Entries in the ‘Photography Tips’

Wildlife Photography Tip-Back Lighting

Filed in Photography Tips, Workshops on Apr.16, 2012

Back lighting can give your subject a strong outline and add a great atmosphere to your image with a great deal of impact at the same time. Allow where possible you’re subject to be the main feature of your photograph with the use of simple composition with the sun directly behind it. The best times for back lighting to be at its best is dawn and dusk when the sun is low in the sky, creating the warm colours and glow from this wonderful time of the day. If the shape of the subject is easily recognizable through its strong outline it will make for a beautiful photo.

The correct exposure for backlit shots can be tricky so you will have to experiment with darker and lighter exposures in order to get the desired effect and overall feel and mood of the image you want. Use single selected focus point and spot metering where you can take a reading from the subject’s body and set the exposure in camera. Dealing with the ever unpredictable subject of wildlife though the subject may not allow you the time to take a reading for the perfect exposure. And always try to keep the affect of lens flare down by keeping out of direct sunshine as much as possible when taking the photo.

So in closing back lighting can transform an image, adding a beautiful atmosphere within the photograph with loads of impact to the main subject. Great care must always be shown not to point the lens directly at the setting or rising sun as it will damage your eyes. The lens must be clean and free from smears and dust, and sometimes the effects of flare can add a lot to the image so don’t throw the images away until you get them home and reviewed them on your computer. I hope that has helped you a little in understanding back lighting in wildlife photography, if you have an queries about anything I have mentioned then drop me a line here and I’d be pleased to answer them.

I will be presenting my presentation; Dawn to Dusk at Calumet’s spring open days in Manchester and London over the next couple of weeks. Click here for details and dates. I will be available all day to answer any questions or general help or advice you may need for your own wildlife photography. I also run one and two days seminars in conjunction with Calumet, for more details click on their seminars page.


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Wildlife Master-Photo Training4U

Filed in Events, Photography Tips, Workshops on Jan.10, 2012

I have officially joined PhotoTraining4U today as one of their masters, covering my passion of wildlife photography. The films I’ll be shooting over the next 12 months with the team will follow me as I work the land, from dawn to dusk. I will be showing members how I work, photographing wild animals within their habitat, showing their different behaviours and characters within photography. Going through the camera settings and what skills I employ myself in order to try and work with the wildlife I encounter out in the field.

Their website offers quality training for all photographers at an affordable price. The site is based on streaming video that capture photographers at work. PhotoTraining4U is aimed at both professional and amateur photographers alike and is structured into bite size learning films, over 800 at present, each around 20 minutes.

I have always loved helping people throughout my life and when I first started in wildlife photography this carried through. I know how hard it is to get help or advice when you are first beginning to take photos of wildlife – What works? What bag to buy? Is this lens any good? What camera settings? the list goes on. I like to show others the techniques that I have taught myself, what works and what doesn’t while on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife.

In this first film we go through where and how my love of wildlife, nature and photography began, forming the great passion I have for the natural world today which is the foundation to my work and images. The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected and in this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours. The result cannot always be predicted, which makes fieldcraft one of the most important skills you have to learn to be fully connected to wildlife.

I always try where possible to ‘work the land’ as I put it, and stay away from staged or set up shots preferring the more natural image, as seen or shot when I encountered the subject, not changing an animal’s behaviour to obtain an image is so important to my work. You just never know what will turn up working in this manner, so being ready to capture what you see is key through composition, fieldcraft and the correct and simple camera settings.

I am not from the techie camera settings background, glued to the histogram strangled with numerous settings and different buttons and functions.  I show simply and real techniques in camera that work.  I know they work because they are what I use within my own work. An image should come from the heart via the human eye, the camera only captures what the person behind it sees most of the time. This interview in February’s Practical Photography illustrates perfectly how I work and where my true love and passion comes from for wildlife, in this case waders and spring tides in Norfolk. Click here to see the interview in PDF format or you can buy the magazine which is out now.

It’s important to me that in every image I take it represents an event that occurred in the wild, something that I witnessed and recorded with my camera. My skill lies in interpreting and presenting this in a way that invokes the beauty, mood and emotion of that special moment I captured.

The first interview on their site can be viewed here. If you’d like to join this site and see the amazing advice, videos, and help from many different masters not just myself then there is £100 pounds off the marked price of £229 per year.  Please quote JONES which is the discount code. This then will give full access to the site and all the help and advice. I will be filming several short films in the wild over the next 12 months, going through different advice and help that will offer you the best chances to capture those beautiful images of wildlife you want, at the same time learning more about the habitats and behaviours of the subjects your watching.

I really do hope the films and advice I will be offering here will be helpful, twinned with the help I have always given on my blog, facebook and twitter pages, which all form a strong base in which to show the beauty of wildlife and help and inspire you all into seeing just how beautiful wildlife is. Its been a great start to the year for myself, with a full page image in the BBC Wildlife magazine, a 6 page interview and images in Practical Photography, click here to see the article.

Thanks to all the people who have booked onto my 2012 photo tours and workshops. My India trip is now full, this will be the third year in a row now I’ve visited this magical place in search of one of the most beautiful animals on the planet, the Tiger. My Magical Mull June trip is full with a few places left for my October trip. I do have places left for my Madagascar trip which you can view here, Masia Mara trip, view the itinerary here and a few others. I’m really looking forward to 2012 and all the trips, plans and filming I have got in store. I hope you all make the best of your time within nature and capture those wonderful moments you witness yourselves, good luck.

