About me - the longer version
A few questions came to mind as I began drafting this page. The first two, were simply where to start and where to stop, which weren’t too difficult. But then I began pondering about what to say and how much to include, and wondering whether anybody will actually bother reading it anyway! I decided not to overthink the matter as, quite frankly, if someone is interested enough they’ll pick out the bits they want to read and skip over the rest. That’s fine by me. It’s not as though I’m looking to sell my work or services, so the format isn’t really that important. If you want to know a bit more about my background and when I started taking wildlife photography seriously then please read on. But if you're just interested in the camera equipment I currently use, then you can drop down to that section by clicking here.
What's with the name?
I’m Tony Enticknap, born October 1952 in Kingston-upon-Thames. When I was at school back in the 60’s, most of my friends couldn’t pronounce my surname let alone spell it, so I had the nickname tick. Funny isn’t it, that if you're Peter or Stephen, your mates will happily call you Pete or Steve, but if your name can’t be sensibly shortened - I was christened Tony, not Antony - or, dare I say, you have an affliction or less than flattering personal attribute, you’ll end up with a nickname. In my case they simply shortened my surname. Fortunately, I had no problem with being called tick. It was harmless and certainly better than the names some of the lads, or girls come to that, were called and had to live with through their school years!
Having an unusual surname like Enticknap can be a real pain when you’re growing up, but later in life you start to appreciate that it actually has the benefit of being remembered. Obviously, that can work both ways, but in general it’s good. Enticknap isn’t Dutch as many people think, but old English from the Godalming / Dunsfold area of Surrey. It's derived from an ancient settlement that no longer exists called Anecknappe, which translates to “valley of the wild duck” - rather apt given my interest in wildlife.
I would have liked to have called my original website "Remote & Wild Photography", which would have been a fitting name and a good play on RAW Photography, but decided it was a bit grand and pretentious for a personal site. I wanted something simple, which is why I resurrected my old nickname, stuck pics on the end and registered ‘tickspics’ as my domain. That was back in 2013 as I confirmed on the ‘welcome’ page. It didn’t make any sense changing the name for this reincarnated version, but if I was starting from scratch today I think I’d go with my earlier preference if I could secure the name.
A bit about my personal and business life ....
My first attempt almost gave me enough material for a full-blown autobiography, so here’s the abridged edition.
In my early teens one of my neighbours got me interested in course fishing. It started with Sunday morning coach trips organised by his works fishing club when we'd be taken out to beautiful places in the country like the River Thames at Pangbourne, the Stour at Throop Mill or the Hampshire Avon at Christchurch. It felt good to get away from the sprawl of southwest London commuter belt suburbia for the day and, looking back, I’m sure that my continued enjoyment of going fishing over the following years was the catalyst for my general interest in wildlife and being outdoors.
I lived at home with my parents and sister until my wife Tris and I got married in 1973. We met at a pub in Cobham where I had a part-time job to help pay for my car. Within a year of meeting we’d tied the knot. We were both twenty at the time. We have two daughters. A career move gave us the opportunity to relocate from Surrey to East Dorset where we’ve been for well over 30 years. We currently live in a semi-rural location that provides good access to the New Forest and Jurassic coastline and, a bit further away, the well-known birding spots around Weymouth and Portland.
During my working life I had various roles - all associated with contracts or finance in a specialist sector of the construction industry. My first job upon leaving school took me from trainee draughtsman to contracts manager I worked there for 16 years before taking the opportunity to relocate to Dorset in order to take up the position of regional manager, later director, for a much larger company. I was doing all right, but the job became very demanding with long hours and the need to travel to the Midlands and the North every week. In 1998 the company was reorganised and I was effectively made redundant. It was time for a change, a fresh start and a new venture, so together with a friend and former work colleague we decided to form our own company. We started from nothing in a small rented office above a shop but, by the time I retired in October 2014, I’m proud to say that the business had moved to much larger premises, had associated offices throughout the UK, a London showroom, and had grown to become the market leader within its specialised field. It was hard to leave a business that I’d helped build up over the years, but at the same time it was a relief to unburden myself from the pressure, commitment and worry that comes with the responsibility of running your own company. Retiring early was a big step, and a very important one, as it gave me the time and freedom to pursue my photography and other interests.
I had my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, as a Christmas present when I was in my early teens, and very quickly found that I was getting as much enjoyment taking photos of animals and scenery as I was of family and friends. I certainly took more photos of the cat when I was at home than I did of my sister! I subsequently had a few ‘point and shoot’ cameras and later on, after Tris and I were married and our children were growing up, I purchased an SLR. I definitely had the interest, but unfortunately didn’t have the money to keep on having films processed, so it spent most of its life in the cupboard and only came out on special occasions. Eventually it was sold in favour of a simple Nikon Coolpix, which I had for many years. After our daughters grew up and left home and we had a bit more money to start travelling, I decided that I wanted something better so I upgraded to the far more advanced 'all-in-one' 8Mp Coolpix 8800, which had a built-in 10x digital zoom lens giving an effective 35-350mm focal range. It was the first Coolpix to incorporate VR and my first camera to use CF cards. It opened up a whole new world. I had that camera for a little over four years and was quite happy with it but, as most photographers know, you're always looking to move forward with technology.
