Archive for 2010

Barn Owl

Filed in Advice On Wildlife, Wildlife on Oct.21, 2010

Over the last couple of days the weather seems to have become a little colder which results in those frosty, sunny mornings I love, where the cold hits the back of your throat  while at the same time the sun comes up and bathes the countryside in a beautiful warm glow. Most of my wildlife photography is where I like to work the land, finding whats around me and the areas I visit, tracking through foot prints and waste food and droppings trying to build a picture in my head what has passed by or has visited recently.  So over the last few days I have had a break from the Deer Rut and have been walking in my local countryside not to far from my Staffordshire home.  A lot of the countryside at the moment has been harvested meaning sort, rough grazing and grass, crop etc ideal for one of my favorite UK birds, the Barn Owl.

While out walking over the last few days my attention was drawn to a few feathers, one a primary and the others being belly or flank feathers softer in appearance than the primary, white in appearance and in and around a prominent natural perch I had come across.  There was also white droppings at the base telling me this was a popular perch maybe for a Barn Owl,  I found a few small pellets or a mass of hair as they looked and upon separating them, something I loved to do as a child, tiring to rebuild the skeleton to found out what the prey was.  I found a small set of bones and a jaw bone from a tiny rodent and I knew then that this area and perch were being used by a Barn Owl.

And here he was, with primary/secondarie feathers missing in his wing, the sunrise was amazing with a small blanket of frost all over the ground, not a bad frost but just enough to give that crunch sound under foot when walking, which by the way is not great when you are stalking a wild animal. I have spent a few days there and have watched this male hunt, he seems to have appeared from knowhere, as often Barn Owls do outside of the breeding season as they can become quit nomadic, wondering the countryside on the lookout for prey.

Amazing birds that I call the Ghost due to the fact without warning and no clue they can just turn up, hunt for a few minutes make eye contact with you as you witness their very distinctive appearance with a white heart-shaped face with no ear tufts and sharp black eyes all contributing to its striking appearance. Those large black eyes only let the Barn Owl look forward in a fixed position and cannot move to the side so consequently the Barn Owl has to turn its head to see to the side or back. Their hearing is amazing and the ability to locate prey by sound alone is one of the best in the animal kingdom.

Barn Owls are fascinating creatures and anytime I spend with these amazing birds is priceless.  I have been back a couple of times and been able to capture him a few more times, I do feel with no sightings in the past here he may just be passing through so in the meantime its a very welcome treat for me among my other projects I am working on at present including;  Mountain Hares, Short-eared Owls and my little female Kingfisher on the river Trent. 

My advice would be to walk the land and watch and look for clues of whats around and you maybe surprised at what you find as this time of year so much wildlife is on the move in readiness for the oncoming winter.  This for me is the true meaning of fieldcraft a word I hear used alot within wildlife photography, but fieldcraft means to use whats around you, reading the clues and signals all animals leave behind where most if not all the clues are right there all you have to do is just look that bit closer. 

Your reward will be something you have seen and learned all about yourself and when the subject appears as did this Barn Owl its a great moment as you view a moment in their lives something I truly love.  Its one of the main things I teach and show on my One To Ones and Workshops in order for the client(s) to take this skill away with them.  So they can apply this in their own photography and get close to wildlife without impacting on the subjects life. If you would like any further advice or help on anything I have raised then please send me an email here many thanks.

Read full post

The Deer Rut -A Little Behind

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Oct.19, 2010

As the trees lose their leaves and the countryside is turned in to a mosaic of stunning colours, animals all around the country are feasting on the bounty of food that is plentiful now, from berries to horse chestnuts, the countryside is a wash with food.  Birds starting to migrate to and from the UK with lots going on.  My time has been completely absorbed with this beautiful season, autumn.  One of the most spectacular events in the natural world during the month of October is the rutting of Red, Fallow and other species of Deer in and around our country.  However, this year this event is behind within the timing of the seasons and well overdue where previously the rut would be in full swing now.