And just before I go wanted to say there were some great winning images in the WWT photo comp for autumn, I had two category’s to judge which was nice with a very good standard all round so well done to all that entered. I have been asked back to judge the remaining 3 rounds where the overall winner will be announced later in the year, so good luck to all those that enter.


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Wildlife Photography-Helping Others

Filed in Advice On Wildlife, Photography Tips, Workshops on Sep.30, 2011

I have just returned from the Welsh capital, Cardiff after two wonderful days filming for the online training company PhotoTraining4U. The site offers quality training for all photographers at an affordable price. The site is based on streaming video that capture photographers at work. PhotoTraining4U is aimed at both professional and amateur photographers alike and is structured into bite size learning films, over 800 at present, each around 20 minutes.

On the first day we went through where and how my love of wildlife, nature and photography began, forming the great passion I have for the natural world today which is the foundation to my work and images. The second day I was out among nature, my office as I call it, watching and looking at the beauty of nature all around. The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected and in this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours.  The result cannot always be predicted, which makes fieldcraft one of the most important skills you have to learn to be fully connected to wildlife.

I always try where possible to work the land as I put it, and stay away from staged or set up shots where bait is placed out while you wait, preferring the more natural image, as seen or shot when I encountered the subject, not changing an animal’s behaviour to obtain an image. You just never know what will turn up working in this manner, so being ready to capture what you see is key through composition, fieldcraft and the correct camera settings.

I have always loved helping people and when I first started in wildlife photography this carried through. I know how hard it is to get help or advice when you are first beginning to take photos of wildlife, what works?  What bag to buy?  Is this lens any good? What camera settings? the list goes on.  Emailing professional wildlife photographers asking for help or advice most of which never return your email,  so because of this I like to show others the techniques I have taught myself, what works and what doesn’t while on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife.

During the first day Mark Cleghorn, Director and founder of PhotoTraining4U went through several interviews with me on film, going back to the beginning, where it all started which was fun.  As I was talking I was reliving some of the funny moments I could recall, the tiny things that made all the difference, which all set me onto the path today.  We went through some of my images where I explained the motivation behind each shot, how and why I captured the images on show while being filmed, which was very new to me as I am normally behind the camera a lot of the time, when not working with clients on various workshops and trips.

That evening we went to a local marshland area not far from Cardiff town centre, this for me was perfect to go through some basics within wildlife photography.  I had not visited this area before and upon arriving to a new site I wanted to demonstrate that you can always witness something within wildlife.  A saying I have said from the beginning of my own work is that there is always an image to be taken no matter where you are.

When I arrive somewhere new I always look for the light and get a feel of the place, where the wildlife is or may turn up, direction of light, possible different images and so on, I find my brain is almost scanning around and presenting me with choices in an almost automatic way, if that makes sense?  While the photography was going on, Jay the cameramen was filming and I was explaining what I was doing and looking for, giving useful tips and advice. Both Mark and Jay where brilliant in helping me to relax in front of camera and I think my sheer passion and true love of wildlife carried me through.

That evening we all went for a lovely meal and I got to see the passion and resolve behind the company and I was very impressed with all of the team and their future plans. Then it was back to my hotel in readiness for the early start and the amazing light I was hoping for.  Mark had found a place not to far again from the town centre which was surrounding by housing, a little oasis within the urban environment which supports many different species of wildlife.

We wanted to show and demonstrate that when you are just starting out or have started out that wildlife is everywhere, lakes and marshland/grasslands are everywhere around the UK, ‘green lungs’ as I have called them in an early blog posted a while back now. These areas have often been left to their own devices, brimming with wildlife which makes a great addition to the urban habitat surrounding them, which can be photographed in close proximity to where you live, capturing those moments with your camera.

Both Mark and Jay came with me on that early morning start, after the first days interviews I had told mark of my affection with cold toast,so it was a nice surprise to see two slices prepared and wrapped up in foil as I was picked up, which was really funny and made me laugh in the darkness of that morning. When I arrive in a new place that I have no knowledge of, I always find myself looking around, smelling the air and really trying to build a picture in my own head of what’s going on around me and tell tale signs or clues to what wildlife may or may not be around.

I always find east with my compass, knowing where the light will come from will really help in capturing images in the morning light. I had a look around the lake, worked out where I’d like to settle and got myself into place and all set up for the rising sun, which had slowly started to creep up before me. Jay and Mark set up their cameras and again just left me to it and started to film and photograph me while at work, as I explained all the time what I was doing, looking for ,camera settings and so on.  The light was amazing, calm water with no ripples giving you that affect that the birds, in this case Mute Swans were floating in space.

Swans are big and powerful birds that are really beautiful when you take a closer look. They have a calmness about them if left alone which shows off their great elegance and beauty.  I wanted to capture that beauty within these images as they calmly drifted effortlessly around where I witnessed at times them closing their eyes and sleeping. Such gentleness and calmness I saw and that I hope I have captured with these images.

