Entries Tagged ‘Otters’:

Stunning Shetland Trip 2014

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Jun.27, 2014

After a week on my own on the Shetland Isles which can be seen on my blog post below called Solitude my photo tour kicked off with some amazing weather and sightings. After picking my clients up from the airport and ferry port of Lerwick we headed to Sumburgh Head, the most southernly tip of Shetland. We spent the day with the Puffins there and they are just stunning and so beautiful and comical to watch and spend time with.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

All my clients got some wonderful images of these stunning seabirds which are so funny to be around and spend time with. It was then back to our cottage and settle in for the week. Each night we have a home cooked three course meal cooked for us made from local ingredients made by my friend Anne, the wife of a good friend Iain who loves on Shetland.

The next day it was a return to one of my favourite places , Hermeness, the most northernly point of the UK and a remote and wild place. Its home to thousands of nesting Gannets and other seabirds, including one of my favourite the Puffin.  After the walk out there we spent most of the day there with stunning weather, then it was two ferries and home once again.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photgraphy

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Phoptography

We had an amazing day at Hermeness and all my clients got some great moments and loved the place. Our routine each night was the same so it was back for our home cooked meal after a full day out. The next day we had a trip to Noss again where I chartered a boat with my friend and D-day veteran Geordie.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

A year ago this month I met a wonderful man who touched me with his life greatly. Over the last 12 months his wife has become ill and is now house bound he told me on this day. He doesn’t run his boat trips much now because of his wife who he has been married too for over 60 years. It was a very touching moment to no he put his trip on for me once more and my clients, leaving his wife for the day to run this trip. I was moved very moved and couldn’t wait to see him and gave him a hug.

Twelve months ago he told me about his time in the second world war, he drove the gun boats onto the beaches at D-Day, leaving dying soldiers as he reversed off the beeches to pick more soldiers on as the push to calm the beeches had to go on. On the last day I presented him with some images of him, his craft and the seals he feeds and looks after. We had an amazing day and all my clients got some great images and were blown away with the trip and Geordie.

During the trip I got time to sit with him and we had a chat and he told me his framed image from last year of him at the helm of his boat is pride of place in his home and the others he has but his daughter had pinched one.He’s 90 on the 31 July and I couldn’t believe he still drives his boat. Very humbling, very emotional as this man for me stands for everything that is great in life and his wisdom and kindness is just beautiful. If I had a dad or grandfather he’d be the best I could have ever wished for.

He was too busy to go to the 70th Annervesary of D-Day because his wife is ill but he was interviewed for the papers giving his account of the war. he fought through all the war and survived. He sat down and told me more about that day, a day my mum was born so June the 6th for me is a special day already. Collecting floating bodies a week on after the landings and more really moved me, I never asked , he just trusted me enough to tell me and I was moved very moved.

We had a great chat and I was sorry to leave him I will be sending him a photo and card for his 90th birthday next month. What a man, what a person and a lesson to us all in humility, Humbleness, respect, kindness and much more. he’s touched me and I feel blessed to have met him.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

All my clients got some great images from this trip to the small island of Noss, below are a few of my own favourite from this amazing trip.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

The rest of the week we really concentrated on finding and seeing Otters as most clients had come to Shetland with a real wish to see this amazing mammal. I know of many places on Shetland for Otters but the tide times are key along with luck. We got some nice images, and had some amazing encounters. I show real fieldcraft and how to stalk, move and find Otters so all clients put these skills to use over their time with me.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

While we were going around the Shetland isles there is so much other wildlife and the following few images are some of those moments I captured alone with my clients too, Otters,Arctic Terns, Red-Throated Diver, Fulmars.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Our last day on Shetland turned out to be the very best for my clients with a male Otter coming close and all clients finishing a wonderful week with the best moments. The following images are some of my favourites showing him coming ashore, eating his fish, then smelling his scat or poo and then remarking his territory before heading back out to sea.

Otters are one of the hardest mammals to get near, they mark their territory often and always at the highest point so the tides dont remove their scat or poo. Look for this, build a picture, learn, watch, look, smell, and sit and with a pinch of luck things will happen.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photogfraphy

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Its been an amazing two weeks for me on Shetland, my first week alone camping at various places and seeing some beautiful wildlife.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

The second week really followed the same path as I showed my clients the amazing wildlife these islands have to offer. I showed them all fieldcraft, photography and many other skills they will be able to take home with them and use within their own photography.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

I’d like to thank all my clients for their company over the last week and to my good friends Anne and Iain Sloane who have helped me with my trip also. The dates and information for my 2015 trip to Shetland are now up on my website. Click here to see all these details and to book, should you have any questions or queries don’t hesitate to contact me many thanks.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography


