Entries in the ‘Events’

Spotlight Sumatra-A Rollercoaster of Emotions

Filed in Events, Places Of Interest, Wildlife on Oct.06, 2012

My two week adventure, two years in the planning to the Indonesian island of Sumatra has now ended and I’ve had a wonderful trip.  A real rollercoaster of a journey both physical and emotional for me. The scale of the issues in Sumatra overwhelmed me from the moment I touched down until the time I left this island.  Too read about them is one thing but to be there on the ground and see them for myself is another.  I’ve had unprecedented access to the wonderful and tough work SOS/OIC staff are doing out in Sumatra during my time there.

To view this slideshow at full size then please click here

There are only couple of charities out there doing amazing work and I am convinced that without the pressure from these people on the ground in Sumatra alot more Orangutans and forest would have vanished by now. It’s to all of them I give thanks and also Helen from SOS who has helped me to get out there and work alongside the teams. A trip I will never forget and it’s been an honor for me as a person to see these truly beautiful animals we share so much of our DNA with. I only hope the world can act and save them before its too late.

I truly love wildlife that’s why I capture their beauty with my camera. I have seen things during my time in Sumatra that have upset and angered me, and my only way to help these voiceless animals is to show the world my images depicting what’s happening out there. I trekked 20km a day, I’ve climbed the rainforest trees, I’ve slept rough and washed in rainwater to be close to these amazing animals. I wanted to capture their beauty, their spirit and help them reach a wider audience through the wonderful people that are helping to keep them alive out there and around the world.  My work will give them a voice, and in turn I truly hope their voices will be heard.

I have witnessed first hand the burning of land.  The day before I left Sumatra I was taken to an area of primary forest inside the national park that has been cut down and burned.  A westerner like myself, with a camera at such a sensitive site, could have meant trouble for me, should I have been compromised but it was my choice and my decision to see this place so I can show what is happening.  A very, very moving experience for me, I couldn’t speak as I asked the person with me to take this image of a 300 year old tree just lying on the ground, plants upside down still clinging to the tree.

It’s easy to blame the palm oil but for me the blame lays with the government there, as they don’t protect the national parks and continue to grant logging licenses.  They allow the vile palm plantations to grow and increase, destroying the rainforests. Never in all my life have I seen anything like this, I was moved to tears and all I wanted to do is help and go back into the jungles to see these guys.  I’ve lived and slept rough, washed with rainwater, climbed up trees on ropes to gain a level viewpoint on them, joining the Orangutans in their world on their terms.  I’ve sweated in the intense heat and humidity to photograph these amazing animals.

Sumatran Orangutans are afforded the highest protection in law, these species are classified as critically endangered by the world conservation union – IUCN, yet they are still killed, kidnapped, poached and shot at, trapped and hurt each day in Sumatra. They are in the way, their home of protected park is being eroded around the edges with illegal logging each week and the Indonesian government does nothing to protect them or their homes.

Orangutans are only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Their forest homes are encircled by the illegal logging and palm oil plantations. They are killed by farmers and poachers, while their babies are kidnapped and sold on the black market to become someone’s pet or trophy. Some of the Orangutans get saved and have a second chance to return to freedom.

Unlike the other great apes such as Gorillas and Chimpanzees, Orangutans are solitary animals. They live a peaceful life, moving through the jungles looking for food which mainly consists of fruit, young leaves and seeds, sometimes insects and termites. They are arboreal species which means they rarely come down to the ground from the safety of the trees. It’s not until you see, watch and witness them that you begin to see and realise it’s like watching yourself in a mirror. Their behaviours and the enduring characters are the spitting image of us.

This is where my amazing journey begins and over the next several weeks I will show you whats happening out there through my images, and will go through the adventures I had during my time in Sumatra.

After a long flight to Madan, the capital of Sumatra, I was met by Panut the top guy on the ground and founder of OIC, who has worked in Sumatran Orangutan conservation for over a decade. He took me to the head office in Medan and I met some of the team that would be accompanying me during my time there.  I received a very warm welcome and had my first taste of the humidity in those first few hours which I learned later always hovers at around 70-80%. The easiest way for me to explain just how humid it was is to go run a bath, leave the room and then after ten minutes go back and open the door and that temperature is what it’s like in Sumatra, very hot and your clothes become soaking wet within minutes.

While meeting the team and enjoying my first cup of Sumatran coffee which is something the island is famous for. I had my first glimpse on this trip of a Sumatran Orangutan.  It wasn’t what I was expecting and brought me to earth with a bang. The skeleton remains of a Sumatran Orangutan, all neatly packed into a box. It had formed evidence into a case that was never proved. The remains were exhumed from a village where locals claimed it had been accidentally shot with an air rifle and had been buried five years previously. It was found by the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit ( HOCRU) during one of their field surveys. The pellet can be seen behind the left eye and as I looked at the bones I just couldn’t help but think what a shocking and undignified end to this Orangutans life.

Soon after I said my goodbyes to the team at the office, I then headed off to my first location in the foothills of the Gunung Leuser National Park. After several hours of driving we reached Darmas house. He’s an amazing naturalist that has lived his whole life in this area. His knowledge and expertise would help me see these amazing Orangutans over the next several days which Darma had planned for me.  I stayed in a simple hut surrounded by his crops of rice and other produce he grew to feed his family.

I couldn’t sleep that first night, the excitement was overwhelming. Hearing different noises and strange goings on around me with the wildlife, as I unpacked and got my gear and equipment ready for the mornings trek. What seemed liked ages was only a few hours as I woke at dawn, the sun bathing the tiny hut I was sleeping in with the warmth from its rays.

