Entries Tagged ‘Norfolk’:

Back in the Field

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Nov.29, 2012

I’ve just returned from one of my favorite places in the UK, Norfolk, having not been there for a few months due to being really busy with my photography. It was good to reacquaint myself with some of the best places to view this wonderful counties wildlife. I spent the time photographing my own work, working on ideas I have for projects etc. During my time there the weather became testing at times with heavy rainfall that seems to be the pattern for the whole of the UK at the moment.

I wanted to do something a little different to the in-flight images I have using this same technique with this image above. I managed to capture these Oystercatchers running just before taking off,  using a slow shutter speed derived from a low ISO and using an aperture of F5.6 giving me a shutter speed of around 1/30. I still cannot believe you can create something like this with a camera rather than a paint brush.

Whatever the weather and light conditions I truly believe and have always said that there’s always an image to be taken no matter where you are or what situation you find yourself it. This is the advice I always give to my clients, adopting this attitude and ‘can do’ approach will broaden your own ideas along with your creative style resulting in many interesting and different images from your encounters with nature. While at the same time learning new and exciting techniques within your own photography, which can cross over into many different formats of this discipline.

Animal behavior is something I love to capture within my work, and here I managed to capture these Black-tailed Godwits fighting over feeding grounds. You can learn so much from watching wildlife behaviour, and more so the subject you are photographing. Where it can make the difference to your photographs on a massive scale. Sometimes these simple behaviors are right under our noses alot of the time. Always stay tuned into where ever you are and never put the camera down is my best advice.

I had some good sightings during my time there despite tough and testing weather.  Using a mixture of fieldcraft and a touch of luck I had some nice encounters. Thousands of Pink, Greylag, Brent Geese have arrived in good numbers now, filling the skies at dawn and dusk. They were all over the place due to the strong, prevailing winds driving in from the coastline. A lot of them were flying above the clouds which made it hard to see but their calls could still be heard.

When I take clients out on my one to ones or workshops I  go through their cameras and settings, I also cover fieldcraft, wind direction and the use of natural light, enabling all clients to go home with more tools in their ‘own box’, in turn helping to improve in all aspects of wildlife photography. At the same time showing behaviors in wildlife and the subject in question, looking for impending action and movement, using what’s around you to hide and conceal your presence and much more during these action packed days.

There were good numbers of waders around, and almost everywhere I went the ground was water logged due to high volumes of rain fall,  lets hope all wildlife has’nt suffered to much from this wet spell we are having at present. As I said goodbye to Norfolk though, I was treated to a lovely sunset and I captured this lone Kestrel against the setting sun, and also a small group of Greylag Geese flying overhead. Its something of a running joke in that the moment you pack up for home either the subject turns up or the weather changes. This was one of those moments and all you can do is laugh as that’s wildlife photography for you.

It has also been nice to visit some of the areas within the Peak District with clients on one to ones to photograph Red Grouse, Mountain Hares and other iconic moorland wildlife that live in this area. The Red Grouse are a stunning bird and I never tire of showing clients this wonderful bird, so adapted and at home in this testing environment they choose to live in.  Again all my clients got some wonderful images and learned alot about fieldcraft, lighting and much more that I show on their day with me.

A big thank you to all my clients over the last few weeks, I run my workshops and one to ones all over the UK and abroad so if any of the workshops I have mentioned interest you have a look at what I offer on my workshops/photo tours page here.  Christmas is not far away now and the deadline for postage is approaching so if you’d like to order a signed print or canvas from my online store in time for Christmas then have a look here. I also sale alot of gift vouchers at this time of year as they make an amazing present for someone and can be exchanged for goods or services up to the value from my website.

I like to say a big thank you before I go to David and the students on the MSc Biological Photography & Imaging course, University of Nottingham. I was invited to do a talk just before I left for Norfolk about my work and what wildlife photography means to me and the way in which I work. I presented several slideshows and talked through the images with the class..