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Photo Tour Spaces-2014

Filed in Workshops on Jan.10, 2014

I have a few spaces left on the following photo tours for 2014 if you’d like to join me. I will be visiting the Shetland isles twice this year once in June and then in September where we will be just concentrate on Otters. In between this I will be once more visiting the magical island of Madagascar.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

My Stunning Shetland Tour is timed to coincide with the height of summer where daylight lasts for almost 24hrs.  Seabird colonies will be frantically feeding their young, waders filling the air with their calls and Otters going about their lives all around us. Working with my friend and expert on the ground in Shetland this tour provides a unique opportunity to see and photograph the best of Shetland’s spectacular nature. After the success of last year’s tour I have a couple of spaces free. To see more information about this tour please click here.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

In August I venture back to the amazing island of Madagascar. My last trip there with clients was amazing and this year see’s me running another trip there. I have a few spaces once more for this brilliant trip. On our 11 day photo trip you will see the best this unique island has to offer, amazing wildlife, superb beaches and great accommodation. Madagascar is host to a wide variety of species of lemur – these amazing creatures are found nowhere else in the world and new species are regularly discovered. The different species of lemur are spread throughout a variety of parks and reserves on the island. To see more about this amazing trip and book then click here.

https://www.craigjoneswildlifephotography.co.uk/workshops/madagascar-photography-holiday.php

Madagascar

Boophus Tree Frog

Then I return back to the Shetland Isles to dedicate a whole week working with Otters. This 8 day photo tour among the beautiful landscape of the Shetland Isles will solely concentrate on finding Wild Otters and using fieldcraft taught my myself you will be able to have some amazing moments with these beautiful mammals. We will find various places where Otters are known to live and with a slow and steady pace we will be able to spend as much time at each place we visit during the week. I have a few places available so if you’d like to see more information on this trip then click here.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

I have just added for 2015 my photo tour to the Falkland Islands again I have spaces so if you’d like to join me for this amazing trip then click here. My last trip there with clients was just amazing and to read the blog on that trip then click here.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

My other trips are full and I will be releasing my 2015 dates for me Tigers of India trip soon and also my Wolves, Bears and Wolvrides trip in 2015. I hope you can join me and I look forward to meeting all my clients on my trips and workshops over the next 12 months, many thanks.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography


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Mull-Eagle Island

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Jun.12, 2012

The birds, the animals, the landscapes along with the local food and drink keep drawing me back to this amazing island more and more each year. It has a magical feel and presence to it, a place I could gladly just sit and watch the world pass me by with no time limit.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful week with clients on my twice yearly photo tour called “Magic of Mull.  The Isle of Mull lies on the west coast of Scotland and has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles.  The climate is a mixture of rain and sunshine and from the moment you step onto this beautiful island the wildlife is everywhere and the scenery is stunning.  Our base for our 6 day adventure was the picturesque village of Tobermory, made famous by the children’s BBC programme Balormory, with its brightly painted buildings. Our hotel is overlooking the harbour of Tobermory and facing out to Calve Island and the sound of Mull.

Mull’s climate is extremely unpredictable and at any time of year you should be prepared for a wide range of conditions. The weather during our time on the island was good and kind to use. There were days that were overcast where we had rain but on the whole the weather was good.  After meeting everyone at the port of Oban, we took a short ferry ride over to Mull and then went on to our hotel that we were staying at for the week.  We had coffee overlooking the harbour and headed straight out for the day.

The pattern of events for each day were consistant, ensuring that clients get the best out of their time on Mull.  An Early start to get into place at one of the Otter sites to hopefully catch them as they wake and start to fish, then head back to the hotel for our breakfast at around 8am and then collect our packed lunches and head out for the day.

The wildlife on Mull is generally accessible with the few exceptions of specialized birds along with the rare and legally protected birds. These are not to be disturbed or approached as they are very senstive to disturbance, like the White-tailed Eagle below, which are doing really well on Mull, and so is the Golden Eagle.

When I have worked alone on Mull in the past I have stayed in one place for some time, getting a feel of the place, getting connected as I call it.  But while leading a tour here for clients you have to juggle the need to see the wildlife along with the time constraints, as a lot of the wildlife can be viewed only a short distance from the roads, which for me is ok but the way in which I work is working the land so to speak and this is something I was very keen to show the group.

As a group we covered both methods of approach during our stay, where everyone enjoyed the fieldcraft tips and advice.  I also demonstrated how rewarding it can be on many levels when you blend into the environment, leaving the safety of the car and try to become part of the subjects world, thinking about wind direction and movement, in readiness to take the shot if the opportunity came.

During our time on Mull I had organised two great trips on consecutive days, one was three hours watching White Tailed Sea Eagles on one of the Lochs, and the other was a full days trip to the Treshnish Isles.  Due to the White tailed Eagle being so protected and looked after, close up views of these birds is almost impossible so this tip offers that chance.