Over the last week I have been to several different places throughout the UK where there is a good population of both Red and Fallow Deer and the clear evidence was that among the posing and the gesturing things really hadn’t kicked off  or so to speak, with the air thick with the very strong smell of each deer, with the males posturing to the other males in a show of strength in order to control and hold onto their females who are never that far away during this time, such is the competition to mate with them the moment they come into season by the ever present and opportunistic males that roam the land during the rut.

During my time at Bradgate Park, Leicester, which is one of the places I visit, the deer have been really slow to start their rut this year, so while I was waiting I started to photograph the Black-headed Gulls as you could hear them from miles away with the loud, screening calls.  I composed this image in portrait mode and the shadow is formed by a large treeline to the left covering in parts this little brook that runs through Bradgate into darkness.

One of the places I visit in the UK has a really good woodland area and when you walk through these woods with their well established and majestic trees there is always a lot of actively around with youngsters and females darting all over the place, but then you can come across a male Red Deer, and upon first sighting, those few first seconds all things flash through your head as you are close to a large animal who is full of testosterone, eye contact cannot be averted as you watch him and he watches you.  I always stop and start to retrace my steps for a moment as not wanting to disturb the animal first and foremost but also to diffuse the situation as I feel my heart doubles in speed.

The image below was just one of those precarious moments that I found myself in during the last week, where this large male Red Deer just appeared from no where, approaching from around this tree he stood there with a clear look of menace upon his face, firmly standing his ground where his posture and stance told me he was to be left alone.  The moment you forget these animals are wild and highly aggressive during this rutting period is a moment you may live to regret should they attack.  My advice is try to stay at a safe distance away from the animal and a safe distance is one where you don’t intrude into its personal space, if you do, back off slowly and leave them in peace.

With the Autumnal colours the Fallow Deer blend in so well within these habitats and their coats are beautiful to see, with clear markings throughout, as the two photos below clearly show with this male who had a stunningly beautiful coat for the ladies.

I was lucky enough to see a little action at one of the locations from a group of female Red Deer that were following around the dominant male most of the time with a younger female becoming a little boisterous, as I watched them through the viewfinder I could see their behaviour change and in a flash they both rose up and started to kick out at each other but as soon as this started it finished and I count myself very lucky to have witnessed and captured this brilliant behaviour among Red Deer females.

The male Red Deer pictured early went onto challenge the dominant stag, calling to each other, their primeval sounding roars echoing all around the place, the air changed as each male roared with the females choosing to sit around the dominant stag as he called out, matching each and every call from his competition, brilliant behaviour to watch.

Then in a flash they started to fight, twisting and turning each others neck with their massive antlers until one submits and by doing so he loses his females which in this case happened, a cruel world where only the strong survive as the saying goes.

A big thank you to all the people I met and that came to say hello over the weekend during the Great Peak District Fair in Buxton, with thousands of people coming through the doors it really was a great event.  I was displaying my work and again it went down really well, so thanks for sales and workshops purchased.  My Gift Vouchers sold really well as presents for Christmas where they come in a really nice black envelope and are sent signed and dated by myself.  I have a place left on my Tigers trip and there are still some places left on my other Photo-Trips  for next year, should you wish for more info on them then send me an email on my contact page and I’ll be happy to go through anything you wish to know.

For 2012 I have secured a sailing yacht and I have chartered this for this amazing 14 day trip around the coastline of Iceland for two days before heading north to Greenland for Polar Bears and many other animals that live in this breathtaking place.  Living on broad this ex-racing yacht will enable us to see the amazing wildlife from the water, where we will then go ashore, exploring the different areas off the beaten track. Working with local expert guides in Greenland to photograph the Polar Bear, the trip is for 10 people and more information will be available very soon. Below is a few images taken on broad showing this breathtaking environment where Humpbacked Whales fish and will be high on our wish list.

This will be an exceptional and very unique trip that will capture nature from the sea and the land where the wildlife will be everywhere, more details very soon.