I had my first view of the landscape and it was amazing. To my front I had one of the active volcanoes on the island, a small trail of smoke just filling out from its brim. To my right I had the Gunung Leuser National Park, home to around six thousand Sumatran Orangutans and covering some one million hectares of land in size. The GLNP takes its name from the towering mountain of Mount Leuser.

This park together with Bukit Barisan Selaten and Kerinci Seblat National Parks form the tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra UNESCO World Heritage Site. These areas are a rich, complex environment with a delicately balanced network of wildlife and plant life. The GLNP is the core of many endangered species remaining habitat, including the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sumatran Elephant and the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans.

We headed to the park that first morning, Darma got our permit and then we were inside one of the best rainforests habitat on the planet. Our plan was to trek and find Orangutans within this massive place.  We also had Osman with us too,  a trained climber carrying all the ropes and other equipment needed, which SOS had hired for me to help me to climb the trees.  I wanted to try and capture the Orangutans on their terms giving me a feel for the way they live and not the other way around. The photograph below is of Darma looking for Orangutans.

During those two days I did manage to climb several trees, getting level with many Orangutans within this amazing place.  All the time the heat and humidity was tough and my clothes were always soaked especially my shirts, as seen in this image that Darma took of me.  I was photographing my first sighting during this trip, a female called Pesek.  It was worth every single ounce of sweat and graft.

I managed to get level with her and a few others with my wide angled lens to show more of this amazing primary forest that they live amongst. Ever so often she would make a sound by kissing her lips together to communicate with her baby.  I managed to get a few clean images of him as the vegetation was so dense most of the time and the angle in which I was shooting up was often not enough. His name is Wati and he is the son of Pesek.  I have captured him here looking down at me and who knows what he was thinking here. To watch these animals is like looking into the mirror as they are so much like us, only 4% DNA separates them from us.

A few moments after these images were taken she took her baby deeper into the rainforest and out of view. We carried on walking deeper into the heart of this breathtaking rainforest. The noise and the smells all triggering my senses as I watched for any movements. Often we’d come across some of the largest trees in the world, bursting out from the forest and pointing directly up to the sun. The size of these amazing living specimens was unbelievable.

I wanted to climb this one but we didn’t have enough rope, which was shame.  In the shadow of these majestic trees there were tiny, beautifully coloured flowers. Completely dwarfed but still growing in this amazing and diverse habitat.  Their patterns, shapes and colours all amazingly beautiful in their own right, some attracting other wildlife. Its such an amazing ecosystem you can see how everything fits and works alongside each other in the interest of survival.

As we carried on trekking deeper into this amazing place we came across another Sumatra Orangutan, Darma told me her name was Sumu and she’s 38. She was rescued many years ago, chained up all day as she was kept as a pet.  It’s a form of status to have one of these as a pet in Sumatra. She now lives free in Gunung Lesuer National Park, and is one of the lucky ones. She trusts people again now after her shocking start in life, as time as heeled the wounds of how she was treated as a pet. She has been given a second chance through the hard working of the guys on the ground in Sumatra.

She had a baby with her and was just watching and playing with the little one. It was like watching a mum and her baby back home, so beautiful and real, I just couldn’t put it into words. I just sat down and watched the marvellous and wonderful power of a mothers bond towards their child. all played out before me. Sometimes in nature things dont need any introductions, no explanations. A cold shiver came over me as I just sat and watched something so powerful, so gentle and so caring unfold amongst one of the most special places on the planet. Capturing those moments with my camera is what wildlife photography means to me.

My first day within the Gunung Leuser National Park came to an end and the light went so quickly inside the jungle.  I just sat down for a few minutes and looked through a few images as I wanted to relive what I’d seen that day. Too often with wildlife photography you capture something and then something else comes up. Giving you no real time to see and look at what you were lucky to capture.

I slowly went back to my time with the Orangutans that day, while viewing my photographs, before Darma said lets go and we ventured back to the small hut I was going to be living in during my time with him. While his wife prepared me a plate of rice, fish and other wonderful food. I had a shower with rainwater collected in a large tub, using a small cup to throw the water over you as you washed. I was exhausted and this heat and humidly had drained me on that first day trekking.  We covered around 20km and with my kit weighing around 30kilos it was tough but worth every single once of sweat.

Even though the water took my breath away, as I threw it all over me, it worked and really woke me up.  Twenty minutes later I was washed and brushed ready for my evening meal and fuel for the following days trekking. I soon went to bed after a lovely meal. All my gear had been cleaned, dried and prepared for the following day and with my images all backed up the morning couldn’t come quicker enough for me.

As the dawn broke we were already inside the Gunung Leuser National Park on the trail on the Orangutans. I’d been lucky so far as we hadn’t had much rain, with just dry conditions and sunshine with temperatures around 36c and the humidity around 75%. Once you enter the jungle the light almost disappears in the early morning. Amazing to see and hear the different array of bird life, insects and other wildlife calling and making their mark as the sun rose. We headed deeper and deeper into the jungle giving you a feeling that she was just swallowing you up.

The going was tough, with hilly terrain in places almost 70 degrees straight upwards to gain a vantage point in which to see and listen out for the Orangutans. They build nests each night and sometimes they are late risers so we were ideally placed for them to be waking up now as we were deep inside the jungle as the light increased with the rising sun.

We could hear and see some movement in the trees so we put up a quick rope set up, and I climbed up around 30 feet to become as level as I could with a female Sumatran Orangutan.  I only managed a few images before she moved and here is one of my favourites. The primary forest can be seen in the background as she moves from one tree to another.

I’d been really lucky so far as I had seen all the Orangutans in their natural habitat.  I had also visited a place in which the rangers put food out for them. This helps people who have travelled to have a better chance of seeing these amazing animals. On the second day we passed through this place and it was very touristy. Although its a good way for the park to monitor some of the rescued Orangutans who have been released back into the wild.