It was great to talk to the next general of photographers and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. If you would like to book me for a talk then please email me here, I go through lots of images and they are all presented in a way that takes you on a visual journey. While at the same time explaining everything about my photography and the images presented. I have been very lucky over the last twelve months to speak at some great venues. Speaking about my great passion for wildlife, so thank you too all those people that have invited me, many thanks.


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The Power Of Nature

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Feb.02, 2012

There is a real air of spring around at the moment among the UK countryside, with the odd spell of frost or even snow on the higher grounds, just to add to the confusion for nature. 2011 was one of the warmest years on record with lengthy periods of warm weather each month right up until the end of the year. In with the New Year and again those mild, warm temperatures seem to be still with us with little promise of the cold spells we’ve had in previous years.

On the ground nature is confused, the sudden warming temperatures for this time of year is playing a cruel game with nature, one minute warm the next an overnight frost. You can see and hear the birds singing to attract a mate, defending their territories with great cause. Dippers displaying and starting to gather nesting material, the countryside really feels like it should be much later than it really is due to the influence of the warmer weather.

Mother Nature is powerful though and animals and plants will overcome and survive.  I believe as nothings is as powerful as nature. While being among wildlife you get the impression that you’ve missed something or they have, what I mean is by watching the behaviours of the wildlife its seems that winter has been by-passed and were heading straight into the season of spring. I really hope that the cold spells of weather that nature has endured in 2010 and 2011 wont now come along and catch the wildlife out as that would be one of the cruelest lessons in which to learn from.  However, I fear that this could happen quite soon.

As each year passes and we hear that a warming record has been broken, or nearly broken again, it provides further evidence that unfortunately we are not just seeing a natural cycle of global warming, but instead humans are having an effect on the climate. I am not qualified on paper to start debating what is right or wrong I just know on the ground among wildlife things are changing and I do hope nature won’t be caught in between these warming temperatures and strange happening among the seasons.

Over the last three months though there has been one bird that seems to be doing really well within the warming temperatures and that is the beautiful Short-eared Owl that seems to have invaded many areas of the UK feeding on the bountiful supply of rodents. The internet is awash with brilliant images showing this often rarely seen owl outside of the breeding season. Recently I have spent back to back days there trying to capture different angles and images of these stunning owls.

Over that time the owls are late risers and rarely come out before the early afternoon but I go there at dawn and wait as you never know what may happen, as the site has other birds of prey. Fortune often rewards me and I was lucky enough to see a lone Shot-eared owl hunting in the morning light. I’d located an area in which these ground dwelling birds roost overnight and then just suddenly appear in the afternoon. I set my gear up overlooking this area, not to close to disturb them, placing my converter on my long lens as I waited.

Often the periods of waiting were greater than the time I’d see them but for me it’s just the enjoyment of being around wildlife.  That’s enough for me anything else is always a bonus. I often say I could sell all my camera equipment tomorrow and still be happy sitting and watching with my binoculars.

I have witnessed them diving for prey, perched in the morning light, and hunting in the pouring rain, which is very rare to see.  This is a costly exercise for owls as they don’t do well in rain. As I witnessed this it does pull on my heart strings as you just know that owl is hungry and gathering enough food to stay alive.  It was tough viewing this.

I also have had some lovely encounters with a pair of Barn Owls that have lived in this area for some time now. They appear when they want to and unlike some Barn Owls I photograph in Norfolk they are rarely seen in the day. They don’t have any routine here and this Barn Owl came out as the sun was setting and gave the whole area a lovely warming glow and feel, which is a welcome relief if you have been there since before dawn. You have to use fieldcraft skills and patience when photographing owls as they sometimes fly past you, and in this case straight at me.  Another amazing encounter as the sun was setting.  I am really lucky to see and witness this.

Their hearing is one of the best in the animal kingdom so great care when you start to shoot is needed otherwise they will bank off from where they hear that noise, in this case the camera shutter, so hold your nerve and wait and then press when you’re happy.  I’ve seen some wonderful behaviour in both the Short-eared owls and this pair of Barn Owls recently that I have tried to capture within these images.

