There a few places in the UK where you can experience the sights and sounds of nature any better than the North Norfolk coast during the Spring Tides that start in earnest from this month onward and for me herald the onset of the Autumn and Winter months. As the incoming tides submerge the whole area it pushes thousands of waders closer to the shoreline.
There a few places in the UK where you can experience the sights and sounds of nature any better than the North Norfolk coast during the Spring Tides that start in earnest from this month onward and for me herald the onset of the Autumn and Winter months. Its a place I never get tired of and everytime I visit it never fails to amaze me with the beautiful spectacles in nature that I witness.
A major sign for me that the onset of Autumn and Winter is around the corner are the Spring Tides that happen around our coastline at this time of year symbolising the changing seasons, as we leave the Summer and enter into the lovely, warming colours of Autumn where the trees lose their coat of leaves, left exposed and bare to the elements, to the frosty Winter mornings, with the winter sunset proceeding over frozen landscapes where things take just that bit longer to awaken.
No where does this amazing spectacle happen better than on the North Norfolk coastline, an area that supports thousands of Waders, Geese, and other birds during our Autumn and Winter months.
A brief explanation of these Spring Tides is when the gravitational effects of the Sun and the Moon combine, resulting in these Spring Tides which have nothing to do with the season of spring. The term refers to the action of the seas springing out and then springing back. These are times of high high tides and low low tides. A spring tide occurs when the moon is in its second and fourth quarters, more commonly known as the new and full moon phases respectively.
You get them all year but their numbers are greater during our Autumn and Winter months resulting in this amazing experience, accompanied with the sights and sounds of nature you’ll never forget. I have spent the last three days there with clients who booked these Spring Tide/Barn Owl days I run.
Birds start to take off as the others wait on the ground for their turn to join their group and return to the sea. Peeling off , perfectly timed formations take to the air back to where they belong, the power and force can be felt as you sit in the hides. With the photograph above I wanted to convey this moment, a truly amazing site within our wonderful wildlife in this country.
Knot, Dunlin and other waders were arriving each day, their numbers increasing all the time forming their customary aerial flocks where they fly inches from each other, twisting and turning, a breathtaking site to witness. My clients captured some great images and have taken away valuable advice and tips, and techniques that I use and apply to my own photography, where I show and teach not only these but concentrate on fieldcraft, the habitat and the environment of the subject, reading what is happening around you.
All of these skills can be taken home by the client and applied to their own photography where hopefully over time they will help to increase and improve their overall photography skills, techniques and images, as this is the main aim of all the one to one/workshops that I do.
The weather during this time would be best described as a mixed bag, the sun broke through and rose in the east lighting up this beautiful yet bleak place on a couple of the mornings. We had a amazing sunset on some of the evenings, alot of the time though it was overcast but the clouds did clear after a few light showers. The light is amazing just after rain, where the atmosphere is cleansed and there is a clearer light perfect for taking photographs. The numbers of Oystercatchers were high where they like to form large flocks on the land, constantly calling with their piercing call.
I always say to clients that there is always a shot to be had so while we were waiting for the larger flocks I wanted to show and demonstrate the effect of using aslow shutter speed and what it can produce, where a sense of movement in the subject is frozen and captured giving the image a sense of impending movement. Adding a little drama to a photograph, as shown below with a flock of Knot altogether on the sandbanks. Freezing that movement, and adding movement to the image as well as making the most of the overcast conditions where the photographs look like they are taken in black and white.
There are so many different subjects to photograph on the Norfolk coastline that its a wildlife photographers dream in my eyes, and a great place to learn about these subjects and these amazing events by watching and capturing their behaviors, flight patterns and so fourth. Where all the birds are being pushed closer to the shoreline by the incoming spring tide, forcing them closer to the shore, landing, taking flight until the very last piece of land is submerged by the sea, all the time the birds fly around in vast numbers mostly for protection avoiding the raptors that work this stretch of coastline in large numbers looking for an easy meal.