Today Mull is still one of the best places in the UK to see these amazing birds of prey. After centuries of persecution these birds were wiped out, it was shot, poisoned and its eggs were taken. Rewards were offered of eight pence for anyone killing a bird and twenty shillings for destroying a nest. By 1800, Scotland had become the sea eagles only safe refuge, but even here people were turning against them. Shooting estates wanted all birds of prey destroyed and the Victorian egg collectors wanted their eggs as trophies. Labelled as domestic livestock killers, and killing many game birds, these birds were not tolerated the same as they were centuries before and so bounties began and the slow demise of this bird began at the hands of ill-informed people.

The last breeding pair of White tailed eagles in the UK was recorded on the island of Skye in 1916, and sadly the last reported lone female disappeared from her nest on Shetland in 1918 rendering the bird extinct in the UK, a truly shocking and disgusting story to even write let alone believe we did this to this bird and even today the same is happening to many birds of prey with people having the same attitude.

So after an absence of almost 70 years conservationists were finally given the go-ahead to reintroduce these amazing birds. A total of 82 birds were imported under special licence from nests in Norway. The first wil -bred chick since the extinction was hatched on Mull in 1985 and so the birth of Eagle watch in its early stages was born. One of the many people behind the eagle’s comeback is the RSPB’s David Sexton. His tireless efforts and work started back in those early days is everywhere to see when you are on Mull. I often bump into him on my many trips to Mull each year and last week was no exception. A nice man and for me has brought this bird to many people’s attention which is brilliant.

Along with the Golden Eagle its one of my favourite birds of prey and every time I see this bird my heart beats faster. The boat trip I organise for my clients on their photo tour gives them the best and safest close up view of this amazing bird, by mimicking a fishing trawler towing a small boat it sails into one pair’s territory and gulls follow us. A fish is placed out for the eagle and the engine is killed as we wait in perfect silence for the world’s fourth biggest eagle to show. Without warning this massive bird approaches the boat, circles overhead then dives for the fish, then flies back to the nest all in the matter of minutes.

The bird now has the best protection available in law.  This trip lets people see these birds in the safest way possible, while maintaining complete respect for the bird.  Martin the skipper of Mull Charters gives a good introduction at the beginning of the trip and explains all of the do’s and don’ts. It’s amazing to see these birds so close and every client loves it as much. I would highly recommend the trip and you will be completely blown away by the bird’s size, power and grace.

We visited the small islands of Staffa and Lunga the next day.  Staffa is a beautiful, uninhabited island which is home to hundreds of seabirds and set within waters teeming with marine life.  The island is best known for its magnificent columns of rock. The best place to see this is in Fingal’s Cave. The shapes in the rocks formed by the sea over time are amazing, they look like they have been made by an experienced stone mason rather than the force of mother nature.

Fingla’s cave is very impressive, as you enter the smell of excrement is very strong as nesting birds and bats litter the small ledges and over hangs as you slowly walk in using the path people have used for centuries, a truly amazing place to visit.

One of the best places in the UK to see Puffin’s, Razorbill’s, Guillemots and Seals is Lunga the second small island we visited that day.  It was a small journey to this stunning little island that’s home to my favourite seabird the charismatic Puffin. We spent over two hours on this lovely little island and from the moment you scale the landing steps and head up onto the flat top of the island the Puffins are not far from you.

Their calls can be heard first before they show themselves from the burrows and vegetation hiding them away from view.  We all got into place, settled and let the birds relax and over time if you sit still and don’t make too many movements the Puffins accept your presence and go about their lives around you which is wonderful to witness and watch.

Puffins are going about their lives all in close proximity of you as long as you stay still and make little or no movement, capturing those moments with your camera.  Puffins are beautiful birds to watch and spend time with. Two great days and two excellent day trips.  The rest of the week flew by as we all concentrated on finding the elusive Otters, that had been giving us the slip most of the week.

Along with the White-tailed Eagle, Mull is famous for another amazing bird and another favourite bird of prey of mine the Golden Eagle. These birds are often seen soaring alone in their mountain habitat and aren’t as easy to see as the White-tailed Eagles. We all saw this amazing bird soaring effortlessly then disappearing as quick as they had turned up. I captured one adult bird with the image below flying over its territory among the moody looking clouds which added the ideal backdrop to this stunning bird of prey.

As each day passed by we saw Otters as we drove, hearing the plops and slaps that they make.  I showed everyone what to look for to identify Otter activity, fresh poo, mussels shells and fish bones all real clues to the presence of Otters. The more moisture and bounce to the poo lets you know just how old they are, giving you a real time idea of how long they were in that area and how old the poo is.