These Swans kept me company throughout that morning coming in close to see if they would be fed, then retiring to a safe distance should I present some bread or other food for them. I didn’t use any food as I just wanted the birds to come and go as they wished, even though they had a slight tolerance to humans they were still wild animals and free to come and go. As it happened I captured some wonderful moments using my trusted long lens and much loved wide angled lens which is perfect for wildlife and getting those wider shots I love seeing and photographing.

I spent a good several hours around the lake and surrounding area that morning and had some wonderful moments, making several short films, all explaining my craft for PhotoTraining4U. I will be going live on the site in January 2012 when I will officially join the site as one of their masters, covering my passion of wildlife photography for them.  The films I’ll be shooting with the team will follow me as I work the land, from dawn to dusk.  I will showing members how I work, photographing wild animals within their habitat, showing their different behaviours and characters within photography.

I had a really good time, big thanks to Mark, Jay and the rest of the team.  Thank you all for your hospitality and warm welcome, and I look forward to working with you guys. As I mentioned I will be going live on the site in January 2012, becoming their master on wildlife photography. Where all the films I will be making can be seen on there website, so if you’d like to know more information then visit PhotoTraining4U’s website or email me direct here.

And just before I go I heard back from the British Wildlife Photographic Awards – BWPA last week and my short-listed Red Grouse image in the Habitat category was beaten by a Red Grouse wide angled shot, almost the same as mine, without the light, so I was a little gutted there, the winning image there was amazing. I entered some amazing images captured in the wild but they didn’t get anywhere, with alot of images doing well from set up sights which aren’t the same as finding the image through your own hard work in my eyes.

It really puzzles me to what judges are looking for within a wildlife photograph for a competition, where it comes down in the end to the photographers integrity to disclose the facts of the shots, that can be judged alongside the image. Good luck to all those who won or where commended. Here is the image, 15 minutes crawling forward to capture this male Red Grouse calling down the valley which was covered in morning mist, shot with a 24-70mm wide angled lens

And one of my favorite images entered into the same competition, two Great Crested Grebes going about their courtship, captured here swimming alongside each other in a show of affection towards each other.


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Madagascar Lemurs and Whales Photo Tour

Filed in Photography Tips, Places Of Interest, Wildlife, Workshops on Jul.05, 2011

Photograph some of the most unique and endangered wildlife in the world as we explore the amazing country of Madagascar. There can be few places on this earth that offer us such unique, diverse and extremely beautiful wildlife as on the island of Madagascar. From the beginning of time nature has evolved, shaped itself and adapted to the different and changeling environments it lives and breeds in, carrying on the circle of life.

The island of Madagascar is one on its own, so many different and unusually wildlife, most of which are only found on this one island and nowhere else throughout the world. Next year I will be leading my own photographic tour to this amazing island, working with the best guides, through a trusted and results proven specialist travel company; World Primate Safaris. The trip can be viewed here

The trip is for 6 clients maxim, 2 clients minimum, where you will get the very best advice, and help from myself as we travel together as a group witnessing the marvelous wildlife this island has to offer.

Trips of this magnitude could not be undertaken without real help, as with all the photo trips I run myself, I work with the best guys on the ground offering the very best service, where the logistics are all taken care of.  With the planning of the trip organised from a wildlife photographers eye for wildlife photographers maximising the best light condition’s, offering the best chances of capturing outstanding images. So I’m pleased to announce that for this trip I will be working together with World Primate Safaris to deliver this amazing photo trip which I have had planned from early 2011.

The fourth largest and one of the most diverse islands of the world, Madagascar is unique because of its diversity of species. It is known as the “8th continent”. Brimming with endemic fauna and flora and with a diverse culture, geography and climate, you will never be disappointed when travelling around this amazing country. One moment you can be driving through pristine rainforest filled with lemurs and chameleons and the next you can be out on the savannah plains or white sandy beaches.

The Worlds wild population of Humpback whales migrate to the waters of Madagascar to give birth and nurture their young between June and September, so this is a great time for whale watching off the east coast. A major factor to the timing of our photo tour as we spend time watching and photographing this unique event in nature’s calendar.

Madagascar is encircled by a variety of beautiful beaches and islands from the south west coastline of Ifaty to luxury islands, giving the traveler the perfect opportunity to break up their itinerary with some days of relaxation on the beach and with our trip some amazing whale watching! The perfect end to your Madagascar photo trip.

The BBC series this year was an amazing programme showing the beauty of this island at the same time letting us see the truly amazing animals that have adapted to living on this island and nowhere else on earth.  The following short clip from this programme gives you an idea whats waiting, where the photography opportunities will be everywhere.

http://youtu.be/npe6_vX_ziQ

World Primate Safaris are specialists in Madagascar travel and this photo trip is fully ATOL protected for your complete peace of mind. Working with the very best local guides in Madagascar, all the key ingredients for an amazing trip.

Highlights of This Amazing Trip;

Visit the best places in Madagascar to see and photograph the island’s exotic and endangered wildlife, including ring-tailed lemurs, Verreaux’s (dancing) sifaka, indri, mouse lemurs, and a colourful array of bird species, chameleons, geckos, frogs, and much more.

As a tour designed for keen photographers (of all skill levels) and serious wildlife enthusiasts,we’ve carefully selected only the very best places for wildlife photography. Many of the animals we’ll see are remarkably tame and approachable, allowing for up-close photos and an incredible wildlife experience.

