In Decembers issue of Wild Planet magazine that is out now and I’m pleased to say my fourth article for this wonderful magazine covers the work of Orangutan Information Centre and their rescue team, HOCRU. I have shadowed this team now twice and seen firsthand their amazing work to save Sumatran Orangutans cut off from the rainforest living in fragmented forest surrounded by palm oil plantations, also confiscating them from the illegal pet trade.
Recently I gained access to some of the buildings and estate to where I have been doing my Barn Owl project over the last several months. I went to areas the public don’t get to see, I was met by the former miner and chairman of the local group that looks after the site along with the council and also the head guide. Both were very helpful and a walking book of information on this 18th century coalmine.
There a few places in the UK where you can experience the sights and sounds of nature any better than the North Norfolk coast during the Spring Tides that start in earnest from this month onward and for me herald the onset of the Autumn and Winter months. Its a place I never get tired of and everytime I visit it never fails to amaze me with the beautiful spectacles in nature that I witness.
The Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is the single largest expanse of Dry-Deciduous Forest left intact in India. Such forests were found all along the North and Central Aravalis but in the last few decades they have been badly degraded and right now this Tiger Reserve is one of their last strongholds.
Its an amazing place to see and spend time in and is one of the best places in India to see wild Bengal Tigers. An image of one of the forest guards on patrol in Ranthambhore National park is shown above.
Once we arrived and unpacked the following day we settled into our what our daily routine would be. An early rise at 5am, coffee before the two Jeeps I hire came to pick us all up and then we’d set off in search of the Tiger. This is always guaranteed to send adrenalin coursing through the veins as each day you just truly don’t no what to expect.
Whilst every movement in the undergrowth raises the expectation of a sudden appearance of this animal, striped body, footprints in the dust or the warning cries of deer all serving only to heighten the almost unbearable sense of excitement as you watch and listen for the first clue that a Tiger is around you.
It had been raining on and off over the last several weeks so the forest was a lush green which made the whole place look and feel so much different from the previous several years of visiting at this time of year. Alot cooler too at times which made the place feel so much more pleasant temperature wise.
Ive always loved being in Ranthambhore National Park its full of wildlife, smells, noises and potential images everywhere. Its a place of great beauty, that once you visit you just know it wont be the last time. Its magic grabs hold of you in its grasp and you cant ever walk away.
Throughout the first week one set of clients saw very few Bengal Tigers, and my other clients had some of the best views and images ever. The national park has so much to photograph you’re often spoilt for choice and there is always an image to be had is my motto and something I try and convey and show to clients.
One jeep as in most years was luckier than the other with sighings almost daily, while the other jeep went days without seeing Tigers. When this happens I try and stay with those clients in order to use my own experience of this place for the better of them resulting in them getting images I always hope.
Nothing is ever promised as these are wild animals and with that comes its own set of conditions and you always need luck. Both jeeps and sets of clients saw Bengal Tigers on their first morning though and this was amazing. Im always happy when my clients see them and their own individuals reactions.
We came across a 15 month old female Bengal Tiger on that first day who was hidden away at first, sleeping. Soon after we stopped she came from cover and moved off. The following images shows her walking out and past where we were. Amazing to see this stunning tiger cub as she’s truly beautiful and such a great privilege to see her on our first day.
This was a beautiful morning above as we came across two cubs just sitting at the base of these trees as their mother was off hunting. The play of the natural light was stunning and we watched this male move, yawn and generally get bored before our eyes waiting for his mother to return. This was my last sightings for many days as previously mentioned above.
My other two clients though- Chris and his wife Lisa had some of the best sightings and images I’ve ever known in the many years I have been coming to Ranthambhore. While looking for the Bengal Tiger thought theres so much to photograph and the following images capture what we saw during those long days searching for the elusive Tiger.
A clear sign of the precarious nature of this area though, where the Tigers are completely wild and are free to go wherever they want. I have tired to put together a visual dairy to in order of days with the following photographs. Clearly making the best of changing light conditions and different photographic techniques.
Towards the end of the first weeks safaris my group that hadn’t really seen many Bengal Tigers had a great sighting with a female Bengal Tigress and the following images capture that amazing moment. To say I was pleased for them was an understatement.
