Mark Bridger (bridgephotography) recently won the Celebrating Nature Photo Contest and shared his inspiring story with us, enjoy!

I am a enthusiastic semi-pro photographer who took up this hobby about 7 years ago when my wife bought me my first camera for my 40th birthday.  I live in a small town in the South East of England a few miles from London and work full time as a graphic designer at a large printers.

My main interests in photography are nature which can be anything from bugs to bears, and my two little boys who are growing up fast! In the last few years I have found myself photographing weddings which I love to do, and is a great way of funding my wildlife passion. By far my favourite subject are deer and especially fallow deer which can found all across the UK, I just love to photograph them at dawn on a golden misty morning in Autumn. I like to try and include the habit of the animal that I am photographing and not just go for the close up shot, and if there is one tip I would give to anybody photographing wildlife is to stay with your subject as long as possible.

I have been lucky to have a number of my images win awards in wildlife competitions, be published in the national newspapers, I have also written articles for photography magazines about my techniques in photographing wildlife during my short photographic career.

I joined ViewBug about 18 months ago and have entered a number of the competitions, to my surprise I have had quite a lot of success winning various prizes for my images which is awesome. One of the competitions I entered was the Celebrating Nature back in July of this year which I won a Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens with my image of a red deer stag calling out one Autumn morning, its probably my favourite image of a stag I’ve taken. I was very excited to have won this lens as I had been toying with the idea of buying a zoom lens like this which I could take out on days I couldn’t justify taking my larger prime lens with me.

I received the lens safely by courier from Viewbug one September morning and so as the annual deer rut was just about to kick off I though what better way to see how it handles than to take some photos of red deer. I live within an hour of Richmond Park which is in London, its a massive area of mainly woodland with some open grassland and there is a wild but managed heard of red and fallow deer of around a 1000, I’ve been there a number of times over the years so I know the area quite well.

So early one morning before I had to start work (I work shifts which is handy) I drove to Richmond parked up and walked in to find some deer, the noise at dawn of red deer stags calling out to the hinds encodes all round the park, the morning was misty and the sun was just coming up when I found a stag with hinds. I have two cameras, both Canon, I have a 1Dx and a 5D mk3, I thought I would use the 5D with the Tamron lens as this would be the setup I thought about using when I didn’t want to lug all my kit around.

There was a large stag with a group of twenty or so hinds about 40 meters from me so I decided to stick with him as he was making a lot of noise and chasing off the younger stags. Behind me was the backlit misty type shots of the smaller stags watching and in front was the large stag with the ladies, perfect. I normally shoot with either a 500mm or 300mm prime lens so it took a bit of getting used to using a zoom again, but once I sorted myself out I found the zoom to be very smooth and precise, the AF locked on with no problem and the focus motor was almost silent, the VC worked really well, I was in quite a heavy wooded area making it was quite dark so I was shooting at f6.3, which is wide open for this lens at 600mm and it coped excellently with some of the shutter speeds that were about 1/200 which normally is way to slow at 600mm as I tried to keep the ISO down below 1600. This is my first Tamron lens and I have to say its built really well, not to heavy and not to light and with a high quality feel.

Well I spent about 3 hours there that morning walking about finding other deer to photograph and I didn’t find once I needed to get my other camera out with a prime lens on to take a shot, the Tamron lens worked excellently and to be honest much better than I thought it would. Since that day I’ve been out with my boys to a zoo and I took only the Tamron and the 5D with me and got some great shots with it.

Thank you ViewBug for all your hard work with these competitions and thank you Tamron for such a great prize.