That was late 2007, which coincided nicely with Nikon's second generation DSLR’s and launch of the well-respected D300. It replaced the D200 which, at the time, had a ground-breaking 10MP CCD DX (crop-frame) sensor and could shoot at 5fps. The D300 had a slightly bigger 12MP CMOS DX sensor and an increased frame rate of 6-8fps. But, the D300 promised and delivered a lot more, particularly in respect of image quality and AF performance with its 51-point autofocus system. I loved that camera and the 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens that was almost permanently attached to it.
My association with the Nikon brand has continued. Over the following years the D300 was accompanied by a D700, then the D300 was part-exchanged for the D800, the D700 for a D810, and the D800 for a second D810 and that’s the way it’s continued. The situation with lenses has been much the same with the 70-300mm being replaced by a 300mm f/4 prime, which was then upgraded to the far more expensive f/2.8 version. During the same period I also owned the 200-400mm f/4 and the 500mm f/4G, as well as countless smaller zooms, primes, wide-angle and macro lenses. My current equipment list, shown below, still includes a couple of those lenses.
Wildlife and travel ....
I’ve had a general interest in nature and physical geography since school days. Similarly with my love of animals that goes back to BBC’s Zoo Quest in the 1950/60’s. And later, when David Attenborough’s famous wildlife and nature series - such as Life on Earth and Living Planet - were being shown, I’d watch those programmes before anything else. But the interest was all derived from books and TV programmes, plus the very occasional visit to the zoo. My first real hands-on experience wasn’t until 2000 when my wife and I went to Bird Island in the Seychelles. It was magical, and although, apart from giant tortoises and turtles, the wildlife was primarily birds rather than animals, I knew the sort of holiday I was going to want in the future. In fact our week on Bird Island was supposed to be a one-off, but we fell in love with the island and ended up returning there every year from 2002 to 2016. Obviously I was working at the time, so not surprisingly we were always counting down the months. When I look back I realise how important those early trips were, because three specific things happened - my interest in photography was reignited, I spent time watching, photographing and understanding the birds and, last but certainly not least, my wife Tris got the urge to upgrade her compact camera to see if she could get similar photos to those I was starting to get with the D300. She is now as passionate about wildlife and photography as I am.
Although the route from the UK to Seychelles these days is generally via Dubai it used to be direct with a short stop at Nairobi. Every time we flew there we would talk about the possibility of going on an African safari. It took a while, but in 2012 we had our first trip to Tanzania with a few days in both Selous and Ruaha. We’ve since returned to both those destinations and are now trying to visit East Africa at least once a year. There’s a well known saying about Africa getting in your blood and it’s true. But there are many other wonderful wildlife destinations around the world and when you get the bug you want to keep exploring. Time, money and health are the significant considerations, so there has to be a balance. We’re fortunate that we share the same interests and can make these trips together - I hope that will continue for many years. I’ve written about most of the 'places' we’ve visited so I won’t say anymore here.
Sand Rivers, Selous
Ernest (July 17)
Alex Walker's Serian
Mara North Conservacy, Kenya
James and Tris (Feb.17)
South Luangwa, Zambia
In respect of wildlife my interest in animals and birds is equal even if the emphasis seems to be on the latter. The reason is simply that birds are far more widespread than animals. If we could afford to spend most of our time in Africa we would concentrate on specific animal species, but we can’t, so I find myself photographing birds for much of the time. This is why the 'species' articles I’ve written are in favour of birds. My interest in, and knowledge of, birds has grown immensely over the past few years to the point where I have to ensure that every bird I photograph is accurately identified and recorded in taxonomic order. My personal bird list is now close on 850 species and, believe it or not, I can remember where nearly every one was photographed!
My current gear ....
Although it was easier to justify spending money to upgrade when I was working than it is today, I actually feel very settled with my current equipment. I have everything I need and don’t see any reason to be changing anything in the foreseeable future. I’ve had FX full-frame Nikon cameras since I purchased the D700 in 2012, so it’s no surprise that I purchased the D850 as soon as it was launched. Like many photographers I like to have two bodies, particularly when on safari, so I retained one of my D810’s to use with the D850. It was a great camera, but it suddenly felt dated compared with the D850 so surprisingly, and after a certain amount of cajoling, I somewhat reluctantly decided to try the DX crop-frame D500. I’m glad I did as the two cameras are so similar in many ways, but at the same time completely different - if that makes sense! In respect of lenses I noted above that I used to own the 500mm f/4G. This is a great lens and the only reason I sold it was to purchase the new, lighter version - the 500mm f/4E FL. Similarly with the 70-200mm f/2.8G zoom, which I’ve now replaced with the 70-200mm f/2.8E version. The only other lens that I’ll specifically mention is the 200-400mm f/4. In many ways it was the perfect safari lens, but it was bulky and heavy - difficult to transport and difficult to use at times. I now have the much cheaper 200-500mm f/5.6 and have to say that I’m generally delighted with it. It’s a bit slow at times and the zoom needs more of a turn, but it’s compact and relatively light to use. Weight is a big issue when travelling on small planes, so it’s great that I can now pack a bag with the D850, D500, 200-500mm, 70-200mm, chargers, cards etc. at around 10kgs.
