Archive for 2011

Puffin Behaviour

Filed in In the Press, Workshops on May.09, 2011

Puffins have to be one of those birds you never tier of seeing, their enduring faces made up like a clown have a place in everyone’s hearts.  They have been a firm favourite of mine from childhood where I’d go on organised field trips from school and the YOC –  Young Ornithologists Club, setting off on what seemed a real adventure at the time, to places were they live and nest during those few short months that they are a shore.

Animal behaviour has always fascinated me, I still have my first book covering the subject which I was brought as a Christmas present, such was my interest- The Animal World by Maurice & Robert Burton.  I was not the greatest reader at that age but I was glued to this book, as getting close to nature and watching it was a major thing I did when growing up. I can remember those first encounters with the Puffins I had, armed with a massive pair of binoculars and my faithful bird guide called “Birds” – by John Andrews, a book that forms part of my profile images, matching the birds to the photographs was something I found great pleasure 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 or watching, I could understand the animal better, gaining many skills by observing their behaviours at the same time giving the subject complete respect which allowed me a private window into their personal and private lives.

Skomer is a firm favourite of mine and having already spent several days there this year, the clowns of the sea are back in great numbers once more returning back to their old burrows.  Their colourful beak and orange legs catch your eye upon first seeing these comical birds that seem very clumsy on land.  The island is riddled with holes that are home to tens of thousands of Rabbits, Manx shearwaters and Puffins.  What is truly amazing about this beautiful bird is that the birds live all winter out in the Atlantic ocean, out of sight of land, but every spring they return ashore to breed and raise their young before heading back out to sea in late July, August, so behind the gentle looking faces hides a tough and hardy bird that has to be respected for the way it lives its unique life.

Their affection towards each other is beautiful to witness, bonding, kissing bills all affirming their bond with each other. I watched as several males would gather,calling and stretching their necks in an display towards the female also warning other males. Parading around,showing off and watching each other,waiting for the first movement from an opposing male, seconds later two males would be locked together,twisting and turning, forcing the other to submit his advances towards the female. I managed to capture that behaviour by watching, looking and feeling the tensoin grow between these males.

Within my own wildlife photography I spend alot of time watching nature, listening and watching for signs,trying to build a picture of whats happening the best way I can.  The art of Photography for me is a means to capturing those special encounters I have worked hard to achieve or see , which in turn make for a more well balanced image and account of that subjects behaviour and mannerisms within the wild.

So while I was away in Texel a few of my images made the press and different papers either online in a physical capacity last week, the Sun and the Scottish Sun,the Independent and the Mail. I received many emails on my Blackberry and it seemed to be going crazy while on vibrate mode as I was in Texel, people wishing me will and letting me know that the Puffins had made the papers. 

All of which was really good.  Its great to see your work in print so that people from all backgrounds can see the beautiful world of nature that’s everywhere and in this case it was the ‘clowns of the seas’ as I call them- Puffins.  A few images have even made the picture library of Getty images which is one of the best picture libraries in the world, so big thank you to all the guys involved in making this happen.

The image of two adult Puffins “kissing” or bonding has also made it to the June issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine.  A full page which looks amazing, so thank you guys. I run one to one days or Spectacular Skomer trips up until the end of July where you can photograph and witness these amazing birds, for more info click on the links many thanks.


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A Taste of Texel

Filed in Places Of Interest, Wildlife, Workshops on May.05, 2011

The bird paradise of Texel in Holland became our home over the last four days during our annual yearly photo trip there.  This picturesque island on the north tip of the Dutch mainland is a heaven for wildlife, at around 25 miles long and seven miles wide the island is the largest of the Wadden Islands.

It’s a haven and paradise for thousands of waders and waterfowl during the spring/summer months where they choose this picturesque island to play out their courtship routines and breed, feed their young all quiet close to you, presenting some of this best chances to photograph Avocets, Spoonbills, Caspian and Black Terns, Oystercatchers, Kentish Plovers, and many more waders.

When we arrived after the over night ferry relaxed and far less stressed than if you travel by plane, we headed to a site on the mainland first where a family of Foxes are living wild among a woodland environment, twinned with paths and humans walking around.  Even through the foxes were wild it was plain to see they had become use to human actively, and after my own ongoing Fox project at home which has become so testing at times, it was refreshing to see these wonderful animals up so close, going about their lives around us, very endearing moment for me and the group.