Alot of Sumatran Orangutans in this area have been given a second chance with many never visiting this area again, but there are some that do for the easy food on offer. They put out bananas and the Orangutans come, clean up and then vanish as quickly as they came. It helps them see if they are alright and also gives the people a chance to see what they may have travelled thousands of miles for, to see a Sumatran Orangutan. I preferred the rain forest so after a short stop at this site we then carried on trekking.

Before we left the park on that second day we had another chance encounter with Suma but this time her baby just climbed up and over the top of us and looked down at me for a few seconds. This image captured that wonderful moment when a baby Sumatran Orangutan, the future of the species, had a look at me before venturing back to mum.  Those two days in the national park were magical.  I’d seen our closest living relative and watched them. As the day drew to an end I had some time back at my small hut to reflect on the those days before, backing up my images and heading for my evening meal with Darma and his family.

The next day Darma took me to a place right on the edge of the national park he calls ‘the block’.  It does have a proper name but to those working for the chairty out there and for the purpose of this blog and the welfair of the Orangutans I will just call it ‘the block’.  Its an area of forest and rocky out crops encircled with rubber and palm oil plantations. Up until around a month ago there were 17 Sumatran Orangutans living there but recently that number has increased to 18 with the birth of a baby.

These Orangutans live in an area that’s almost cut off, apart from a few corridor of trees that have been planted by friendly farmers that have tried to look after this population since it was first found in 1974. Darma himself owns a small piece of land here and regularly plants trees to increase those corridors for the Orangutans to move around in and not become completely trapped within this small area on the fringes of the national park.

A river separates the national park and this area so the Orangutans are unable to return to the park as they hate water. He told me that most of the farmers tolerate the Orangutans and help them rather than shooting or killing them which is common practise by farmers throughout Sumatra, as Orangutans offen raid their crops, and in some cases take their livelihoods away.

During my time in this area I witnessed several Sumatran Orangutans. Each one reacted very differently to my presence.  A mother and baby were very shy and hardly showed themselves as they sat in a tall fruit tree. Hear through the vegetation I managed to catch a tender moment when mum gave her baby a kiss to the head. Soon after they moved from this tree back into the safety of the block.

The second sighting was a wonderful experience as I had come across a male who was trying to romance a female Orangutan. He was calling, kissing his lips and generally trying desperately to win her approval with his show of strength and antics. I felt so lucky to even see these apes let alone be part of their courtship, or the build up as least.

The female can be seen below.  Most of the time she just sat on what seemed a favourite and well worn tree of hers.

The male tried in vain to come close on a number of occasions, showing outwardly displays of affection towards her with kisses and tender touches. I switched to video mode on my camera and made a few short films of this amazing behaviour that will form part of my future presentations on these amazing and enduring creatures.  It is truly like watching ourselves when you spend time with these beautiful animals.

My last sighting on that day was of a female Sumatran Orangutan with a baby hidden beneath her arms.  She paused here for a split second having seen me, I sensed her unease at my presence. It wasn’t until I
looked through the viewfinder that I could see she only had one eye. As I took a couple of photos I was saying to myself “you’re alright I’m not going to hurt you”, silly I know but I could see that she was jumpy as I had caught her out here. She was scared, fearful of another attack maybe.  My long lens could of also looked like a long gun which added to her nervousness.

She moved soon after, disappearing back into the rocky part of this area where they are safe for the moment. Once I reviewed the image I showed it to the vet and he told me it’s probably through being shot, he then saw another pellet under her right eye, embedded into her skin, which confirmed she had lost her eye through being shot, probably by a farmer who had taken the land she once lived and hunted in.

I just sat and zoomed in, and this image for me sums up just how these amazing and enduring animals are treated by those that see them as a problem or a pest in Sumatra.  How we as humans can do this to another living creature is beyond comprehension for me.  As that third and final day drew to an end I was full of emotion, angered at how these animals are viewed and treated. I just couldn’t believe that they are truly on the verge of complete extinction at the hands of man.

As I spent that last night with Darma and his family I couldn’t help but relive some of the images I’d seen over the wonderful time that I’d spent with this man, in one of the most beautiful and diverse habitats anywhere in the world. I was being picked up in the morning by a member of the team to be taken to another place to see and photograph the project first hand. As dawn broke I was up and after that last three mornings of routine I had a bit of a lie in that day, to recharge the batteries and pack ready for the long drive.

I said my goodbyes and told Darma I’d be seeing him again next year as his knowledge and passion for the Orangutans is infectious. On the way to my next destination my driver received a call and our plans had changed. We headed north to the Aceh province of Sumatra. A female Sumatran Orangutan was trapped and encircled by palm oil and the plan was to rescue her and her baby and release them back into the National Park. What happened over those next two days really moved me, this next part of my trip will be covered in my second blog and some of the images are very moving and brought me to tears.

My first week had been an amazing adventure, all of my Sumatran Orangutan images wouldn’t have been possible without Darma, his knowledge and his understanding of these great apes was just amazing. I’d like to thank him and his family for looking after me. I raised the money for my own flights for this trip and other costs and I’m already saving for my return next year as I have made a firm long term commitment to these Orangutans and SOS, the charity that I’m helping and supporting with my work. I want to try and help to highlight what is going on out there with my images and talks. To show the world what we might lose if current trends of de-forestation carry on.

There are a number of talks coming up towards the end of October – Spotlight Sumatra.  I will be presenting a number of presentations and talks alongside Panut who I had the pleasure of spending time with in Sumatra. He has worked in Orangutan Conservation for over a decade and has a dedicated team in Sumatra all doing their best for this great ape. For more details of these talks then please click here. I will doing one on Thursday 25th October at the Natural History Museum in London as part of their Nature Live talks. You can see this by clicking here.