Read full post

Norfolk Delights

Filed in Events, Workshops on Oct.11, 2010

The north Norfolk coastline is a place I never get tired of.  Everytime I visit it never fails to amaze me with the beautiful spectacles in nature that I witness.  At the moment Geese (Brent, Greylag, Pink-foot) are arriving there daily.  Their numbers swelling each day as you watch them assemble altogether on fields, the noise is deafening but its amazing to watch as they feed, constantly watching for predators, calling each other, always in complete communication. 

The next time you see a large group of Geese on the ground, just take a moment to watch them and you will be amazed at the way they stick together, how they see everything and are talking to each other all the time, its the perfect example of strength in numbers and the simple but successful way in which Geese live alongside each other.

Over the last 4-6 weeks I have noticed that the number of waders have been really low, with their number being dispersed further around the coastline from Snettisham, but in general the numbers have been low mainly due to the warmer weather we are having after the very cold start to the year, its delaying alot of wildlife I feel.  So after spending the weekend there on one to ones it was great to see the number of waders back up to the levels you’d hope and expect to see at this time of year.  Where most if not all are not looking their best as they go through their moulting period.

With the darker mornings and the onset of winter just around the corner the tides come in sometimes now while its still dark.  This happened to us this weekend, so we were  treated to the massive flocks flying  just feet over our heads in the dark, which was an amazing experience to witness.  Your sight is not great so you rely on your other senses to see whats going on which only heightens this amazing  experience.

As the light came up and the birds were flying around, they started to settle into the pools or pits as they are better known in front of the hides there.  I showed Phil, one of my clients on this day, how to use a slow shutter speed, capturing movement in a photo which in turn conveys the sheer power, movement and size of the flocks here.  Something spooked the flock and they all took off together, its been a long time since I saw this, as the whole lot, some 1-2 thousand birds went from a dormant, sleepy state into this powerful take off I captured in the two above images using a low shutter speed and low ISO.

They then settle back down into these pools sleeping and waiting until the tide retreats before heading back out to sea.  One of natures most amazing spectacles that if you are lucky enough to see the experience will stay with you forever.  The number of other birds that live in and around this coastline is vast, where they all feed in their different ways, I often feel in all the mayhem that these birds get forgotten about and passed over in favour of the massive flocks.  My advice would be to look everywhere once you are there and you’ll see so much other birdlife just going about their business in this rich and very diverse area of the north Norfolk coastline. 

The Great Peak District Fair is this weekend 16Th, 17Th October at the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton.  I will be displaying my images in various different formats along with my Limited Edition Tiger prints where 50% of the profits from each sale go towards 21 Century Tiger, a charity that gives 100% of the money to helping wild Tiger survive in the wild. 

The fair is an experience of everything that is great about the Peak District, where you can enjoy the delights of the finest local products, amazing foods with over 90 exhibitors the weekend promises to be fun for the whole family with live music and much more so if you are in the area pop in to say hello at the same time enjoy the delights of this very busy and amazing fair set within the beautiful Pavilion Gardens.

Read full post

Rutting Deer

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Oct.08, 2010

Had a day visiting Bradgate park yesterday hoping to capture the Red and Fallow Deer going through their annual rut, but all was quiet on that front, still had a great day meeting up with some friends while visiting this lovely landscape in deepest Leicester.  The day started great, with clear skies, stars shining bright the signs of a great sunrise were very promising but things changed as they often do with the great outdoors and a blanket of thick and heavy fog covered the whole area for some time, making the ideal environment for the Deer to disappear before your very eyes.

