Bird Photographer Profile: Ian Routley

  By Evelyn Drake

Ian Routley is a nature and travel photographer from Lillooet, BC.  He grew up with a father who loved photography, and he started carrying a camera around as a very young boy.  “My interest has waxed and waned over the years. But, has become a serious hobby over the last 15 years.  I originally started photographing birds as a way of keeping records of the more unusual and rare species I found during my tenure as a Regional Coordinator for the Breeding Bird Atlas of BC from 2008 – 2012.  My passion grew from there as it can be quite a challenge to get a good shot of a species that tells a story, more than just a “Bird on a Stick”. There are a number of things I like about nature photography and bird photography in particular. Firstly, you have to be in the moment, if you want to achieve your goal.  By that I mean, when I am photographing birds, all of the stressors of my day job as a Rural physician are gone.  Also, I can set up in my yard (we live on 3 acres of native Ponderosa pine/bunchgrass habitat) and spend a morning photographing birds even if I have been up all night in the ER (which happens too often these days).  Mostly it means I am exploring the backcountry all the time and my search for birds “takes me off the trail” which often opens up other photographic opportunities.  Also, it gets me up early in the morning, and if I am photographing some owl species and other nocturnal birds, keeps me up late at night.”

Ian’s love of nature and all wild things has inspired his approach to photography.  Alongside many wildlife photographers, Ian believes that the more you know and understand the behaviour of a species you want to photograph the better your photographic opportunities.  “I am learning about the natural world every time I am out and just getting out there opens up all sorts of opportunities.  I am self-taught as far as my photography goes, but I read extensively.  There are many excellent nature and bird photographers all over the world.” Ian started with Arthur Morris and John Shaw.

When I asked him what his most memorable experience was, Ian told me that although he has many from his nature and travel photography, a lesson on the power of photography stands out the most.  During the fires of 2009, both Lillooet and Pemberton were in serious trouble. He woke up early in the morning (around 4:00 am) and was patrolling his yard as the fires were dropping, burning embers on their tinder dry yard. He took a photo of the fires above the evacuated town from across the Fraser river where they lived, and sent it to the CBC when he saw their headline that “Resources pulled from Lillooet and Pemberton to fight fire in Whistler”.   It made the National News, and the resources were increased for the two towns. Thankfully, Lillooet did not lose any structures, although Pemberton did.  

I asked Ian, “If you were to go back in time to give yourself one tip (when you first started out in photography) what would it be? “ His answer was one that many of our clients tell us. He would tell himself to “only buy new gear if you think it is something you truly need for your type of photography.  Also, learn your equipment well so adjusting things becomes fast and second nature without having to take your eye from the viewfinder.” Contrary to popular belief, we whole-heartily agree with that suggestion, and we try our best to ask the tough questions to ensure that our photographer clients are purchasing what they really need to get the picture. 

What Ian packs in his camera bag:

I pack too much in my camera bag.  Seriously, what I pack changes depending on what I plan to shoot.  If I’m hiking, I usually pack my Nikon D810 or D500 with a wide angle zoom and either my Nikon  80-400 or my Nikon 300 f2.8 with a 1.4 teleconverter.  

I may bring along a macro if it is flower season in the mountains or I want to capture lichens or insects.  

I used to always carry a tripod. But don’t on hikes that often anymore.  I also carry Nikon polarizers for all of my lenses and a Singh-Ray variable neutral density filter.

If I know there is a good chance of landscape possibilities I will bring my graduated neutral density filters and a tripod with a cable release.  

When I am going out for bird photography I carry my 600mm f4, and my 80- 400mm or 300mm 2.8.  The latter two lenses for handheld flight shots, and the 600 for the reach.  I do use the 600mm f4 for flight shots but always mounted on a Wimberley Gimbal head.




Evelyn Drake has been in the camera business since 2004. She has been involved in every aspect of The Camera Store's operations with a focus on marketing and event-based initiatives. She also hosts our YouTube channel The Camera Store TV.