My name is Ruurd Jelle van der Leij and I’m a Dutch wildlife photographer and filmer. Over the past 35 days, I’ve spent more time in my shed than inside my house. The reason. I was working on a unique series of pictures of a kingfisher. The bird appeared in my garden a little over a month ago. It discovered the pond which contains a lot of fish. Before I had quite some experience with kingfishers so I knew that by placing a branch in the right place, I should be able to give the bird a nice fishing spot which was also easy to photograph.

And so it went, the bird kept coming back and after two weeks of filming the hunt and photographing it, I started a more creative approach. As kingfishers are a feast for the eyes, millions of pictures of the bird already exist. So I went for other angles like black and white, backlight and spotlight moments (lowkey) that only appeared one hour a day in that part of my garden. This shows the difficulty of taking all these pictures. When there was enough light for flight shots there was no bird and when the bird spend hours in a row in front of the shed, the sun was gone. These are the frustrating factors I always face during photography and film and you simply have to deal with it. When the trust was gained it was also very easy to replace the favorite branch of the bird for other branches or objects. This is where the book came in. A shot I knew would be nice to have and was not difficult at all to create anymore. After 6 hours, the bird showed up and without hesitation, it sat down on the book, even on the right page.

The most difficult was the underwater shot, but especially when you film a hunting kingfisher, you do want to know what happens once the bird enters the water. By creating a large setup with an aquarium I was able to film the catch and after a week of trying the photo was also acceptable.

After spending 3 years in the Dutch Wadden sea working with a team on the movie WAD, it is very satisfying to work in the garden with my kids around. In the past year, I photographed several species in front of the shed. All in their own setting. To me, the most challenging and satisfying part is not the birds but the setting.

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We are on the same page

Succesful dive

Black and light

Kingfisher pearched in one of the trees

King of fishing

Autumn

All in

Ballet

After eating all the fish the kingfisher drops a pellet full of fishbones

Another succesfull dive