Then on Friday 26th October starting at 7pm I will be at Chester Zoo, Russell Allan Lecture Theatre doing my presentation along with the team from SOS/OIC. The zoo has an amazing record of success with Sumatran animals and does alot of great work for the Orangutans. If you have time then please come along to one of these or the other talks we have planned many thanks.

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Wildlife Master-Photo Training4U

Filed in Events, Photography Tips, Workshops on Jan.10, 2012

I have officially joined PhotoTraining4U today as one of their masters, covering my passion of wildlife photography. The films I’ll be shooting over the next 12 months with the team will follow me as I work the land, from dawn to dusk. I will be showing members how I work, photographing wild animals within their habitat, showing their different behaviours and characters within photography. Going through the camera settings and what skills I employ myself in order to try and work with the wildlife I encounter out in the field.

Their website offers quality training for all photographers at an affordable price. The site is based on streaming video that capture photographers at work. PhotoTraining4U is aimed at both professional and amateur photographers alike and is structured into bite size learning films, over 800 at present, each around 20 minutes.

I have always loved helping people throughout my life and when I first started in wildlife photography this carried through. I know how hard it is to get help or advice when you are first beginning to take photos of wildlife – What works? What bag to buy? Is this lens any good? What camera settings? the list goes on. I like to show others the techniques that I have taught myself, what works and what doesn’t while on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife.

In this first film we go through where and how my love of wildlife, nature and photography began, forming the great passion I have for the natural world today which is the foundation to my work and images. The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected and in this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours. The result cannot always be predicted, which makes fieldcraft one of the most important skills you have to learn to be fully connected to wildlife.

I always try where possible to ‘work the land’ as I put it, and stay away from staged or set up shots preferring the more natural image, as seen or shot when I encountered the subject, not changing an animal’s behaviour to obtain an image is so important to my work. You just never know what will turn up working in this manner, so being ready to capture what you see is key through composition, fieldcraft and the correct and simple camera settings.

I am not from the techie camera settings background, glued to the histogram strangled with numerous settings and different buttons and functions.  I show simply and real techniques in camera that work.  I know they work because they are what I use within my own work. An image should come from the heart via the human eye, the camera only captures what the person behind it sees most of the time. This interview in February’s Practical Photography illustrates perfectly how I work and where my true love and passion comes from for wildlife, in this case waders and spring tides in Norfolk. Click here to see the interview in PDF format or you can buy the magazine which is out now.

It’s important to me that in every image I take it represents an event that occurred in the wild, something that I witnessed and recorded with my camera. My skill lies in interpreting and presenting this in a way that invokes the beauty, mood and emotion of that special moment I captured.

The first interview on their site can be viewed here. If you’d like to join this site and see the amazing advice, videos, and help from many different masters not just myself then there is £100 pounds off the marked price of £229 per year.  Please quote JONES which is the discount code. This then will give full access to the site and all the help and advice. I will be filming several short films in the wild over the next 12 months, going through different advice and help that will offer you the best chances to capture those beautiful images of wildlife you want, at the same time learning more about the habitats and behaviours of the subjects your watching.

I really do hope the films and advice I will be offering here will be helpful, twinned with the help I have always given on my blog, facebook and twitter pages, which all form a strong base in which to show the beauty of wildlife and help and inspire you all into seeing just how beautiful wildlife is. Its been a great start to the year for myself, with a full page image in the BBC Wildlife magazine, a 6 page interview and images in Practical Photography, click here to see the article.

Thanks to all the people who have booked onto my 2012 photo tours and workshops. My India trip is now full, this will be the third year in a row now I’ve visited this magical place in search of one of the most beautiful animals on the planet, the Tiger. My Magical Mull June trip is full with a few places left for my October trip. I do have places left for my Madagascar trip which you can view here, Masia Mara trip, view the itinerary here and a few others. I’m really looking forward to 2012 and all the trips, plans and filming I have got in store. I hope you all make the best of your time within nature and capture those wonderful moments you witness yourselves, good luck.

And just before I go wanted to say there were some great winning images in the WWT photo comp for autumn, I had two category’s to judge which was nice with a very good standard all round so well done to all that entered. I have been asked back to judge the remaining 3 rounds where the overall winner will be announced later in the year, so good luck to all those that enter.

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In The Coming Months

Filed in Events, Exhibitions, Workshops on Sep.16, 2011

The onset of autumn is just around the corner now, as the trees and plants lose their prominent green colour and replace it with those wonderful yellow and red colours. Symbolizing the changing seasons, as we leave the summer and enter into the lovely season of autumn, trees are left exposed to the elements, giving that minimalistic feel in its place. Woodland and parkland echo to the noise of Red and Fallow deer roaring and grunting during the annual ritual of the rut. All is quiet until the silence is broken with the dawn roars during this period of frenetic activity.

I have been really busy with one to ones and my own work over the last couple of weeks as I’ve noticed a slight nip in temperatures and the evenings are beginning to draw in.  I have found a few new sites that look really promising, more news in the future fingers crossed, and while spending quite a bit of time at one I managed to capture this male Stonechat in the setting sun, with the slight autumn colours forming the background.

I’ve also been revisiting my Watervole site, watching where this fellow feeds and comes ashore, I was able to photograph him on the riverbank here, just sniffing the air in the image below,  such wonderful creatures to watch.

Birds are on the move everywhere now and autumn is a great time of activity as young birds seek their own territories as migrants birds undertake their extraordinary journeys around the world.  All around our coast you’ll see alot of action too, with Seals, wintering flocks of birds, vast influxes of Pink foot, Brent Geese.