While in India I have been using a number of products from a brilliant UK company called Sealskinz. I was invited to become one of their Ambassadors for their company. I have been using their products for many years now within my own wildlife photyogrpahy. I have to trust my kit, its a skill carried over from my days as a soldier in the British Army. Click here to see my recent blog and introduction to their team.
Fully breathable and waterproof their products are the best on the market for outdoor activities. In India I have been using their drysacks to keep my kit free of dust and grit and protected from the rains we’ve been having here.
I have also been using their trail hat to keep the sun and heat from my head, which has been brilliant and so comfortable to wear. I would fully recommend both of these products for your outdoor protection and I will be using these on all of my projects, trips and expeditions abroad.
Fingers crossed for the next seven days as I start a new week with new clients. I will write another blog letting you know how we all get on at the end covering this next week, many thanks and goodbye from India.
In 2016 I will be heading back to the wonderful island of Madagascar. A truly amazing place and so diverse in the species of wildlife there.This trip is now live on my website and already a couple have places have gone. So if you’d like to join me on this amazing photo tour in August 2016 then see the following link for more information and trip details.
The 12 day trip is open to non-photographers also who simply have a love of wildlife. Also its open to people living outside of the UK as we can all meet in Tana the capital at the start of this amazing adventure. This image of a Black and White Ruffed Lemur was taken on my last trip there and its what in most parts the island is famous for, its many species of beautiful Lemurs found nowhere else on the planet. And below is a close up of the truly amazing Leaf Tailed Gecko also taken on my last trip there.
Any questions or queries about this trip then just email me, and I hope you can join me on this truly amazing photo tour to this stunning island, many thanks
I will be running one day “Rutting Deer“ workshops in the month of October to coincide with the Autumn Rut where you will have the chance to photography both Red and Fallow Deer going through their rut. The day will last from dawn until dusk and they can be taken on a one to one basis or up to a group of 4 where the price comes down. Most of the locations are in the central area of England.
The autumn colours and the Deer’s make for an amazing backdrop and one I look forward to each year. The day will consist of fieldcraft, use of natural light, and learning about your subject and what to watch and look for, camera help and advice getting the most from your day and equipment and so on. The dates are as follows –
October 4th- 25th, some of those dates have gone so if you’d like to no more information email me on the following link.
Two images from my trip to India this year, we came across this male Tiger almost straight away as our morning drive began at 6am. We followed him from a safe distance as he traveled through the forest using this dirt track, occasionally stopping to scent mark. As he was walking I saw his paws and feet and angled my camera down from the small jeep we were driving in and I caught one of his paws and a bit of dirt flying up.
For me one of my favorite images of this year’s trip. In death the Indian people kiss the Tigers feet before they are cremated if this is possible out of a great respect and love for the animal. Through this image I pay my own respects to these beautiful animals.
I have a few places still available for my 2015 trip to Ranthambhore, one of the best places in India to see wild Tigers. During your week there you will have 12 safaris, 2 clients per jeep where I rotate myself through the two jeeps each day. One safari in the morning and one later on in the afternoon. If you’d like to join me then see the following link for all the information, trip reports from my previous tours there with clients, many thanks.
First Week – Sunday 12th April 2015 – Sunday 19th April 2015.
Second Week – Monday 20th April 2015 – Monday 27th April 2015
It was Global Tiger day recently and several of my Bengal Tigers taken in India were used for 21 Century Tiger charity for their campaign. A charity I have donated images too and raised money through he sale of several limited prints since 2010. To see those images where 50% of the profits go directly to this charity that helps wild Tigers survive in the wild see the following link.
Really excited to announce a brand new photo tour for 2015. Lekking Black Grouse and Capercaillie where the males fight with other males over their territory and the right to have all the ladies. Then Wolves, Bears and Wolverines plus Golden Eagles and more if we have the time set against the snowy background of Finland, a few miles from the Russian border.
Those that follow my work will no what an amazing trip we all had to this special place in July of this year which you can see by clicking here. I will be returning to this amazing place in the first week of May 2015 so if you’d like to photograph this amazing event in natures calendar then see the following link
Lots of One to Ones booked in over the next several months and they kick off next week with two days. My Spring-Tide and Barn Owl one day workshops start this month where you can witness this amazing event in nature on the Norfolk coast, Then after lunch and a brew we head to one of several Barn Owls sites I visit and take clients to. If you’d like to see more information on these days and book then see the following link.