After the success of my previous wildlife workshops with Calumet Photographic I have several others now lined up on their seminars page. Two dates for the amazing Spring/Summer Tides in Norfolk covering this event which has captivated me for many years and Sping Time on the Moors in the Peak District. For those that live in and around the capital, London, I will be doing a two day Beauty of Wildlife workshop at Calumets Drummond Street branch on April 14th and 15th. These workshops are open to all skill levels and backgrounds within wildlife photography.

The workshops are designed to give you the best opportunities to take the best images from your day in the field whatever nature throws up. To ensure that everyone’s needs are met the workshops are limited to 8 participants. You’ll be in good company, sharing your ideas, images and love of photography amongst the beauty of wildlife.

You’ll take your photography to the next level and in the process you’ll immerse yourself in your photography and I will be right there giving you a personal photography lesson. For more details click here to be taken to Calumets seminars page, then either click on the Drummond Street branch in London or the Manchester branch to see the full list of wildlife workshops that I am doing in conjunction Calumet Photographic.

Many thanks and I look forward to seeing you.


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Always Inspired

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Oct.28, 2011

Inspiration can come in many forms and from many different avenues I believe, personally I get inspired by many different things, most of which are visual, where words dont need to be spoken, let the image speak for you and inspire those to see the wonderful world of wildlife and the subjects it supports. Over the last two weeks I have been working on my own projects at the same time working with clients in improving their own photography while seeing and witnessing that inspiration, which for me is nature.  Watching nature and capturing her beauty is a wonderful thing where I am at total peace,surrounded by her beauty.

Over the weekend I visited London for the annual WildPhotos 2011, a selection of the best photographers go through their work, how they work and tips etc which I find very inspiring and during the 3 years I have visited this event it never fails to ignite yet more passion in me. This year I had a nice surprise as the editor of the BBC Wildlife magazine, Sophie Stafford used one of my images, kissing Puffins so show the audience what the magazine look for when it comes to images submitted and different looks etc.

The image captures two Puffins kissing each other and going through their bonding process with the onset of the breeding season ahead of them. Nice moment as I sat there and looked up at this Puffin image, remembering the moment I captured them like it was yesterday. BBC wildlife magazine chose my image “Kissing Puffin’s for a full page spread in their June issue.

Last week I visited several different areas around the UK to photograph the annual deer rut, this year with the added warm temperatures and the warmest October since records begin it seems to have never really reached its peak, instead just slowly building with action and deer still calling and claiming their females as I write this.

I witnessed fighting, gentle young Fallow Deer learning their skills from their mums within the different habitats I visited from open grasslands to dense woodland that offered the deer a safe place to hide, making the process of finding them just that bit harder.

I witnessed some beautiful moments along with the males fighting for control over their females. I’d got into place just before dawn at all the places I visited, some I got really lucky at others the deer failed to show. One morning I was feet away from two fallow Deer’s stags fighting, t he noise of that smashing in to each other could be heard from far and wide such was the brute force. Then on the other hand I saw a young Fallow Deer following her mum through the thick cover only to become separated and disoriented.

The image below captures that special moment , soon after she caught up with her mum and everything was fine again.

Nature is wonderful to be around and spend time alongside where I am always inspired everytime. The places I go and also run my trips and workshops too always come up with something different and I am constantly learning more and more about the subjects or the environments and animal behaviours.

After my trip to London on Saturday just gone I had almost back to back one to ones in the Peak District, on my Mountain Hares workshop and then mostly in Norfolk for Barn Owls and two Spring tide days with the predicted high tides. Living out of my bag and just having time to charge my cameras batteries along with my own has been the routine but I love every minute. Helping clients take better photographs and learning more about their own equipment is something I pride myself on during the time spent with clients.