On the last day we were all in place and I saw a female Otter hunting in the tidal currents, I signaled one member of the group as soon as I saw this, also telling my client to let the other guys know who were scattered along the coastline. As I made my way over the wet rocks and slipping like a beginner on the TV programme-“Dancing on Ice” she carried on feeding just out of shot. I managed to capture her before she vanished.

Throughout the week the wildlife around the island was amazing and every client got some wonderful images with lots of images of subjects they’d not seen before which was great. We were all sad to leave the island on the Friday but everyone had some great memories of this magical island.

A big thank you to the entire group for your company during our time on Mull, a lot of you were repeat clients so it lovely to see you all again. We had a great laugh and I hope you’ll remember my Puffin impression for the rest of your lives. Its designed to help you in the field and know when they land around you.

Thank you Debbie at the Western isles Hotel, a beautiful hotel overlooking the sound of Mull and Tobermory, the base in which I run my Magic of Mull photo tours each year. Great atmosphere, lovely award winning food and great rooms and service. I hope I helped you all in seeing the amazing wildlife Mull has to offer, and learning more about the island while learning and showing you real and key camera skills and fieldcraft that work on the ground, many thanks and good luck to you all. For more information and next years dates on this amazing photo tour please click here many thanks.


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Mull-The Briefest Of Encounters

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Nov.05, 2011

Nature offers you in most cases just the briefest of encounters in which to witness a moment you see with your eyes and if you are lucky enough with your camera, so that you can show others that special encounter you shared with nature. Nowhere is this more apparent than the beautiful island of Mull. The island lies on the west coast of Scotland and has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles. The climate is a mixture of snow, rain and sunshine, and from the moment you step onto this beautiful island the wildlife is everywhere, and the scenery is stunning. With Mull’s famous own micro-climate the weather changes from clear skies to angry skies in a moment, pouring rain gives into calm, windless conditions, light you dream of as a photographer is replaced with almost zero visibility.

Having just returned from 4 days there,  I again feel blessed with some of the close encounters I witnessed.  A lot of the time the clouds afforded me no or little light, then in an instant rays of sunlight would pierce through momentarily lighting up this amazing landscape, giving the land beneath the clouds life.

The rain at times was heavy giving you poor visibility, so we just impravised and used our vehicle as a hide in order to still capture the wildlife that was around.  Because of the vast size of Mull and the lochs, sometimes the best option for seeing the wildlife here is to drive around on the off chance you may see a silhouette of an Otter feeding or a certain bird feeding and so fourth.

I do love to work and stay in the same area.  Sitting in a place that you become so tuned into, where every plop, every noise, every dive from a bird you hear, you immediately look with great excitement to see what made that noise.  This for me is one of the best things about wildlife photography, the peacefulness of waiting, the minutes turning into hours, all the time waiting for just that briefest of encounters in which you get a view into a wild animals world, where the camera enables you to capture what you saw, capturing the beauty of the subject, preserving that moment forever.

During those 4 days the weather did break occasionally, affording me a little more light which in turn gave me more shutter speed should the wildlife show, and in a lot of cases the wildlife showed up during those briefest of spells to feed and clean, and in some cases have a nosy at me clicking away from the mobile hide in which the vehicle had turned into.

The camera settings and key drills I go through during those quiet times really pay off when nature spontaneously turns up, with an almost automatic routine of checking the shutter speed, iso levels and moving the focus spot etc.  The hard part is to then second guess where your subject will go, as they will have an acute fear of man, giving you only seconds to take the shot.

There were some great encounters on the island, some close, others at a distance, but never the less still wonderful to witness. During my stay it was a case of juggling your time along with the weather. Once the cloud had broken and warmed the landscape the island was awash with colours and its beauty came alive making it a pure joy just watching for Otters, Eagles and the many other species of wildlife that live on Mull. One evening a female Hen Harrier chose to brave the weather and started hunting over the marshland only to disappear as quickly as she’d showed up.

My knowledge of Mull is something I rely on most of the time, the places I’ve found or discovered over many hours and days during my 2-3 trips to Mull each year.But often or not wildlife can pop up at anytime and those places I’ve worked at before were a little tougher in the weather during my time there.  While waiting for your chosen subject or wildlife to show there is always a shot to be taken as I say. This arty,slow shutter speed image focusing at the heart of a pine forest, where the autumn leaves just offer a splash of colour to the image.

During high tides and when they start to retreat is a good time to watch for Otters, where in most cases unlike their counterparts they live in the UK’s rivers, these European Otters can been seen during day light hours, hunting, sleeping and generally lazing around. As with all wildlife though, great care must always be exercised when approaching wildlife in order to capture that briefest of encounter.  I prefer to get into place under the cover of darkness and wait, on the off chance that my fieldcraft skills and knowledge of a certain areas pay off and the subject may just give me that brief glimpse into their life.