We all shared some lovely moments before heading to Texel and settling into our lovely hotel accommodation on the island, where all your meals are of the highest standard, comfortable place in which to use as our base during our time on Texel.  In the morning we all heading out at around 05.30am for the morning light and to visit the places where the Avocets feed and other waders. The weather during the whole trip was warm, sunny but windy, this hampered a few of the birds we all had on our wish lists, but all in all many wonderful moments were all captured by the group during their time on Texel and the mainland.

Amazing light on offer each morning but that wind just made the going a little tough for the wildlife, right place right time is one of those key elements in wildlife photography and again we all managed to be there while witnessing a very beautiful piece of behaviour from a pair of Oystercatchers in the morning light. These birds by their very nature are very loud, their call travelling for miles, a single, high pitched note this can be your first indication that these birds are around.

We watched having been drawn to a certain pair due to the vocal calls, they were following each other in straight lines, mimicking each others movement then setting off again traveling behind each other always calling, how wonderful nature is.

Then in a flash the male would jump up onto of the female, calling constantly, steadying himself by flapping his wings really fast to keep himself up right, wonderful to see this action that really only lasted seconds before the male jumped off and started cleaning himself up.

We spent quite a lot of time photographing the Common, Arctic, Little, Sandwich Tern colonies that Texel supports in good numbers, most if not all are inland, dotted around this small islands pools, with the ever present noise and smell’s these busy little communities give off.  For me the Tern family is a beautiful bird, on one hand really hardy, tough, on the other so gentle and elegant with such a graceful appearance.  I watched as one parent sat on the nest as the other flew in and passed over the sandeels they had just caught, all while hovering for a split second, so beautiful to watch, I was able to capture the sequence with the image below.

The birds are so fast and fly in, you only have a few seconds and trust me there were hundreds of  attempts that ended in nothing but blurred images, but you only need one image to convey the moment. Great displays of affection between the birds were witnessed showing real care for each other which was very nice to see.

Among the vast colonies of Terns there were good numbers of a bird often over looked in the presence of other birds, the Black headed Gull, strikingly beautiful in their summer plumage.  They are a common colonial breeder, nesting among reedbeds and marshland, their dark brown hood often mistaken for black is stunning in the light and with matching leg and beak colour they are a match for most colourful birds.  The noise from these birds though can be earsplitting a real loud call they use to communicate with each often.

I captured them building their nest, the male would fly in and drop off the twigs to the female who chose to start their home on a grassy embankment covered in small colourful flowers. Great fun to watch and again above their noise really comical to watch.

The routine most days was the same an early start to see the island awaken,capture those beautiful encounters with our cameras, then head back for our wonderful self service hot and cold breakfast, then head back out for the whole day. Driving to the different sites and always on the look out for a shot, in this case it was the handsome Spoonbill. A large bird with wonderful markings on their bills and plumage, we managed to capture this guy feeding and having a good clean up, disembarking the vehicle slowly and moving very quietly and slowly to get a close up of this wonderful looking bird that’s very rare in the UK.

Here I captured him having a good old stretch or was he exercising in the morning who knows but a funny image where I was laughing as I took it as nature does afford you so much fun at times.  After three amazing days on the island of Texel we caught the early morning ferry on the Monday and like last years trip we headed to the mainland to photograph the stunning and beautiful Black Necked Grebe. On the way stopping off at another Grebe site, this time the Great Crested Grebe a site Jeroen knew really well.

Another stunning bird from the same family, here she had chicks with her perched on her back. Mum would swim around while dad would fish to feed them. Then unannounced the male would turn up with a fish in his beak and offer this up to the young chicks on mum’s back.  I watched as the young chick would reach round to take the fish, sometimes falling into the water, in the end though the parents where amazingly attentive to their offspring.

And here I under exposed a lot to get this effect, where the Grebe had swam into a darker area with the light still shining on her, making for a lovely image and a style I really look to produce in my work.

We travelled for about two hours until we reached the area in which the Black Necked grebes nest, where you can get some beautiful close up’s of this striking bird. We found a small spot,where we lay down and watched the Grebes feed at some distance away,over time they came closer into land, all the time feeding and on some occasions displaying to each other.

And the light was really changeable, so here I tired a hi key image over exposing to gain this effect in camera, adding a different feel to the image.