Over the three days we had a mixture of weather, sunshine, rain but on the hold the weather was kind to all my clients which is something I always wish for. As the dawn broke each morning the thousands of geese would travel in from their overnight coastal roost site and head inland to feed during the day light hours, before heading back out just before dusk.  The skies where full of calls,shapes,formations over our heads and it was amazing to witness. The dawn light was just amazing, with the cloud formations creating a very beautiful feel to those mornings with their shapes and colours.

The light was just stunning as the sky filled with geese and also waders during these spring tide days. Norfolk is famous for its winter flocks of geese, wildfowl and waders who begin to gather here to make their home during our winter months, amazing spring tides with thousands of Waders being pushed up the beach as the tide works its way in covering the mud and sand flats, submerging the whole estuary.

Once the majority of these areas have been consumed by the sea the birds are forced into the ‘Pits’ which are behind the beach where the RSPB have built a number of hides from which you can watch this amazing spectacle. Where large flocks of Knot, Dunlin, and Oystercatchers come into roost escaping the tide, forming great masses of birds as they all move and sleep in a synchronized manner.

The birds almost fly as one, one minute dark the next flashing silvery-white as they all turn one way their dark backs are facing you, then their pale undersides, in a show of coordination that is second to none, all without a signal or mishap. I have never seen any two birds ever make contact in all the years I’ve witnessed this beautiful site.

The only time you see them make any form of contact is on the ground when they hustle together shoulder to shoulder. The return to the mudflats once the tide starts to retreat is a less coordinated affair, but the smaller flocks still reward you with some fine performances. It can be a really quiet place most of the time, with the Waders feeding on the mudflats some distance away on the estuary, but on these high tides the place is awoken with a bang, bursting to life, and for me the place never disappoints, with so much going on it truly is one of nature’s wonders.

Once the sea starts to retreat it exposes the vast mudflats and this is when all the waders return back to feed on the rich food sources of the mudflats that make up this area of Norfolk.

On the last morning though the weather wasn’t the best,with overcast conditions, I took a few hi-key images that morning, capturing a different feel within the images. I covered this technique on my blog under photography tips sometime ago now, click here to read it.

After our time on the beach we leave and head around the many places I know around this stretch of North Norfolk’s coastline.  From my first visit on the Sunday I had witnessed some amazing behaviour while watching some Black Tailed Godwits. From a hide we watched as different adults would be feeding one minute then the next warn each other off, or away from the food source they were feeding on. Most went their own ways and there was peace, but a few times that peace was shattered with some of the most violent behaviour I have seen in birds.

Each bird would try to drown the other, forcing their heads under the water, the bird that submitted would then escape as quickly as possible. It was difficult to witness as we all watched on the three days we were there, with each client being amazed at this action at the same time a little taken aback such was the level of aggression.

The following series of images will hopefully show you what happened during these hard to watch moments. Nature is so beautiful, but at times so cruel too, where only the strong survive, this was a perfect example.

Truly breathtaking behaviour to see and capture this was, the bird seen being moved off was unhurt be the ordeal of being drown so everything was ok in the end. On these spring tide or Norfolk days I run we always finish the days at one of the Barn owls sites I know there hoping to capture this most beautiful on birds at work, hunting.  The owls showed up for all my clients which was nice as the sun set and once in the morning light,showing just what a master they are at hunting and flying silently.

Know matter how many times I visit an area I never fail to be inspired but something I witness, there’s always a different take on what I may have already witness. Many different images to be taken because you just do not know whats around the corner when you photography wild animals, this has been and always will be my greatest enjoyment while observing nature.

A big thanks you to all my clients over the last week, thank you for your company and I wish you all the best within your own wildlife photography.


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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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Early Spring in Norfolk

Filed in Photography Tips, Workshops on Apr.24, 2011

Spring is my favourite time of year, an amazing array of colours, fresh life and wildlife, this season is truly amazing within the different season we have during the year.  Having just returned from my Early Spring in Norfolk photo tour which I run every spring and 3 days of one to ones added on, its been a busy week with a amazing weather.  Early Spring photo trip is a full 3 days exploring the beautiful countryside of Norfolk at the same time staying at one of the best Hotels serving stunning local food, the perfect base to come back to from a day in the field. I had a great group of clients and a real pleasure showing you around Norfolk, at the same time giving you real help to improve your photography, fieldcraft and general understanding of the subjects we encountered and photographed.