Travel as a small group and receive one-to-one instruction from professional wildlife photographer Craig Jones. Our accommodation throughout the journey will be hotels/bungalows and eco-lodges. All will have electricity for charging batteries ,en-suite bathrooms with hot water, and a daily laundry services.

For more information on this photo tour to Madagascar then please contact myself here or Shaun Stanley, World Primate Safaris. All flights can be booked through Shaun also depending on where in the world you’ll be joining us, a group flight from the UK is what we plan on doing for clients here.

To keep upto date with all the photo trips, shows, talks, exhibitions and my charity work I’m doing over the next 12 months subscribe to my monthly newsletter which can be found on the front page of my website in the bottom right hand corner. To those that book on this trip I can promise you a wonderful experience with some amazing photographs, I look forward to showing you this island many thanks.


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Mull-Sculpted By Nature

Filed in Photography Tips, Places Of Interest, Workshops on Jun.27, 2011

Mull is a magical, raw, unplanned and thought provoking place where you can see and view beautiful wildlife. Red Deer roam the hills, Eagles soar over the skylines, Seals bask on exposed banks and Otters frequent the many bays and inlets along Mulls coastline. Almost every other telegraph pole there’s a lone Buzzard sitting, acting as a physical welcome to the island.  Mull’s magic derives from its special blend of mountain and coastal landscape which forms such a tremendous variety of habitats that offer excellent opportunities for wildlife.

For me the most memorable aspect of being on this beautiful island is viewing the abundance of wildlife against the entrancing background of tranquil loch shores and beautiful woodlands, amongst the architecture of amazing mountains, with the mornings being the best to see this island awaken.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful week with clients on my twice yearly photo tour I call “Magic of Mull.  The Isle of Mull lies on the west coast of Scotland and has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles.  The climate is a mixture of rain and sunshine and from the moment you step onto this beautiful island the wildlife is everywhere and the scenery is stunning.  Our base for our 6 day adventure was the picturesque village of Tobermory, made famous by the children’s BBC programme Balormory, with its brightly painted buildings. The hotel is overlooking the harbour of Tobermory and facing out to Calve Island and the sound of Mull, which can be seen in the below image, on one of the many sunny days we had there during our stay on Mull.

Mull’s climate is extremely unpredictable and at any time of year you should be prepared for a wide range of conditions. The weather during our time on the island was good and kind to use. There were days that were overcast where we had rain but on the whole the weather was good.  After meeting everyone at the port of Oban, we took a short ferry ride over to Mull and then went on to our hotel that we were staying at for the week.  We had coffee overlooking the harbour and headed straight out for the day.

The pattern of events for each day were consistant, ensuring that clients get the best out of their time on Mull.  An Early start to get into place at one of the Otter sites and hopefully catch them as they wake and start to fish, head back to the hotel for our breakfast at around 8am,then collect our packed lunches and head out for the day.  The wildlife on Mull is generally accessible with the few exceptions of specialized birds along with the rare and legally protected birds that are not to be disturbed or approached as they are very senstive to disturbance.

When I have worked alone on Mull in the past I have stayed in one place for some time, getting a feel of the place, getting contacted as I call it.  But while leading a tour here for clients you have to juggle the need to see the wildlife along with the time constraints, as alot of the wildlife can be viewed only a short distance from the roads, which for me is ok but the way in which I work is working the land so to speak and this is something I was very keen to show the group.

As a group we covered both methods of approach this during our stay, where everyone enjoyed the fieldcraft tips and advice.  I also demonstrated how rewarding it can be on many levels when you blend into the environment, leaving the safety of the car and try to become part of the subjects world, thinking about wind direction, movement, in readiness to take the shot if you come across a chance and other fieldcraft tips and examples I showed and demonstrated. On the first day everyone had seen and captured some lovely images including the very shy male “dog” Otter that would show every so often.

During our time on Mull I had organised two great trips on consecutive days, one was three hours watching White Tailed Sea Eagles on one the Lochs and the other was a full days trip to the Treshnish Isles, a designated site of special scientific interest.

On the White tailed Eagles trip we sailed into the territory of a pair of these magnificent birds.  Due to the White tailed Eagle being so protected and looked after, close up views of these birds is almost impossible so this tip offers that chance.  We had a Gull escort to the site as they dived for bits of bread that the crew threw out for them.  There was no noise as the engine was stopped and a lone dead fish was thrown out.  The first real sign the Eagle was coming the Gull’s behaviour changed and they disappeared knowing this beautiful, massive bird was coming our way.

The sheer size of these birds becomes apparent when they soar past you, with a ten foot wing span they were truly stunning to see so close. They soared past, then in a flash dived for the fish, the whole thing was over in seconds. The whole group loved the trip and seeing these birds so close was a wonderful experience for them all.  The birds are truly wild and this trip has been passed by all the governing bodies that work to protect this bird with their ongoing work.

To see this behaviour without the fish placed out for them could take days of waiting around etc, so deep down for me from a wildlife photographers point of view it was too staged to pass the photographs off as a truly wild moment captured with my time and fieldcraft, but never the less a great way to see these birds and I can highly recommend the trip.

We visited the small islands of Staffa and Lunga the next day.  Staffa is a beautiful, uninhabited island which is home to hundreds of seabirds and set within waters teeming with marine life.  The island is best known for its magnificent columns of rock. The best place to see this is in Fingal’s Cave. Lunga is one of the best places in the UK to see Puffin’s and it is teeming with other birds too like Razorbill’s, Guillemots and Seals.