The group had some lovely encounters with these amazing birds before moving onto another site then heading to the port for our over night ferry crossing to Harwich. It was a really good trip, lovely clients all of which were great company so thank you all. I hope you got alot from the trip and I hope to have helped you in some regard with wildlife photography, how you can capture a subject within its environment, fieldcraft etc.  Thanks to Jeroen Stel for your time and effort in this amazing photo trip. Next years trip dates are up and for those that wanted to book this year but could’nt join us because we were full I’ll send you the dates on my monthly newsletter. For more info click here .


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Sumatran Orangutan Expedition

Filed in Charities, In the Press, Wildlife on Apr.27, 2011

In the May issue of the Outdoor Photography magazine there is a full page advert for a wonderful trip I am leading to the amazing jungles of Sumatra. The aim of this trip is to highlight the cause of maybe the first great ape to become extinct should current trends continue. At the same time raise money for the charity SOS- Sumatran Orangutan Society.

This charity is dedicated to the conservation of Sumatran Orangutans and their forest home, where each person on this photo-tour will directly be helping the Orangutan and their habitat, with money from each person booked onto this trip going to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, whose work is to help protect and conserve this area for the future of our closest relative. The principal focus of this photo tour will be the Orangutan, capturing them within their natural habitat, looking for behaviours to capture and so on, as we visit some of the most magnificent forests on Earth, which are also the domain of many other beautiful and stunning animals and birds, where some only live in this part of the world and nowhere else on the planet.

Sadly the ‘Old Man of the forest’ has been subjected to relentless pressures which has reduced the world’s population by as much as 50% during the last 10 years. Hunting for meat and the demands of the pet trade have been contributory factors but the more significant issue has been the large-scale clearance of rain forest throughout this region leaving very few habitats left for these apes.

There are surely few more enduring creatures in the world than the gentle giant of the rainforests, the Orangutan. With around 97% of an Orangutans genetic makeup being the same as a human and where such a close affinity to Homo sapiens is obvious upon gazing into their beautiful faces and watching their behaviour and how they conduct their lives. The evolutionary links with mankind are plain to see after such encounters with this amazing ape that now only live wild in two places in the world, Borneo and Northern Sumatra.

The charity also works in restoring degraded areas inside the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park, working with local government and local communities to restore vital Orangutan habitat that has been damaged by illegal oil palm plantations established within the protected area. So much brilliant work is going on out there to save these animals.  This trip as you can see by the Itinerary will be truly amazing, covering different areas, sleeping in the jungle with its amazing noises and uniqueness all of its own.

There is an amazing film called “Green” the film is an emotional journey following Greens’ final days, a powerful film that has won many awards. The sounds of the jungle are amazing, this trailer transports you there with those amazing jungle noises you will here every morning on this trip.  There are thousands of Orangutans in need of real help in this part of the world, another animal on the very brink of disappearing from our plant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQn9-GPHZIY

Helen the UK Director of SOS has done an amazing job and she has had amazing support for this trip from many people, Paramo, the clothing company are offering 10% discount on their range for people going onto this trip. Greys Of Westminster, Practical Photography/Photo Answers, Outdoor photographyAction for Apes and many more have got behind SOS in turn helping this great ape.

So on behalf of the Sumatran Orangutan I’d like to thank all those involved and who have helped.  There are places still available on this trip, so for more details please contact Helen at SOS, or contact Different Travel directly. I look forward to meeting you all in September, many thanks.


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Early Spring in Norfolk

Filed in Photography Tips, Workshops on Apr.24, 2011

Spring is my favourite time of year, an amazing array of colours, fresh life and wildlife, this season is truly amazing within the different season we have during the year.  Having just returned from my Early Spring in Norfolk photo tour which I run every spring and 3 days of one to ones added on, its been a busy week with a amazing weather.  Early Spring photo trip is a full 3 days exploring the beautiful countryside of Norfolk at the same time staying at one of the best Hotels serving stunning local food, the perfect base to come back to from a day in the field. I had a great group of clients and a real pleasure showing you around Norfolk, at the same time giving you real help to improve your photography, fieldcraft and general understanding of the subjects we encountered and photographed.

Catching the season moving from winter into spring is a beautiful time, the wildlife of the Norfolk coast comes alive.  It is a place that is blessed with a rich and varied wildlife heritage, famous for its wild north coast, the rivers, lakes and marshes of the Broads and the sandy heaths. There are also the fens, grasslands and ancient woods within the wider farmed countryside, all beautiful places where we encountered many photographic opportunities during this photo tour. My knowledge of the North Norfolk Coast helped the group in seeing some of the best places along this beautiful coastline ensuring that they all captured some lovely images.

