The name of this workshop could not have been better named ‘Winter Waders’, as our three days there were christened with freezing temperatures, treacherous conditions and in parts gridlock on the roads but all and all we made the very best of our time there. My group had travelled from all over the UK in the coldest snap for December since records began, with one guest having come from Ireland I was really happy that the 7am start time on the first day that all guests had made the slow and dangerous journey safely.
The biting temperatures cut through us all on the first day forcing us to move more rapidly between the various sites and beeches that I know, as the wind and penetrating temperatures worked against us, but the guys were great and we still were able to capture images on this cold introduction to Norfolk.
We had some good sightings on the first day using a mixture of fieldcraft and a touch of luck. Thousands of Pink, Greylag, Brent geese filled the sky. They were all over the place due to the strong, prevailing winds driving in from the coastline. A lot of them were flying above the clouds which made it hard to see but their calls could be heard no matter what. When the clouds did break briefly the sun came through and we were lucky, and had a few lovely encounters.
I can never predict or promise that the wildlife will turn up and my attuide has always been that there is always an image to be had or captured no matter what, so with the weather being so bad we still were able to capture some lovely images of waders and other wildlife that spend their time in Norfolk. During our time there the weather was a mixed bag, with the snow not hitting this part of the UK on the first day or so. However, the following morning we were scrapping the snow off our windowscreens and thats when we knew the snow had caught up with us. The Geese were on the move really early in the mornings and it became hard to capture clean shots of them flying over, but most of the guys had wide angles so we were all able to capture the Geese overhead.
I showed different technique’s to the group, panning, waiting until they were straight over head to add drama, low in the frame, minimal ground, slower shutter speed for the wing blur, capturing impending movement within the image, something I have always loved to do.
Daytime temperatures rarely broke past freezing point but as we moved around different sites it became less of a problem until you remained still, which happened mainly when we were photographing different waders and gulls low on the ground for some time, to obtain a more personal point of view. I love to capture behaviour within my style of wildlife photography and this image of an adult Herring Gull trying to stay upright in the strong winds was very funny to see. Using the light available I composed him so that the image coveys an air of menace to the gull, which I really liked, with one side of him lit and the other in dark.
The wind was causing all sorts of problems and we saw many different waders in ones and twos, blown off course, struggling to land and stay on the ground as they were trying to feed on what ever they could find.
The pattern of events over the next few days were similar, anticipating what the weather had in store and if the wind would drop, watching and photographing the winter waders and migrants and also spending sometime with the Barn Owls. We were also lucky that it never rained over the three days as this increased our chances of seeing Barn Owls, even though the ground was frozen. The days are shorter and the light is less during the winter months and if the ground is permanently frozen the Barn Owls primary prey of fieldvoles and other rodents tend to stay huddled together during the coldest spells at night, only really venturing out during the day which makes for the best times to see Barn Owls hunting during really cold spells.
On most of the days we saw the Owls, hunting with real purpose, diving with such force as to break the covering of snow on the ground, at the same time capturing their prey. The majority of the time they seemed to fail but on the odd occasion they stayed on the ground where they could have been eating their prize as quickly as possible, replenishing much needed supplies of energy to survive. They were hunting in fog, snow and windy weather, such was the need to feed. I always feel uncomfortable seeing nature work at a pace which is dictated by the conditions, right on the line on survival but such is nature where they say only the strong survive, but for me still very uncomfortable to see.
On the final evening the clouds broke and we had a lovely sunset, the colours lit up the horizon, the sky full of geese, the sounds of which sounded almost like surroundsound as the geese were having their final feed, then heading off to their overnight roost sites.
Thank you to all my guests who came on my workshop, great company. I hope you got a lot out of the three days and even with the the weather against us we were still able to capture lovely images and at the same time see this beautiful coastline. I look forward to seeing a few of your images, many thanks.