The name Staffa is thought to come from an old Norse word meaning wooden building staves, which look similar to the islands basalt columns.  The name is a reminder of the region’s Viking history.  People have marvelled at Staffa’s columns for centuries.  As you approach the island from the sea, you can see these columns of rock and the very impressive cave known as Fingla’s Cave.

According to legend, Fingal was a Gaelic giant who fell out with a Ulster giant and in order to fight Fingal, the Ulster giant built a causeway between Ireland and Scotland.  When the causeway was destroyed only the two ends remained, one at Staffa and the other at the giants causeway in Antrim.  The columns you can see today are the remains of this causeway.

Fingla’s cave named after this giant is the most impressive site on this small island, as you enter the smell if excrement is very strong as nesting birds and bats litter the small ledge and over hangs as you slowly walk in using the path people have used for centuries.  The shapes in the rocks formed by the sea over time are amazing, they look like they have been made by an experienced stone mason rather than the force of mothernature.  A great place and one I would recommend a visit to.

One of the best places in the UK to see Puffin’s, and teeming with other birds too, Razorbill’s, Guillemots and Seals is Lunga the second small island we visited that day.  It was a small journey to this stunning little island thats home to my favourite seabird the charismatic Puffin.

We spent over two hours on this lovely little island and from the moment you scale the landing steps and head up onto the flat top of the island the Puffins are not far from you.  Their calls can be heard first before they show themselves from the burrows and vegetation hiding them away from view.  We all got into place, settled and let the birds relax and over time if you sit still and don’t make too many movements the Puffins accept your presence and go about their lives around you which is wonderful to witness and watch.

As I was watching these birds and enjoying their interactions with each other this little fellow landed not far from me.  I was handholding the 70-200mm lens as he was close, he seemed to enjoy the company before flying off and back out to sea. The noises in the background are the other birds nesting along this cliff, Fulmars and Razorbills.

I wanted to portray the habitat the Puffins were nesting in, at the same time capturing one in flight with a wide angled lens to give you a sense of the world they live in. The images below shows the cliff and this coastal habitat on Lunga.

It is one of the best places in the UK to see Puffins that’s for sure, close up views, Puffins going about their lives all in close proximity of you as long as you stay still and make little or no movement.  Two great days and two very good day trips and the rest of the week flew by as we all concentrated on photographing Otters.

Each day we saw the Otters fishing far from shore among the different Lochs on Mull.  The shot the group wanted was a close up of this beautiful mammal and towards the end of the week and even on the last day those wishes were granted with a mixture of luck and being in the right place at the right time.  We were able to watch the same male Otter that had given us the slip most of the week, catch larger fish and come ashore not to far from where we were lying in wait.

He came ashore slightly higher up the beach at first, dispatching the fish he’d caught quickly then heading back out to sea to fish.  We thought that would be it as once Otters have had a good feed they tend to lie up somewhere for a sleep and this was late afternoon. But lady luck came again and he came back to shore with a larger  fish.  He ate the fish and that was the last we saw of him but a perfect end to a great week, underlining the sentence “you only get out what you put in” and the whole group did very well all week with the early starts and long days.

We were all sad to leave the island on the Friday but everyone had some great memories of this magical island sculpted by nature. A big thank you to all the group for your company during our time on Mull.  I hope I helped you all in seeing nature and learning more about her beauty while learning and showing you real and key camera skills that work on the ground.

I will be back on Mull in October during which time the Red Deer rut will be in full flow along with the amazing autumnal colours and snow capped mountains.  I have a few places left so to see the trip or book please click here. We stay in the same hotel over looking the bay of Tobermory, I always try to get clients the best place in which to stay as after a long day in the field comfort and good food is key.


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Early Spring in Norfolk

Filed in Photography Tips, Workshops on Apr.24, 2011

Spring is my favourite time of year, an amazing array of colours, fresh life and wildlife, this season is truly amazing within the different season we have during the year.  Having just returned from my Early Spring in Norfolk photo tour which I run every spring and 3 days of one to ones added on, its been a busy week with a amazing weather.  Early Spring photo trip is a full 3 days exploring the beautiful countryside of Norfolk at the same time staying at one of the best Hotels serving stunning local food, the perfect base to come back to from a day in the field. I had a great group of clients and a real pleasure showing you around Norfolk, at the same time giving you real help to improve your photography, fieldcraft and general understanding of the subjects we encountered and photographed.

Catching the season moving from winter into spring is a beautiful time, the wildlife of the Norfolk coast comes alive.  It is a place that is blessed with a rich and varied wildlife heritage, famous for its wild north coast, the rivers, lakes and marshes of the Broads and the sandy heaths. There are also the fens, grasslands and ancient woods within the wider farmed countryside, all beautiful places where we encountered many photographic opportunities during this photo tour. My knowledge of the North Norfolk Coast helped the group in seeing some of the best places along this beautiful coastline ensuring that they all captured some lovely images.