These 2 x three day photo trips I run every year,one in Spring and the other one in Winter are designed to show you as much of the wildlife and their own habitats as i can during these two trips, whilst at the same time balancing that with the best opportunities to capture the wildlife here.  The weather throughout the week was as kind as it could possibly be, with morning light and evening light offering lovely photographs for the entire group. Every morning on the roof apex a lone male Blackbird would fill the air with what has to be for me the most beautiful call of the British countryside. Standing as proud as punch as we are packed for the days adventures below him.

On the first morning we visited the predicted Spring Tide which was forecast alone with the full moon. Upon arriving we are had some lovely mist and sun rise shots, where I pointed out different images, suggested different compositions etc, all in tern designed to make the group grow within their own photography.  At the same time showing them that the beauty of photography is what the person chooses to capture when they look through their own viewfinder, and never to be restricted to one or two shots, this is how I learned.  There were lots of Bar and Black tailed Godwits gathered and cleaning, and some sleeping with their deep summer plumage warming the slight chill in the air.  They are such a beautiful and striking bird at this time of year and a firm favourite with the group on the day.

We then headed to a great little gem of a site with Barn Owls, Hares and Marsh Harrier all living in close proximity to each other, a mixture of rough grazing, farmland and marshland.  This amazing little place really is a little sanctuary for wildlife.  There are a pair of Marsh harrier living and nesting there, some distance away and protected from the shoreline by a small pool of water.  We watched and saw some amazing behaviours between them both, flying in, dropping into their nest site.  For some it was the first time witnessing this beautiful bird.  Marsh Harriers are doing really well in the county of Norfolk with several nest sites littered along its coastline.

Each afternoon, taking us into the evening we’d settle at one of the groups favourite places and capture whatever would show.  Throughout the several days there the Barn Owl actively was really quiet, with little or no sightings at the several sites I know, plenty of white feathers, pellets and pooh markings though.  My conclusion was they maybe sitting on eggs.  During this time one bird sits on the eggs whilst the other sleeps so their combined actively is really small, only venturing out to feed so fingers crossed they are still around and not been disturbed at any of the sites.

At one of the sites while we waited for the Owls to show, there is a  good amount of Brown Hare, so we all voted as a group to try our luck at these while we waited for the main act to show.  When I go somewhere new I always have a look around , east and west for the respective light source, as light equals speed, speed equals sharp images.  I demonstrated to the group some tracking and fieldcraft skills that they can remember and maybe take home with themselves and apply in their own work, going through the behaviours I have learned on the said mentioned subjects.

Over the last few days we visited this site a few times and everyone came away with some great shots, where I demonstrated the different composition options and encouraged the group to push their own boundaries in regard to how they see an image. On one of the mornings the sun was coming up and the hares were chasing and playing almost underneath the suns rays, so some careful fieldcraft and slow approach got us into place for some nice and very different images I felt, capturing that beautiful and atmospheric morning we all encountered.

Lighting, mist,sun and subject all coming together on those rare moments when all photography key elements work together. I chose to compose small in the frame, a style I love and here I was able to show a little of the habitat and the rising sun which adds so much to an image.  The Hares were fun to watch, even chasing off a Pheasant that was among the field, during other visits we witnessed two Hares following each other, the male behind the female constantly sniffing the female waiting for her to come into heat so he can breed with her.  The poor fellow was really hanging onto this female with stiff competition from other males knocking around,such great behaviour to watch where you learn some much about the subject all benefiting your work.

This male Hare seemed to be top dog and had a few females in his harlream,the battle scars are clear to see with a half chewed ear reminding me of Bigwig from the film Watership Down.  The first film I saw at the pictures. I also had a lovely encounter with a Wheatear who seemed to check me out as I was lying on the ground.  Here I composed the bird in the morning light with the dew from the grass reflecting light making a lovely, soft appearance to this image.

