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!!