I really look forward to welcoming our winter visitors that spend their time on our shores during this time, returning in early spring to the breeding grounds back home. The bounty of food that litters the land during the autumn months brings many species out as they gorge on natures offering before the cold of winter sets in. You also get lovely light with the shorter days and colder temperatures all adding so much to any image.

Whooper Swans are one of my favourite as they travel south from their arctic breeding grounds to spend their winters in the UK, a beautiful and elegant bird.  Another great event in natures calendar shortly is the deer rut, an event that reaches its peak in mid October.  This year as well as visiting the sites within the UK I will be making my way north to Scotland hoping to capture this amazing event within the dramatic surroundings this part of the UK offers, along with some lovely autumn light fingers crossed.

The Red deer stag is Britains largest land mammal, during the rut they advertise their presence, power and control over a harem of females with dawn roars which echo for miles.  When rivals cannot be separted on their roars alone things turn physical then as the stags with antlers locked push each other, trying to force the other to the ground.  The risks are high though with massive, sharp antlers which can inflict seroius, even mortal wounds.  The rewards though are great, as the dominant male wins the chance to father all of the next years offspring from the harem.

Lots of wonderful events within natures calendar coming up over the next few months which I am hoping to capture with my camera.  Wildlife changing with the seasons, one such animal I have spent a lot of my time on during the summer months is the Mountain Hare which turns white with the onset of autumn/winter.  The Peak District is a great place for this mammal and outside of Scotland is the only other place they live in the wild after being introduced some years ago now.

Towards the end of September I will be at the Outdoor Trade show at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire with 511 Tactical UK clothing stand.  I have been testing some items kindly sent to me from 511 over the last six months in different climates, I have found them to be really comfortable and very hard wearing in the field, a full review will be posted soon on my blog.  Ray Mears, TV presenter who also uses this brand of clothing will also be there on the Monday so if you are in the area drop in, or alternatively see their website here for full product range.

PhotoTraining4U is aimed at both professional and amateur photographers alike and is structured into bite size learning films, over 800 at present, each around 20 minutes. It’s online quality training for photographers for an affordable price.  This type of training enables photographers of all levels to learn new techniques on every subject.

After a recent meeting I am pleased to say I have been asked to do some filming with the team, covering how I work in the field, giving helpful tips and advice in order that people can capture those amazing moments in nature that they see.  At the same time learning more about key elements when working with wild animals, that in turn will help you read what’s happening around you, giving better results with your own wildlife photography.  I will update my blog once the filming is complete which is due to start in the last week of September.

All the new dates for my workshops and photo tours are now up for next year, please click here to see them.  Thanks you to those who have booked onto the Beauty of Wildlife 2 day wildlife workshop I am doing in conjunction with Calumet Photographic, Manchester. I look forward to meeting you all and helping you capture and see the beauty of wildlife.

I have a few places left for my Winter Waders, Norfolk 3 day photo tour in December.  The Wash is England’s largest tidal estuary and one of the country’s most important winter feeding areas for waders and wildfowl and you’ll be spellbound as you watch tens of thousands of pink-footed geese from Iceland leave their night time roost site and head inland to feed. Norfolk in the winter offers so much in the way of wildlife and my aim on this 3 day workshop is to get you some of the best images of the winter wildlife Norfolk has to offer.

And lastly, I have an exhibition called “The Beauty of Wildlife” for one week from Sunday 27th November until Sunday 4th December 2011 at the amazing Winter Gardens in Sheffield. Officially opened by Queen Elizabeth 2nd, on 22nd, May 2003, this is one of the largest temperate glasshouses to be built in the UK and a beautiful place in which to display my work, with trees, plants and other fauna around creating a peaceful and tranquil environment.

I will be in attendance throughout the week.  There is also coffee and light refreshments available within the site. So if you are in the area then please pop in to say hi and have a look at the exhibition. And if you have any questions or require any help or advice on the equipment you are using then I will do my best to help. Look forward to seeing you there.

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Calumet-The Beauty of Wildlife Workshop

Filed in Events, Workshops on Aug.12, 2011

In October I will be running a two day “Beauty of Wildlife” workshop in conjunction with Calumet Photographic, one of the leading photographic suppliers in the UK. It will be the first workshop of many planned with this leading camera supplier company.  The first day will be based at their Manchester branch, where we I will go through camera settings, compositions, setting up of each person’s camera and sharing/passing on my knowledge in order to improve individuals photography.

I will also show you some slideshows, touching on the various different skills needed for wildlife photography, use of light, what to look out for, fieldcraft and lots more. Tea and Coffee will be provided during the day and I’ll answer any questions in regard to wildlife photography that you may have in order to improve or move along your own existing skill level. I demonstrate to everyone that attends my one to ones and workshops what works and cut through all the ‘minefield’ of what’s best and what should I use, which mode etc that can drag people down.

I will replace all of that with a usable workflow that works on the ground, the same as I use, with no secrets, no hidden settings. Once clients have seen this I feel it gives them a more relaxed approach to their own work, knowing full well they weren’t really doing a lot wrong in the first place. I am self taught with over 30 years of knowledge of wildlife, which is the real key to wildlife photography.

The second day, unlike the first which will be classroom based will be in the beautiful Peak District. As a wildlife photographer the great outdoors is my office, a place in which I capture the beautiful images I am blessed in seeing. The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected. In this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours, and the result cannot always be predicted.

My images represent an event that occurred in the wild, something that I witnessed and recorded with my camera. Learning to get close to wildlife without disturbing the life of the animal is the key to my work and this 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.

Fieldcraft is the most important tool in a wildlife photographer’s box I believe, because if the animal is not use to human contact, isn’t tame or use to you putting food out, then they will be very difficult to get close to in the absence of hides.

