WILDLIFE

Ellie Rothnie

A gannet silhouetted against a hazy sky, as the sun shines through mist coming in off the sea, in a photo taken on a Canon EOS-1D X by Ellie Rothnie.

Wildlife photographer Ellie Rothnie believes that by embracing all weather conditions, different moods can be conveyed. Here, the sun shining through the mist coming in off the sea and a single gannet created a special moment. "Wildlife and photography have always been at the heart of what I do," she says. "If you have passion and enthusiasm, that shows through in your work and reflects on others around you." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens at 1/3200 sec, f/8 and ISO 125. © Ellie Rothnie

Freelance wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Ellie Rothnie travels the world with her camera, photographing some of the most incredible animals on the planet. With an enviable career spanning almost two decades, Ellie has built up a portfolio bursting with iconic images.

Although she didn't start shooting professionally until 2007, picking up a camera as a child ignited Ellie's passion for photography. "It all started with my dad," she says. "I was photographing hedgehogs with him in the garden when I was about eight years old. He had a Canon A-1 at the time. I think these passions are instilled in you at a young age. I always had a camera with me."

After studying geography at the University of Leeds, Ellie began a career in advertising and marketing, and set up her own marketing consultancy. But photography continued to consume her spare time, and it was a trip to Kenya in 2004 that changed everything. "I met a professional shooting on Canon, Paul Souders, who is a really well-known photographer," she explains. "I didn't realise that at the time; we were just chatting and photographing a cheetah together. Our vehicles were next to each other all day and he said, 'You're really different. Everyone else, they come, they take the shot, they disappear. You've been here all day photographing one animal.' He inspired something in my consciousness, and that was where the journey began – I started investing in serious kit when I got home."

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Ellie Rothnie.
Location: Wales, UK

Specialist areas: Wildlife, macro

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R3
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Canon Extender EF 1.4x III
A close-up of a Dalmatian pelican amidst mist. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III by Ellie Rothnie.

"After working in marketing, I realised in hindsight how important imagery was," says Ellie. "That's the thing that makes people stop and look. Imagery has always been strong throughout my marketing career – I was always an image-led person." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 200mm, 1/640 sec, f/5 and ISO 1250. © Ellie Rothnie

Today, Ellie's work takes her all over the globe, but the one place she keeps returning to is northern Greece, to photograph the Dalmatian pelicans. "They're a lifelong passion for me," she says. "They're such kooky birds, quite comical. But what I soon realised was this bird is under threat because of widespread habitat loss. By speaking to locals and building up friendships, you realise there is more of a story to tell. It shows just how important local conservation projects are because the population of pelicans is increasing in this small area where I photograph."

Her work has won numerous awards and recognition in international competitions, including Le Festival de l'Oiseau and the British Wildlife Photography Awards. "It's always nice to be recognised for your work, but I'm not driven by competition," says Ellie. "I do it from the heart, for myself."

An African elephant walking under an orange sky, only its silhouette visible as the sun rises. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III by Ellie Rothnie.

"If you pre-visualise your image and position yourself in good time, you may be rewarded with an elephant carrying the rising sun on its tusk," says Ellie. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/2500 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 125. © Ellie Rothnie

An Alaskan Peninsula brown bear walking under an orange and dark blue sky, only its silhouette visible. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III by Ellie Rothnie.

When weather conditions are favourable, early mornings are often the best time to capture dramatic skies and soft, golden light. "Go back again and again and again," says Ellie. "Go in different weather conditions, different light, different times of the year, and you'll experience different behaviours." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM) at 1/8000 sec, f/4 and ISO 5000. © Ellie Rothnie

Ellie's beautiful style went on to attract the attention of the UK's leading photographic guiding organisation, and she now leads photography trips around the world. "People from all walks of life join us, and it takes me everywhere," she says. "It's wonderful to be able to pass that knowledge on."

Her career highlight to date? Being recognised as a Canon Ambassador. "This is a real standout moment for me," she says. "I'm so excited about the journey ahead. I've been a lifelong Canon user, from when I started with an A-1, so to be recognised as a wildlife photographer is unbelievable."

How has your previous marketing career helped your photography work?

"It gave me the skills to be a freelance photographer. You're a director, a businessperson, and a photographer. You have to market yourself, be organised, multitask – there is so much to it, and my career helped me enormously. If your images speak for themselves, that's a lot of your marketing done – you just have to communicate that."