I’d had a fleeting encounter of a female Otter entering the water not far from her holt and as the clouds broke I chose to spend sometime there hoping she’d come back, but she didn’t.  The tide times on Mull were early in the morning, so on the next day, after that brief encounter captured above, I returned to the same place where I’ve had some good luck during my past visits. Although nothing is ever guaranteed with wildlife, and she nor her young showed the following day, and with the weather changing from overcast to rainfall I was confined to the vehicle for the rest of that day, searching in vain for Otters and other wildlife.

And it always seems customary for me while waiting for a subject to turn up,  a Stonechat always turns up in a lot of cases, gaining confidence and coming closer, in an almost curious manner to see what I am, which always makes me laugh.  They are a stunning looking bird and very inquisitive in nature, with care and respect, and no fast movements from you, they’ll come quite close to you, sussing you out, whether you are friendly or not, or maybe this is just how I perceive this during the long hours of waiting, who knows.

I was hoping to see some if not all of the deer rut on Mull, but I feel I was just a little late this year. I never witnessed any stags at all, which would suggest that they were all off feeding and building up fat reserves in order to survive the impending cold weather, as during the rut stags dont feed, instead they protect their ladies and territory from would be opportunists. After the physicality of the rut they go off to feed, and as there was no sign of any majestic stags roaming around, I was just to late.

I did have some nice encounters with female Red Deers though and the shot of the trip were these four females all looking at me.  I’ve called the image “game over” as literally it was game over as they’d spotted me and then moved but not before I got a couple of shots.  the shot below being the better of those, capturing that moment and briefest of encounters when they saw me, heard me and knew I was there, nice try.

Amazing to see them in this beautiful sighting of Mull, so close and in stunning condition.  I managed a few other sightings most of which were taken in dense woodlands where they love to hide, making it a harder prospect to photograph. This image below was taken in the early morning, showing such habitat.  Soon after she disappeared, as though she was never there.

On the last day I had one last steady drive around the island.  And among the choppy waters on that mornings hide tide was a dog Otter feeding and working the shore.  I left the vehicle and tried to position myself where I thought the Otter would come past. I managed to capture just one image from the most briefest of encounters on that wet and faithful morning.  The Otter was working the coastline looking for crabs and other food items.

Here he took a short cut over the coastal rocks instead of swimming around.  I just got him with this image, a blink of the eye and he was gone. Some encounters though are too special and live on in your heart and this was one, but lucky for me I had just one image to remind me of the closest encounter with a wild Otter that I have ever had in my life, amazing.

I stayed, hoping he’d reappear but again it wasn’t meant to be so I moved on to another Otter spot on the island. Whenever home time is looming or your packing up I find the subjects appear from nowhere and in an act of almost defiance they teese you knowing your time is almost up. After a short drive south, there was another dog Otter, and he was cleaning and grooming himself. Again only the briefest of encounters that I captured, but another wonderful moment in the life of a wild Otter.

After lunch on the last day I saw a small bird feeding among the freshwater streams entering the loch, it was one of my favourite birds, the Dipper. It felt good to see them here and very different among the coastal waters of Mull.  The light had gone at the time but you can just see the little fellow below on the sea edge.

During my time on Mull the weather was testing at times, but it also offered a great deal in terms of atmosphere, with the sun constantly battling to break through the dense clouds to warm the land with its rays. In the distance a large bird was sitting on some rocks, appearing to be looking for prey, the wind was strong so the bird seemed happy just to try and sit out the windy weather that would zap his energy should he take flight, it was a beautiful adult Buzzard in amazing conditon.

Slow movements in getting my lens up and out of the window, placing the beanbag down so slowly you didn’t want to look up just in case the bird had flown, in this case he hadn’t.  One shot, two shots, relax and watch, I was saying to myself in my head, as Buzzards are very very shy in nature and one move to many and you’ll never see them again.

He took off, turned around and faced the wind, while jostling the strong winds, all the time looking below himself for food. The engine had been turned off at the first instance, the vehicle was on a slight bank which allowed the handbrake to be taken off and roll forward hoping to keep up with the Buzzard as he went from post to post looking for food.

He heard my camera, as captured above.  It killed me to stop but I did for a few seconds hoping he’d settle and not be disturbed by my presence that was my vehicle with me shooting from the window.  He carried on looking as the vehicle slowly rolled forward, enough to capture him full frame in all his glory with the image below. I couldn’t believe that I was capturing such a jumpy bird, with a clear background, fence line post and looking out to sea. He stayed for a minute or so before flying off, carried along on the wind and out of sight.

Soon after it was time for home and the long drive south once on the mainland. I am always amazed at the wildlife on Mull, the peace, the tranquilness of this place, where just sitting and watching wildlife live their lives around you is truly a wonderful thing to witness and be part of while on this island. Whether it rains or is baked in sunshine the wildlife always gives you the briefest of encounters into their lives, and if you capture them with your camera then thats great, if not they’ll always be in your heart and mind I say.