Had some lovely feedback from clients and Andrew Hall wrote :

“I would like to say a massive thank you for the fantastic time I had on your spring waders workshop Your willingness to share your knowledge and techniques was extremely refreshing from the guarded nature of most other professional photographers. The technical tips you gave helped to improve my photography, however the highlight for me was the amount of fieldcraft knowledge that I was able to gain Our time spent crawling and lying around the field photographing the Hares was fantastic and incredibly rewarding when we walked away with the photographs we had in mind at the start Once again a huge thank you and I look forward to future workshops/trips that I hope to do with you soon! I will never hesitate in recommend you to anyone and everyone”

David Naylor who attended a day in Norfolk with me :

After recently purchasing a new camera and years of average bird snaps from my old camera I took the recommendation from a friend and booked a day out with Craig in Norfolk. I can honestly say that in the first hour with Craig, albeit at 5.30 am, in a damp field, I leaned more about how to take really excellent photos than I have in the last 10 years of reading books and magazines. Craig covered all the basics of the camera then moved on to composition, exposure and auto-focusing and gave me real confidence in both myself and the equipment. We spent the rest of the day consolidating the advice in a variety of lovely locations and I am truly grateful to Craig for his open and informative tuition. Nothing is kept back and Craig shows you exactly how he takes truly superb photos. I cannot recommend Craig highly enough if you want to learn how to take better photographs”.  

More testimonals can be viewed here

Thank you to all my guests on the Early Spring in Norfolk, great company, great food and great weather, many thanks also to the three clients who booked one to ones in Norfolk.  I wish you all well and very nice to meet and help you all in improving your photography, at the same time learning more about the countryside amd fieldcraft.  I have a few days off now until my next photo tour to Texel.  My Texel trip starts on Thursday evening, co-hosted by my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel from Holland.  

This beautiful island of Texel is full of birdlife at this time of year and if lasts years trip is anything to go by then the whole group is in for a real treat, its home to one of the most stunning and beautiful waders, the Black Tailed Godwit which was photographed from last years trip. I will update my blog on my return before heading to India to photography the amazing Bengal Tiger with clients booked onto my Tigers of India trip.

Best Wishes and Happy Easter.

 




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Peak District Favourites

Filed in Workshops on Apr.10, 2011

Over the last week I have had a great time with clients on Watervoles and Dipper one to ones and workshops in an area I have visited and known for a great deal of time, the Peak District, in the county of Derbyshire.  Time severed knowledge and history of an area and the subject is key to successful wildlife photography, workshops and one to ones for me.  That emotional attachment I have with these subjects helps in learning people about their lives and behaviours, which greatly benefit the clients images and also having a better understanding of a subject lets you read key actions or behaviours in a subject that you could later use in tracking or locating them.

 

This area of the country has such a diverse array of wildlife and habitats and some of the best walking routes in the country, its a wildlife heaven and one I don’t live that far from and always enjoy each visit whether it be with clients or alone watching the same species of wildlife.  I’ve walked this area for many years, tracing the same paths for a long time.  Finding your own subjects, getting to know them and their characters and behaviours is something that is really important within wildlife photography, where each image you take will have a meaning and be real in turn developing key fieldcraft skills and subject knowledge.

Watervoles are the largest British vole and are often mistaken for a brown rat.  The watervole can easily be distinguished by their blunt, rounded nose and ears which are almost hidden in their fur.  Watervoles are legally protected in Britain and their numbers continue to plummet, the main causes for their decline include destruction of bank side vegetation, pollution, and the introduction of the American Mink, an aggressive predator. Watervoles are my favourite mammal with their enduring character and cuteness, making them a lovely subject to photograph.

The Dippers, Red Grouse and Watervoles workshops are very personal to me and I share that passion and love for these subjects during these trips with clients, where their popularity never stops amazing me.  And there can be no better feeling for a wildlife photographer when you show a client an area and the species shows up, that’s magic as they say in show business.

The Watervole population has taken a bit of a fall nationally and within some of the areas I visit in the Peak District numbers are down from previous years, experts all have their own reasons but I feel its a mixture of cold winters, water pollution and the dreaded Mink that’s the cause for the delcine in this most adorable subject.  We got into place as the sun was coming up and the place was really quiet at first, then the sounds of the birds singing in the morning is enough for me, such a wonderful and real spring time feel when you hear all the different bird calls first thing in the morning.

Then without warning a tiny ball of brown fur turns up, moves quickly then pauses, motionless on the riverbank sniffing the air for clues to whats around.  The Watervoles sense of smell and hearing is very good, their eye sight lets them down. While we watched one Watervole he went up the bank and started to sniff the air, remaining still at the same time to cut down on him giving away his position through movement, watching a wild animal can give you so much pleasure at the same time help you to understand and learn more about them which will help you in the future to local and photograph your chosen subject.