Learning fieldcraft skills will improve your photography, as a subject going about its life, free from human contact always makes for the best photographs. I feel you cannot learn real and true fieldcraft from anything other than a wild animal, in the wild. I have never worked with captive or tame animals as their behaviour is too contrived for me and is as a result of contact with man.  I will show you simple and key elements to fieldcraft on the second day where you’ll greatly benefit from the wonderful wildness that is the moors of the Peak District and its wildlife.

Many clients who attend my workshops all go away with a better understanding of photographing wildlife, where it’s not about what you have but how to best use your equipment to obtain those lovely images you see with your eyes. Things change very quickly in the wild and I will give you ideas and a workflow that empowers you to capture and improve your own work. Seeing an image takes time, this skill can be learned by watching your subject and understanding its behaviour.

The Red Grouse by nature is a very elusive bird, always hiding away and making best use of the habitat in which to disappear, as shown in this wide angled image of a Red Grouse hiding, blending in very well.  They will see you long before you see them.

We will start early to capture the beautiful wildlife as the sun rises against the backdrop of the Peak District which will make for some amazing images. During our day in the Peak District we will be concentrating our efforts on Red Grouse among the autumn/winter landscapes and Mountain Hares, the only place outside of Scotland where there is a healthy population of these mammals.

We will also have the opportunity to see Short Eared Owls and many other birds which stay in this area all year, and don’t migrant like alot of other birds.  You will need to provide your own photographic equipment or alternatively you can hire equipment from Calumet Photographic, Manchester and we will meet in Buxton train station car park.  It will be a great day, where you will learn alot more about the ‘wild’ in wildlife photography, capturing images that will be around you, gaining subject awareness which again is key to capturing a wild animal’s character and behaviour.

So if you would like to book onto this wildlife workshop then please click on this link, which will take you to Calumets website. If you would like to hire any camera equipment for the day of which I will help and go through with you on the first day then again just ask at your time of booking. I look forward to seeing you in October and should you have any questions or queries don’t hesitate to contact myself or Calumet Photographic Manchester.

Over the last seven days I have had four one to ones. Two in Norfolk photographing Barn Owls and Waders -thank you Ian and Daniel.  Then travelling onto the Peak District for two days of one to ones photographing Red Grouse, Dippers and Watervoles with repeat customer Andrew, many thanks for your company gents. The weather was testing at times but I hope you all got everything and more from your one to one days with myself and look forward to seeing you all in the future. Many thanks.

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Nelsons County

Filed in Events, Places Of Interest, Wildlife, Workshops on Jul.26, 2011

Ive just returned from one of my favourite places in the UK, Norfolk.  Having not been there for a few months it was good to reacquaint myself with some of the best places to view this wonderful countys wildlife. Outside of my one to ones I spent some time photographing my own work so the time flew by far too quickly.  The weather was really kind, with beautiful sunrises and sunsets in stark contrast to the weather leading up to my visit.

Norfolk is the birth place of one of England’s greatest heroes, Admiral Lord Nelson, born in the village of Burnham Thorpe. He was destined for greatness from a young age, going on to lead our fabulous Royal Navy. The Vice Admiral, died on board HMS Victory on 21 October 1805, and was reportedly proud of his Norfolk roots and referred to them in a victory speech.  Now Norfolk has returned the favour by calling itself “Nelson’s County” on new road signs. Norfolk is one of England’s most beautiful counties with its legendary big skies and vast beaches, it’s a paradise for wildlife 12 months of the year.

The dawn light is one thing I truly love, a sense of warmth and being alive fills me upon seeing the new dawn break, and there is no better time in the day for me. After the recent wet weather I got really lucky as she was being kind to me and my clients whilst on their one to one, where I cover the many places, going through help and advice within this amazing county.

Across natures calendar the breeding cycle is coming to an end and in most parts animals are feeding their last offspring. With only the slight high pitched begging call gracing the countryside as you walk around. Most wildlife now are resting, feeding and building up their own body weight in order to have enough strength to migrate to warm climites during the next 3 to 4 weeks. There are those that stay with us all year, where they now have more time, having reared their families. We also welcome our winter visitors very soon, with the small advance parties of waders, and geese having already arrived from their summer breeding grounds here in Norfolk.

While I was driving from the different sites I noticed that there were many poppies starting to bloom, showing their distinctive red colour among the blander colours of the countryside. This image below is as shot where a wall of trees was holding back the sun’s rays, with only a few rays penetrating through and falling onto this lone poppy growing at the roadside. It instinctively caught my eye, with the sun lighting up the colours and finer details of this beautiful flower, showing sometimes the simplest of images are all around us.

A large part of my time was spent looking for Barn Owls and to see how they’d all got on throughout the last few months. I visited several sites and the adult owls were showing well, hunting in the various forms of light I had, from beautiful sunlight to a little overcast on one of the several days I was there.  When you are showing clients around a place you know so well its great when a chosen subject you’ve spoke about turns up and I am really glad to say the Barn Owls gave my clients the opportunity to witness them at work, quartering and hunting in pure silence.

Gliding effortless over the farmland, always scanning the ground below. Amazing birds that have captivated me from childhood with their sudden appearance, gaining eye contact with you for a split second then disappearing as quick as they arrived. They truly are the masters of this habitat, never failing to get your heart rate racing once they appear and go about the job they were so well equipped to do.

A pleasure to see and photograph after the two extreme cold spells they’ve endured in 2010 and 2011. I will be returning to Norfolk next week with one to ones as the Spring tides start in earnest again.  These happen 2-3 times a month throughout the autumn and winter months.  These spring tides are the biggest and best tides for witnessing the thousands of birds roosting on the mudflats, being pushed closer to shore.  Sights and sounds of nature that are amazing and never forgotten so I’m really looking forward to these days and capturing a different take on this breathtaking event in nature.

