Bird song has always fascinated me and is something I love. Now is a great time to here some of the best calls; Blackbirds , Robins and Wrens.
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Bird song has always fascinated me and is something I love. Now is a great time to here some of the best calls; Blackbirds , Robins and Wrens.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been photographing a family of Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts. Both species arrive in April from Africa to raise their young here before the long joinery back to Africa.
Spring time for me is the best time of year. Wildlife is everywhere and bird song fills the air, even more so over the last several days, waking up to several inches of thick snow on the moors of the Peak District. I thought this maybe an April fools too far. During the last ten days or so I have enjoyed the very warm temperatures of spring whilst in Norfolk and other places around the UK running my one to ones and also my own project work.
Great Crested Grebes, Brown Hares, Barn owls and many more species all settling down, starting to pair up and begin a family at this wonderful time of year. I had a one to one in Norfolk and really enjoyed showing my client around. We captured some wonderful images of Barn Owls, Brown Hares and waders during the day and Ben wrote a lovely blog post with some great images which can be seen by clicking here
“You couldn’t make it up if you tried” first came to mind, as I had two one to ones booked in to photograph Red Grouse on the moors, the heavens opened and inches of snow fell. Some roads in and out of Buxton where closed so it was really touch and go on whether the days went ahead. I made contact with both clients as a blanket of thick snow in early April really is unheard of. Also very worrying for the wildlife sitting on eggs and trying to breed/mate while the weather was plunged into freezing, wintery conditions.
Both of my Red Grouse one to one clients where great sports and both days went ahead as planned. The first day was a little tougher due to the snow being at its highest from the previous day’s downfall. We had to walk in places knee deep in snow as we ascended in darkness to where the grouse live and play out their lives among the higher regions of the Peak District.
Walking through thick snow with heavy kit bags does get you warm. Full credit to Steve though who knuckled down and was rewarded for his efforts with some amazing encounters of both male and female Red Grouse, the words “you only get out what you put in” ringing around the place as we sat down and drank our cups of tea some 600 meters up above sea level.
I always tell clients that the best way to see and in turn take your photographs is just sit and watch, read and listen to nature, she will tell you what’s around and what is happening. Never force anything and never go with a shopping list of shots you wish to capture. Adopt this approach along with care and respect for your subject and you get some wonderful moments into a wild animals life. On both days both clients did just so and had some lovely encounters with this iconic moorland bird that is so at home within this sometimes unforgiving habitat.
Rival males posing to each other and fighting over their females, trying their luck. We even witnessed a grouse having a snow bath. Cleaning his feathers among the deep snow. Animal behaviour is amazing to see and capture and I showed some key techniques and fieldcraft which enabled both clients to read a little more into what was happening, in turn resulting in lovely moments where we came close to these birds on so many occasions, peering into their world through their eyes. This always has a deep and long lasting impact on me, making that contact with nature is priceless.
The weather on both days started well but became foggy on the second day but again the grouse came close and carried on with their lives around us which was magic and true, real wildlife photography for me. Blending in, using what’s around you and just watching and working the land. Thank you Steve,Nigel also Ben for your company over the last several days and I wish you well in your photography.
I’ve now had the Nikon D4 for just over a week and in that short time I’ve used the camera photographing my own work and also on one to ones, and I have to say the camera has performed very well. Having had the Nikon D3s now for two years, it was always going to be a hard act to follow. The improved ISO and added megapixels are nice, but what’s even better is the improved ergonomics, controls, speed, autofocus, metering, illuminated buttons, processing -EXPEED 3, and video capabilities with the full HD-SLR which are all improved from the D3S.
The overall shape of the camera has not changed much from the D3s, however, the controls and ergonomics are a bit different. The Nikon D4 now provides better control when the camera is used in the portrait orientation which is great if you shoot in this orientation a lot like me. The joystick and auto focus control is closer and easier to manage now when held vertically, with the D3s you had to really reach over with your thumb to get to the joystick. The Nikon D4 is about 5% lighter than the previous D3s and placed alongside each other this difference is clear to see.
