EuropeHabitatWildlife portraits by Nick Dale

I wanted to be a photographer when I was 15, but my mother said I could always take it up later – so that was that for 30 years! I ended up reading English at Oxford and working as a strategy consultant for a few years
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I wanted to be a photographer when I was 15, but my mother said I could always take it up later – so that was that for 30 years!

I ended up reading English at Oxford and working as a strategy consultant for a few years, both full-time and freelance, before ‘retiring’ at the age of 29! I then travelled round the world for seven years, doing four ski seasons and working on an internet start-up in San Francisco among other things, before finally returning to London in 2005. At that point, consulting work felt too stressful, so I decided to go ‘quality of life’. I’m now a private tutor and wildlife photographer.

I want to produce the most beautiful and powerful images I can, and I won’t be satisfied until I’ve captured images I think are worth five stars. These are my absolute favourite shots, and I’ve only produced around 180 of them over the years, so these are the special ones, the ones I’m most proud of. They can show any subject – not just wildlife – but they must convey the magic of being there.

I started out taking ‘portraits’ of animals. That was all very well, and a lion may look beautiful sitting on the African savannah or a jaguar prowling through the Brazilian Pantanal, but there isn’t much energy in those pictures. What I try to do now is to produce ‘action shots’ when the bird or animal is in motion. I still take portraits – and sometimes you don’t have a choice! – but my ideal image is much more likely to be a cheetah chasing down an impala than a bird perched on a branch!

My favourite animals are the predators, and the wonder of the long lens is that it can fool people into thinking they are right up close and personal with a very dangerous beast. It’s that sense of excitement that I try to capture in my work, and I’m happy to use whatever technology I can find to do the job. I regularly rent an 800mm Nikon lens for close-up shots, and I’ve just bought a Nikon D850 camera body with a 45.7 megapixel sensor and the ability to shoot nine frames per second. All that, combined with the wonders of Lightroom, gives me the best possible platform for capturing the power and beauty of the animal kingdom. [Official Website]

A cheetah cub lies against the curved wall of a concrete pipe looking out while its sibling stands facing the other way. They have golden fur covered with black spots, and the pipe is surrounded by long grass. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 1600, 800mm, f/8, 1/1000

An elephant is throwing dust over itself with its trunk on a bare earth slope with trees in the background under a blue sky. It has mud stains on its trunk, and the dust is exploding in a cloud against its wrinkled grey skin. Shot with a Nikon D810 in Chobe National Park in Botswana in April 2016.
ISO 140, 85mm, f/8, 1/500

A brown bear with shaggy, brown fur is about to catch a salmon in its mouth at the top of Brooks Falls, Alaska. The fish is only a few inches away from its gaping jaws. Shot with a Nikon D800 in Alaska, USA, in July 2015.
ISO 400, 300mm, f/9.0, 1/1600

An African elephant stares at the camera, showing its wrinkled skin, long trunk and left eye and tusk. Shot with a Nikon D810 in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania in January 2018.
ISO 3600, 800mm, f/5.6, 1/500

A leopard lies on the branch of a tree that is covered in lichen. It has black spots on its brown fur coat and is looking for prey. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 320, 800mm, f/8, 1/1600

A king penguin looks down and wonders what’s lying on the beach: is it an egg to nest on or just a rock to step over? Another penguin is having a look, too, and they both have black and orange heads, white breasts with orange patches at the throat, grey backs and flippers and black feet. Shot with a Nikon D810 in St Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia, in February 2016.
ISO 200, 135mm, f/5, 1/640

A leopard lies on the branch of a tree with its eyes half-closed. It has black spots on its brown fur coat and is looking sleepy. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 180, 800mm, f/5.6, 1/500

Pig peeping out from behind wall on the street in an old Indian village. Shot with a Nikon D800 at Tordi Sagar in India in November 2013.
ISO 250, 300mm, f/11, 1/125

The right eye of a Grevy’s zebra can be seen in close-up against a blueish background. Shot with a Nikon D800 at the Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabárceno, near Santander, Spain, in June 2017.
ISO 1100, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/250

A leopard stands in a tree that is covered in lichen. It has black spots on its brown fur coat and is turning its head to look up. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 1800, 800mm, f/5.6, 1/500

A cheetah chases a Thomson’s gazelle in a clearing amongst whistling thorn acacia trees. It has golden fur covered with black spots, and its tail is thrown out at an angle for balance. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 320, 800mm, f/8, 1/1600

Three Adélie penguins watch another jumping between two ice floes. They have black heads and backs with white bellies. Shot with a Nikon D810 on Brown Bluff, Antarctica, in February 2016.
ISO 72, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/1000

This shows the head of a Chilean flamingo with a catchlight in its eye against a black background. The bird has a pink and black curved beak, brown eyes and dirty white feathers. Shot with a Nikon D810 near the Iguazu Falls in Brazil in January 2016.
ISO 64, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/1000

A lilac-breasted roller carrying a dead grasshopper in its beak lifts its wings to take off from the leafy branch of a bush. It has brown eyes, a grey beak, a white crown, lilac breast, turquoise and blue wings and long tail feathers. Shot with a Nikon D810 in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania in January 2018.
ISO 640, 800mm, f/8, 1/1000

A cheetah races along with a green safari truck in the background. It has golden fur covered with black spots, and its legs and the background are blurred by the slow shutter speed. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 280, 800mm, f/16, 1/100

A cheetah races along with its legs tucked under its body. It has golden fur covered with black spots, and its legs and the background are blurred by the slow shutter speed. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 250, 800mm, f/16, 1/100

The golden profile of a giraffe’s head and neck can be seen against a pure black background. Shot with a Nikon D800 at the Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabárceno, near Santander, Spain, in June 2017.
ISO 1100, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/4000

A Bengal tigress lies up to her neck in the dark shadows of a water hole. Her name is Maya ‘The Enchantress’, and she has orange and black stripes with white patches on her head. Shot with a Nikon D810 in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in India in May 2017.
ISO 400, 800mm, f/5.6, 1/1000

A Bengal tigress with a catchlight in her eye lies up to her neck in the dark shadows of a water hole. Her name is Maya ‘The Enchantress’, and she has orange and black stripes with white patches on her head. Shot with a Nikon D810 in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in India on 13 May 2017, which just happened to be my birthday!
ISO 220, 800mm, f/5.6, 1/1000

A blue wildebeest is silhouetted against the setting sun on the horizon. It has curved horns and is walking towards the sunset. Shot with a Nikon D850 in the Masai Mara in Kenya in July 2018.
ISO 280, 800mm, f/16, 1/500

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