I’ve been running one to ones on these days now for sometime, where we spend the morning watching this amazing spectacular in nature, then the rest of the day we photograph Barn owls, Waders and the winter migrants that slowly arrive on mass throughout the next month or so.  I have a few places left also for this years Winter Waders in Norfolk, a full 3 day, 2 night photo trip showing you these and more wonderful sights during the winter months.


GDT / European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011

My photograph “Spring Tide” capturing thousands of waders taking off during a Norfolk spring tide made the final of this prestigious award. With several of my images making the quarter, semi-finals also. The image captures the movement of those birds by using a slow shutter speed, giving the image a real sense of movement. With nearly 1000 photographers from 39 countries, who entered almost 14,000 pictures into this GDT competition.  My image made the final in the Bird category.

The European “eye” as I call it has always greatly inspired me and my own work, capturing more of the story behind the photograph and subject, showing the habitat and brilliant, simple compositions makes this competition one of my favourites, with some truly amazing images. Many thanks to my clients over the last several days, hope you enjoyed Norfolk, for more information on my one to ones or photo trips I run the please send me an email here .

Many Thanks.

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Greenland Arctic Photographic Adventure

Filed in Events, Workshops on Feb.11, 2011

A wilderness journey deep into the pristine fjordlands of Arctic Greenland, travelling unheard and unseen in this world class race yacht, The Polar Bear.  This environmentally sensitive photographic adventure provides an opportunity to explore remote arctic valleys, rugged mountain passes, iceberg-filled fjords and the rich summer tundra of this amazing place on earth,  at the same time leaving less of a carbon footprint as we sail these beautiful waters.

The Arctic summer is magnificent, for a short season the sun makes endless circles above the horizon bringing a unique light and energy that is shared both sides of the Arctic Ocean.  High pressure is usually in charge at this time of year creating more stable weather and for a period of three months or so, we are treated to some of the finest shows on earth.

If you have dreamed of sailing amongst colossal ice-bergs, being surrounded by breaching whales or watching a glacier calve another million tonnes of ice into the ocean, then this amazing 14 day photographic adventure is for you.  Polar Bear is not a cruise ship, allowing for the very best opportunities for photography at a much lower perspective, as the yacht sits lower in the water giving you a truly special  experience.

Sailing in East Greenland is very far from the ordinary, a landscape which is dominated by jagged mountains and glaciers, dramatic cliffs and enormous ice bergs.  Scoresby Sund (70°32’N 24°21’W) which is the the largest fjord system in the world.  It is a sea in its own right, 200 miles deep with many linked fjords offering endless exploration.  The Sund is frozen and un-navicable in winter, however, a typical summer will allow a few short months for us to get in and absorb the atmosphere.

The timing of this 14 day trip has been specially designed with this in mind where it will give the very best and magical opportunities to everyone on broad.  You will see these amazing sites along with the breathtaking wildlife that live in this part of the world, where we will have almost 24 hours of sunlight a day, giving you that magic light a photographer always wishes for. We will have the boat to ourselves as Craig Jones Wildlife Photography has chartered the whole boat along with a small and expert crew to get us into the best places along this magnificent coastline.

One of the main animals we will be looking out for during this trip is the magnificent Polar Bear or Nanuuq as the Eskimos call it in this land of ice and home to this great Arctic wanderer. They spend most of their time at or near the edge of the pack ice, this is where they are most likely to find their food.  Due to the very nature and design of our craft will we be able to approach unseen and unheard in most parts where this will have a major effect on the sightings of various different wildlife in this region, Polar bears being one.

This was one of the main reasons for choosing this ship ; The Polar Bear instead of the ice breakers as it will have alot less impact on the environment, with lower carbon emissions, all helping in the fight against climate change and global warming, at the same time not disturbing the wildlife so much as we creep into the sheltered bays and coves, just perfect for wildlife photography.  Also as you can see from this video sound travels great distances under the ice where the animals both sea dwelling and land based hear everything.

Being powered by sails will drastically cut down on the noise our ship will make allowing wildlife to act normally in this area without any noise pollution from large turbine- engines.  At the same time providing dependable transport and accommodation way beyond the limits of other commercial boats, and very in keeping with my own style of wildlife photography where I like to work the land, photograph only wild animals, approach using fieldcraft, respecting the animal first and foremost, in turn helping them to relax and be less hindered by my presence.  This is the aim of this adventure, carrying forward this standard in this very precious and delicate environment.

With the amazing 24 hour light this means we can take full advantage of all opportunities that happen and present themselves to us as a group.  Whether that be Polar bears, Walrus on the ice or sailing through spectacular icebergs. We will also explore by zodiac and go ashore to capture the wildlife at the same time see and visit the local Inuit people that live here always under the expert guidance of the crew alongside myself.

Greenland is one of those places that is still slightly untouched.  This trip will take you right into the heart of the Arctic Circle. Greenland has around 15 different species of whales that are regular visitors to these Greenlandic waters, but only three of these – the Beluga, Narwhal, Bowhead are most common, with Blue and Killer Whales, also very popular in these food rich waters.  During the summer season it is Humpback, Minke and Fin Whale species that can be seen the most, where the blow holes are the first indicator they are around. The crew of the Polar front often witness these amazing animals in these water during the summer months, another major plus for us sitting lower in the water where we will be almost level with them as they surface for air.

The Land of Midnight Sun
Midnight sun can be experienced north of the Arctic Circle for a period lasting from a single day to five months depending on how far north you travel. In central Greenland the sun does not set from the end of May until the end of August. During this period, the soft, warm rays from the low-lying sun make the surrounding scenery appear almost dreamlike; icebergs and hilltops are bathed in a surrealistic palette of pink, purple, yellow and red hues.

