A few images from a project that I’m working on at the moment. It’s an old coal mine which dates back to the 18th century but there are reports that coal may have been mined there from as early as the 14th and 15th Centuries. The whole place is protected now and stands empty and decaying, a visual sign of the past. It has been taken over by nature now, and pair of Barn Owls live within the ancient ruins of this building. A whole array of other wildlife shares the site from Kestrels, to Pigeons to many other birds and animals.
As a young child my primary school use to run school trips there and I can remember going on one and going underground which was amazing. It’s part of my local heritage as coal was mined in my hometown for hundreds of years before it all stopped in the mid to late 1980’s. When they all closed it decimated whole communities that were reliant on them for work and income.
I’m hoping to bring you more images from this project over time. In the meantime here are a few images of the owls and kestrels that live alongside each other.
The project as a whole will be one I hope that will show my own heritage within nature with my love of Barn Owls but more importantly my hometown. That since the late 1980’s has had its heart ripped out with all of the industries that once breathed life into this area taken from us resulting in wastelands upon wastelands from the past that nothing ever replaced to this day .Showing the power of nature to recalm and take back what was once theirs and injection life back into a place that died a longtime ago.
The Barn Owl chicks are around three weeks old now. They have been coming out more sand more recently, exercising their wings then they go back into the safety of their nest. They have down feathers still on their backs too, but look really health. Wonderful to see these young and here are a few images taken showing the 18th Century building once an old coal mine, that is now their home
Please support the work of the The Barn Owl Trust the only charity that looks after and cares for our native Barn Owl. One of my favorite living animals these birds need all the help they can get. For information, education, events that help these owls and products, prints you can purchases please see their website, many thanks.
As the season almost comes to an end on the beautiful welsh island of Skomer, it has been a wonderful year with some great encounters and images of the funny and very comical Puffins. Shortly they depart for the ocean and wont come ashore again until late March early April next year as they spend all that time outside of the breeding season at sea, which is truly remarkable.
Being so trusting you can have really wonderful views of these stunning birds but you always have to remember to put them first and to move out of their way should they wish to cross some of the paths where we are allowed to walk on. The following images have been taken over the session and its a stunning place.
Next years one day workshop dates are up now if you’d like to join me. Also next year I am running a 4 day, 3 night trip for up to 8 people to Skomer while we will still on the island and photograph when everyone’s gone home. For the information on this carry on down the page and please contact me if you’d like to join me in 2016.
Skomer Spectacular 3 night Photo Tour.
Join me in summer 2016 for an amazing experience, living on the island of Skomer alongside its wonderful wildlife. A magical wildlife haven located just off the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast, 3 miles from Martin’s Haven, and covering 750 acres of habitat. Skomer is the perfect place to see and photograph Razorbills, Guillemots, Seals, Short Eared and Little Owls, Manx Shearwater and the star of the island, the Puffins.
DATES & COSTS
Cost for this three night trip is £480
Due to the Welsh Wildlife Trust not announcing island accommodation availability until October of each year, exact dates are not yet known but your 3 night stay will be during the height of the puffin season in May, June or July.
Everyone is welcome on this amazing trip from birdwatchers to photographers why all levels are catered for by myself. Skomer’s wildlife is very accommodating and everyone will have the chances to make the most of their time on this wonderful island
Please register your interest by contacting me on firstname.lastname@example.org I will then send out a booking form and let you know all the details, and answer any questions you may have.
GROUP SIZE AND ACCOMMODATION
this workshop is limited to 8 guests, staying in the islands only accommodation, a beautiful farmhouse set right in the heart of the island.
Catch the first boat from Martins Haven to Skomer at 9am
After a brief boat ride we arrive on the island and then we have a briefing from the wardens on the island. Then we head to our accommodation, unpack and make ourselves at home and have a warm drink and then head out after lunch to start exploring the island.
DAY 2 & 3
The pattern of event for the next two days will be very similarly maximising your time n the island. From sunrise to sunset and all through the night if you wish as it’s amazing on the island once it goes dark, we are free to come and go on the island and I will be showing you and guiding you to some of the best places on the island at both ends of the day and during the day.
We catch the first boat back to the mainland at 9am.