My Stunning Shetland photo tour dates are now up too and also for 2015. After the success of the last two years there with clients I’m running this again in June 2015. To see the trip and all the information see the following link.
I am running a whole week on Shetland where we will be concentrating purely on Otters. Fieldcraft, use of light, tracking, looking for clues and signs of Otters and much more on this week long trip. To see this trip click on the following link.
I have a few places for my 14 day photo tour to the Falkland’s in February 2015. We visit some of the best places there to see and photography the beautiful wildlife they chose to live on these spectacular islands for wildlife. See this link for all trip details and booking.
Finally I’m catching up with lots of one to ones and here are a few images from recent one to ones with clients. Thank you for your company and I hope you all enjoyed you days. To see what One to Ones I offer or to book please see the following link .
I look forward to meeting all new and old clients over the next several months, thank you to everyone who has booked and your company. If you have anything you want more advice on then please send me a message here, many thanks.
The term “no man’s land” can conjure up all sorts of meanings, from barren land, unclaimed land or more commonly known as the area between two opposing armies over which no control has been established. The very fact in some cases that these areas are so barren is the sole reason things are left to grow, nobody wants to either live there or have anything to do with that place. The very reason then, that not far from the Russian border Brown Bears, Wolves, Wolverines and other such predators should find a place to live and in most cases be free to roam and live as they please.
I have just spent a week with my clients in one such area, devoid of humans, the distant deep throaty calls of Ravens breaking the silence, interrupted with roars from Bears and Wolves all letting each other know they are still there and this is their patch. The stillness of such a place is beautiful, it reaches deep inside you and puts you in a place you rarely find yourself today. Free from humans and the ever glaze of urban living, with all its noise and disturbance.
As soon as our flight touched down, we were picked up and driven to our base camp, a former forest workers residence close to the border with Russia. Surrounded by the lake of Kuikka as well as by boreal forest. A few miles separating us from no mans land where one of the most charismatic mammals and one of the most misunderstood ones finds a little solace and is able to live out their lives without the one-side cruel and unfounded persecution against them, the Wolf.
After a quick stop off at the local supermarket we headed to our remote home, unpacked and had a quick bit to eat and refresh then headed straight to the hides. A routine we were going to get use to as its almost always light there 24 hours a day. I had five clients plus myself and we split ourselves up through the hides and then the routine is to wait, make no noise and observe the areas to your front while you’re sitting in well protected hides that have been there and been accepted by the wildlife for years.
That first night we saw Brown Bears and Wolves which was a wonderful start to the trip. The Wolves were a little far away but the male Brown Bear came quite close to our hide as he passed their the swamp area to our fronts.
Our pattern was to be the same as that first night throughout the week, staying all night until the following morning in the hides,where we would be picked up by our host and driven back for breakfast and then to rest throughout the day. This was to maximize everyone’s chances of seeing these elusive mammals. It was a hard pace but one so important to give everyone the very best chance of seeing these shy animals.
Almost from the off there were images to be taken, my belief has always been there’s always an image to be taken no matter what and while we waited for the main actors (so to speak) to turn up the warm up acts were just as beautiful. We took turns on look out as the others slept in the hide and rotated ourselves throughout the night once again giving everyone the best chance to see what they had come to see, mainly the Wolves.
The smell of the pine needles, the crisp air and pure silence was beautiful and something I can’t find the words to explain, I hope the following images go someway to showing you just how beautiful this place is. We saw Wolves most evenings and its hard to post all those images so I have chosen a few of my favourites.
Wolves are shy, yet so clever, seeing and witnessing their interactions with other animals and their own type taught me a lot. Incredible, beautiful, ong-legged, athletic body built for speed and movement over large areas and at the same time ruthless in their execution of prey. I witnessed caring and kindness too and a deep sense that they are “the boss” with a leave me alone attitude which I admired.
While waiting for the Wolves we carried on having some amazing sightings of Brown Bears as they both share the same habitat and land with each other; often coming into contact with one another over food and key territories.