I run two trips to Mull each year, one in June and the other in October, our base will be the picturesque village of Tobermory, with its brightly painted buildings, overlooking the harbour of Tobermory and facing out to Calve Island and the sound of Mull. We stay in a great hotel overlooking the bay and I have 2 places left on each trip for next year so if you would like more information on them please click here to see my “Magic Of Mull” photo trip.

And before I go, I’m a guest expert in December’s issue of Practical Photography on sale now, a great magazine, full of advice, tips and gear reviews each month. One of my Barn Owl shots along with the tips and how I got the shot are included in this issue, carrying on my passion for showing how I work in the field at the same time helping others to take better photos.


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Mull-Sculpted By Nature

Filed in Photography Tips, Places Of Interest, Workshops on Jun.27, 2011

Mull is a magical, raw, unplanned and thought provoking place where you can see and view beautiful wildlife. Red Deer roam the hills, Eagles soar over the skylines, Seals bask on exposed banks and Otters frequent the many bays and inlets along Mulls coastline. Almost every other telegraph pole there’s a lone Buzzard sitting, acting as a physical welcome to the island.  Mull’s magic derives from its special blend of mountain and coastal landscape which forms such a tremendous variety of habitats that offer excellent opportunities for wildlife.

For me the most memorable aspect of being on this beautiful island is viewing the abundance of wildlife against the entrancing background of tranquil loch shores and beautiful woodlands, amongst the architecture of amazing mountains, with the mornings being the best to see this island awaken.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful week with clients on my twice yearly photo tour I call “Magic of Mull.  The Isle of Mull lies on the west coast of Scotland and has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles.  The climate is a mixture of rain and sunshine and from the moment you step onto this beautiful island the wildlife is everywhere and the scenery is stunning.  Our base for our 6 day adventure was the picturesque village of Tobermory, made famous by the children’s BBC programme Balormory, with its brightly painted buildings. The hotel is overlooking the harbour of Tobermory and facing out to Calve Island and the sound of Mull, which can be seen in the below image, on one of the many sunny days we had there during our stay on Mull.

Mull’s climate is extremely unpredictable and at any time of year you should be prepared for a wide range of conditions. The weather during our time on the island was good and kind to use. There were days that were overcast where we had rain but on the whole the weather was good.  After meeting everyone at the port of Oban, we took a short ferry ride over to Mull and then went on to our hotel that we were staying at for the week.  We had coffee overlooking the harbour and headed straight out for the day.

The pattern of events for each day were consistant, ensuring that clients get the best out of their time on Mull.  An Early start to get into place at one of the Otter sites and hopefully catch them as they wake and start to fish, head back to the hotel for our breakfast at around 8am,then collect our packed lunches and head out for the day.  The wildlife on Mull is generally accessible with the few exceptions of specialized birds along with the rare and legally protected birds that are not to be disturbed or approached as they are very senstive to disturbance.

When I have worked alone on Mull in the past I have stayed in one place for some time, getting a feel of the place, getting contacted as I call it.  But while leading a tour here for clients you have to juggle the need to see the wildlife along with the time constraints, as alot of the wildlife can be viewed only a short distance from the roads, which for me is ok but the way in which I work is working the land so to speak and this is something I was very keen to show the group.

As a group we covered both methods of approach this during our stay, where everyone enjoyed the fieldcraft tips and advice.  I also demonstrated how rewarding it can be on many levels when you blend into the environment, leaving the safety of the car and try to become part of the subjects world, thinking about wind direction, movement, in readiness to take the shot if you come across a chance and other fieldcraft tips and examples I showed and demonstrated. On the first day everyone had seen and captured some lovely images including the very shy male “dog” Otter that would show every so often.

During our time on Mull I had organised two great trips on consecutive days, one was three hours watching White Tailed Sea Eagles on one the Lochs and the other was a full days trip to the Treshnish Isles, a designated site of special scientific interest.

On the White tailed Eagles trip we sailed into the territory of a pair of these magnificent birds.  Due to the White tailed Eagle being so protected and looked after, close up views of these birds is almost impossible so this tip offers that chance.  We had a Gull escort to the site as they dived for bits of bread that the crew threw out for them.  There was no noise as the engine was stopped and a lone dead fish was thrown out.  The first real sign the Eagle was coming the Gull’s behaviour changed and they disappeared knowing this beautiful, massive bird was coming our way.

The sheer size of these birds becomes apparent when they soar past you, with a ten foot wing span they were truly stunning to see so close. They soared past, then in a flash dived for the fish, the whole thing was over in seconds. The whole group loved the trip and seeing these birds so close was a wonderful experience for them all.  The birds are truly wild and this trip has been passed by all the governing bodies that work to protect this bird with their ongoing work.