Over the last several weeks I have had many projects on the go, one such project has been watching a pair of beautiful Pied Flycatchers. These birds visit our shores during the spring and summer months from their wintering home of West Africa and live manly in woodland habitat. Their numbers are quite low and they are on the “amber” list of species by the RSPB meaning they aren’t rare but not common too.
I have wanted to photograph this species of bird in their woodland habitat for many years but I haven’t been lucky enough to find them. This year I had found a pair and they were nesting in a small nest box in a beautiful deciduous wood. These birds are beautiful and I was very lucky to have found a pair. They landed on a number of naturally occurring branches around this nestbox and I have composed them showing their home and these branches they are using with the following images.
Up until this point they were doing really well, both parents feeding and everything looked good. Then around lunch time the following day I was watching another part of the wood where they are hunting the flies when I heard a hissing kind of noise from where the nest box was.
I rushed over and saw the male bird hovering in front of the box and making a noise that I can only describe as an alarm call. Then in a flash something came from the nest box and ran down the front of the box. It was a Weasel with one of the chicks. It happened so quick that I didn’t really have time to do anything or to even think. I did manage to capture a few images of him making off with the chick as the male was hovering to see off the Weasel.
What happened over the next hour and a half after this first attack was that the same Weasel came back several times to get the rest of the chicks. But as soon as I saw him I made a loud hissing noise myself and other noises to warn him off. Sometimes he stopped at the base of the tree, others he was up and on top of the box. Each time he left with nothing and this went on for a while. After the first attack the parent birds returned but were jumpy when going to the box, they seemed to know what had happened and stayed back and didn’t return with any food for those hours after the attack.
I wanted to know what had happened inside the box but I had to stop myself from going to see and investigate because I didn’t want to disturb anything or leave my scent on the box and its not right to interfere with nature. I had done my best making sure that the Weasel didn’t get any more chicks during those many attempts. When I left there had been no sighting of the Weasel for several hours and I really hoped when I returned the following day that the chicks survived and the Weasel had moved on.
Nature is beautiful but at times very cruel I know this well but when you witness it for yourself it is upsetting and I can’t blame the Weasel for wanting to feed his family but as I say when you witness animals being killed by others its not nice and I had watched this pair of Flycatchers for a while now and then this happens.
The following day I returned just after dawn, I waited several hours and no return by any adult. Before opening the box I made the noise of the adult bird and gently tapped the outside of the box and there was no noise or calls from inside. At that point I lifted the lid wearing gloves. The Weasel had gone back when I left by the looks of things and had all of them, very sad. Nature is cruel but that’s the circle of life and I learned that very early in my life but it was a real shame.
I spent most of the morning searching the same wood for another pair as there are nest boxes put up for them. As I was looking I always listen to bird calls, they will always let you know what is around. I know the Pied Flycatchers well and I saw a lone male bird that kept coming to another box. Once at the entrance hole he’d paused and then flew off. I didn’t know if he was preparing his nest for inspection for a female or just looking for another nest box or there was already another female inside.
Then I heard ” Have you seen much?” and I turned around and a bloke was standing there, after a few words I recognized him and he me and we got talking as I had last seen him some five years back. I told him about the box that had lost its chicks and that I was watching this new box.
He informed me that a female was sitting on eggs in the box I was watching and that he was here to ring her. Keith is a member of British Trust for Ornithology and is a ringer in the Staffordshire moorlands area for them and has been for many years. He knew me and my work and passion and so he trusted me with this information and I watched him with great care place a small bag over the roof of the nestbox while blocking the entrance hole. Carefully then he removed the bag from the top of the box and inside was this beautiful female Pied Flycatcher.
I asked if I could take a few photos and it was no problem as Keith put the ring on, checked over the bird and once done he let her go. Soon after she was back in the nest. Amazing to be so close and what luck I’ve had at this site I said to myself. From losing a whole family of chicks to then being so close to one and knowing the BTO ringer for the area.
Another truly beautiful bird the Redstart, a pair are sharing the same deciduous wood as these Pied Flycatchers which is wonderful. They are nesting in a nearby old oak tree not far from the new flycatchers nest. I have watched them too over the last few weeks and now the chicks have fledged and I counted around eight in and around the tree tops.
I’m hoping to get a few images of these but they are providing a difficult little subject to get near because their parents have hidden them away and I don’t want to impact on their lives or their parents. The following images are of that Redstart family.