Nikon has improved the auto focus system drastically. It can now operate in much lower light; this is a huge advantage, especially for wildlife and where I am depending on my auto focus system in low-light situations to capture what I’m witnessing. The D4’s auto focus has faster accuracy over the D3s from my first findings, performing brilliantly in poor or testing light. The image below of two Canada Geese taking off in the first rays off dawn light demonstrates this perfectly in very testing light conditions.
Clean, smooth and quick is how I’d best describe the auto focusing on the D4. The buffer is very big too compared to the D3S and starts to fill up while shooting in 14 bit Tiffs around 90-100 images when auto focus is engaged. But when using the new Sony XQD memory cards they fill back up very quickly and your able to carry on shooting. I have never been one to blast and hope for the best. I prefer to let a couple of shots go, recompose and see, always watching what the camera noise does to the subject, as I hate making the wildlife jump and scaring it into next week. The quiet mode as in the D3S has been retained on the D4 and seems more improved.
The D4 has two slots, one for the XQD card and one for the Compact Flash which is something I don’t like. For me they should have chosen two XQD cards as I believe this card from what you read is the future. Having two card readers is a pain, once your home you have to use two card readers to download your images which could have been averted by just picking one card for the camera only. Downloading is quick and I use Nikon software all the way- Nikon transfer, View NX then I do my processing in Nikon Capture NX2. All of which have a new version to accommodate the D4.
From my first images at higher ISO’s there does seem a more improved image from the D4, more so at the higher ranges. I don’t really push the ISO past 4000 alot of the time as I want to try and retain as much quality in the image as possible. But even at 4000 the performance of the D4 is better than the D3S at the same time there’s not a massive difference and I wouldn’t be selling my D3S as that camera has not missed a heart beat in over two years and has earned its brilliant reputation. The two images below from my Great Crested Grebes project were taken with my D3S clearly showing the quality of this camera.
The following images of Red Grouse were taken at high ISO’s, the sun’s light had started to warm the moors here, making conditions for auto focus tricky normally but here again the D4’s AF system locked on in tough and challenging light.
The D4 all round is a vast improvement on the D3S camera, it wont make you a better photographer though but what it will do is give you more options in various testing conditions that you may find yourself among while shooting wildlife. I am still learning about this brilliant camera as in just over a week does not do the camera justice. From what I have seen on the back of the camera and later on my large screen the improvements are good, very good. The auto focusing is one of its biggest pluses from the D3S and I cannot praise Nikon enough for the improvement they’ve done here. The video is good quality and I will be doing a separate blog post on that soon.
I am still learning about the D4 each time I take it out, but from these early stages all I can say is its “just brilliant”. The Internet will be a wash with reviews about this camera by more qualified people than myself all calming many different things. All I can say is make your own mind up like I have, the camera is a marked improvement on the D3S I know I have shot with the aforementioned camera for two years and still do. This post is not meant to be a whats right or wrong, its just about how this camera has worked for me on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife a place I live and breath.
Thank you to my clients over the last week or so who have seen me test out my new camera, really nice to meet you all. Steven from Ipswich sent me some lovely words below that can be seen on my testimonials page –
“Hi Craig I would just like to thank you for my two days one to one with you, it was fantastic on both days and I did really enjoy all of it. I love the way you had so much respect for the wildlife and how you put all this into your photography skills in which you was so kind to pass on to me. It has give me a better insight into the way I need to work , approach and take the final shot simply just by watching and listening to what was around me, like when you told me about the geese were going to take off before they even beat their wings, brilliant. Once again a big thanks and I would highly recommend anyone for your one to one it was agreat pleasure. Regards Steven”
Before I go I would like to thank Adam from my press agent for getting my Owl images out into the papers over the last week. Many months of hard work were put into these images, capturing moments I’ll never forget. Barn Owls flying towards me, Short-eared Owls flying feet away from where I was hidden, diving for food right in front of me, all just amazing moments. You can see the story and how much work and the lengths I went to here in the Daily Mail and also here in the Sun. I also made the Telegraph newspaper all the same week so again many thanks Adam as it’s always very nice when you see your work in print.