The rut hasn’t really started yet I feel due to the weather being so mild after such a cold start to the year, but as I was there the air was thick with not only fog but male testosterone filling the air as you could smell where the males where marking some of their spots in readiness for their annual rut that will start any day now.  Over the next three weeks I have several One To Ones booked in there and another place in Cheshire, I still have a few dates free should you wish to come on one of these days at Bradgate and in Cheshire contact me for more details

I love the effect weather has on an image in particular fog and mist as this adds a real and different feel to a photo which when changed to black and white it really takes on an appearance of its own, very reminiscent of the very old Victorian photographs you see from time to time. The image below was taken early last year as the sun was coming up it started to burn off the fog and mist revealing this male Brown Hare sitting motionless in this field where again the mist has added at great atmosphere to the photo.

In between waiting for the Rut to start I have spent a lot of my time waiting for the water level to drop on a local river. Over the last week or so we have had so much rain near my Staffordshire home, where the river Trent has flooded the area including the place where my hide is. I have been watching these Kingfishers now for some time, where their activities keep me smiling all day, it’s a site I have developed and worked on myself over the last 2 months.  I have returned several times over the last week or so and there was no sign of them including the young female I have become very fond of there as she tires to claim part of this river as her own with her ever present parents trying to move her on.  So it was with great relief I saw her for the first time in a week on Tuesday coming close to where my hide was,  perching on the reedmace that grows there.  A few snaps then she was gone but enough for me to see her and witness she’d survived the flood.

Read full post

Masai Mara Migration Photo-Tour

Filed in Events, Places Of Interest on Oct.02, 2010

My Photo-Tour to the amazing Masai Mara Migration 2011 is now live on my workshops page, Paul McDougall who I work with in Kenya has secured me a great lodge in a private location on the Mara, where we will be close to action and have some amazing encounters. Paul who owns and runs his own wildlife company in Kenya is ideally placed to let me know whats happening and the best sites, so naturally as I always endeavor to give each client the very best I can, I will be working alongside Paul during our stay there in August 2011 getting you the best experiences from on the ground.

The 8 day trip will be amazing staying at one of the best traditional safari camps in the Masai Mara, this small camp will be a very special experience away from the normal hustle and bustle of other camps, where the private nature of our camp will be perfect for observing nature as we are perfectly placed to see the amazing wildlife in the Mara. Places are limited to a first come first served basis,  5 people max, so if you would like more information or would like to make a booking then send me an email here or go straight to my workshops page and fill in the booking form.  I am currently working on plans to also run a trip to Uganda for Mountain Gorillas and a ‘Wolves of Ethiopia’ photo-tour, capturing this beautiful animal high on the Sanetti Plateau of Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains,  only species of wolf found in Africa.

I am also working with a national charity, leading a tour to see the Orangutan.  I will update you with more details in a few weeks. The trip will be led by myself with expert guides on the ground, where we will be staying in the jungle overnight, being at one within the forests these animals live in.  Lots going on and all genuine trips enabling people to not only see but to capture beautiful images of these very different and stunningly beautiful animals in their natural habitats.

Habitats in which I have first hand, expert knowledge in having served in the armed forces for a number of years, working in these very different environments unitising all my climbing, abseiling, tracking, survival skills and many more, hopefully being able to show people the beauty of each one of these animals. I will update my blog in the next few weeks on these trips, giving a unique opportunity to visit these places on earth, learning about their different ecosystems.  What a year it plans to be, many thanks.

Read full post

Down By The River-Kingfisher

Filed in Wildlife on Oct.02, 2010

I count myself very lucky in life to have seen and still see the wonderful moments in the natural world over the last thirty years of being an observer, a young birdwatcher in the YOC and now a wildlife photographer.  So over the last two months on a private stretch of the river Trent near my Staffordshire home I have had a wonderful time just sitting, hidden from view under a camouflaged hide by the river, watching the river go by with the odd fleeting glimpse of the Kingfisher. Gracing me with their presence every so often and to be honest when you least expect it.

A perfect example was the other day while I was trying to make myself a cup of coffee in a tiny one man hide, that only just fits in my 6f 2 inch frame, with my long lens and camera plus bag and provisions filling the hide like the back of a removal van, there is little or no room ‘to swing a cat’ as the saying goes.  The Kingfisher showed up right in front of me!  It took almost 10 minutes of the slowest movement possible to put things down and reach for my camera to capture the female who had just landed on a reedmace I had positioned in front of my hide.  Her tell tail signs of  tiny claw marks showing in the reedmace giving me vital clues of her previous presence on this particular place, while watching the river go by.

