Birda Stories

A Change of Direction

Lowerstoft, UK

Rhianna Wren

As Rhianna struggles with the isolation of ‘attending’ university during the Covid pandemic, her self-image and the grief of losing a lifelong pet, she discovers her love of wildlife photography. With the help of a local farmer, Rhianna finds the calm she needs to explore her photography and escape her worries.  

Words by: Rhianna Wren

In a small woodland on a farm under bright sunlight, Rhianna sits with her camera and waits for the perfect shot. Her camera is pleasantly heavy in her hands and her mind clear of her usual anxieties; covid, grief and worry for the future. Her new love of nature and photography is fast becoming her favourite hobby.

“Lockdown was hard but I’m quite lucky that my family knew a local farmer that allowed me to walk his lands and find loads of wildlife to photograph. It’s such a special place. I’d bought a Nikon P900 camera just before Covid and it was probably at this point that I settled with my latest setup, the Nikon D850 and 200-500 lens. I really started birding.

Adult Male Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding chick in a nest within a tree - Rhianna Wren
You never know what you'll find in a woodland, like Rhianna's picture of a Male Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding a chick!

“There’s a few species like Long-tailed tit and Greenfinch that I’ve got to know on the farm, but as I live in quite an urban area, I hardly see them in my garden. Our friend allowed me lots of time at his place, so I’ve set up feeders in his woodland and I’ve tried to get lots of pictures. It was so nice to have a bit of an escape from the usual worries during lockdown.

Travelling to university was difficult for me and made the days really long, but the one thing that helped me through was my dog Ben.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I kept asking myself ‘what do I really enjoy?’ I’m a little envious of people that know exactly what they want to do with their future. My original plan was to become a Zoo Vet, that was my dream job when I was a kid.

“One thing that’s recently made me nostalgic for that dream job is a game called Planet Zoo. Unfortunately, the grades needed to become a vet were too high for me… My ideas have shifted a little since then and I did end up going to University to study Biology with a Masters in Conservation. There were a few bumps in the road though.

“Travelling to university was difficult for me and made the days really long, but the one thing that helped me through was my dog Ben. He was my therapy in a way; to come home and cuddle him. He somehow knew if you were upset. I know it sounds weird to people that don’t have a pet, but he would always try to cheer me up by doing something silly.

Rhianna’s lips widen into a smile. She pauses, and then looks down.

Woman sat on a sofa with her dog
Rhianna and her beloved dog, Ben

“He was diagnosed with Cancer and passed away when I was doing my Masters. That was so difficult, it was such a rollercoaster of stress, emotion and grief. He was 12 when he went, so he was with me most of my childhood. I miss him alot.

“Studying through grief and Covid was hard and meant most of my course was online. I never actually met anyone on my course, but Covid did allow me some time to contemplate what I wanted to do.

Rhianna shows us some of her recent pictures and when complimented on her incredible photography, Rhianna shifts in her chair, looks uncomfortable, and says “I don’t think they are great, but thank you.”

A collage of images from Rhianna Wren. Top left image of a Guillemot in flight, bottom left image of a Razorbill standing facing the camera on a cliff, and right of Rhianna Wren stood on a cliffside.
Just a few of Rhianna's amazing photographs. Top left image of a Guillemot in flight, bottom left image of a Razorbill standing facing the camera on a cliff.

“I’ve never been a very confident person, anyone who knows me would say I’m my own worst enemy. I’ve had a lot of self-image problems and things like that. I’m hypocritical and a perfectionist, always comparing myself to others. If I’m not tip-top, I put myself down.

“I got really into photography and taught myself, mostly from YouTube videos on things like ISO to get the general gist of it. Most of my photography is trial and error but watching other people have success helps. One person I love watching is Mark Smith Photography, he does incredible shots of Ospreys in America and he’s why I got my D850 camera.

“One of my favourite pictures I’ve taken so far would be when I was at RSPB Minsmere a few years ago. There was a Bittern that was showing really well and it captured a fish. I was so happy when I saw it, I’d waited for about 6 hours before it came creeping out of the reeds!

Bittern with a fish at RSPB Minsmere
Rhianna's picture of a Bittern at RSPB Minsmere

“I like to get a glimpse into the life of birds. I try to capture moments and behavioural shots, but what I really enjoy is photographing the bird in their habitat. I used to crop backgrounds a lot to focus on fine feather details but I’ve come to appreciate different types of photograph. Now I don’t like to crop the background too much. Now birds in flight are my main goal, but often it’s not just about the bird, it’s the environment they exist in, just like humans.

If you have a birdwatching story you would like to share we’d love to hear from you. Share your tales with the Birda community and help inspire new adventures! Read more Birda Stories…

Try Birda, it's FREE

Become a Birda insider!

Join the Birda community. Become an insider and get inspiring stories, actionable birding tips, tools and community updates right to your inbox. Don’t worry we’re into birds not spam.