These 2 x three day photo trips I run every year,one in Spring and the other one in Winter are designed to show you as much of the wildlife and their own habitats as i can during these two trips, whilst at the same time balancing that with the best opportunities to capture the wildlife here.  The weather throughout the week was as kind as it could possibly be, with morning light and evening light offering lovely photographs for the entire group. Every morning on the roof apex a lone male Blackbird would fill the air with what has to be for me the most beautiful call of the British countryside. Standing as proud as punch as we are packed for the days adventures below him.

On the first morning we visited the predicted Spring Tide which was forecast alone with the full moon. Upon arriving we are had some lovely mist and sun rise shots, where I pointed out different images, suggested different compositions etc, all in tern designed to make the group grow within their own photography.  At the same time showing them that the beauty of photography is what the person chooses to capture when they look through their own viewfinder, and never to be restricted to one or two shots, this is how I learned.  There were lots of Bar and Black tailed Godwits gathered and cleaning, and some sleeping with their deep summer plumage warming the slight chill in the air.  They are such a beautiful and striking bird at this time of year and a firm favourite with the group on the day.

We then headed to a great little gem of a site with Barn Owls, Hares and Marsh Harrier all living in close proximity to each other, a mixture of rough grazing, farmland and marshland.  This amazing little place really is a little sanctuary for wildlife.  There are a pair of Marsh harrier living and nesting there, some distance away and protected from the shoreline by a small pool of water.  We watched and saw some amazing behaviours between them both, flying in, dropping into their nest site.  For some it was the first time witnessing this beautiful bird.  Marsh Harriers are doing really well in the county of Norfolk with several nest sites littered along its coastline.

Each afternoon, taking us into the evening we’d settle at one of the groups favourite places and capture whatever would show.  Throughout the several days there the Barn Owl actively was really quiet, with little or no sightings at the several sites I know, plenty of white feathers, pellets and pooh markings though.  My conclusion was they maybe sitting on eggs.  During this time one bird sits on the eggs whilst the other sleeps so their combined actively is really small, only venturing out to feed so fingers crossed they are still around and not been disturbed at any of the sites.

At one of the sites while we waited for the Owls to show, there is a  good amount of Brown Hare, so we all voted as a group to try our luck at these while we waited for the main act to show.  When I go somewhere new I always have a look around , east and west for the respective light source, as light equals speed, speed equals sharp images.  I demonstrated to the group some tracking and fieldcraft skills that they can remember and maybe take home with themselves and apply in their own work, going through the behaviours I have learned on the said mentioned subjects.

Over the last few days we visited this site a few times and everyone came away with some great shots, where I demonstrated the different composition options and encouraged the group to push their own boundaries in regard to how they see an image. On one of the mornings the sun was coming up and the hares were chasing and playing almost underneath the suns rays, so some careful fieldcraft and slow approach got us into place for some nice and very different images I felt, capturing that beautiful and atmospheric morning we all encountered.

Lighting, mist,sun and subject all coming together on those rare moments when all photography key elements work together. I chose to compose small in the frame, a style I love and here I was able to show a little of the habitat and the rising sun which adds so much to an image.  The Hares were fun to watch, even chasing off a Pheasant that was among the field, during other visits we witnessed two Hares following each other, the male behind the female constantly sniffing the female waiting for her to come into heat so he can breed with her.  The poor fellow was really hanging onto this female with stiff competition from other males knocking around,such great behaviour to watch where you learn some much about the subject all benefiting your work.

This male Hare seemed to be top dog and had a few females in his harlream,the battle scars are clear to see with a half chewed ear reminding me of Bigwig from the film Watership Down.  The first film I saw at the pictures. I also had a lovely encounter with a Wheatear who seemed to check me out as I was lying on the ground.  Here I composed the bird in the morning light with the dew from the grass reflecting light making a lovely, soft appearance to this image.

Had some lovely feedback from clients and Andrew Hall wrote :

“I would like to say a massive thank you for the fantastic time I had on your spring waders workshop Your willingness to share your knowledge and techniques was extremely refreshing from the guarded nature of most other professional photographers. The technical tips you gave helped to improve my photography, however the highlight for me was the amount of fieldcraft knowledge that I was able to gain Our time spent crawling and lying around the field photographing the Hares was fantastic and incredibly rewarding when we walked away with the photographs we had in mind at the start Once again a huge thank you and I look forward to future workshops/trips that I hope to do with you soon! I will never hesitate in recommend you to anyone and everyone”

David Naylor who attended a day in Norfolk with me :

After recently purchasing a new camera and years of average bird snaps from my old camera I took the recommendation from a friend and booked a day out with Craig in Norfolk. I can honestly say that in the first hour with Craig, albeit at 5.30 am, in a damp field, I leaned more about how to take really excellent photos than I have in the last 10 years of reading books and magazines. Craig covered all the basics of the camera then moved on to composition, exposure and auto-focusing and gave me real confidence in both myself and the equipment. We spent the rest of the day consolidating the advice in a variety of lovely locations and I am truly grateful to Craig for his open and informative tuition. Nothing is kept back and Craig shows you exactly how he takes truly superb photos. I cannot recommend Craig highly enough if you want to learn how to take better photographs”.  

More testimonals can be viewed here

Thank you to all my guests on the Early Spring in Norfolk, great company, great food and great weather, many thanks also to the three clients who booked one to ones in Norfolk.  I wish you all well and very nice to meet and help you all in improving your photography, at the same time learning more about the countryside amd fieldcraft.  I have a few days off now until my next photo tour to Texel.  My Texel trip starts on Thursday evening, co-hosted by my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel from Holland.  