This unusual phenomenon is due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis in relation to its orbit round the sun. North of the Arctic Circle it means that the sun can be seen around the clock during the summer months. In contrast, the dark polar nights are characteristic of the region during the winter. In the southerly regions of Greenland that do not lie within the Arctic Circle there is no midnight sun, although the nights certainly do remain light during the summer months.

This amazing adventure can be seen here with links to the ships quarters and layout of the ship.  This is where you will live and spend time when not out on deck, watching as we pierce through the sea. It will also show you some information on this ex-round the world racing yacht, giving you the idea of life on broad. The photo tour is for a maximum of 10 people where there are double quarters for couples as well as single spaces for lone travelers.

I feel this trip is very unique and bespoke for the many reasons I have already mentioned and Greenland is becoming a place that is creating great interest around the world so I feel privileged to be leading this photographic trip alongside such a brilliant ship into these Arctic waters. I have had some great interest from many people around the world as well as here in the UK where places are limited to 10 people only.  The UK people that book will have a group flight where we all fly out together to Greenland.  The guys who’d like to book from other countries can meet us there on the Saturday morning, then we all broad Polar Bear together and head out into the wilderness.  For more information please contact me here

“Amongst the higher latitudes, the light, scenery and wildlife seem to work together, providing the perfect ingredients for great photography.  We have been lucky enough to visit the most stunning environments you could imagine, encounter whales and dolphins close enough to touch and watch glaciers calve enormous icebergs before our eyes.  Photography is a passion held amongst us all and we love sharing what we have seen” .. Harriet Norton – Polar Front

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WWT Martin Mere-Thank You

Filed in Events on Nov.22, 2010

Just a quick post to say a big thank you to the organisers from WWT Martin Mere for inviting me to this advent, the general public who turned up and booked onto the three talks I did yesterday at Martin Mere  Birdwatching Festival. They all ran over time, all three workshops were fully booked, each almost running into each other.  A great day and I hope the folks that turned up enjoyed it as much as I did.  It was nice to see a few people I have not seen for a while and lots of new faces so hello to you all again, if any of you would like any further advice on what I touched on then please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have a few more talks planned over the next few months which I am really looking forward to, if you would like to enquiry or book me for next year then send me an email.

This is one of the slideshows I presented on the day capturing the beautiful wildlife that lives in and around our coastline, from first light until last light.

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Amazing Autumn

Filed in Events, Wildlife on Nov.02, 2010

The season of Autumn provides us with some of the most beautiful and intense colours within nature. Woodlands all over the UK are revealing their amazing colours of red, orange, yellow and gold.  This happens when the trees start to withdraw their chlorophyll from their leaves revealing these vibrant pigments in the leaves giving this amazing and distinctive appearance during the season of Autumn.

Autumn is a great time to get out with your camera as the ground is laden with fruits and nuts forming a carpet of food.  A very rich bounty in which all animal’s take advantage of this extra food source before the onset of Winter.  Capturing behaviour in some animals during Autumn makes for some beautiful encounters with wildlife. The most commonly known one is the Deer Rut , which was very late this year, I have been to several places around the UK over the last month and seen some brilliant behaviour and great moments.

This time of year is also one of the best times to see and witness one of the most secret and shy birds within the bird world, the Jay, part of the Crow family.  You only normally hear these birds in the tops of trees, but during the plentiful bounty on offer during Autumn you’ll see them on the ground feeding on the acorns and other nuts and fruits the trees shed at this time of year.

The changing seasons and the yearly life cycle of animals, plants and trees will enable you to photograph many different images throughout the year, which will tell the story of the changing weather and colours of the different habitats in which the wildlife live in.  The season of Autumn for me is arguably one of the finest times of year to enjoy and view wildlife with a backdrop of amazing colours, while most summer birds have now gone. Vast numbers of new arrivals make up for their departure, with the likes of Fieldfares, Redwings, and various Geese and Ducks that spend the winter months with us.

One of my favorite winter visitor’s is the beautiful Whooper Swan that have started to arrive from Iceland along with the slightly smaller but equally beautiful Bewick Swan.  When they have all arrived numbers can surpass more than 1,000 Whoopers in and around the various places I visit, one of the best is on the North West coast of the UK.  So graceful and elegant for a large bird they truly are beautiful and amazing to watch in flight.

I have also been photographing a real comical and funny bird, always on the move and constantly calling  as they climb and pose up and down trees with great finesse and ease, the Nuthatch.  I wanted to try and capture a few different view points of these charismatic, iconic woodland birds with their bold mannerism’s.  I waited out of site to where they were landing, hoping to capture their cheeky side within an image.  The following two photos I feel demonstrate this, with the amazing colours of the autumnal woodland as the back drop.  Very funny birds and just one of the many wonderful animals you can photograph now as they feed on this rich source of food nature provides them with during Autumn.

Autumn marks the transition from Summer into Winter and is a short season compared to the other three so make the most of it with the colourful foliage on offer, adding great impact to any photographs you take. With the cooler temperature’s you maybe lucky enough for some amazing sunsets as I was with this lone Kestrel hunting in the very last rays of light over marshland.

With so much happening now my best advice would be to just go out into nature and capture this amazing and visually beautiful time of year, your reward will be views of animals you may not be able to see during the other seasons of the year, at the same time witness these stunning colours. 

The migrants that these shores attract along with the special winter wildlife we have, finally show up in good numbers from now onwards giving you a unique insight into their lives, some of the best for me are Short-eared Owls that come down from the mountains to feed at sea level during our winter months, Mountain Hares that change colour to pure white to avoid predators and blend in with their snow capped landscapes along with Ptarmigan and many more species of wildlife where the only downside is that it becomes colder but you get to put more layers on!!.  Whatever you do you will not be disappointed with the beauty of mother nature.

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