To see this behaviour without the fish placed out for them could take days of waiting around etc, so deep down for me from a wildlife photographers point of view it was too staged to pass the photographs off as a truly wild moment captured with my time and fieldcraft, but never the less a great way to see these birds and I can highly recommend the trip.

We visited the small islands of Staffa and Lunga the next day.  Staffa is a beautiful, uninhabited island which is home to hundreds of seabirds and set within waters teeming with marine life.  The island is best known for its magnificent columns of rock. The best place to see this is in Fingal’s Cave. Lunga is one of the best places in the UK to see Puffin’s and it is teeming with other birds too like Razorbill’s, Guillemots and Seals.

The name Staffa is thought to come from an old Norse word meaning wooden building staves, which look similar to the islands basalt columns.  The name is a reminder of the region’s Viking history.  People have marvelled at Staffa’s columns for centuries.  As you approach the island from the sea, you can see these columns of rock and the very impressive cave known as Fingla’s Cave.

According to legend, Fingal was a Gaelic giant who fell out with a Ulster giant and in order to fight Fingal, the Ulster giant built a causeway between Ireland and Scotland.  When the causeway was destroyed only the two ends remained, one at Staffa and the other at the giants causeway in Antrim.  The columns you can see today are the remains of this causeway.

Fingla’s cave named after this giant is the most impressive site on this small island, as you enter the smell if excrement is very strong as nesting birds and bats litter the small ledge and over hangs as you slowly walk in using the path people have used for centuries.  The shapes in the rocks formed by the sea over time are amazing, they look like they have been made by an experienced stone mason rather than the force of mothernature.  A great place and one I would recommend a visit to.

One of the best places in the UK to see Puffin’s, and teeming with other birds too, Razorbill’s, Guillemots and Seals is Lunga the second small island we visited that day.  It was a small journey to this stunning little island thats home to my favourite seabird the charismatic Puffin.

We spent over two hours on this lovely little island and from the moment you scale the landing steps and head up onto the flat top of the island the Puffins are not far from you.  Their calls can be heard first before they show themselves from the burrows and vegetation hiding them away from view.  We all got into place, settled and let the birds relax and over time if you sit still and don’t make too many movements the Puffins accept your presence and go about their lives around you which is wonderful to witness and watch.

As I was watching these birds and enjoying their interactions with each other this little fellow landed not far from me.  I was handholding the 70-200mm lens as he was close, he seemed to enjoy the company before flying off and back out to sea. The noises in the background are the other birds nesting along this cliff, Fulmars and Razorbills.

I wanted to portray the habitat the Puffins were nesting in, at the same time capturing one in flight with a wide angled lens to give you a sense of the world they live in. The images below shows the cliff and this coastal habitat on Lunga.

It is one of the best places in the UK to see Puffins that’s for sure, close up views, Puffins going about their lives all in close proximity of you as long as you stay still and make little or no movement.  Two great days and two very good day trips and the rest of the week flew by as we all concentrated on photographing Otters.

Each day we saw the Otters fishing far from shore among the different Lochs on Mull.  The shot the group wanted was a close up of this beautiful mammal and towards the end of the week and even on the last day those wishes were granted with a mixture of luck and being in the right place at the right time.  We were able to watch the same male Otter that had given us the slip most of the week, catch larger fish and come ashore not to far from where we were lying in wait.

He came ashore slightly higher up the beach at first, dispatching the fish he’d caught quickly then heading back out to sea to fish.  We thought that would be it as once Otters have had a good feed they tend to lie up somewhere for a sleep and this was late afternoon. But lady luck came again and he came back to shore with a larger  fish.  He ate the fish and that was the last we saw of him but a perfect end to a great week, underlining the sentence “you only get out what you put in” and the whole group did very well all week with the early starts and long days.

We were all sad to leave the island on the Friday but everyone had some great memories of this magical island sculpted by nature. A big thank you to all the group for your company during our time on Mull.  I hope I helped you all in seeing nature and learning more about her beauty while learning and showing you real and key camera skills that work on the ground.

I will be back on Mull in October during which time the Red Deer rut will be in full flow along with the amazing autumnal colours and snow capped mountains.  I have a few places left so to see the trip or book please click here. We stay in the same hotel over looking the bay of Tobermory, I always try to get clients the best place in which to stay as after a long day in the field comfort and good food is key.


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Mull In Autumn 2011

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Nov.10, 2010

Our wildlife workshops to the island of Mull, Scotland are getting more and more popular as the perfect trip to capture the true beauty of this amazing place, so we are adding another trip to the itinerary for next year. The aim of this second trip is to capture the stunning autumnal colours there at this time of the year, along with the beautiful Otters that live on Mull, and their cubs, also rutting Deer, White tailed Eagles and much more amazing wildlife. For wildlife photographers who are eager to bring their photography to the next level, or people wishing to see the beautuful wildlife this island has to offer, our photo trip really does cover everything.