When you go out taking photos of a project or something you love please just stop, sit down and look around you. You will see some many living beings, so many different images all around you. I love to capture this within my work and all you have to do is think outside of the species you are there for and look further afield and you will see natures beauty all around you.
The following images show some of the other birds that share this amazing deciduous wood alongside these Pied Flycatchers.- Blackcap, Song Thrush, Wren, Great Tit. Also there are a few images of the insects that provide food for these birds, an arty photo of ferns.
Also there is an image of a Harvestman which are beautiful little creatures. Harvestmen don’t have a waist or separate abdomen like spiders as they are often mistaken for them. They are part of the Opiliones family which are fascinating. There are some close up images of Long-tailed Mayfly that are very common in this wood too that just looked stunning. The floor of the wood is littered with the Red Campion flower too the place is so beautiful and full of wildlife once you look around you.
I’m hoping to get some images of the Pied Flycatchers feeding their young as I think they have another week or so inside the nextbox. The Redstart chicks are all around the place, and getting a few images of these are harder as they are hidden away so I will not impact on their lives just for a photograph. Fingers crossed this new pair of Pied Flycatchers manage to rear their young successfully and I will be there to capture it I hope.
If I get lucky I will post the photographs in a future blog post just updating this wonderful project I have been doing. Finding your own subjects and photographing them over time is one of the best things as a wildlife photographer you can do. You learn so much more and you never truly know what you will encounter or see where you have to use your own skills and fieldcraft.
Working like this and taking images “as seen” on the ground and alongside nature is the truest form of wildlife photography in an industry full of set ups and pay as you go sites all producing the same images. I would really recommend working like you see here to anyone that whats to learn more about their own wildlife photography and their subjects, good luck and many thanks.
My one to ones are designed to help you improve in all the aspects of wildlife photography, while learning about the environment and the wildlife that it supports.They are designed to the very highest standard, enabling every participant to get the very best from my photographic knowledge and fieldcraft expertise, where all the locations chosen offer unrivalled photographic opportunities.
The winner of the Cover Star section will see their work used on the cover of Bird Watching (subject to approval), and will win a bundle of photographic accessories. Both winners will have their work showcased in Bird Watching and displayed at Birdfair 2015, and there are mystery prizes in each section, too. Please submit original unedited jpgs – all images must have been taken since the beginning of 2014.
Both winners will have their work showcased in Bird Watching and displayed at Birdfair 2015, and there are mystery prizes in each section, too.
Please submit original unedited jpgs – all images must have been taken since the beginning of 2014.
Send your images by email to email@example.com (but not more than one email, please), by file-sharing services, or on a disc (which won’t be returned so please make a copy) to Bird Watching, Media House, Lynch Wood, Peterborough PE2 6EA.
The deadline to the competition is 31st July 2015 and your image along with others will be displayed at the British Birdwatching Fair where I will be presenting the prize to the winner on the Bird Watching stand. For all the competition information see inside June’s issue of this magazine where they have a special photography section. For full details of this competition then please see the following link .
Wildlife Ethics, some might say what does that mean? does it matter? In an age where we can get whatever we want twenty-four hours a day with little effort. In an age where wildlife is under great pressure we have a duty of care to all living animals to put them first and respect them and so the term “ethics” is born.
I first picked up a DSLR in 2008 and taught myself how to use a camera I twinned this up with my lifelong love of nature. We can all do our bit, we can all care about our impact on those animals, birds and other living creatures we come into contact with and the one word that is at the heart of my wildlife photography and should be everyone else’s is “integrity”.
This article for me has been years in the writing because it’s something I have always felt so strongly about and its one of the things I see some many that take photographs of wildlife getting so wrong time and time again. I have written several articles on fieldcraft, something again I feel so strongly about and the two go hand in hand for me. Since turning professional in October 2009 where I have made my sole income from my wildlife photography I have seen so much change.
Ethics and the welfare of the subject where instilled into me by my late mother, who took me to nearby woods and places where wildlife were as a small child. She learnt me about the circle of life, where my food was from. She taught me always to respect wildlife and listen to the woods, listen to nature and it will give up her secrets. Back then being brought up in a single parent situation my mum couldn’t afford a camera so my trusted 8×40 binoculars where always around my neck or in my bag.