Catching the season moving from winter into spring is a beautiful time, the wildlife of the Norfolk coast comes alive.  It is a place that is blessed with a rich and varied wildlife heritage, famous for its wild north coast, the rivers, lakes and marshes of the Broads and the sandy heaths. There are also the fens, grasslands and ancient woods within the wider farmed countryside, all beautiful places where we encountered many photographic opportunities during this photo tour. My knowledge of the North Norfolk Coast helped the group in seeing some of the best places along this beautiful coastline ensuring that they all captured some lovely images.

These 2 x three day photo trips I run every year,one in Spring and the other one in Winter are designed to show you as much of the wildlife and their own habitats as i can during these two trips, whilst at the same time balancing that with the best opportunities to capture the wildlife here.  The weather throughout the week was as kind as it could possibly be, with morning light and evening light offering lovely photographs for the entire group. Every morning on the roof apex a lone male Blackbird would fill the air with what has to be for me the most beautiful call of the British countryside. Standing as proud as punch as we are packed for the days adventures below him.

On the first morning we visited the predicted Spring Tide which was forecast alone with the full moon. Upon arriving we are had some lovely mist and sun rise shots, where I pointed out different images, suggested different compositions etc, all in tern designed to make the group grow within their own photography.  At the same time showing them that the beauty of photography is what the person chooses to capture when they look through their own viewfinder, and never to be restricted to one or two shots, this is how I learned.  There were lots of Bar and Black tailed Godwits gathered and cleaning, and some sleeping with their deep summer plumage warming the slight chill in the air.  They are such a beautiful and striking bird at this time of year and a firm favourite with the group on the day.

We then headed to a great little gem of a site with Barn Owls, Hares and Marsh Harrier all living in close proximity to each other, a mixture of rough grazing, farmland and marshland.  This amazing little place really is a little sanctuary for wildlife.  There are a pair of Marsh harrier living and nesting there, some distance away and protected from the shoreline by a small pool of water.  We watched and saw some amazing behaviours between them both, flying in, dropping into their nest site.  For some it was the first time witnessing this beautiful bird.  Marsh Harriers are doing really well in the county of Norfolk with several nest sites littered along its coastline.

Each afternoon, taking us into the evening we’d settle at one of the groups favourite places and capture whatever would show.  Throughout the several days there the Barn Owl actively was really quiet, with little or no sightings at the several sites I know, plenty of white feathers, pellets and pooh markings though.  My conclusion was they maybe sitting on eggs.  During this time one bird sits on the eggs whilst the other sleeps so their combined actively is really small, only venturing out to feed so fingers crossed they are still around and not been disturbed at any of the sites.

At one of the sites while we waited for the Owls to show, there is a  good amount of Brown Hare, so we all voted as a group to try our luck at these while we waited for the main act to show.  When I go somewhere new I always have a look around , east and west for the respective light source, as light equals speed, speed equals sharp images.  I demonstrated to the group some tracking and fieldcraft skills that they can remember and maybe take home with themselves and apply in their own work, going through the behaviours I have learned on the said mentioned subjects.

Over the last few days we visited this site a few times and everyone came away with some great shots, where I demonstrated the different composition options and encouraged the group to push their own boundaries in regard to how they see an image. On one of the mornings the sun was coming up and the hares were chasing and playing almost underneath the suns rays, so some careful fieldcraft and slow approach got us into place for some nice and very different images I felt, capturing that beautiful and atmospheric morning we all encountered.

Lighting, mist,sun and subject all coming together on those rare moments when all photography key elements work together. I chose to compose small in the frame, a style I love and here I was able to show a little of the habitat and the rising sun which adds so much to an image.  The Hares were fun to watch, even chasing off a Pheasant that was among the field, during other visits we witnessed two Hares following each other, the male behind the female constantly sniffing the female waiting for her to come into heat so he can breed with her.  The poor fellow was really hanging onto this female with stiff competition from other males knocking around,such great behaviour to watch where you learn some much about the subject all benefiting your work.

