Monthly Archives: October 2009

More from RSPB Snettisham

Cloud patterns at sunset, Snettisham

Like Gower a lot of the North Norfolk coast is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Once again having such wide open beaches allowed me to dabble in my favourite pastime of some cloud photography. I always take images of clouds usually because I am waiting for something else to happen. Here I had the dramatic clouds I wanted, but this time there were no geese around!

Wheatear, RSPB Snettisham

Earlier on in the day I managed to get this image of a female Wheatear. Once again she was relatively tame due to being used to birdwatchers. By slowly following her around at about a 10 metre distance, she got used to my presence and then quite happily came closer to me while feeding. She posed nicely for a few seconds and then flew off. My time was up. I left her alone and moved on. I found that in the evening a Kestrel patrolled along the edge of the shoreline, and typically when it hovered just above me, my camera was fitted with an extreme wide angle lens and pointing in the wrong direction! I still managed to make an image by quickly remounting my 500mm lens, but it is still not there yet with an award winning shot.

Hovering Kestrel

Moving on up – RSPB Snettisham

Pink footed Geese at RSPB Snettisham

After leaving WWT Welney, I headed up to the Norfolk coast and Snettisham in particular. On Gower the best place to see over wintering birds is the North Gower coast over looking the Loughor Estuary, but it doesn’t get the numbers that are seen in Norfolk. Once again I was a bit early for the full bird count, but some Greylag geese were present and quite tame due to the Kings Lynn Angling Association having some fishing lakes on the way into the reserve. The presence of anglers allows the birds get used to human presence, and seem quite at home with people. During the day they would feed in the fields next to the reserve car park and then move into the reserve later on.

One of the reasons for my trip to Norfolk was to try and get the iconic image of  geese flying in V formation against a sunset. Not an original idea, I grant you , but one I wanted to record anyway. My trip was blessed with fine sunny weather, which resulted in slightly boring and unspectacular sunsets, so I never got the image I wanted!

Geese in flight

I stayed on to try and see if the sky changed colour, but it still stayed blue in the areas the geese were flying in from. What amazed me was how tolerant they were of human presence and how close they fly to you. At the reserve you have to walk along the sea defences mainly, so you are quite visible from all directions. So no sneaking up close to anything then? Well no, as the birds are so used to seeing birdwatchers etc. they are used to benign humans being present. Not like one of my trips to North Gower where a wild fowling club have some shooting rights. I though things were a bit quiet one visit, so when returning back home I passed all the members with their shotguns who had been out before my arrival. Not surprisingly all the birds stayed well clear of that area for the whole day.

Greylag in flight at sunset

The above image was taken just before the sun set fully. It is a testament to how sensitive digital capture is and the detail it can capture.

WildPhotos 2009

Reeds at Sunset

This image was taken on the way to my B+B just a short drive from WWT Welney. A simple shot, it relies on the colours in the sky to give it some impact. I tried a version with the reeds lit with fill in flash, but it didn’t seem to work as well.

I have just returned from London and the WildPhotos 2009 event held at the Royal Geographical Society. This is the first time I have visited WildPhotos and I must say I enjoyed it immensely. There was a great mix of geographical areas and different style of photography from Polar to under water and everything in between!

I enjoy the writings of Nial Benvie and he presented two very interesting sessions. One covered his latest images and photographic direction, with the other discussing the business and direction of professional wildlife photography. Presentations were also given by Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols of National Geographic/Magnum who has some outstanding images, all the way through to Fergus Gill the winner of Junior wildlife photographer of the year competition category. We had presentations in Spanish and Russian, luckily translation was provided! But overall the images shown by all the photographers were outstanding. They showed that there are multiple styles and approaches to wildlife photography; photojournalism through to artistic and pure scientific. Each had their own merits, but all provoked thought and appreciation of the subject and the skill of the photographer. I will discuss some of the themes from the event in my next few postings, which will also show some more of my road trip photographs. Below is a brief rough and ready video of some of the scenes at WildPhotos 2009. Sorry no photographers lectures, I was too busy listening and looking at their images!


