Wildlife photography from Japan

A swallowtail butterfly rests on a leaf in Yakushima, Japan.

A swallowtail butterfly rests on a leaf in Yakushima, Japan.

Wildlife photography is a valuable tool in any travel photographer’s skillset; although we aren’t necessarily up to the standards of full-time wildlife photographers, it’s important to be able to show readers and viewers some of the natural attractions we spot on our travels. So during a recent visit to Japan I had to make the most of the chance to capture some of the country’s wild residents.

I travelled with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk II, a superb and lightweight camera – robust enough to deal with whatever conditions the weather can throw at it, from Caribbean hurricanes to Scottish storms. Being lightweight, the camera enables me to pack more kit than if I were shooting with a larger body – including a good selection of lenses. During my travels, the excellent Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens came in to its own: it’s simply perfect for wildlife photography, enabling me to get up close to skittish butterflies, haughty herons and world-weary macaques.

I was hugely taken with some of the butterflies I spotted in Japan, particularly the huge swallowtail at the head of this piece. I saw it gliding from flower to flower after torrential storms in Yakushima a subtropical island to the south of Japan. Chasing this beautiful creature was a high point: ten minutes of focused effort to find that one moment when the butterfly finally came to rest. Who knew wildlife photography could offer such good exercise?

The butterfly was nervous, so I needed the range my long lens offered. Unfortunately I didn’t have that lens fitted when I encountered a huge golden orb web spider – a common species in Japan, and hell for me as an arachnophobe. Olympus’s 12-40mm F2.8 lens is a star, but meant I had to get much, much too close to the little beast. Still, after working on the picture even I can find something to appreciate in its fearsome beauty.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that right here in the UK we have a superb diversity of wildlife – from stunning butterflies near desolate coasts, to magnificent deer in parks and forests. Having remembered how much I love taking time to catch these fleeting moments with beautiful creatures, I hope I’ll be adding a few more wildlife photography samples to my site over the coming winter.

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