This male Hare seemed to be top dog and had a few females in his harlream,the battle scars are clear to see with a half chewed ear reminding me of Bigwig from the film Watership Down.  The first film I saw at the pictures. I also had a lovely encounter with a Wheatear who seemed to check me out as I was lying on the ground.  Here I composed the bird in the morning light with the dew from the grass reflecting light making a lovely, soft appearance to this image.

Had some lovely feedback from clients and Andrew Hall wrote :

“I would like to say a massive thank you for the fantastic time I had on your spring waders workshop Your willingness to share your knowledge and techniques was extremely refreshing from the guarded nature of most other professional photographers. The technical tips you gave helped to improve my photography, however the highlight for me was the amount of fieldcraft knowledge that I was able to gain Our time spent crawling and lying around the field photographing the Hares was fantastic and incredibly rewarding when we walked away with the photographs we had in mind at the start Once again a huge thank you and I look forward to future workshops/trips that I hope to do with you soon! I will never hesitate in recommend you to anyone and everyone”

David Naylor who attended a day in Norfolk with me :

After recently purchasing a new camera and years of average bird snaps from my old camera I took the recommendation from a friend and booked a day out with Craig in Norfolk. I can honestly say that in the first hour with Craig, albeit at 5.30 am, in a damp field, I leaned more about how to take really excellent photos than I have in the last 10 years of reading books and magazines. Craig covered all the basics of the camera then moved on to composition, exposure and auto-focusing and gave me real confidence in both myself and the equipment. We spent the rest of the day consolidating the advice in a variety of lovely locations and I am truly grateful to Craig for his open and informative tuition. Nothing is kept back and Craig shows you exactly how he takes truly superb photos. I cannot recommend Craig highly enough if you want to learn how to take better photographs”.  

More testimonals can be viewed here

Thank you to all my guests on the Early Spring in Norfolk, great company, great food and great weather, many thanks also to the three clients who booked one to ones in Norfolk.  I wish you all well and very nice to meet and help you all in improving your photography, at the same time learning more about the countryside amd fieldcraft.  I have a few days off now until my next photo tour to Texel.  My Texel trip starts on Thursday evening, co-hosted by my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel from Holland.  

This beautiful island of Texel is full of birdlife at this time of year and if lasts years trip is anything to go by then the whole group is in for a real treat, its home to one of the most stunning and beautiful waders, the Black Tailed Godwit which was photographed from last years trip. I will update my blog on my return before heading to India to photography the amazing Bengal Tiger with clients booked onto my Tigers of India trip.

Best Wishes and Happy Easter.

 




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Barn Owls

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Mar.12, 2011

When the sun shines everything around awakens and comes to life, warming the slight chilled March air, you can hear the countryside come to life.  Over the many years I have visited Norfolk whether it be alone or with clients on one to ones or workshops, the wildlife never disappoints.  It’s a place I feel at home in, a place that never truly gives up its secrets straight away, almost teasing you with the ever present sightings of different birds gracing this amazing place with their presence throughout the year.

Each month I meet clients on one to ones/workshops, during the Spring Tide days, helping them with their photography, giving real and helpful advice and at the same time showing how to approach and use what you have around you in order to get close to and photograph wild animals in their environment, at the same time watching for any behaviour you may be lucky enough to witness. In between these visits I work on my own projects, mainly focusing on the bird that got my love and interest going as a child with the YOC- Young Ornithologists’ Club, the Barn Owl or ‘Ghost’ as I call this amazing bird.

This nickname relates to when I wait and watch for these Owls to show up.  You wait and wait for a passing glimpse and a view into this bird’s life entrenched with mystery, then from no where and without warning the Barn Owls turns up in perfect silence, gliding, riding the winds currents, traveling effortlessly. Eyes glued to the ground beneath, on the lookout for small rodents that they feed on. They divide the field or area and hunt or quarter which refers to this practice these owls do so well on the lookout for movement, in turn prey.