I learnt very early on that once I came across a wild animal it was down to me how long that encounter would last. Meaning if I was nosy, didn’t respect the subject and did lots of moving around then that would impact on the subject’s life and they would disappear back into the undergrowth. So I learnt to become part of the landscape, often pretending I was the animal and I tried to think like them and act like them. Using those principles my encounters lasted longer and so my knowledge became better and better. But the most important thing was that the subject I was with was not disturbed or troubled by my presence and this was the most important thing I learnt and is the foundation to my work today.
I still have a book my mum brought for my eighth birthday presence which I have managed to keep with me all over those years. Nature and those encounters taught me many wonderful things and gave me an amazing understanding of wildlife and empathy for it and life. Growing up my mum had cancer twice and on both occasions nature and those places I visit today helped me cope with seeing my mum waste away before me.
My school years weren’t great, my current day dyslexia can vouch for those troubled years, in-between the home visits I became my mum’s carer and growing up was put on hold. Nature, drawings, Dippers, Barn Owls and others animals and places gave me great peace and it was an escape from seeing my mum dying. I was twelve when she first got breast cancer and it returned three years later when I was fifteen and that time it calmed her life after an amazing battle to beat this for a second time. I became an orphan at fifteen and basically brought myself up from then to the present day. I was looked after by my aunties instead of going into the care system until I joined the army at sixteen.
Those lessons about nature, its beauty and that respect still live inside of me today. I treasure those memories and lessons my mum taught me and that duty of care I speak about to all living creatures. Nature has helped me grow and survive and today I pay respect to that with my photography where each image I capture means something to me.. That’s a bit of background to where my beliefs came from, because to understand something or someone you have to understand the back story and what is behind those images or beliefs because everything started somewhere I believe.
What people take photos of is their business where they take photos is their business what I want and have always wanted since turning pro is the photographer to be honest and have integrity to their work where the welfare of the subject is first. Don’t make the animal do something or perform in order for you to get your images. Tell those that view your image and comment and award you those awards that you then go onto using to say your better than the rest the story and skills used to get the shot , the back story. If you can only shoot in zoos or captive that’s great for you and there’s nothing wrong the problem is with the explosion in photography and people not being honest and put the lives of animals and birds at risk for the image .
I see photographs derived from using flash, set ups , food placed out , animals made to do something for reward or food , animals flying through the air to reach food, where the photographer does not tell what’s the story behind the image. Changing an animals behavior in order to get an image isn’t right and not true wildlife photography in my eyes it really isn’t. I call it image making where you employ props and bait to trick the animal. It seems today wherever wildlife is someone, somewhere will put a hide in, a stick or perch/prop in and charge people for the opportunity to see and take the same photograph almost as the person who first discovered the place which is not wildlife photography.
Animals blinded by flash is a pet hate of mine, how dare the photographer do this to an animal and then tells us ” oh they don’t mind ” All living animals have an iris similar to a humans eye and any sudden change in light will affect the animals balance and movement which causes them a level of stress and disturbance. Until an animal can tell us themselves we have to go with caution and not use flash for the welfare of the subject. You can read an interesting article here to all those that use flash within the world of wildlife photography that defend it and make money from this practice.
Photography brings great joy to many people I see this but we are visitors to their world whatever way you look at this. Treat animals with respect whether they are behind bars or free, always put your subject first. Tell the truth behind the image , don’t impact on the animals life take pride in learning about the subject and its habitat, see how it interacts with its own kind, watch how it finds food and so on.
Applying all of this will benefit you as a person and secondly a wildlife photographer. In a time where there is great pressure on the natural world we need to step back , see the bigger picture and never impact on the subjects life. For many people the weapon of choice now is the camera, use this wrongly and you impact on the lives of animals that have no voice, that won’t be able to report your actions, it will be down to you on the ground to work in a way that gives the animal peace rather than stress by your presence.
Each day I see images and conversations on blogs and social media where everyone calming they have the subject’s welfare at heart then go and use flash or disturb the animal or get the animal to perform for food. It seems to suit at times other times not. I have found over the years that those with the most to hide become the most defensive and practice such methods as I describe here and all become friends together in this ever growing market of set ups where animals are made to do something in return for food or reward.