She has taken over this part of the river at the moment and with her orange part of her under bill growing everyday, she is developing before my very eyes.  It is lovely to watch her put those incredible fishing skills taught by her parents to great use..  Over the last few weeks though her parents, further down the river, have tried several times to move her and a male on and at times its so sad to watch as the male fledgling still at times begging for food in the face of real force from their once loving parents to move them off this already taken stretch of the river Trent, nature is beautiful but at times very cruel.

I briefly managed to capture this to the right of my hide, as the fledgling was being chased by the adult bird, she took solice in thick, natural vegetation along the riverbank, stood her ground almost in an act of defiance and defended herself by having a go back at her mother.  Amazing behaviour to witness and one that I hope will stand her in good stead for the future trails and tribulations that will be in store for her.

This stretch of the river Trent at the moment is lined with a thick and dense tree line, reflecting its colour onto the surface of the water with a jade-green colouring at the same time not allowing much light to penetrate the base of the riverbed. There is lots of other activity alongside my hide, Mallards  and a family of Yellow Wagtails keep me on my toes in the absenceof the Kingfisher as their call does in some parts resemble that of the Kingfisher, with a high pitched call,  piecing through the ever present noise of the flowing freshwater.  Constantly on the move, feeding, cleaning themselves as they seem never to stop for a moment.

I have mentioned in a previous post of this unique place, where an old bridge has fallen into the river and forms the back drop to my images. I am hoping to try and photograph over the coming weeks the Kingfishers  and how they pass through this area, using the old blue bricks as perches and fish from them all the time as thousands of gallons of water pass by.  It really is a story within a story for me and one I hope lasts  for a good while because I have really become very fond of these Kingfishers, more so this fiery female who brightens up my day down by the river ever time I see her.

I plan on turning this into a local on going project where hopefully I will be able to capture the breeding adults behaviours and courtships throughout the year in this private and unvisited area of the river Trent where I have had so much joy working on this from scratch, watching and setting up my hide, only to have to move it to a different place several times a week at first, due to the Kingfisher’s having no set pattern.  I knew that these Kingfishers hadn’t even been seen before on this private piece of land let alone photographed.  I feel very privileged and grateful to have come across these amazing birds where I hope to capture them going about their lives as I have done over the last two months.  A real labour of love for me where I will update my blog on my future adventures down by the river, many thanks.

Read full post

2010 Year Of The Tiger Slideshow

Filed in Events, Wildlife on Sep.28, 2010

Once I returned from India it was my aim to use my images of the amazing Royal Bengal Tiger to demonstrate to people their beauty and prowess, at the same time highlighting the tragic position these animals find themselves in, now with around 3400 Tigers left in the wild.  Where captive Tigers and those kept as pets are now outnumbering their wild counterparts which is a truly shocking statistic.

I have always felt that powerful images and powerful music go so well together and over the last few weeks I have experimented and developed a few examples as a visual slideshow and posted them on my blog and Facebook page.  I was amazed at the feedback I received from people and especially amazed when a gentleman called Martyn Ford, a former Entomologist at the British Museum of Natural History, and now a professional conductor and record producer, had seen one of my slideshows and contacted me.  We exchanged emails and Martyn invited me to give him a call.  Hes a great bloke and was very helpful.  We spoke about many subjects and he told me of a lady named Thao Nguyen a brilliant  Musician, Composer, and Music Arranger who he works with.  She is also a very good wildlife photographer with a great eye for her subjects.