Also in April’s issue of Nikon’s N Photo magazine my Dartford Warbler image made their “In pictures :Inspirational Nikon photography from around the world” section. Click here to see the article and see one of my favourite photos of a male Dartford Warbler singing in the morning light, stunning birds.
Its an amazing time of year now with Spring well and truly awoken and the start of British Summer time at the weekend. Make sure you enjoy her beauty and capture it with your cameras, good luck.
The onset of spring cannot be denied now, with the warming temperatures, lighter evenings and the morning dawns becoming earlier. Spring is almost up on us, though there may be many false dawns before the days of frost and grey fog are behind us. Over the last week at many of the places I have visited alone and with clients there has been a real air of spring, with birds singing their hearts out, making the dawn corus truly deafening.
Spring is the best time for me, with nature coming into its own from months of dormant inactivity, where as each day passes changes are ever present, a truly beautiful time and one I encourage everyone to just sit somewhere and listen, watch as nature is unfolding.
Birds sing to attract a mate, showing off their pristine plumage where nothing is out of place or left to chance. Lighter morning and evenings add more opportunities for things to grow, bringing everything to life that lives. For me there is no better time to watch and photograph wildlife from wetlands, reed beds, lakes to rivers this time of year will provide marvelous wildlife watching opportunities where you will see different behaviors in wildlife not seen most of the year. The key time for me is when the clock goes back in a few weeks and we gain more light in the mornings and evenings, from this point on it only gets better in my eyes.
Spring is seen as a time of growth, renewal, of new life a wonderful time of year within nature’s calendar. The axis of the earth during Spring is increasing its tilt toward the sun and the length of daylight rapidly increases along with the temperatures the result being new life, growth and longer days.. Animals and birds begin breeding, building homes in readiness for their young.
Catching the season moving from winter into spring is a beautiful time of year. It’s a complete paradise to be among its beauty at this special time of year, witnessing the countryside awaken from its dormant winter state. The words spring and springtime bring thoughts of life, birth and regrowth to our countryside. A special time for wildlife, where all species are looking their best. The odd frosty night and cold morning thrown in to confuse and disorient the wildlife is always on the cards but one of the mildest winter s we’ve had is behind us all now I feel.
So make the most of this amazing time and get out into nature as much as you can over the next couple of months and you won’t be disappointed. Thank you to my clients who’ve attended my one to one wildlife photography days over the last couple of weeks. Where I have taken them to some of my favorite places around the UK witnessing the wildlife and also this wonderful change in the seasons, good luck to you all.
What a difference a few weeks makes and always be careful what you wish for. In my last blog I was only just saying how mild it was for this time of year and how wildlife has almost started making a home in readiness to rear their young. Cold temperatures and snow with freezing fog and frost all mixed in over the last several days, giving nature the worst kind of wake up call. You must never take anything for granted more so nature as this just may come back and bite you when you least expect it.
Grabbing my camera on one such day I captured a few images of the birds from my local park , looking for a different angle in which to capture the bird’s spirit.
Once the roads had cleared a little I did manage to visit the Peak District with Paul my client where we were hoping to see Red Grouse. The snow was also a wonderful bonus, as it had fallen covering the whole area in a beautiful blanket of snow. Thank you Paul for being a great sport in such testing conditions when walking up to where the grouse were.
I have just spent a couple of days in Norfolk photographing a much loved event in nature’s calendar, the Spring Tides. I’ve written so much about these days and had articles published showing my images. It was nice to be back and witness this event over the last couple of days having not been to Norfolk since November due to work commitments. Little did I know what was waiting for me in Norfolk, as I set off for this event from my Staffordshire home in the early hours of the morning, with the weather changing constantly as I passed through the different counties on route to Nelsons County, Norfolk.