Diving Kingfisher shots where a fishtank is placed beneath a perch and fish placed in and so the Kingfisher dives into the tank. How many of these images do we have to see before someone asks “what’s behind the image?”. Birds flying at the cameras lens because a bird caller of their call is used and often results in a stressed bird who makes itself look bigger flying or running towards the camera to ward off the intruder it thinks is in its patch when its just a photographer with a caller with zero respect for the bird.
The photographer gets the shot and the praise but says nothing of the back story. There is a massive explosion in set ups being sold to the public where you can choose your background and perch. A photographer finding a subject or area that has been good to them and then the next thing they are selling the place and the wildlife to the public in order to make money is another massive market. I have places I take clients but they are all wild and nothing is prepared.
I then have my own projects and places that I wouldn’t dream of taking paying clients because this just duplicates my images and impacts on the welfare of the subject and their habitat.This is wildlife photography today in the UK where in most parts its better to make money than to think of the welfare of the subject and how your actions impact on that animal your getting to do something for reward as in the background a volley of shutter buttons go off from paying clients. But dare to say anything and you come up against the self-styled cartel which all turn out to be those offering such workshops and taking that easy money off the public.
I have visited places where the wildlife does not like my presence; the Farne Islands is where this Arctic Tern was taken is one such place. They nest right by a path you have to walk on to past these Terns. To see such stress was painful as I put my camera above my head and ran along the path. There were people there disturbing these terns on purpose for a dramatic shot using flash to brighten the underneath but never thinking would that impact on the subject. Ive not been back to the Farnes since, but this is just one of the many many places throughout the UK and abroad you can see the shocking behavior of photographers.
A few recent images from India. Each year I go I always pull away when I can from such disturbance on the Tigers, getting my guide to remove ourselves from the medley of pressure and stress from jeeps the Tigers have to endure. Once you find a Tiger you’re very rarely have that moment to yourself before the army of trophy hunters turn up. On several occasions over the years I have refused to stress the Tiger and follow so we stayed back and in the end the Tiger came back to where we were hidden.
I work ethically and my trips are run this way. If you book with me you get this if you want to be part of a circus then go book with others. It’s all about money there now and those that make the money will tell you its fine and the Tigers don’t mind, but behind that is a vested interest in keeping their money coming in and that lifestyle that has given them a platform to speak from. Over the years I’ve had many crossed words about “ethics” with people I respected and thought they respected the Tigers but when the chips where down all I saw was a selfless attitude to do whatever they wanted where the Tiger is just a cash cow for them now and I will never forget that or forgive them.
The image above is a Bengal Tiger cub following his mum who was disturbed by other jeeps. We where in place first and sitting and watching and witnessed this. On another occasion we were watching a female Bengal Tigress, who we were told is very shy and doesn’t do well seeing jeeps or people. her own mother a few years back was poached and her body has never been seen to this day. We waited for hours alone then a jeep turned up where someone in that jeep was making male Tiger calls. She woke up and moved off and growling all the time.
The list is endless, I have seen photographers in the water outside schedule one protected Water voles placing out a mound of salad leaves to get them to sit on. People walking up to nesting birds on the ground, chasing owls up into the air the list of shocking behavior I’ve seen is never ending and endless. Dead animals placed on the end of a fishing line and the dead animal reeled in as a wild owl watches then comes to take the prey the photographer has tricked so the photographer can get the image. Live bait is also used and the thought of this is just shocking.
So much of the true ethics and welfare of the subject is lost in today’s wildlife photography and this is something I truly feel and see myself. We have a duty of care to all living beings and for me we can all do something to minimize our impact on the countryside. When an animal, birds or any living creature shows clear signs of stress at your presence you have to back off and leave the them alone. Do not carry on adding more stress and more anxiousness to them.
I don’t work with captive animals or sets ups, I’ve never taken this easy route to getting paying clients and securing a regular wage or images making them look wild when they were captive or tame animals. Instead I choose to work “as seen” on the ground using my skills, fieldcraft, passion and ethics. This has brought its own problems over the years in my private life with lack of money and sticking to my beliefs. I lost my home of ten years and my wife because of those beliefs and my stance on set ups, ethics and putting the subject first which created its own stresses.