They are amazing birds and one of my favourite British birds, watching them fly and hunt for a few minutes and then to make eye contact with you is a priceless moment to treasure.  When you see them in the wild you  witness their very distinctive appearance with a white heart-shaped face with no ear tufts and sharp black eyes all contributing to its striking appearance. Those large black eyes only let the Barn Owl look forward in a fixed position and cannot move to the side, so consequently the Barn Owl has to turn its head to see to the side or back. Their hearing is amazing and the ability to locate prey by sound alone is one of the best in the animal kingdom.

Barn Owl’s feathers make them perfectly adapted for silent flight, but this makes them prone to water logging so they are not well suited to hunting in wet weather. The key to an owl’s silent flight is in its feathers, the next time you find an owl feather, turn it on its side and look at the edge — the line of fibers is scalloped, like a stretched seam. The slight alteration in shape allows the feather to cut the air without making sound, making them perfectly aerodynamic.

I’ve been hoping that the ones I watch and photograph in Norfolk survived the recent two very harsh cold snaps we’ve had, which has really impacted hard on the numbers of these birds around the UK, where Norfolk has always been a stronghold for these birds.  The pair that hunt over farmland and marshland have done well so far and are looking their best with the breeding season just around the corner but I have been lucky enough to find another couple of places that have Barn Owls.

So this year I am hoping to document the different birds that live in different environments capturing my trademark images showing them within their natural habitat of rough grazing, marshland and Norfolk reeds.  With the onset of summer around the corner and longer days, the prospect of working with Barn Owls fills me with such joy.

Within my work, habitat, small in the frame and behaviour, form my foundation where I only photograph wild animals, letting people see how and where a certain subject lives and how it conducts its life, so with these images I wanted to show where they live in Norfolk. One site I have known of for many years has a mixture of rough grazing and reeds with small streams and dikes splitting the place into many little areas, perfect for small rodents and perfect for Barn Owls.  I photographed using high iso’s to give me enough speed to freeze the bird in flight, at the same time balancing that with the poor light.  I love small in the frame images, where there is a real innocence about the image, adding a sense of truth to the image and in turn learning people more about the subject.

My work on Barn Owls will last forever, capturing images for as long as I live.  They have such beauty and grace in my eyes, a bird that takes me right back and brings a massive smile across my face, visualizing the great joy that these birds have brought to my life over 3 decades. I hope to bring you more images of this iconic bird over the coming months and even years to come.

My Springtide & Waders Workshops are fully booked until July onwards.  My Barn Owl/Raptors One to Ones days can be booked at a time at your convenience now with the weather getting better and the longer days, these days last from dawn until dusk and include a homemade packed lunch made by my wife.  I will show you several different sites, go through key fieldcraft skills on how to approach and photograph these birds without disturbing them, as they are protected by law, so great care must always be given to these birds.

I give camera advice, settings, composition and exposing advice for these birds, show you the best flight settings, basically, everything I use myself.  Thanks to Nigel for traveling up from Ashford in Kent to Norfolk for a One to One yesterday for Barn Owls.  I look forward to seeing your images.

If you would like any advice on anything I have mentioned or touched on here in this blog post then please drop me a line here, alternatively please go to my One To One page.  For more than one person there is a discounted rate and I often get couples and friends all attending together.  To enquire about free dates please email me, many thanks.


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Norfolk in Monochrome

Filed in Photography Tips, Places Of Interest, Workshops on Feb.22, 2011

I have spent the weekend in the sleepy, tucked away county of Norfolk, one of my favourite places within the UK.  A bounty of diverse birds and wildlife which enrich this area throughout the year, making this a mecca for wildlife loving people.  I had clients with me during these two days on One To Ones covering the Spring Tides, Barn Owls and the many other species of wildlife that live along the North Norfolk coast, dominated by the Wash a large area of salt marsh which has one of the greatest concentrations of bird life within the UK, internationally important for many breeding birds and over-wintering wildfowl.