The Isle of Mull lies on the west coast of Scotland and it has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles, the climate is a mixture of rain and sunshine. From the moment you step onto this beautiful island the wildlife is everywhere and the scenery is stunning. The island is a wonderful place to see Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Otters, porpoises and a whole host of Hebridean Wildlife.  

Our base will be the picturesque village of Tobermory, with its brightly painted buildings. Overlooking the harbour of Tobermory and facing out to Calve Island and the sound of Mull is our Hotel, you’ll be treated to picturesque views over the harbour and as well as comfortable accommodation, you’ll enjoy fine cuisine in the restaurant, prepared from the best locally sourced ingredients to make your stay even more memorable, all of the rooms have a sea/harbour view. It will be a wonderful chance to show you the best places that I have found on my many trips to this amazing island and to pass my knowledge of these onto you so you can really enjoy ‘The Magic of Mull’.

This photo tour is for four people maxim, with two places having already gone such is the popularity and beauty of this island. I like to keep all my trip numbers down to around four people if I can as this gives everyone quality time with me while I show and teach everything I use myself within wildlife photography, fieldcraft, composition, camera skills and showing and pointing out photographic opportunities constantly during your time with me.

The dates of this trip are – Sunday 23rd October – Friday 28th October 2011, the price per person is £800.00, this includes all food, including packed lunch, all transport on the island, rooms with sea views, all guidance and expertise from myself.  They are on a first come first served basis, so if you would like to know more info or book then go to my Magic Of Mull page on my website and fill out the booking form or send me an email and I’ll answer any questions you may have many thanks.


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Magical Mull

Filed in Events, Workshops on Jan.28, 2010

The Isle of Mull lies on the west coast of Scotland and it has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles, the climate is a mixture of rain and sunshine. From the moment you step onto this beautiful island the wildlife is everywhere and the scenery is stunning. The island is a wonderful place to see Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Otters, porpoises and a whole host of Hebridean Wildlife. Come and join myself and award-winning Dutch photographer Jeroen Stel as we take you around this beautiful island on our 6 day/5 night trip called ‘The Magic Of Mull’.

Mull Sunset

White-tailed Eagle

Our base will be the picturesque village of Tobermory, with its brightly painted buildings. Overlooking the harbour of Tobermory and facing out to Calve Island and the sound of Mull is our Hotel, you’ll be treated to picturesque views over the harbour and as well as comfortable accommodation, you’ll enjoy fine cuisine in the restaurant, prepared from the best locally sourced ingredients to make your stay even more memorable, all of the rooms have a sea/harbour view. It will be a wonderful chance to show you the best places that I have found on my last trip there and to pass my knowledge of these onto you so you can really enjoy ‘The Magic of Mull’.

Otter Feeding

Mull has a breathtaking landscape and will offer you some brilliant chances for landscape photography too, with the mountain of Ben More with its imposing peak at just over 3000 feet being the highest point on the island where it forms the southern part of the island and holds several pairs of Golden Eagles, which I witnessed on my last visit here. There is some much to do on Mull, but our main targets are Otter’s, White-Tailed Sea Eagles and Golden Eagles, with some much wildlife around you opportunities will present themselves at anytime.

We have a day trip planned to on the Wednesday to the Treshnish Isles, a designated site of special scientific interest. One of the best places in the UK to see Puffin’s, and teeming with other birds too e.g., Razorbill’s, Guillemots and Seals and possible sightings of passing Basking Sharks that enter the sound of Mull to feed on the plankton, offering you some great photographic opportunities, you will have two and a half hours on Staffa, and almost the same on Lunga.

Puffin

Puffin

Seal

The pattern of events for each day will be very similar, which will ensure that we get the best out of our time on Mull. An Early start to get into place at one of the Otter sites and hopefully catch them as they wake and start to fish, head back to the hotel for our breakfast at around 8am,then collect our packed lunches and head out for the day, catch the evening light later on at one of our Otter or Eagle sites, then back to the hotel for our evening meal and a chance to review the days images.It plans to be a brillant trip,getting the very best from Mull and in turn a stunning experience for each one of you.

Mother and Daughter

The cost of this event includes all meals,packed lunch,all transport around Mull, ferry crossing.The meeting place is the Scottish port town of Oban where you will be met by Jeroen and myself from which point you will have know other worries as the trip has been planned with every detail,subject with you in mind.Led by to very passionate wildlife photographers,all the ingredients for a magical trip on the beautiful island of Mull.If you have any questions or information you’d like answering or to book they please go to my ‘Contact’ page,where you can either call me or email me and I’d be more than pleased to help you.

Herring Gull In Setting Sun

Lone Heron


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