I had to start my life all over again two years ago but never did I change my ethics or the way in which I work. Its better to be able to stand up and explain every image you took and its story where the importance of that subject was the first thought in my mind. In an age where we all want something overnight you cant rush or kid nature or people and your images and the back story to how you got the image are the most important things behind the welfare of the subject and come under the banner “ethics”
These are my thoughts in an industry where for alot of wildlife photographers a front cover or an award or how to win one is more important than the welfare of the subject and the mess you left behind once you go home. Ethics, fieldcraft should be the first thing you develop before passing yourself off as a wildlife photographer, something I am and take great pride in and my work. Be true to yourself and your work is something I’d rather die than give up and that’s my thoughts on ethics.
Ask what you can do for nature rather than what nature can do for you and who cares what award you’ve won or who has given you a free coat or tripod, if you do this for a living or just as a hobby you have to have that duty of care and integrity otherwise you have nothing.
Those lessons I learnt from my late mum are how I judge my encounters with nature today, not all will have such a story to tell or lean on but what I would say is everyone can put wildlife first, don’t change a thing that you see, just sit, watch and listen and nature will give up its secrets around you it truly will. The results will be a better encounter, an ethical image but more importantly a relaxed, happy and free to leave subject that has allowed you into their life for however long it lasts.
This has been a very personal account of where my love of wildlife started, at the same time where my own ethics where born out of without me really doing at the time. If anyone wishes to talk further about this then please feel free to call me or email me.
Thank you for reading this article and I hope in some way it helps you understand we can all apply ethics in some sort of way to our own wildlife photography whoever we are and for whatever reasons you take photographs of wildlife and we can all make a difference. Thank you to the nurses from Macmillan Cancer care for making my mums last days as comfortable as you could. I have donated prints to this charity that can be seen on the following link, many thanks.
In the June issue of N-Photo magazine, out now in all good newspaper shops and online there is a brand new feature called “On assignment”. Paul the editor asked me if I could be the first photographer to launch this and talk a little about my recent two week trip to Sumatra shadowing and living with the HOCRU ream from the Orangutan Information Centre. You can see this post on my blog by clicking here.
The work they do is amazing and it has been a privilege to work alongside this team since 2012 on my first trip with them on my “Spotlight Sumatra” 2 week trip. To see those blogs going back a few years now please click here. Below is the first rescue I did with this amazing team back in 2012.
It was a very tough 2 weeks back in February of this year, but very rewarding and I hope my images continue to gave those critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans a “voice” outside of their native home of Sumatra. At the same time show the world of the wonderful work these charities are doing on the ground.
Since my return from Sumatra, Paunt Hadisswoyo the founder of OIC- Orangutan Information Society has won the prestigious international nature conservation award & prize ” The Whitley Award. Which recognizes his tireless work to save these great apes and their forest homes at the same time educating the local people in saving their country and in return you save all those critically endangered animals that live there ie- Sumatran Tiger, Rhino, Elephant and Orangutan. Click here to see this amazing news.
Paunt is seen here being presented by the HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society, London and I couldn’t be happier for him and all the OIC team on the ground back in Sumatra they do an amazing job and often at their own risks, so well done all.
The magazine is available in many formats from online to a magazine format available in most papershops in the UK. I hope you enjoy this and it once more sheds light on whats happening there and also to those on the ground working tirelessly to save these great apes and their forest homes. I also go through a few tips and camera information on this assignment too. Thanks to Paul and the team at N-Photo for asking me many thanks.
I have always given alot back from my own photography since turning professional in October 2009 making my living solely from this industry that has changed so much during that time. Anyone that can see can take a photograph, what takes time is learning to see, I truly believe in this saying when it comes to wildlife photography.
On the second week with my clients I decided to restrict myself to one lens on each safari and post my favourite image from that day along with how I took the image, the settings behind the image and my thought process behind the image. This will I hope help you to get into the mindset of a working wildlife photographer and hopefully inspire you to think, see and take shots differently.
I have decided to post just one image on my blog from each day which will be very different to my previous trips to Ranthambhore. Hopefully it will demonstrate how one image can really speak for you, how it can tell a story at the same time making you a better wildlife photographer, restricting yourself to one image and thinking more about angles, composition and not just snapping away and thinking first and seeing the image within the image or the story as the title says.