The last but one night we all spilt up and I along with two of my clients headed to the Wolverine hide. This animal is very shy and there are only around 150 of them in the whole of Finland, five of which live in No Mans Land. The ones we saw hadn’t been seen for a while so it was on my mind as I got into place. Shortly at 10.30pm that night though that worry was crushed with the first of two Wolverines.
A truly beautiful animal and one I was so keen to see for the first time; as there are only around one-hunderd and fifty of these animals in the whole of Finland and just five in this whole area we were very lucky to see two at all let alone on one night. Strong, powerful and so unusual, Wolverines are just so unique and the encounter will live long in the memory.
In between going to the hides we rested as much as possible and then went back into the hides each evening at around 5.30pm. There was always lots of bear activity, the Wolves too and the whole place really delivered for all my clients in every aspect which was great for them and also for myself.
Lassi, our Finnish host has pioneered the putting out of food (bait) for Brown Bears, Wolves and Wolverines many years ago in order to photograph them, without bait it is impossible to observe these wild animals in Finland or in any other area where these animals are hunted and thus extremely shy.
His aim is to impart, through wildlife photography and observation, to get a general understanding of Finnish wildlife and of Wolves and Bears in particular. Moreover, it is a proven fact that the presence of wildlife tourism and wildlife photography in this area helps deter poachers from clandestine killing, while also bringing greater acceptance of wildlife among the local people.
The Bears, Wolves and Wolverines spend most of their time in Russia. The majority of the photo hides were located only a few hundred meters away from the Russian border. Decades of work has been put into this place by our Finnish host Lassi, and without this the images my clients and I got wouldn’t have been possible. Twinned with a bit of luck and long hours of waiting the balance of success is always unpredictable though because these are wild and truly shy animals.
My last night was the best for me, as I sit here and type I still can’t believe how lucky I have been and also my clients. Going last so to speak, I have all week had the hide left over because I give my clients first choice on where they want to go. This though has turned lucky for me because I have had some amazing sightings and moments. All my clients have had some great images and moments too.
The last night I witnessed two Alpha Wolves – the male and female working together against one bear in order to pinch the food. Working as a team works for the Wolves against these massive bears. Above you will see three wonderful bears we saw on the last night and also a sleeping Raven I really loved.
The following images happened so fast I had little time to compose and I got what I was given, luckily enough they tell the story. In some beautiful light there was a lone Brown Bear feeding on a animal carcass when suddenly he was almost “rushed” by two Wolves. His response was to chase one, the female drew him away from the food, moving really slowly, the bear coming really close, risking her own life in order for the Alpha male to go to the food behind him.
Once she was away she stood and watched as the bear returned and walked back to the food and there was a short stand off between bear and wolf. But to be fair to the Alpha male didn’t really back off and stood his ground showing his teeth. The bear returned to the food and the male wolf just watched, he then heard my camera and gave me a look to say ” did you catch all of that?”
Watching them work together, letting one feed as the other played decoy was amazing to see and what Wolves do best. So clever, so intelligent and beautiful in the process. I have tired to capture and show the sequences the best I can.
All my clients have had a great time, thank you all for your company. I’d personally like to thank Lassi and his son Sami for all their help, guidance and running a wonderful place in the middle of nowhere. Thank you too for caring for these misunderstood animals and giving them some hope that we as humans can understand them more before just shooting them. Once these animals roamed free all over Europe and even the UK, to think they are hanging onto life in small pockets now scattered over a massive area is really sad and something thats given me lots to think about and how cruel and vile humans are.
I hope you’ve enjoyed all the images, it’s been an amazing week and we have all been very lucky. I will be back here in May 2015 (2nd-9th) running a new trip for Capercaillie & Black Grouse lekking, White-tailed Eagles,Wolves and Bears and then in July for my Wolves, Bears and Wolverines trip. Photo above is of my group and Im so tired Im a sleep already.
My July trip has only three spaces left so if you’d like to join me see the trip on my website. I hope my images have shown you what a wonderful place this is, how nature is hanging on, what some are doing about it. Thank you to all my clients for your time and hard work throughout the work as its been long days and night with little time for anything else, many thanks.
After a week on my own on the Shetland Isles which can be seen on my blog post below called Solitude my photo tour kicked off with some amazing weather and sightings. After picking my clients up from the airport and ferry port of Lerwick we headed to Sumburgh Head, the most southernly tip of Shetland. We spent the day with the Puffins there and they are just stunning and so beautiful and comical to watch and spend time with.