I filmed this Watervole to show how animals smell the air and smell your presence.  Here this little fellow was sniffing the air, their key behaviour, not to sure what he has smelt or heard but wonderful to witness and a great example why wind direction is so important in getting close to animals.  You can learn so much by simple encounters like this many people would just ignore or pass by as within mammals more so then birds smell and wind direction is so important to learn about otherwise the animal will have gone before you ever knew they were around.

On this amazing morning with the back drop of the beautiful dawn corus there was no wind so in turn the Watervole struggled to smell anything and local what it was he may have caught wind of.  He later dropped into the water another classic sign to listen out for when you walk the riverbank,their trademark “plop”.  The second short film below captured him having a good clean up and a scratch before heading up for his breakfast, really amazing and funny to watch, pure priceless humour.

Dipper’s forage for small prey in and around the fast-flowing streams and rivers of this area, walking down and beneath the water until partly or wholly submerged, this behaviour offers some brilliant opportunities to photograph and capture this unique moment and all over the years I have visited the several sites I know within the Peak District I never ever tyer of seeing these master’s of the river as I’ve always called them.  Bobbing or dipping constantly on rocks, which I’ve always viewed as the bird ‘Curtseying’ for you.  The Dippers I have been watching are feeding their first brood of chicks at the moment and they are doing well with a possible second brood on the cards as this is normally the case with Dippers as they are early nestor’s.

Its been a very busy week and thank you to my clients for your time and look forward to seeing you again.  Knowledge is key and the best advice I can give for improved photographs of wild animals is to watch, look and listen to wildlife when you are in the countryside and this will learn you so so much, then all you have to do is press the shutter button and capture that moment you witness.  Its an amazing time of year now to be among nature, with so much life and different behaviours to see that are only displayed at this time of year, with beautiful light and longer days its a magical season and one of my firm favourites within natures calender, good luck.


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Love Is In The Air

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Mar.27, 2011

With the start of British Summer time upon us, there is a feeling of love in the countryside, animals displaying and showing off and saying ‘look at me’.  This behaviour is mirrored in the human world also, in the hope to attract a female so their genes can continue upon breeding.  With the clock going forward, the light will come up earlier in the morning and set later in the evening making those beautiful summer days last ages.  Long gone now are those late starts as you wait for the sun to rise. I really look forward to the warmer months, the new life, animal behaviour and the many different and wonderful things you can witness within nature during our longest days of the year.

Here I took a wide angle of a lone male Marsh Harrier that was circling over our heads for some time, calling to the female who was hidden in the reeds. I wanted to convey the true beauty of that morning, with the low lying mist and Norfolk reed in the background. We then headed for cover where I show and teach clients how best to use what’s around you in order to disappear from view. The same male Marsh Harrier then dropped into the reeds in front of us all, where a mixture of watching the subject and following in camera resulted in us all capturing lovely images from that morning.

Camping out in the field, a small fire, favourite foods all packed away to maximise the space along with the many other items you carry as a wildlife photographer living in the field. I like to camp and be closer to the subject I am hoping to photograph, getting up for the light, spending those amazing first few hours of light engrossed in my work. After a long day I then like to head back to where I have made camp and start a small fire, get the little camping stove on, hot water,a strong sweet cup of tea, as I review the days events in camera. With so many things and subjects I am working on along with my one to ones and photo trips there is just not enough time in the day to get round to everything I wish to photograph, even with the extra light.

This week I have had a wonderful time with a lovely couple who travel the globe photographing wildlife. Sue & Rob from the UK. They booked me for two days to show them the beauty of Norfolk and all the places I know and have found during the many visits to this amazing county over many years. You always wish for the best weather for your clients in order for them to get the very best from the day(s) and the conditions during the two days, they could not have wished for better. A slight frost adding that little crunch under foot welcomed us on both days but the light and clear skies were what as a wildlife photographer you dream of.  Many thanks to you both and I hope to see you on my Greenland or Tigers Trip next year.

Along with my Fox work, Brown Hares, Barn Owls and Dippers, I am also working on Great Crested Grebes, a bird I have loved for ages, their elegant pose, their beautiful marking and stunning plumage makes them one of the most handsome water dwelling birds in the UK in my eyes. They are the largest of the European Grebes and during the spring and summer they are such a striking bird, with their spectacular head, ruff and spiky head tuffs when they greet each other or display during courtship. Last year I photographed these birds at the same site but was unable to go back at the start of the breeding season due to commitments, so this year I’d hoped to capture them as they build their bond between each other and go through their amazing courtship dance where they dive for weed, surfacing with this in their bills and offer it to one another while sharply turning their heads back and forth.