It was a great few days for all my clients and I was really happy that they got some if not all of the shots that they wanted. We finished off each day at one of the many different Barn Owl sites I know in Norfolk. They weren’t disappointed with views of the female and male quartering and hunting for food. We also had a viewing of their young which was brilliant to see.
With the changing seasons, come changing wildlife, and throughout the Autumn/Winter period I will be running many different days capturing the stunning wildlife the UK has to offer during our shorter months. Mountain Hares in the Peak District, the only place outside of Scotland you can see them, Fallow and Red Deer rutting at two different sites, Whooper Swans start arriving to spend their Winters with us, these days are on the North-West Coast of the UK. Short-Eared Owls and Raptors on this coastline also. All these days and many more can be booked either through my one to ones or the workshops page seen here.
One of my clients, Steve Tucker has wrote a wonderful review I wanted to share with you. Hes a well schooled photographer in his own rights. I have had the pleasure of his company now twice and he’s had some wonderful images and encounters on both days. To read his review please click here.
I’d like to thank all my clients for your company over the last three days, its been great to show you the amazing wildlife and events that happen in this part of the UK. I will be running these Spring Tides/ Barn Owl days throughout the year so should you wish to find out more information on these amazing days or any other the other brilliant days I have mentioned here then please send me an email many thanks.
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, manythanks.
The first Spring Tides of 2011 graced the Norfolk coastline this weekend with its customary mix of dramatic weather conditions and amazing ariel displays as thousands of waders, mainly Knot twisting and turning as the incoming sea covers the land forcing them into the air. The effect this gives is amazing, one minute its a wall of dark and then the next a wall of white, twisting, turning like a massive fish out of the water. The Spring Tides only really happen around 3-4 times a month and in some months, like December, there weren’t any at all. When the sea comes in and covers the whole area forcing the birds closer to shore, they gather together for protection and by doing so form stunning shapes and patterns.
I was in Norfolk for the Spring Tides over two days, running One To Ones. On the first day, Friday, the light in the morning was amazing, beautiful colours with small clouds giving the place that summers morning feel. As the light came up thousands of birds were flying around, forming vast flocks, twisting and turning, all in perfect harmony with each other, creating a smooth fluid movement, which is breathtaking to watch. Anyone who witnesses this does so in sheer amazement that something so beautiful happens on our own shorelines during the year.
Once the sea has consumed all the land the birds fly around in an almost panic state before settling into the pools or pits as they are better known in front of the hides there. These offer them a safe place to roost in, rest and relax until the spring tide starts to retreat, exposing the vast areas of mudflats, where the sea has replenished the whole area with food brought in by the incoming tides. Its then you get to see their numbers and sheer power, feeling the force as they take off from these pools, the noise is amazing and the sheer power of one of natures most amazing spectacles has to be seen to believed.
The light had faded a little, with the sun coming out one mintue then returning behind the clouds the next. As we watched with great anticipation as the Knot slept, heads tucked into their wings, sleeping, waiting for the signal to return back to the vast mudflats where they can roost far out to sea. The photograph above shows this behaviour as thousands of Knot all sleep, huddled together forming these vast groups, occasionally the air was filled with them all calling, chattering to each other, moving, others flying in, swelling their numbers. Sometimes the wait is long then next it is short, but when it happens its amazing. I had a sequence of one to ones with a few people during these days in Norfolk and the second group had never seen this event, which made it even more enjoyable. So as we all waited, apertures ready, enough shutter speed to freeze this moment, fine tuning everything for that moment they take off, something I have witnessed many times over the years, where each time you see something different, then with no warning, no introduction, they go.
Birds start to take off as the others wait on the ground for their turn to join their group and return to the sea. Peeling off , perfectly timed formations take to the air back to where they belong, the power and force can be felt as you sit in the hides. With the photograph above I wanted to convey this moment, how some birds wait for their turn while others have already taken off, following each other back to the safely of the sea, a truly amazing site within our wonderful wildlife in this country.