Over a period of  a few weeks Martyn came back to me with a brilliant piece of music called Fragile Earth that has never been used and one Thao was willing to let me use on my 2010 Year Of The Tiger slide show which I had been working on.  I will use this to show the beauty of the Tiger along with this beautiful music she has composed specially for me to go with my images.  To have a unique piece of music to go with this amazing animal is perfect and very fitting I feel. My images hopefully reflect the beauty of this animal that I have captured through the lens during my time in India.  Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my time there and how they are doing.

I was also informed this week that there is new life in Ranthambore with the recent birth of two cubs to one of the adult females, which is brilliant news.  I am hoping to return in January where it would be amazing to see these little fellows with their mum, where I will be returning later on in the year in May 2011 with my Tigers Of India  photo-tour that I will be running. I cannot wait to go back as I love India and its diverse and different wildlife.

I have composed the images along with this beautiful and powerful music now in a slide show, where the hairs on the back of my neck still stand up on edge everytime I watch it.  I hope you enjoy the show and it will form part of my talks that I am doing in different parts of the country over the next several months.

A massive thank you to both Martyn, and Thao for your very kind offer of this piece of beautiful music and I wish you both all the very best, many thanks.

Read full post

Photographic Talks

Filed in Events on Sep.20, 2010

Over the last few weeks I have been approached by various different people from different organizations who have asked me if I would do some presentational talks.  Upon meeting me my real and genuine passion for the natural world and the origin of this passion comes flowing out, which I feel would form a strong basis to any talks that I may do.  So while displaying my work at the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, Derbyshire this weekend during their Arts and Craft event I was asked again by a few people from a couple of different clubs.

Its an idea I have been thinking of for sometime as my beginning into wildlife and photography has a real beginning and story, one I’d like to share and hopefully inspire people with, so that you too can see and benefit from the beauty of nature all around us,  at the same time going out exploring, watching and capturing what you see, to show others of the beauty of wildlife and how it can enrich your life.

My journey to become a wildlife photographer was born out of a love and fascination of the natural world from a young age upon receiving my first wildlife book called Animal World.  This was an 8th birthday present from my mum and started my love and fascination for the natural world.  My representation of this world is my interest for creating a unique and artistic reflection of what I see and my images are simplified visions of this seen through my eyes, with the emphasis on composition, lighting and colour at the very heart of each picture, capturing their beauty, fascination and graceful expression with each image.

From those early days I spent so much time being at one with nature, close to and watching, hidden from view on the off chance that I would see a certain animal. I distanced myself from children’s games and activities instead heading to a nearby stretch of wilderness within the mass housing estate I grew up in. By learning to get close to wildlife without disturbing the life of the animal, almost forgetting the outside world and becoming part of the animal I was getting close to, I began to understand the animal better, gaining many skills by observing their behaviours while at the same time giving the subject complete respect which allowed me a private window into their personal and private lives.

This skill is one of many I use within my own wildlife photography today derived from those early encounters with nature.  This lose yourself to nature approach enables me to get close enough to capture the animal’s beauty and behaviour which both feature strongly in my style of photography, showing a wild animal within their natural habitat being the foundation to my work today through the images I see, then framing them through my camera’s viewfinder.

Where my creative and emotional attachment to nature is at the very heart of each image, creating a unique and artistic refection of my time in the field. It is my intention to use these reflections of the natural world to bring people’s awareness of what beautiful wildlife we have on our doorstep and all around us and the importance of conservation and the need to preserve our national heritage.

I will be presenting 3 talks at the North West Bird Watching Festival on the 21st November at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Martin Mere  here I will be going through tips and advice on wildlife photography and fieldcraft as well as presenting a powerful slideshow of my images showing the beautiful winter wildlife that you can see during our winter months, some are migrants to these shores during this time and others become easier to see.  After each talk you are then welcome to join me around some of the pools at Martin Mere where you can try out some of my tips with guidence.

I have also been invited to help with their Annual Photographic Competition- WWT Photo Competition .  A One To One day with myself will be presented as one of the available prizes for the competition.  I will update you with more details in the coming weeks.  In the meantime if you would like to make a booking with me to do a presentational talk then please contact me for more details.

Read full post