Having spent some time there now, the lives of these amazing birds are played out before me, where they show real love and care for each other, when one goes out of sight the other calls in an attempt to locate its mate, such a strong bond which was so lovely to witness. I am using a hide on the shore to photograph this pair of Grebes; just on the water’s edge and not in the water as this disturbs the birds and other species of animals around too much. Getting there before the sun comes up, with the dawn chorus as my companion, each bird jockeying for their own patch, staking their clam to that bit of land. It’s such an amazing time of day and one you greatly benefit from for being among its beauty and peace.

The morning starts cold and sometimes there’s that morning mist lying low on the water adding an air of mystery to the place as you wonder what will come, always praying your chosen subject may just make a short and brief appearance for your morning efforts in getting into place.

Then a bird appears an unmistakable appearance, their head plumes held or raised aloft as they swim proudly on their way. The same head plumes compressed when the bird is alarmed or alerted to something, making their whole face area very streamline. Hours can pass with nothing, each bird fishing far and wide from each other, with the odd highly vocal call echoing around the lake. It’s a strong, rolling like call ‘crrra-ahrr’ repeated often and appearing very nasal in sound as the beak doesn’t really open during calling.

To witness their courtship weed dance was amazing and from know where the two birds would come together, something unseen triggering the need to display with each other in a moments flash. Swimming towards each other with great intent, and then rising up inches apart sharply turning their heads from side to side, climaxing in their penguin dance in which both birds raise their whole bodies upright from the water, breast to breast, just amazing to see.

The weed dance only happens a few times during the day and is so beautiful to see, poetry in motion as you witness each bird working to please the other in a real act of affection and love which for me was very touching to witness this very private and powerful moment.

This display is over as quickly as he begins in most cases, this pair are in the early days of courtship and building their nest, gathering twigs, and small branches and bringing them back to increase the size and shape of their nest.  Occasionally they mate, only briefly at the moment but this will increase once the nest is finished. The male climbs onto the female, she flattens herself and a small call by the male advertises their brief period of mating before climbing off her.

In the coming weeks I do hope to capture those beautiful images you see with the Grebes chicks on the adults back, thumbing a lift around the lake while tucked under their wings.  On some days I have stayed there until dusk some 16 hours almost in the hide, but with love in the air the place is alive with action and calls from other birds and surrounding wildlife so there’s really never a dull moment during the relentless waiting for the Grebes.

Whatever you choose to do good luck and remember the wildlife should always come before any photograph, with careful and respectful fieldcraft, the key with wildlife photography your efforts will be rewarded with those priceless and private moments you get into a wild animals life, capturing them with the camera just lets you record those times, all the best


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Dartford Warbler-Natures Beauty

Filed in Wildlife on Mar.19, 2011

The highly secretive and stunningly beautiful  Dartford Warbler  photographed here among its health land habitat further North from its more Southernmost stronghold in the UK.  A tiny, secretive bird, often only ever glimpsed darting between bushes on lowland heaths.  They emit a harsh rattling call before vanishing into cover, only to reappear somewhere else having worked their way through the thick cover they love to live in.  I have been really lucky to have seen this bird so close after travelling to many wonderful places in the UK on the lookout for this attractive bird with a hope of seeing and photographing its beauty.  The Dartford Warbler is rare in the UK and lives almost exclusively in the South.  It was first found in England in 1787.

To watch him was amazing, his lively and very nimble movements, hoping from one perch to another, twitching his wings and tail every so often. He spent long periods concealed in the vegetation offering only the briefest of glimpses, his bright red, angry looking eye peering at me from the thick, thorny thickets.  Every so often he’d appear and gain the highest vantage point in which to sing from, his song was very distinctive and harsh and high in pitch once heard you never forget this call and then he’d vanish for a while.  The first indicator he was around was his call, as it stood out among the other bird calls on the moors.

The challenge was to second guess where he’d appear allowing me a clean, full length photograph of him, using fieldcraft and blending in, as I was not using a hide making it hard to pin down a certain place he’d appear and come out from cover using the many natural perches open to him.  The colour of these birds set them apart from many UK birds for me, a dark grey head and back with a dark wine-red chest and underside with white fine spots on and the most beautiful eyes you’ve seen in a bird, bright red, almost angry looking in appearance, just a stunning bird standing as proud as punch singing away among the heathlands, an amazing time with this amazing bird.