Then with only the last few birds to leave the land, the sky is full, thousands, upon thousands of birds take off, a shiver always goes down my spine upon seeing this, such is the power and beauty of this event. After which a hot coffee is a must to warm you and reflect on what we just saw. I then head around the coastline showing the clients the various places I visit, capturing images, going through techniques and helping everyone take better images, where at the same time seeing and learning what amazing wildlife we have around us and how they live their lives.
I also have a few Barn Owl sites I visit and work on. During the day I show clients this area hoping that they turn up, as many people have never seen one of these amazing birds which are one of my favourite species. Then right on time, they arrive from know where, hunting the ground, they then disappear in a flash giving you a brief insight into how they hunt and go about their lives.
I have been running these great days now for sometime, where each month there are a few dates that this amazing event happens so if you wish to make an enquirey or book, then send me an email here and I will get back to you with dates,spaces etc. These One To Ones can be run on an individual basis or as a group. Big thank you to all the nice people I met this weekend, Roise, Martin, Stuart, Marjan.
I have just returned from a great workshop to the island of Texel that I ran alongside Dutch wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel.The weather wasn’t on the groups side for the first few days,but there was still some much birdife around the weather conditions added to the images the group got,with my belief of ‘There’s always an Image’ to be had,ringing out throughout the workshop we all stayed extremely positive,with the clients being rewarded with some beautiful behaviour,courting Avocets,Common Terns,Black-Necked Grebes all going through their courting routines,love was certainly in the air.
The first few days with the weather being so unpredictably we drove around the island to the key spots,chancing our luck with what ever we could work with at the same time trying to dodge the rain clouds that seemed to be here to stay.I have always believed that weather can add some much to an image,capturing unseen and uncommon behaviour prior,during,or after the rain.I covered this very subject some time ago now in a previous topic called After The Rain .When possible try to sit out the rain or take cover with your personnel safety first and foremost,then you will be rewarded with some images that are a little different with the weather conditions adding to the image(s),as below with this simple Avocet feeding in overcast conditions and also while the rain came down,taken with my wide-angled lens to give you a sense and scale of the place, placing the subject within its natural habitat which I feel adds great impact to the image through the art of Photography.
As a group we spent quite a lot of time photographing the Common,Arctic,Little,Sandwich Tern colonies that Texel supports in good numbers,most if not all are inland,dotted around this small islands pools,with the ever present noise and smell’s these busy little communities give off.For me the Tern family is a beautiful bird,on one hand really hardy,tough, on the other so gentle and elegant with such a graceful appearance.I watched as one parent sat on the nest as the other flew in and passed over the sandeels they had just caught,all while hovering for a split second,so beautiful to watch,I was able to capture the sequence with the three images below.
Our daily routine was an early morning start come rain or shine,back to our beautiful hotel on Texel,where the food was brilliant,lovely breakfast,3 course evening meal, it really made the trip for the guests.We covered the whole island during our 3 days on there,seeing so,so much bird life,the island is teaming with,where there is opportunity after opportunity to capture the wildlife Texel has to offer.At around 25 miles long and seven miles wide the island of Texel is the largest of the Wadden Islands. It’s a haven and paradise for thousands of waders and waterfowl during the spring/summer months where they choose this picturesque island to play out their courtship routines and breed.
One of the many species of birds I wanted to see was the beautiful Black-Tailed Godwit,where the Dutch call this bird ‘The King Of The Birds’ with its stunning colours and trade mark proud stance it certainly carries its self like a king.On this day we saw this male on an old fence post,with all the group getting great images from this bird it was a real treat indeed,where the over cast weather played in our favour again with little or no bright,contrasty sunlight the birds shone in the soft lighting.
At almost every turning,each place give up there secrets to us all,where we were able to capture in good numbers the stunning wildlife that lives on this small island.Spoonbills were also a first for me,I’d seen them in my many trips and workshops to Norfolk but never at this close range as on Texel,their bills and marking amazed me,such a handsome bird.With a careful approach,using proven fieldcraft skills that allowed us to get quite close as we watched and observed them feeding,using their massive ‘Spoon‘ shaped bill to great effect.