During the two days the weather became testing at times where the the sun stayed hidden behind a wall of cloud for the best part of the two days, just giving us enough light to capture some of the wildlife through photography.  With an almost colourless appearance to most of the images from both days I have chosen to present them in a black and white manner or Monochrome as the term is better known, where you have to look further and deeper into an image to see what is captured within its frame.

Devoid of colour the human eye is forced to look right into the image, spending more time in the absence of colour which can often let you know which species is displayed.  I have always loved black and white images, glimpses of a bygone era where you wonder in the absence of today’s technology how on earth they managed to capture such wonderful images.

Photography is the art of taking or making photographs, it is the creation of images by exposing film or a computer chip to light inside a camera.  The word photography comes from Greek words meaning to write or draw with light.  So by presenting these images in a black and white format from a well visited place I visit, it gives a different account of the images I capture during my many visits there during the year.  Simple composition and strong elements are key to all photography, more so with black and white, where some images you take and review on the back of the camera will lend themselves very well to this monochrome format.

Black and White Photographs are among one of my favourite styles, both to look at and to create.  Shooting for black & white is challenging, you immediately eliminate one of your building blocks of design;  Colour.  That’s one less tool that you have to compose with.  Personally I am drawn to the beauty that is created by black and white and always have been.  It makes the viewer focus on the strong compositions, textures and shapes as opposed to symbols, colours.  Contrast in photographic composition is an effective means of directing the viewer’s attention to the centre of the interest.  The positioning of the subjects elements to create contrast gives them added emphasis and directs the viewer’s attention all brought about in the absence of colour.

A photograph of wildlife on an overcast day can result in a dull photograph, but taking that same scene in black and white will help the viewer to see the contrasts and graphics of that image. Focusing on the emotions of the subject.

I have always said that there is always an image to be had from the moment I picked up a camera , if the main subject does not turn up then never put the camera down.  This is the advice I always give to clients.  Adopting this attitude and ‘can do’ approach will broaden your own ideas along with your creative style resulting in many interesting and different images from your encounters with nature, while at the same time learning new and exciting techniques within your  own photography, which can cross over into many different formats of this discipline.

Animal behaviour is something I love to capture within my work.  However simple you can learn so much from wildlife in general and more so the subject you are photographing.  This is another ‘learn’ I like to show all my clients and it can make the difference to your photographs on a massive scale.  During one of the days at Norfolk we were at one of the sites I know, where the incoming tides flood the gullies and inlets which provide great feeding for many different birds.  The Turnstones were busy turning stones, foraging for food, doing all the leg work for often little reward in terms of food.

Black-headed Gulls watched them, perfectly still, not really attracting any attention, then in the next breath bully their way in after the Turnstones had found a food item.  These couple of images show one Gull alone, watching a Turnstone feed, break open the mussel shell, for him to come in and steal the prize.  I chose to focus on the Gull with the second image clearly showing him watching this poor Turnstone work on this food source he’d found, clearly showing the Gulls intentions.

How wonderful nature is in every form and these simple behaviours are right under our noses alot of the time.  Always stay tuned in to where ever you are and never put the camera down.  This is the very best advice I can give.  My clients over the weekend hopefully went away with this and much more from the One To Ones– Spring Tides, Waders, Barn Owls days I run almost three times a month now throughout the year.

I show clients keys sights, go through their cameras and settings, I also cover fieldcraft, wind direction and the use of natural light, enabling all clients to go home with more tools in their ‘own box’, in turn helping to improve in all aspects of wildlife photography, at the same time showing behaviours in wildlife and the subject  in question, looking for impending action and movement, using whats around you to hide and conceal your presence and much more during these action packed days.

If there is anything I have touched on here that interests you or you want any further information on workshops etc then please send me an email here .  Thank you to Karl and Ingrid on Saturday and Jonathan on the Sunday for your company and I wish you all well in your photography.


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