Other lenses I currently own and use at times are the 24-120mm f/4, 18-35mm f/4, 20mm f/1.8, 200mm f/4 and 105mm f/2.8 macro, plus TC-14E III teleconverter.
Preferred camera settings ....
I’m including this information simply because it’s a question that’s often asked. I have absolutely no secrets in this respect and am happy to confirm what works for me, but that doesn’t mean that these preferences are right or that they will suit everybody. These are my normal camera settings when photographing wildlife with a long lens, not settings I would use for macro or flash.
I used to shoot almost entirely in Av (aperture priority) mode, occasionally utilising auto-ISO (generally early morning in Africa when light levels were changing). It suited my way of working. However, I’ve now switched to manual mode with auto-ISO, which I’ve found to be even better. Obviously in full manual mode you have three settings that you need to balance. With wildlife photography you generally don’t have the time to get all three optimally set. Some people may disagree, but my mind certainly doesn’t work that quick. I’d miss shots or end up with an incorrect exposure. Implementing auto-ISO takes away one of the decisions. I can now set the shutter speed as well as the aperture, and let the camera set a suitable ISO. In Av mode I was letting the camera select the shutter speed, which mean’t that I had to keep checking the ISO. For me, manual mode with auto-ISO is working. My exposures are now more consistent in changing light conditions. Previously I’d set ISO in the 400-1600 range, always resisting going higher, and never bothering to go lower. But now the ISO ranges freely between 100-6400. Obviously I don’t want to go to ISO6400 unless it’s absolutely necessary but, when it is, it’s better to get the shot than end up with an under-exposed image. I analysed a couple of hundred photos during a busy hour’s shooting when we were in Great Bear Rainforest when one minute I was photographing bears to the leftt of my position where the river was in shade and the next when I was switching to the right where there was more light coming through. I needed to react quickly. And, to complicate matters, I was using the D850 with the 500mm lens, but occasionally switching to the D500 with the 200-500mm if the subject was further away or I felt that a faster frame was needed. A lot to think about. Both cameras were set up much the same way in respect of shutter speed and aperture. Whist a few shots were out of focus as would be expected in that sort of situation they were all pretty well exposed and the interesting thing was that when I looked at the EXIF the cameras had constantly adjusted the ISO - as they should - between ISO160 and ISO 2200 using virtually all the 1/3rd stop settings. No way would I have been able to do that manually.
There are a couple of other things that are worth mentioning. Firstly I use BBF (back button focusing) and have done so for many years. AF-S is disabled as I only need AF-C - press the AF-ON button for action, release for anything not moving. There’s a bit more to it than that, but most wildlife photographers know how it works. The AF-area mode varies dependant on what I’m photographing. Generally I keep with the smallest area I can, although with the D850 I mainly use the small dynamic D9 area rather than centre point. However, both the D850 and D500 have a custom assignment option of setting an alternative AF-area mode on one, or both if you want, of the front buttons. I use the Pv button as I find it the easiest to use for my hand size. I have it set for the group mode, which I use for most action shots and birds in flight. I rarely use the larger dynamic areas, but if there was a situation when they were needed I would simply re-programme the camera to suit for that session. I use the front Fn1 button for spot metering (press and hold) and the back Fn2 button for accessing the top item of ‘My Menu’, which is set for ISO sensitivity when I’m not using auto-ISO. I’m still unsure about the sub-selector so tend to use it just for AF point selection the same as the multi-selector. And talking about the multi-selector, I have it set for the centre focus point or the ‘quick check’ histogram when in playback mode. It used to be set for 100% magnification, but that can now be easily done by using the touch screen.
I hope that some of that might be of interest.
Post processing ....
All of my photo editing is done at home on a 27” iMac. I shoot in RAW and use Adobe Lightroom Classic extensively for both cataloguing and developing images. The only time I edit outside of Lightroom is when I have noisy high ISO images that benefit being run through DxO’s PRIME NR software. To date I have resisted venturing into the world of PhotoShop simply because I find that Lightroom copes pretty well with everything I want to do. For me editing consists of cropping for composition, basic colour, tone and light adjustments, sharpening and noise reduction, and a bit of tidying up if required with the heal or clone tools. I appreciate that PS may be able to handle certain tasks, such as removing an offending item or to offer a more refined and flexible way of making an adjustment, better than you can achieve in Lightroom, but until recently - when having to move to CC - I didn’t own a copy of PS. I will have a look one day, because I feel that I need to know about layers if nothing else.