The group we had was a mixture of UK and Dutch people with one Belgium man who I nicked named ‘Dotty Man’ his real name is Benoit,as we saw a few Dotterel feeding in a large field,another first for me,but sadly it came to nothing as Benoit’s fieldcraft put pay to the groups chances as the birds flew off after they saw his advances,all in good fun though and there is always next years trip Benoit!!, which already I cannot wait for.I hope the group of people that joined Jeroen and myself enjoyed the trip,it was good to show and help them all with the simply techniques and principles I use as a wildlife photographer,and I enjoyed all your company,with a lovely, relaxed atmosphere throughout the trip.
On our last day on Texel before we headed for the mainland to photography Black-Necked Grebes and Purple Herons,the clouds broke,and the island was bathed in beautiful sunshine,where our continued run of good luck carried on,with lovely views of Marsh Harriers flying over their hunting grounds of farmland and reedbeds
With the sunshine came so many beautiful colours as the island grows Tulips and many other flowers,with vast fields of pure colour.Our cars stopped for a bref moment,with the presence of movement to our left in a field of yellow flowers,this for me was the moment of the trip.As we watched the flowers move,we couldn’t see what was making this movement,it went on for some time as I followed the line of flowers moving in my viewfinder.Then almost comical like this male Pleasant popped his head up for a few seconds,then carried on,with the moving flowers forming a trail upon where he had gone and was heading,I couldn’t stop laughing,as nature does afford you such funny times from time to time ,this being one of them.
On the last day I thought the bird I most wanted to see during the trip would elude me,as the weather was not very favorably,with strong winds it seemed the beautiful Bluethroat would not be seen.During the days on Texel we heard their distinctive call several times among the habitat,but sightings never materialised until later on in the day,I managed a few images but they never came to close,so I composed them within their environment.Such an unusual bird,with the prominent blue patch on their throats where their name is derived from they are so beautiful looking.
The evening finished with a late evening walk after our evening meal in search of one of my favourite Owls;the Short-Eared Owl at a site Jeroen knew of on the island.As with nature you can never count on the subject to turn up when you want,in this case the Shorty never did but we were treated to a beautiful sunset,were I saw a small dark speck on the horizon,on a hill,as I walked forward and composed the bird in line with the setting sun I could just make out it was a Buzzard,beautiful colours and patterns to the sky,for me it was a dream end to our time on Texel,with our departure first thing in the morning to photograph Black-Necked Grebes on the main land.
An early start to catch our ferry,where we got to the main land in good time,we traveled for about two hours until we reached a popular sight where you can get some beautiful close up’s of this striking bird.We found a small spot,where we lay down and watched the Grebes feed at some distance away,over time they came closer into land,all the time feeding and on some occasions displaying to each other.The weather had gone cloudy again,with the sun making the odd appearance,this made exposure a nightmare,so I chose to turn some of my images of this beautiful bird into Hi-Key images,which highlights the brightness and makes for a ‘Arty’ image,going along with my belief of there’s always an image to be had!
It was a brilliant trip,great clients,loved Holland,very flat and picturesque,with lots of windmills about.I hope that the clients got alot from the workshop/trip and I hope to have helped you in some regard with wildlife photography,what it means to me,how you can capture a subject within its environment etc.We will be running another Texel trip next April/May 2011,until then thanks again,big thanks to Jeroen for your time and effort in making the trip a complete success,and sorry for my snoring!!
Over the last week British airports have been plunged into chaos due to Iceland’s ‘Eyjafjallajokull’ Volcano having erupted,with the further eruptions daily its causing havoc around the world with British and European airspace at a stand still.I’ve been glued to the TV watching for a small window of opportunity that may arise and get everyone moving again included myself as I wait to see if I can fly to India to photography the Tigers Of RANTHAMBHOREunder the guidance of the brilliant Tiger man; Aditya Singh.Three months in the planning,visa,injections,saving, everything right down the the socks I’ll be wearing each day balances now on the decisions of officials whether or not British airspace will open.Proposed plans of opening are being banded about all the time and I just hope I can re-book as my flight was this morning so the clock is ticking,I must add British Airways have been fantisic and I will never travel with anyone else again even if I have to pay more,their customer service,help has been second to none,fingers crossed for another flight.