The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected. In this environment the wildlife photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours. Make best use of those and capture that wild encounter with your camera and the result cannot always be predicted .
The first safari of the second week started on Tuesday with new clients and the following images I hope will inspire you, help you and above all go someway into seeing a different way of thinking when you’re looking through your viewfinder. At the same time learning you so much about the subject, the environment it lives in and above all more about you and your own photography.
Tuesday 21st April 2014
Camera Settings – nikon D4S, nikon F2.8 300mm, F4, 1/200, iso 400, matrix metering, -0.3ev exposure compensation.
A mother Bengal Tiger and her one year old cub drink from a small forest pool in the late afternoon sun. On our afternoon drive with temperatures reaching nearly 42 drgees we came across this female and her two cubs. We parked up in a postion away from them and turned our engine off. She was sleeping for round two hours on and off and we just watched her and the cubs it was just magical. After they started to become alittle more active and they moved around and played before heading towards this small pool.
I was working with a fixed focal lens so I couldn’t zoom in or out and I was framing them the best I could. I focused my camera on the cub in the foreground and followed them down to this pool through my viewfinder. I was running out of room and did my best to keep them both in the frame very aware not to clip or cut one out and this was the result. Making best use of what angle you have is key when working with a fixed focal length. Soon after then moved off and all three vanished back into the forest.
Two young Bengal Tiger cubs sit waiting for their mum after they heard her calling for them in the morning light. I was only going to get focus on one and depth of field so I choose the front one. This resulted in the cub in the background being burred and giving a strong outline of another tiger. Both soon moved off into the undergrowth and later found their mother who took them off into the forest.
Thursday 23rd April 2015
Camera settings - nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f5.6, 1/2000, iso 400, matrix, +1.0 exposure compensation.
A Black headed Ibis feeding in the dawn light. I followed the bird through my viewfinder from right to left and placed the subject over the the right so the bird would be walking into the frame.I used continuos servo mode to capture any movement and freeze it with a high shutter speed. The result is seen here with the birds beak open and foot raised which adds a sense of movement to this image. I chose to under expose a little too to gain a strong outline creating a wonderful silhouette.
Friday 24th April 2015
Camera settings – nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f4, 1/500, iso 1000, matrix metering, -2.0 ev exposure compensation.
A Black Drongo bird taken in the morning light. We parked up to just take in the surrounding then this bird landed feet in front of me. I really love these birds and their fork-shapred tails that live in the national park. This bird landed on these naturally occurring grasses and I composed him over the the righthand side of my viewfinder giving space to the front of the bird as I watched through my viewfinder. I waited for a little interest in the form of action or a certain look. Then the bird looked straight at me in something I call first contact. When a wild animal makes first contact with a human and this was the result.
Saturday 24th April 2015
Camera settings - nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f8, 1/1000, iso 200, matrix metering, -1.0 exposure compensation.
We spent a wonderful few hours in the morning sitting and watching this family of Bengal Tigers. There were three cubs and a female Tigress that would come from the safety of the long grass, then play and then vanish back into this long grass. So I chose the aperture F8 so I could gain more depth of field. Under exposing for the light as it was very bright and we were shooting into the light.
Once all three cubs came out from cover composition was hard as I was using a fixed focal length lens and so I had to really try to keep them all in the frame. I placed my focus spot on the cub in the middle and this was the shot I took. I have changed it to black and white because more often and not images that are contrasty look better in this format.
Sunday 28th April 2015
Camera settings - nikon d4s, nikon f2.8 300mm, f 5.6, 1/1000, iso 400, matrix metring, -0.7 exposure compensation.
A young Bengal Tiger cub sitting near a forest pool makes first contact with me. A saying I describe when human meets wild animal and for a split second theres an intense stare that can often look straight through you. Composition wise I composed him over to the right, placing my focus spot on the eyes and leaving negative space over on the left. I took a few images and was carful not to spook him with the noise from my cameras shutter button.
Those are my images from week two, I have lots more but I wanted to post these hoping to inspire you and try different things within your own photography. Being more selective and disciplining yourself to a few images or using one lens I feel makes you work harder and inevitably a better wildlife photographer. two weeks and twenty-four safaris for me have flown by once more and Id like to thank everyone one of my clients for your time and I hope you enjoyed the time you spent searching and photographing Bengal Tigers here.
