriended. But of course, it’s not enough just to know where the bird lives. For a good photo, the light needs to be right and the animal needs to look as photogenic as possible: the shot will only be really good when the mood is right.
This is exactly what separates the wheat from the chaff for Andreas: in theory, everything is right, but despite that, the owl looks boring. And for Andreas, that can only mean one thing, even though he’s taken so many photos already: keep coming back, again and again, until the photo is how he imagined it. Only then will he show off the photo on his website and social networks.
“Many of my fans, and workshop participants as well, think at first that you can take photos like these while you’re taking your dog around the park. Not many of them realise that I can sometimes sit in my hut for twelve hours and still go home without the photo of the hawk that I was hoping for,” says Andreas. He rents his huts in national parks in the neighbouring Netherlands. There are fewer of these in Germany, he says, because it’s more difficult to get planning permission.
The Nordhorn native likes to take photographs in his local neighbourhood as well: sometimes he will prepare a location for weeks or months, seeking it out again and again to understand when an owl, for example, always sits on the same branch, where he can get the best angle and how he can control the light. “I happened to notice an owl fly into a tree. A few days later when I was passing by the same place in the afternoon, I saw it there again. I had discovered its nesting tree and was able to get a couple of great photos there eventually.” To do things like this, you have to keep your eyes open at all times, keeping in mind the need to protect these often very timid animals.
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