You park up and get dressed ready for any event the weather may throw at you. Snettisham and the surrounding areas are open and very bleak where great care must be exercised in poor weather. Once in place depending on the tide times your normally greeted with a fanfare of calls, sometimes if your timings are spot on the sky can be awash with actively too as flocks seem to wiz by you, feet above your head, drowning you in a vast chorus of noise and calls as they whistle past. It’s a truly remarkable feeling and one you just never tire of witnessing in whatever weather or conditions.
A mixture of different light conditions and weather gave me a chance to play around with compositions and shutter speeds, giving a different effect and feel to my images. The slow shutter speed images are something I have always loved to do when photographing wildlife. I like to refer to this practise that I am so fond of within my work as capturing the animals but in slow motion. Freezing a moment in time, giving the image a sense of movement in the absence of any sound is what I hope to achieve by using this technique.
I mentioned their sound and if you could hear the noise generated by these birds during these spring tides it would mesmerize you, it’s so uplifting to hear. A bird adding a different key or note, I always like to try and listen then listen again to hear those individual bird calls because if you view the flock as a whole it’s hard to make out which birds are there and which aren’t.
This part of Norfolk is always bleak and remote offering you a great platform in which to view this amazing spectacle. Different days offer different images for me, where I am always trying to capture something different, learning from the past visits here. On the whole it was a good few days with many lovely images, once the peace returns and the tide begins to retreat the waders start their return back to the mudflats. When it gets to this point there’s always the queue to leave and I go back to my transport for a warm drink and often to dry off.
There are several areas in Norfolk I have regularly visited over the years to watch and hopefully photograph Barn Owls, and I was lucky enough during my recent time there to have seen two pairs at two of the four locations I know of. The others maybe there but the weather may have played a part in them staying in rather than venturing out. Again as previously mentioned I am always looking to push my own photography when I am alone and not with clients. Seeing something different and then trying to capture that idea with my camera.
This is one of the main parts of photography that always excites me, as my arty streak in me comes out and working alongside your cameras abilities you can often capture something different. With the few sightings I witnessed of the Barn Owls I tried different compositions, manual focusing, and extreme positioning of the subject in the corners of my viewfinder, creating lots of blank and open spaces to the front of the main subject.
Norfolk’s also a great place to for Brown Hares and I came across a few during my time there, wonderful mammals to spend time with and watch.
Many different images from the various different weather conditions that I’ve endured and as I write this blog there are still areas of the country where snow is around, but in the coming week the temperatures are set to rise so maybe nature has seen the last of winter now but I don’t want to speak to soon as before. On a serious note I do hope wildlife hasn’t suffered to much during the recent cold spell and fingers crossed spring is just around the corner.
Tigers around the world need help, they are crucially endangered, with their numbers in the wild at a dangerous level. Upon first seeing these animals in the wild it reddened me speechless because of their amazing beauty. They cannot just be left to die out with just a few remaining in zoos and parks. A world devoid of wild Tigers would be a very sad place indeed.
Through 3 limited edition prints I raise money to help these beautiful animals, where 50% of the profits from the sale of these images goes directly to 21st Century Tiger. They spend every penny on saving this most beautiful of animals we have roaming the earth at present. In several weeks I return to India once more hoping to share my passion for these animals with my clients booked onto my Tigers of India photo tour. Each one has a dream of seeing these animals and along with the brilliant guides I work with there I hope to show and help each person capture some wonderful images of this amazing animal.
I am donating one of my 2010 Year of the Tiger images as the first prize in a photography competition for another UK Tiger charity called TIGERS4EVER.org. It hopes to raise awareness of the plight of the Tiger in the wild. The print is only 1 of 100 ever printed and will be the first prize in this competition. Calumet UK are very kindly supporting Tigers4Ever’s 11-16 age category photographic competition also with a 1st prize of £100 Calumet gift vouchers.
If you are interested in entering and helping this charity where all monies raises through this competition goes towards helping Tigers then please click on this link http://www.tigers4ever.org/ many thanks and the best of luck.