All my clients got some wonderful images of these stunning seabirds which are so funny to be around and spend time with. It was then back to our cottage and settle in for the week. Each night we have a home cooked three course meal cooked for us made from local ingredients made by my friend Anne, the wife of a good friend Iain who loves on Shetland.
The next day it was a return to one of my favourite places , Hermeness, the most northernly point of the UK and a remote and wild place. Its home to thousands of nesting Gannets and other seabirds, including one of my favourite the Puffin. After the walk out there we spent most of the day there with stunning weather, then it was two ferries and home once again.
We had an amazing day at Hermeness and all my clients got some great moments and loved the place. Our routine each night was the same so it was back for our home cooked meal after a full day out. The next day we had a trip to Noss again where I chartered a boat with my friend and D-day veteran Geordie.
A year ago this month I met a wonderful man who touched me with his life greatly. Over the last 12 months his wife has become ill and is now house bound he told me on this day. He doesn’t run his boat trips much now because of his wife who he has been married too for over 60 years. It was a very touching moment to no he put his trip on for me once more and my clients, leaving his wife for the day to run this trip. I was moved very moved and couldn’t wait to see him and gave him a hug.
Twelve months ago he told me about his time in the second world war, he drove the gun boats onto the beaches at D-Day, leaving dying soldiers as he reversed off the beeches to pick more soldiers on as the push to calm the beeches had to go on. On the last day I presented him with some images of him, his craft and the seals he feeds and looks after. We had an amazing day and all my clients got some great images and were blown away with the trip and Geordie.
During the trip I got time to sit with him and we had a chat and he told me his framed image from last year of him at the helm of his boat is pride of place in his home and the others he has but his daughter had pinched one.He’s 90 on the 31 July and I couldn’t believe he still drives his boat. Very humbling, very emotional as this man for me stands for everything that is great in life and his wisdom and kindness is just beautiful. If I had a dad or grandfather he’d be the best I could have ever wished for.
He was too busy to go to the 70th Annervesary of D-Day because his wife is ill but he was interviewed for the papers giving his account of the war. he fought through all the war and survived. He sat down and told me more about that day, a day my mum was born so June the 6th for me is a special day already. Collecting floating bodies a week on after the landings and more really moved me, I never asked , he just trusted me enough to tell me and I was moved very moved.
We had a great chat and I was sorry to leave him I will be sending him a photo and card for his 90th birthday next month. What a man, what a person and a lesson to us all in humility, Humbleness, respect, kindness and much more. he’s touched me and I feel blessed to have met him.
All my clients got some great images from this trip to the small island of Noss, below are a few of my own favourite from this amazing trip.
The rest of the week we really concentrated on finding and seeing Otters as most clients had come to Shetland with a real wish to see this amazing mammal. I know of many places on Shetland for Otters but the tide times are key along with luck. We got some nice images, and had some amazing encounters. I show real fieldcraft and how to stalk, move and find Otters so all clients put these skills to use over their time with me.
While we were going around the Shetland isles there is so much other wildlife and the following few images are some of those moments I captured alone with my clients too, Otters,Arctic Terns, Red-Throated Diver, Fulmars.
Our last day on Shetland turned out to be the very best for my clients with a male Otter coming close and all clients finishing a wonderful week with the best moments. The following images are some of my favourites showing him coming ashore, eating his fish, then smelling his scat or poo and then remarking his territory before heading back out to sea.
Otters are one of the hardest mammals to get near, they mark their territory often and always at the highest point so the tides dont remove their scat or poo. Look for this, build a picture, learn, watch, look, smell, and sit and with a pinch of luck things will happen.
Its been an amazing two weeks for me on Shetland, my first week alone camping at various places and seeing some beautiful wildlife.
The second week really followed the same path as I showed my clients the amazing wildlife these islands have to offer. I showed them all fieldcraft, photography and many other skills they will be able to take home with them and use within their own photography.
I’d like to thank all my clients for their company over the last week and to my good friends Anne and Iain Sloane who have helped me with my trip also. The dates and information for my 2015 trip to Shetland are now up on my website. Click here to see all these details and to book, should you have any questions or queries don’t hesitate to contact me many thanks.