This beautiful island of Texel is full of birdlife at this time of year and if lasts years trip is anything to go by then the whole group is in for a real treat, its home to one of the most stunning and beautiful waders, the Black Tailed Godwit which was photographed from last years trip. I will update my blog on my return before heading to India to photography the amazing Bengal Tiger with clients booked onto my Tigers of India trip.

Best Wishes and Happy Easter.

 




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Norfolk in Monochrome

Filed in Photography Tips, Places Of Interest, Workshops on Feb.22, 2011

I have spent the weekend in the sleepy, tucked away county of Norfolk, one of my favourite places within the UK.  A bounty of diverse birds and wildlife which enrich this area throughout the year, making this a mecca for wildlife loving people.  I had clients with me during these two days on One To Ones covering the Spring Tides, Barn Owls and the many other species of wildlife that live along the North Norfolk coast, dominated by the Wash a large area of salt marsh which has one of the greatest concentrations of bird life within the UK, internationally important for many breeding birds and over-wintering wildfowl.

During the two days the weather became testing at times where the the sun stayed hidden behind a wall of cloud for the best part of the two days, just giving us enough light to capture some of the wildlife through photography.  With an almost colourless appearance to most of the images from both days I have chosen to present them in a black and white manner or Monochrome as the term is better known, where you have to look further and deeper into an image to see what is captured within its frame.

Devoid of colour the human eye is forced to look right into the image, spending more time in the absence of colour which can often let you know which species is displayed.  I have always loved black and white images, glimpses of a bygone era where you wonder in the absence of today’s technology how on earth they managed to capture such wonderful images.

Photography is the art of taking or making photographs, it is the creation of images by exposing film or a computer chip to light inside a camera.  The word photography comes from Greek words meaning to write or draw with light.  So by presenting these images in a black and white format from a well visited place I visit, it gives a different account of the images I capture during my many visits there during the year.  Simple composition and strong elements are key to all photography, more so with black and white, where some images you take and review on the back of the camera will lend themselves very well to this monochrome format.

Black and White Photographs are among one of my favourite styles, both to look at and to create.  Shooting for black & white is challenging, you immediately eliminate one of your building blocks of design;  Colour.  That’s one less tool that you have to compose with.  Personally I am drawn to the beauty that is created by black and white and always have been.  It makes the viewer focus on the strong compositions, textures and shapes as opposed to symbols, colours.  Contrast in photographic composition is an effective means of directing the viewer’s attention to the centre of the interest.  The positioning of the subjects elements to create contrast gives them added emphasis and directs the viewer’s attention all brought about in the absence of colour.

A photograph of wildlife on an overcast day can result in a dull photograph, but taking that same scene in black and white will help the viewer to see the contrasts and graphics of that image. Focusing on the emotions of the subject.

I have always said that there is always an image to be had from the moment I picked up a camera , if the main subject does not turn up then never put the camera down.  This is the advice I always give to clients.  Adopting this attitude and ‘can do’ approach will broaden your own ideas along with your creative style resulting in many interesting and different images from your encounters with nature, while at the same time learning new and exciting techniques within your  own photography, which can cross over into many different formats of this discipline.

Animal behaviour is something I love to capture within my work.  However simple you can learn so much from wildlife in general and more so the subject you are photographing.  This is another ‘learn’ I like to show all my clients and it can make the difference to your photographs on a massive scale.  During one of the days at Norfolk we were at one of the sites I know, where the incoming tides flood the gullies and inlets which provide great feeding for many different birds.  The Turnstones were busy turning stones, foraging for food, doing all the leg work for often little reward in terms of food.

Black-headed Gulls watched them, perfectly still, not really attracting any attention, then in the next breath bully their way in after the Turnstones had found a food item.  These couple of images show one Gull alone, watching a Turnstone feed, break open the mussel shell, for him to come in and steal the prize.  I chose to focus on the Gull with the second image clearly showing him watching this poor Turnstone work on this food source he’d found, clearly showing the Gulls intentions.

How wonderful nature is in every form and these simple behaviours are right under our noses alot of the time.  Always stay tuned in to where ever you are and never put the camera down.  This is the very best advice I can give.  My clients over the weekend hopefully went away with this and much more from the One To Ones– Spring Tides, Waders, Barn Owls days I run almost three times a month now throughout the year.

I show clients keys sights, go through their cameras and settings, I also cover fieldcraft, wind direction and the use of natural light, enabling all clients to go home with more tools in their ‘own box’, in turn helping to improve in all aspects of wildlife photography, at the same time showing behaviours in wildlife and the subject  in question, looking for impending action and movement, using whats around you to hide and conceal your presence and much more during these action packed days.

If there is anything I have touched on here that interests you or you want any further information on workshops etc then please send me an email here .  Thank you to Karl and Ingrid on Saturday and Jonathan on the Sunday for your company and I wish you all well in your photography.


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Wildlife Photography-Fieldcraft

Filed in Photography Tips on Feb.02, 2011

One of the most important tasks for a wildlife photographer is getting to know the subject, spending time watching, listening and looking, learning  its behaviour, its habits and calls.  In turn all of this will reward you with a far better chance of capturing images that show the subjects natural behaviour.  Most, if not all animals show clues that can provide an advance warning of behaviour that will tell a story within your photographs, such as fighting, hunting, and mating.  It is also important to recognize the signs of stress within the animal so you know when to stop and leave the animal well alone.  The last thing you ever what to do is cause undue stress and disturbance through your actions.