Thank you to Sealskinz for the products that have helped me on this two week trip to India which have really protected me and my gear in some hot and tough conditions.
If you’d like to join me on my 2016 trip then please see the following link, many thanks.
The Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is the single largest expanse of Dry-Deciduous Forest left intact in India. Such forests were found all along the North and Central Aravalis but in the last few decades they have been badly degraded and right now this Tiger Reserve is one of their last strongholds.
Its an amazing place to see and spend time in and is one of the best places in India to see wild Bengal Tigers. An image of one of the forest guards on patrol in Ranthambhore National park is shown above.
Once we arrived and unpacked the following day we settled into our what our daily routine would be. An early rise at 5am, coffee before the two Jeeps I hire came to pick us all up and then we’d set off in search of the Tiger. This is always guaranteed to send adrenalin coursing through the veins as each day you just truly don’t no what to expect.
Whilst every movement in the undergrowth raises the expectation of a sudden appearance of this animal, striped body, footprints in the dust or the warning cries of deer all serving only to heighten the almost unbearable sense of excitement as you watch and listen for the first clue that a Tiger is around you.
It had been raining on and off over the last several weeks so the forest was a lush green which made the whole place look and feel so much different from the previous several years of visiting at this time of year. Alot cooler too at times which made the place feel so much more pleasant temperature wise.
Ive always loved being in Ranthambhore National Park its full of wildlife, smells, noises and potential images everywhere. Its a place of great beauty, that once you visit you just know it wont be the last time. Its magic grabs hold of you in its grasp and you cant ever walk away.
Throughout the first week one set of clients saw very few Bengal Tigers, and my other clients had some of the best views and images ever. The national park has so much to photograph you’re often spoilt for choice and there is always an image to be had is my motto and something I try and convey and show to clients.
One jeep as in most years was luckier than the other with sighings almost daily, while the other jeep went days without seeing Tigers. When this happens I try and stay with those clients in order to use my own experience of this place for the better of them resulting in them getting images I always hope.
Nothing is ever promised as these are wild animals and with that comes its own set of conditions and you always need luck. Both jeeps and sets of clients saw Bengal Tigers on their first morning though and this was amazing. Im always happy when my clients see them and their own individuals reactions.
We came across a 15 month old female Bengal Tiger on that first day who was hidden away at first, sleeping. Soon after we stopped she came from cover and moved off. The following images shows her walking out and past where we were. Amazing to see this stunning tiger cub as she’s truly beautiful and such a great privilege to see her on our first day.
This was a beautiful morning above as we came across two cubs just sitting at the base of these trees as their mother was off hunting. The play of the natural light was stunning and we watched this male move, yawn and generally get bored before our eyes waiting for his mother to return. This was my last sightings for many days as previously mentioned above.
My other two clients though- Chris and his wife Lisa had some of the best sightings and images I’ve ever known in the many years I have been coming to Ranthambhore. While looking for the Bengal Tiger thought theres so much to photograph and the following images capture what we saw during those long days searching for the elusive Tiger.
A clear sign of the precarious nature of this area though, where the Tigers are completely wild and are free to go wherever they want. I have tired to put together a visual dairy to in order of days with the following photographs. Clearly making the best of changing light conditions and different photographic techniques.
Towards the end of the first weeks safaris my group that hadn’t really seen many Bengal Tigers had a great sighting with a female Bengal Tigress and the following images capture that amazing moment. To say I was pleased for them was an understatement.
While in India I have been using a number of products from a brilliant UK company called Sealskinz. I was invited to become one of their Ambassadors for their company. I have been using their products for many years now within my own wildlife photyogrpahy. I have to trust my kit, its a skill carried over from my days as a soldier in the British Army. Click here to see my recent blog and introduction to their team.
Fully breathable and waterproof their products are the best on the market for outdoor activities. In India I have been using their drysacks to keep my kit free of dust and grit and protected from the rains we’ve been having here.
I have also been using their trail hat to keep the sun and heat from my head, which has been brilliant and so comfortable to wear. I would fully recommend both of these products for your outdoor protection and I will be using these on all of my projects, trips and expeditions abroad.
Fingers crossed for the next seven days as I start a new week with new clients. I will write another blog letting you know how we all get on at the end covering this next week, many thanks and goodbye from India.