How important is it as a wildlife photographer to understand animal behaviour?

"You must have the passion and connection with your subject. You need to learn about the behaviour of that species. Often you go out and just observe the behaviour without taking any pictures. From doing this, you'll discover the moment when a bird will move its wings, and you'll know at what point to capture the image you want. You have to be incredibly patient, and accept that often you'll go out and not capture anything. It's so important not to impact animal behaviour in any way. Just keep going back. The more you do that, the more you build your portfolio and the more you learn."

How would you describe your photographic style?

"It depends on where I'm working, what I'm working on, the weather and lighting conditions. I'm known for my high-key and low-key photography, portraiture and simplicity of style. Image curation is key too. It's so important to get everything right in-camera, which means that my post-processing is kept to a minimum, because I prefer to be out taking images than processing on my computer. Don't rely on cropping as you lose pixels, always think about what you're hoping to capture by visualising the image. I'm frequently asked about settings, and I ask people what they want to achieve. Do they want to capture the decisive moment, do they want a portrait? I try to find out what people want to accomplish, and work from there."

What are some of the most extreme things you've put your kit through?

"I photograph in all weather conditions, many of which are incredibly challenging, such as Japan and Yellowstone in winter, Kenya in the heat and dust, and even blizzards in the Scottish Cairngorms. My kit needs to perform in extreme heat and cold, wind, blizzards, rain and dusty environments, and it never lets me down."

What are the biggest challenges with wildlife photography?

"Being in different time zones and travelling can be challenging. Sometimes the weather won't be with you, or you have an amazing sunset and your subjects aren't quite doing what you'd like. You can't control the weather or the wildlife, and when you put them together, they can be unpredictable. When everything comes together, the magic happens. The one thing you can control is your kit. You must make the best of every situation. It can put you outside your creative box, and you can learn from unexpected situations."

One thing I know

Ellie Rothnie

"Have a curious mind and keep trying new things. You need passion for the subject. Your favourite subject can be anything – in your garden or near your home. If you work with something you really love, then you'll learn so much and you'll start telling a story over time. Keep working. Go to the same destination again and again and again. Accept that it's a lifelong project."

Facebook: ellie.rothnie

Instagram: @ellierothnie

Website: www.ellierothnie.com

Ellie Rothnie's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Ellie Rothnie's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.

Cameras

Canon EOS R3

With Eye Control AF that tracks subjects by simply looking at them and up to 8-stops of image stabilisation, the EOS R3 lets you photograph sport, wildlife and news like never before. "It's a recent addition to my kitbag, and with 30fps, subject tracking, Eye Detection AF and an intuitive design, this is my go-to camera for action wildlife photography," says Ellie.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The EOS-1D X Mark III is the ultimate creative toolkit, with superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. "It's rugged and an excellent performer in low-light conditions," says Ellie. "I often have it attached to an EF lens so I can be flexible with focal length when on location."

Lenses

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

A lens offering performance and image quality like no other thanks to UD lens elements and ASC coatings for unrivalled contrast and sharpness. "This lens is invaluable in many locations where I shoot," says Ellie. "The zoom gives me a lot of flexibility, especially when an animal is walking towards me, a bird is in flight, or I need different focal lengths during a photo session."

Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM

A professional macro lens with class-leading 1.4x magnification and a variable Spherical Aberration Control to adjust bokeh. "Reptiles, amphibians and butterflies are my favourite macro subjects and I need to be flexible and agile when photographing them," says Ellie. "With its image stabilisation, this lens is perfect for handheld shooting."

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

A high-magnification super-telephoto lens featuring integrated Image Stabilizer technology. "This has been my favourite lens for many years, like an old, faithful friend," says Ellie. "It produces beautiful images with diffused foregrounds and backgrounds."

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

A high performance L-series super-telephoto lens, with 4-stops of image stabilisation. "This is my second go-to lens," says Ellie. "It is superb for photographing birds in flight. I even use this lens for some of my macro work. It produces stunning bokeh."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

The successor to the lens Ellie uses is a favourite with photographers in virtually every genre, engineered to perform in the most challenging conditions. "It is a versatile and responsive lens when photographing animals in their habitat," she says.

Canon Extender EF 1.4x III

A professional grade extender that increases the focal length of L-series lenses by 1.4x. "The extender is always with me in my pocket, especially for use with the 300mm and 500mm lenses," says Ellie. "It provides the extra focal length when I need it."

Accessories

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