Over the last few days I have been really busy with One to Ones/Workshops and on all of them the weather and the conditions just came together perfectly and the sunrise was breathtaking with the wildlife showing up also making for an all round great few days for my clients. I guess you could say that some days you just get lucky. Setting off for the higher peaks within the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire in total darkness gives a whole different feel to the experience as losing part of one of your major senses heightens the others you have.
Making judgments with a narrow field of vision really makes you come alive, carefully placing your feet and focusing using the light from the moon, aided with the head touch that illuminated our path, we watched the frosty morning chill begin to warm with the upcoming spectacular sunrise. Reaching the summit at nearly 2000 feet as the sun breaks the horizon, bathing the whole place in a warm, orange glaze. Making you feel as though you are standing on top of the world with the mist and clouds beneath you sheltering the population from this hidden world you must work at to see.
My client Matthew from Wales wanted to see the Red Grouse in its natural habitat and I have several different sites with different levels of approach. The route we chose meant the ascent was in the dark using the moons light to illuminate our path alongside our head torches, carefully making our way to the summit as the sun came up. In all the years I have been visiting the Peak District I have rarely witnessed such a beautiful morning, the crunch of the morning frost under foot, the air chilled from the over night frost and the Red Grouse were everywhere feeding on the tender shoots the sun was thawing out. Their constant ‘bubbling’ calls echoing down the valley with the morning mist adding great drama.
As we made our way through this amazing landscape of Heath/Moorland the colours of the place were stunning and apart from the odd walker we had the whole place to ourselves which left a silence you’d only know if you find somewhere remote within nature and watch the world go by. I went through fieldcraft techniques which for me is a key competency in wildlife photography. If you are to get close to a wild animal you need to watch and look for clues, behaviour, listen for calls, which vary in different pitch to suite the subjects mood, progressively getting higher in pitch once they see something they perceive as a threat. Breaking a animals virtual horizon is the key- shape, shine, silhouette, you can look like a bush but approach without respecting the forementioned and off they go.
Red Grouse are very comical and display many different behaviours you rarely see from a distance when passing them on the narrow walkways carved into the landscape from years of walkers pounding these routes through this breathtaking landscapes.
The heaths and moors of the Peak District are an eerie exposure of peat covered moorland sitting about 600m (2000 ft) above sea level. Large wind carved eroded rocks sit among vast plateaus and rock formations supporting a healthy population of these amazingly hardy Red Grouse. These iconic moorland birds make their home on these moors and are reliant on their camouflaged plumage to blend in to this habitat, where the only time you know they are around is when you stumble upon them when you are walking as they explode from the ground, taking flight with a unforgettable distress call.
I take everything with me on these One To One/Workshop days, packed lunches, large flask, cold drinks, first aid, in fact everything bar the kitchen sink is placed on my back in preparation for any event mother nature should throw at us in these changeable environments..
One of my favourite images from the two days with Matthew was this lone male Red Grouse below, perched on this prominent rock, his call echoing down into the valley beneath him, a truly beautiful picture to see and one I was privileged to capture with a wide angle, as I had crawled forward for some time to get closer, then all of a sudden he popped up onto this rock and began singing.
A real mixture of luck, fieldcraft and timing coming together in one of those rare moments you are afforded within wildlife photography from time to time. We had some other lovely encounters with these beautiful birds I am very fond of, so a big thank you Matthew and I’ll see you in a few weeks on my Winter Waders workshop at Norfolk. I have many One To Ones running throughout the Winter months now on the lead up to next years Spring/Summer time just have a look on my website under Workshops then click on One To One and take a look or send me an email should you wish me to meet you at a place of your choosing.
I will be presenting 3 x45 minute Wildlife Photography workshops at this years North West Birding Watching Fair at WWT Martin Mere . Whatever the weather this Festival is an enjoyable and informative day out. I will be going through simple techniques that I use, showing you how to improve your own photography accompanied with a few slide shows and a brief practical session going through anything you wish. So if you are free on the Sunday please pop by to say hello many thanks.