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Our top tips for waterway photography

Jack Perks, an experienced wildlife photographer, has given us his top tips for taking pictures down by our canals and rivers.

Photograph by Jack Perks

We work hard to keep our canals and rivers picture perfect. So many of you appreciate the results and snap away when you reach the towpath. Next time you're by the water follow these simple tips to get the perfect photo.

Make the most of seasonal colours

In the autumn our tree-lined canals provide great opportunities. Nature's seasonal colours make fantastic backdrops and add context to your images. Lush green grass can also be a great factor, especially as it is lower now than it will be in high summer, when it may hinder shots. Look out for bulbs such as snowdrops, tulips and of course daffodils if you're heading out in the spring.


Make the most of the water whether it's a landscape shot of a bridge or a bird preening, reflections add a little interest. A windy day will offer more waving reflections, while a calm day will be more like a mirror.


Waiting for that decisive moment can really transform an image – whether the subject is flapping its wings, interacting with another animal nearby, or even just opening its beak.

Low angles

Getting the same viewpoint as your subject really brings your photography to a new level. If you can't get down on the floor, try using a camera with a flappable screen, or find subjects on your level, such as birds in bushes.

Pack a lunch

Many people enjoy feeding the birds so make use of this by bringing some seed, peas or corn. This means if you don't have a long lens the wildlife will come closer in. remember not to feed birds bread though as it harms the birds and degrades the water.

Wider viewpoint

It's tempting to just use a long lens for wildlife, especially birds. However, going on the wider end really opens up the possibilities. It gives you an idea of where the subject lives, and compliments other portrait images.

Find accessible wildlife

We would all love to go to remote locations regularly. However, it's not always possible. You can make up for that by finding wildlife that you can easily get near to. Put out feeders for garden birds and you should get good shots from your kitchen window.

Slow it down

Photography is varied and we all have are own tastes and styles, so don't be afraid to try out new methods. By slowing down the shutter you get more blurry effects with the motion of the animals.

Shoot early and late

Spring means we need to get up a little earlier for the better light, but it's worth it once you're there. The softer golden light can really enhance an image and is much better then harsh midday light. Another advantage is that species such as reptiles and dragonflies are easier to approach in the morning, as they haven't warmed up yet.

Have a little patience

Wildlife can get spooked easily. Take your time and wait for the subject to appear. It might not happen the first few times so keep at it!

These tips have been provided by Jack Perks. Find out more about his work.

Last Edited: 10 September 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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