Im writing to you from the Shetland Islands, a breathtaking place full of beauty,wildlife and an amazing coastline. Im here spending several days doing my own work before my clients turn up on my “Stunning Shetland” trip for the week. When I can I want to post some images and the experiences I and my clients have during our time on these islands.
After an overnight ferry from Aberdeen to lerwick the capital of the Shetland Islands I arrived and met up with my good friend Iain who lives and has lived on the island with his wife, Anne now for many years.I quickly got settled, had a nice cuppa before planning the days ahead.
Those hoping to see images of people dancing in a provocative way from my title then Im sorry to disappoint you in that sense. But I have something much more beautiful; the dance of the Black Grouse during their Lek from their breeding grounds in Finland that is both beautiful but at times can be violent.
I’ve just returned from several days in the truly inspiring Cairngorm national park in Scotland. A vast area of mountains that covers an area of 4,528 km (1,748 sq mi). The Cairngorm Mountains are a spectacular landscape with snow capped peaks and breathtaking scenery
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
Happy New Year to all my followers and clients past and present, 2014 is now gone and we begin a new year. This year at Christmas I wanted to do something for my local community so with two good friends we managed to raised just over £1800 pounds to give local children something to open on the big day. I sold off 4 limited edition Tiger prints, someone donated a signed football shirt and locals donated what they could to our online donating page.
In the end we managed to buy lots of toys for this local charity that cares for women and children that purely replies on donations. The Arch charity have four refuges for women and children who have experienced, or are at risk of, domestic abuse. They offer accommodation and a place of safety where customers can rebuild their lives before moving on to independence.
Once we had brought everything the next day we dropped everything off and it was a humbling and moving day in many ways, tinted with sadness these places are full to the brim with children hurt and abused along with their mums. When you see people trying to help it restores your faith in mankind. A big thank you to everyone who donated and helped, the toys were divided up between the many safe places this charity runs and all the children had lots to open on Christmas day which was our aim.
After such a moving few days and eating lots over the Christmas period it was back to what I love, being among nature with my camera, working on forthcoming projects that I hope to really spend alot of time on this year. Here are a few of my favorites before the colder weather closed in and the snow came down
So with a weather warning in place, roads closed and quite alot of snow fall on the higher grounds I set off for the Peak District. Extreme weather tests you and your resolve, the wildlife still comes out to feed and carry on their daily life. With a blanket of fresh snow and no tracks walking up to 600m in the dark with a small head torch can be quite strange as everything is covered and you can get very disoriented.Using a compass bearing on your small map and stopping every 100m to get a new bearing you can’t really go wrong when everything around you looks the same and its pitch black.
Once up at the top, I sat down in a small ditch and listened and watched the best I could. You suddenly hear calls, rustling and so forth and in the absence of clear vision your other senses work overtime to compensate you can build up a picture of what’s happening around you and who is around you.
Soon the Red Grouse were calling, seeing each other off with calls all varying in their loudness and pitch. I often feel as though I’m intruding into their world as they wake around me, unaware I’m hiding in the snow. The key to wildlife photography for me is fieldcraft, something I have said, used and applied from the very first image I took years back.
Every living animal knows your there so no matter what you dress as or look like they will have seen you and heard you well before you ever see them. Its how you as the person deals with that level of distribution that’s key and the foundation to your own fieldcraft. Red Grouse are mainly low to the ground, often out of sight, they do two things when they first see you – Fly off, exploding out of the heather and making you jump as you never saw them, or second they see you, put their heads above the heather and call, the sound, pitch and notes they call will depict how concerned they are about your presence.
Go to ground, make yourself small, offer no threat and their calls will slowly start to slow down, fading into a small chuckle and their heads go back down level with the heather as they start feeding once more. The key then is how you get up, get your gear ready and transverse the landscape between you and them without impacting on them and that takes time and skills you can only really learn on the ground yourself.
Those of you that have been with me to the Peak District will know what I mean and I have shown you on the ground how to move and work with these Red grouse and often with a bit of luck you can get really lucky once you apply those fieldcraft skills.
Fieldcraft is a word rarely used today in wildlife photography, many wildlife photographers have never used it now embrace it and talk as though they know it well and it’s their skill. For me it’s the most important element to your wildlife photography and from day one it’s the word I have always used and gone on about. I have written many articles and run many workshops and one to ones covering this topic from the very first day of turning professional.
Fieldcraft can be different from one animal to another. Real fieldcraft is where you arrive somewhere and through your own skills and ethics work out what’s around you, you find tracks, prints, poo and wait and watch and it’s something I have done most of my life. You cant buy this skill, you cant just turn up and the wildlife will be there you can learn it though in its simplest form and then apply it to your photography.
The rewards are massive in the end as you see the animal in its true form and see and witness things you never would see normally. Learning a great deal more about the subject which benefits you and the animal as you can see and watch you subject and learn from them. Fieldcraft and ethics go together for me and its good more and more people are becoming aware of this now and talking about it.
Workshop news and I have a few places for my Wolves trip in July, a few miles from the Russia border. The trip details are here if you’d like to join me. A real highlight for me in 2014 was seeing and spending time watching this family of Wolves, they are so beautiful and intelligent its beyond words. The following slideshow covers my 2014 trip there and a bit of what my clients and I saw.
To see all the other trips, One to Ones and photo tours I run then please click here.
A massive thanks once more to everyone that donated to our toys appeal, thank you to everyone I met in 2014 and for your business and I look forward to meeting new and old clients in 2015. The last twelve months have been really busy for me and this year will be the same, with lots of trips planned alongside my own projects closer to home that I look forward to posting here on my blog. All the very best to you all and thanks again.