By watching and learning about the subject you get to know their behaviour and any sudden changes so that you can be ready by just observing their behaviour and patterns, which can change in a second, from peaceful to action images in a instance. This observing approach can learn you so much about a subject which will be key to improving your wildlife photography and the images you capture.

There are two approaches when it comes to getting close to nature, the first is to conceal yourself so that the subject does not know that you are there, the second is stalking which takes more time and a lot more skill and patience to master.  Many species of mammals and birds will allow you to approach them closely if you are careful and take your time, no fast movements and using the correct techniques.  Read the land for yourself, see whats in front of you, in between you and the subject, use natural gulley’s and shapes to break up your approach.  Never make the mistake of walking directly towards your subject as the chances are the animal will have long gone.

Your approach needs to be slow and low, watching and listening, as other birds and animals will give your position away should you be seen.  Look for dry grass, leaves and gather a small amount in your hands and throw this into the air determining the wind direction.  Once you see which way the wind is blowing you can determine your approach better as most animals have a great sense of smell and its the first thing to give you away.  The wind always wants to be blowing into your face, this will blow your scent away and remember to forget the aftershave or perfume along with soaps that are high in perfume as these will be picked up from great distances away.

As many animals and birds are very shy and very wary of humans, as a wildlife photographer you need to take great care not to disturb your subject as your aim is to get close to photograph their natural relaxed behaviour, making for a much better image.  Getting into place before the sun comes up is also a great tip as you will have been there for a while before the sun comes up and the animal will not see you.  Using good fieldcraft skills that I have mentioned will allow you to be able to capture images showing what they are doing, as all animals and birds are most active at dawn and dusk.  This image of two fallow Deer was captured just as the sun broke the horizon and I was in place in the dark, set up and settled, which then allowed me to have a view and window into their behaviour and lives.

Is camouflaged clothing really necessary? Many people have asked me this question and for me its part of the fieldcraft package, so the answer is yes.  Your shape, white skin exposed, straight lines formed by your body all need to be broken up.  It works by letting you blend into the habitat you are working in, so if its snow you need to be white, on the beech the main colours need to be of a sandy colour and so forth.  My own experiences and skills that I learnt from my army days have been invaluable and have proven that they are transferable to wildlife photography.

The 3 S’s – Shape, Shine and Silhouette, these need to be broken up,  disguised as much as possible changing your physical appearance when you are working the ground as I do within my style of photography. If you are working from a car or hide you still need to have in mind that the subject will still see and smell you, so the need to break up these 3 S’s is paramount in the field.  Avoid materials that rustle and its always a must to wear a hat to break up your silhouette along with gloves that cover your hands so light isn’t reflexed back from your exposed bright skin.

Clothing, wind direction, covering the ground, shape, shine, stay low, can all help in capturing those moments in nature where you have to work harder with some animals than others.  Some species will accept human presence quicker, taking only hours, where as other more sensitive subjects will take weeks if not months.  Its the way I work while capturing wild animals as I like to show them in their natural habitats, composing them to show others how they go about their lives, so correct fieldcraft and camouflaged clothing are an integral part to the way I work.  Being at one with nature is amazing and with time and effort and applying good fieldcraft everyone is capable of capturing those beautiful moments I am blessed with seeing each time I enter the natural world.

Alot of the great wildlife photographs you see are as a result of many hours of dedicated and skilled photography, knowledge learned about the subject, fieldcraft applied, patience and perseverance, however, there are many great images that are also the result of a lucky encounter, where fast reactions of the photographer have succeeded in capturing a beautiful moment in time with that added ‘wow’ factor.  Regardless of the level of photographic skill you still need to be in exactly the right place at the right time, if you wish to capture a unique photograph from the wild.  You will increase your chances of this by spending as much time as you can in the field, watching, looking and listening to mother nature.

That decisive moment when it comes will be very fast and then over before you know it.  Where the subject is in the position or the action is at its best, might only be for a split second but by applying all the elements I have mentioned you will be in a prime position to capture that amazing image.  By remaining alert at all time you will reduce the chance of missing that killer shot as I call it, and increase your chances of seeing and detecting some aspect of behaviour that could alert you to an impending opportunity.

Thorough planning together with learning as much as you can about the subject you are watching will result in a great improvement within your wildlife photography. Adopt a mindset thatyou must work with whats in front of you, use the ground to your advantage but above all else relax and enjoy.  Don’t put any pressure on yourself and the rest will fall into place. Also never mislead people about what you have used to obtain an image, eg- fieldcraft, hide, captive or tame animal, bait/fed,  workshop and so forth.  A level of integrity and honesty should always be displayed with your work where your own rewards for putting the effort in will be well worth it in the end by developing sites and learning about the land and the animals it supports. 

All of the one to ones, workshops and photo trips that I run touch on all of the aspects of improving your wildlife photography, where fieldcraft is one of the major factors in producing lovely images of animals that live in the wild.  I wish you luck and remember always to respect wildlife the images are always second to their needs.

 If you would like any further help or advice on any of the topics I have raised then please feel free to send me an email here


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