As the year draws to an end now and my favourite time of year is just around the corner; Christmas, I would just like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Many thanks to all the wonderful people I have met this year on my workshops and trips and I do really hope I have helped you all, inspired you all in seeing the wonderful and amazing world of wildlife around us at the same time getting the very best from your kit to use on the ground in the simplest of ways. I look forward to welcoming all my clients booked on my many trips for next year and one to ones.
With all my Christmas shopping done early this year I spent the least amount of time within the urban jungle I live in, fighting my way through this habitat in which I am least equipped for, I just have the last dash before Christmas to get the cream for my trifle, which I do each year, a family recipe from my late mum which I still make each Christmas as a form of comfort in more ways than one.
Having done this all early this has allowed me more time to carry on my work with the amazing and graceful Short eared Owls on the north west coast of the UK. Having spent many days and hours at these owl sites I have got use to alot of their patterns, their larders in which they store their catch while the going is good. They are beautiful birds and often I have this place to myself as I watch for the slightest movement on the ground. They are normally late risers and their liking for a lie in sometimes catches you off guard and one minute nothing.
Then once you make a cup of tea or do something else and look up there before you is the flapping of their wings and the faint call or hiss as they awaken and start gliding through the air with those large wings, a mixture of beats and flaps followed by a graceful soar then this routine is repeated as they hunt. I am always greatly touched upon seeing wildlife go about their lives around me and this spurs me on to hide away more, not wanting to break that trust you build up over time.
These images I have been processing took me back to my recent time spent with these owls, where I relived every moment as I was processing each special moment captured. Some I shot into the natural light, some I under-exposed and over-exposed creating a hi key effect which I love. I also used the blurring effect to create movement with some, this gives the image a sense of movement and when shot in portrait composition it gives a dramatic effect which brings my creative side to the surface. You pick up the subject as early as possible then with your camera and lens firmly attached to your tripod follow or pan keeping your focus on the subject the best you can.
Hidden away having watched these owls now for some time I got alot of information about their ways and patterns and I chose to hide away, low to the ground hidden and camouflaged with the wind in my face to take any noise away from the approaching owl, no fast movements, nothing that would make these owls jump or be scared in his pursuit of food.
I saw him coming towards me so here I waited, waited and then once he was so close he almost filled my viewfinder and I pressed my shutter capturing several amazing close ups, this is one I love with the sense of movement captured in the wings by the slow shutter speed while I nailed the focus on his face, giving that sense of impending movement to the image. Every moment I spend with nature is special to me and everyday my life is enriched with its beauty and time spent with these owls of late was no exception, a wonderful, close, special moment with this owl as he went about his business and I watched and marvelled at his skills in hunting and catching prey, his flight patterns, his calls, his ability to fly and turn without warning, just amazing!
For me wildlife photography is about using your skills and knowledge of wildlife together in the pursuit of capturing an image from the wild where nothing has been changed by man. As a professional I think I have a duty of care to not only the subject but also to the general public to show an image as seen on the ground. This approach is the whole foundation to my work. In an age when there are lovely images everywhere you look I think images should be judged today on the amount of effort and knowledge and fieldcraft used in order to capture an image as personally I don’t like anything that is to contrived or set up where the animal is made to do something in order to get an image almost like a master and servant, where if you do something you get a prize for that, it has to be unplanned, unscripted and true for me.
My passion for wildlife goes alot deeper than just an image, I watch, study, listen and spend time in watching their behaviour, trying to work with the animals and sometimes when I get an image I feel I have cheated the subject by using my skills in capturing that given image by laying in weight having studied them I hope that makes sense. When I watch an animal I have that connection and I shoot with my heart and eye and I build that trust and care for the subject and when I have taken the image and captured that priceless moment I worry if I have betrayed that trust built up through patience, fieldcraft and care.
I care about every image I take and what I do, I love wildlife and nature means the world to me, it has helped me in life and instilled a great peace from an early age, nature helps in many ways, its beauty brings joy in so many ways and its presence in people lives helps them to live and breathe and at this special time of year it’s even more important I feel to embrace what we have around us all. A few of my favorite images from the last twelve months are in the following slideshow, showing the true beauty of wildlife.
One of my Barn Owl images graces January’s issue of the much respected BBC Wildlife magazine which is on sale now, its always lovely to see your work in print. I spent two months watching and photographing this male Barn Owl during one of the countries coldest spells of weather for decades. At times it was hard to watch as he was hunting in all weathers and times of the day in a desperate attempt to feed in order to survive, how cruel nature can be to its own sometimes. he did survive though and all ending well for this fellow. Thank you to Wanda for requesting the image and Sophie Stafford, the editor, for having this image in your magazine.
And just before I go I wanted to just update you all as I go live in the new year as PhotoTraining4U’s Wildlife Master. I will be doing a series of short films following me through some of my work in the field, tips and advice when working with animals in the wild and much more. You will see how I work, get a chance to ask questions relating to my work or questions, advice and help in regard to your own work. If you wish to join then quote the following affiliate code: 7816 when joining. Click on the small icon above and this will take you to this site which is an online site for all your photography needs.
It just leaves me to say I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and new year and I wish you all the best for 2012, many thanks.