What truely amazed me was how well the different colours of this bird blended into his environment, where the colours of mother nature worked together so well in letting this shy bird completely blend in and become totally unseen. The rich colours of the heathland lending their colours almost identically to those of the Dartford Warbler , a clear view to just how wonderful nature his.

In the past the bird has been vulnerable to changes in climate and two harsh winters left just 11 pairs of the bird in 1963, but Britain’s most colourful warbler is spreading its territorial wings having returned to Wales, the Midlands and East Anglia, there are now more than 3,000 pairs – the highest tally for more than 40 years. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the recent rise in numbers – to an estimated 3,208 pairs from 1,890 in 1994 – is due both to milder winters and improvements in the conservation of heathland habitats.

But the latest reports indicate after the two harsh winters the birds numbers may have dropped significantly, Cold weather in 2009, 2010 caused a 90% reduction in warbler numbers across the South of the UK . However, freezing weather and snow in the early parts of 2009 and 2010 and earlier this year have caused great concern that these small birds could die out, with a crash in numbers in their southern stronghold of the UK.

A truely stunning bird with a call you’ll never forget once you hear it, just amazing to see these birds within their natural habitat and I will be going back soon where hopefully he will have stayed and may have a mate around as during all the time there I never saw a female and his behaviour would indicate with his ever present singing he was looking for the female, marking his patch, defending his territory from other birds, more so Stonechats that share the same habitat.  I hope to photograph this amazing bird again during the year.


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Falkland Islands Photo Tour

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Mar.17, 2011

The Falkland Islands have a raw, unspoilt quality that provide one of the most unusual and spectacular wildlife destinations in the world, lying some 450 kilometres from the coast of South America  amid the rich fishing grounds of the South Atlantic.

Explore the wildlife-rich beaches of Sea Lion Island, discover Pebble Island and marvel at the King penguins and Elephant seal colonies at Volunteer Point alongside a huge choice of other amazing and unique wildlife the Falklands has.

The islands are inhabited by huge numbers of seabirds during the breeding season which extends from October to March, the spectacle of these great assemblies of penguins, albatrosses, cormorants and terns is reason enough to visit the Falkland’s but the islands are so much more than just a haven for seabirds.

The scenery is often reminiscent of the Scottish islands and there are many unique aspects to life in the Falklands, visitors are constantly charmed by this blend of familiar and unfamiliar and in many ways the islands are essentially British in character but a flavour of the South Atlantic exerts its own influence onto the islands. The site of huge Elephant Seals hauled out on the sandy beaches, or the giant Albatrosses gliding effortlessly over the sea, this place is pure magic in terms of its wildlife.

Sea Lion Island, Carcass Island, West Point and Saunders Island constitute the main centres for this photo tour each of which offers something different, we will be spending several days at each location to get the very best light conditions and best photographic opportunities for those amazing images. Once on the islands we will travel between them by a 9-seater ‘Islander’ aircraft which give superb views of the scenery.

January and February are the best months for wildlife watching, as the extended daylight hours provide up to 18 hours a day to photograph and capture the wonderful wildlife.  You will benefit from expert photographic and fieldcraft advice explained and demonstrated by me and tuition on photography skills and techniques, use of lighting and composition, slow shutter speeds, impending movement shots and much more.

A well planned full day’s excursion trip from Stanley to Volunteer Point is sure to rank among the tour highlights as we visit the Falkland’s colony of over 1000 breeding pairs of King Penguin, along with Gentoo and Magellanic.  This is a very remote spot and provides one of the best places to see all these species of penguin.

Seeing these beautiful birds with be amazing and the timing of this photo tour has been chosen to coincide with the birth of their chicks which will be very appealing, parading in front of you wearing their comical ‘fur’ coats of thick down.  A memory to take home with you from these extraordinary South Atlantic islands.

We travel to the islands with the RAF out of Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, stopping on Ascension Island to refuel. The flight time is 8 hours for each leg, with 1 ½ hours on the ground on Ascension to enjoy the warm tropical fresh air before continuing the journey to the Falklands. Our itinerary takes in all the main visitor sites, we’ll see many different aspects of island life as well as enjoying the birds, wildlife and flowers of this unique archipelago which, in spite of having become more popular and sophisticated over the years, has not lost that magic which visitors find so enchanting.

Come and join me on this amazing 14 day photo tour to this island, working with the best people making for a magical trip you’ll never forget. For more information or to book please visit my Falkland Islands page on my Photo Tours & Workshops page or send me an email here, many thanks.


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