While this was going on I enjoyed a brilliant 3 days on my Spring Waders workshop,the weather was really kind to us all,the group was a mixture of different people,from all walks of life and varying degrees of wildlife photographic knowledge.Most,if not all of the species of birds showed up which was brilliant as I take great pride in my work and knowledge of the various areas I know and try when and where possible to deliver exactly what it says on the tin eg ‘Spring Waders At Norfolk’ and that’s what they all got and more so I was over the moon.
The Avocets were at Norfolk in good numbers,each year the population seems to increase which is great news for this most elegant of birds.Bar-Tailed Godwits and here to in very good numbers,competing for the same rich habitat and feeding grounds as the Avocets.Each morning started with a dawn trek to a number of different places some for Barn Owls,others for Avocets,and other Waders feeding as the new day broke,after a couple of hours it was back for a good hearty breakfast in our beautiful Norfolk Hotel situated in one of the many tranquil little villages on the North Norfolk Coastline.Then collect our packed lunches and out for the whole day traveling to the many different and devise habitats Norfolk has to offer.
In the evenings after the sunset which we where really lucky happened on most evenings it was back for our evening meal,followed by a sideshow of images from the guests ,where all my help and advice on how,why they took the images was on offer,for me it was great to show simply ideas I implement in my own work,by showing examples of the photographs I take to the group and the reasoning behind each image, people learned alot I feel in a relaxed environment,a perfect place in which to learn from others in my eyes.A gentlemen called Steve Harford wrote a lovely few words below I thought I’d post them,not to show off or to gain from it but just to show people small changes+help can turn someones photography around, by passing on your knowledge to others and seeing their own improvements is the reason I run workshops, as one of my strongest assets is to show,help others in taking better images, at the same time taking in nature around you,where you can take home what I teach and show,applying the tips,advice into your everyday photography once back home,its that simply.
“I spent a wonderful time with Craig in Norfolk. Craig was really inspirational and made me think much more, particularly about my photographic composition. His love of wildlife and the countryside around us was infectious. In the past, like so many others, I had concentrated on what I would call “bird portraits”. They can be beautiful and I will continue with them to some extent but Craig made me realise that there is so much more. Photographs where birds and their behaviour are an important part of the overall image but are captured in their natural environment. The day was so important in making me reassess the fundamentals of the photographic image and I feel he has helped to equip me to becoming a better photographer as a result of it”..Steve Harford,Oakham,April 2010
The Barn Owls at several locations where out in force,hunting,quartering looking for small rodents,we all watched this female above,when she became tired she went to ground to to gain a small rest,I captured her doing just this above at the same time keeping an eye on us all even through we where will camouflaged and hidden.We had some beautiful views and I was chuffed to bits the group got some great images not only from this day but all through the workshop.I’d like to thank everyone that came for your company,I hope I have helped you see nature in a different light at the same time helping with your own composition,fieldcraft and connection with nature.A great trip and looking forward to next year where I will have to increase the numbers such was the interest in this trip.
Between now and my Winter Waders workshop in December I will be running’ One Day’ trips to Norfolk where the day starts at Dawn at a Barn Owl site,then onto the Waders and the many other birds and wildlife that choose to live in Norfolk,rounding the day off in the evening light again at one of the many Barn Owl sites.From August onwards the famous High Tides at Norfolk will be really good and these One day trips have been planned to coincide with these dates to make it a spectacular day for your wildlife photography,for more information and dates please send me a message on my Contact form or alternatively fill in the booking form on my One To One workshop.
I continue to hope and prey I can fly to India to photograph the Tigers,if not it will be a cruel end to a much planned trip,and at the same time I canceled my trip to Sweden for this trip, where I was going to photograph Capercaillie,at this rate I won’t have neither.Things happen for a reason I believe and I hope everyone who is away from home/loved ones can get back asap.