Late leaving Summer Visitors

Final brood of Swallows being fed

This image was taken as I was leaving WWT Welney and crossing the bridge back to the Visitors Centre and car park. Other visitors ahead of me had stopped to take some photographs of the fledglings waiting to be fed by their parents. They were sitting on the top edge of the wooden screen either side of the walk way waiting for their parents to feed them. They were very tolerant of human presence, and therefore allowed a close approach.

I waited for the other photographers to finish taking some photographs before I started moving along the bridge. If the birds got a bit nervous of they would take off and land back on the bridge some where else. Once settled they allowed a closer approach. From my original direction of approach the light direction wasn’t that good, but I still made some images just in case the swallows left completely with my attempt to get the other side of their position. Occasionally the birds took off in alarm when a Kestrel passed by, but once I got into position with better lighting I was trying for this shot. The fledgling swallows would start begging for food as their parents flew past so I concentrated on one individual, waiting for signs of the fledgling to start its begging and then hit the shutter button. With 8fps on the motor drive I was hoping that one image would include the parent flying in. There is no substitute for taking lots of images in this situation, so don’t be afraid to use the delete button when editing later!

As a side issue, there some ethics you should adopt when approaching a subject when other photographers are present and also generally in your outdoor photography and wildlife issues. Recently in Outdoor Photography magazine there has been some discussion about some set ups used by the photographer Niall Benvie for some of his images. Having read a lot of Niall’s writings, I know that he is very careful and ethical in his photographic approach. When I noticed that other photographer were photographing the swallows I could have walk right up to their position and attempted to make some images straight away. This in my mind is a selfish approach as it would be about just me and the images I could make. A couple of things could have happened: I got my photographs of the swallows as well as the other photographers and the birds stayed put, I scared off all the birds and no photographers got any photographs or I scared off the birds and only the other photographers got some photographs. There is no real written code of conduct but the North American Nature Photographers Association have some guidance on their website which is worth reading and following. Download the PDF version here. To make my photographs I approached slowly to the are over 10 minutes, made sure the other photographers were aware of my presence and waited for them to stop taking photographs before moving closer. As a result we all got photographs.

This contrasts with another experience I had later on in London’s Richmond Park where I was photographing the Red Deer. I was alone photographing a Stag with impressive antlers, and had been doing so for about 20 minutes when 3 other photographers walked straight up towards the stag to try and make some images. Even though the deer in Richmond Park are habituated to humans, the Stag got up and moved away quickly. Why? Probably two reasons: a rapid, direct approach towards any animal could be perceived as an attack plus since multiple persons were involved it could appear as a ‘pack’ hunting. A slower more deliberate approach would have probably resulted in images for all!

I’m off to WildPhotos 2009 in London later today, so say hello if you see me. I’ll be the guy with the Gower Photography logo on his shirts!

Finally starting to catch up!

WWT Welney

Sorry for being a bit slow with the posting of new images, but things have been quite busy since my return from my late summer road trip. I will start posting some images from the trip over the next few days, plus some recent images from Gower as well which I am really pleased with.

My road trip took me from Swansea to friends in Hertfordshire and then onto West Norfolk and the Northern Norfolk Coast, which is also designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From Norfolk I headed down to London for a few days. People may wonder what an outdoor photographer is doing in London, but it is one of my favourite places. I lived there for over12 years, plus in some areas the wildlife is so habituated to people it makes photography easier. Plus I can indulge my photographic desires in the photographic stores and dabble in other styles of photography, such as candid street images, architecture etc.

My first stop in Norfolk was at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) centre at Welney. September is a bit on an in between month, with the summer visitors mainly absent and the winter visitors yet to arrive. This is true for the other reserves I visited as well, but knowing this I was using my visits mainly as a scouting trip. Hopefully this will help me with a return visit at a more productive time of year. I now know the layout of each reserve and more importantly the sun and hide positions. I always use a sun position compass to help me predict sun position in unfamiliar areas, but it is good to see the layout of the reserves with your eyes.

Back from being on the road

Man and field

I have returned from a few weeks on the road to the south east of England and Norfolk. This was my first trip to Norfolk, and was mainly used for scouting locations. It wasn’t quite the best time to catch photographs of the over wintering birds yet, but I still managed to get some images I liked. Nothing outstanding though. The above image was taken in the field behind a friends house in Hertfordshire. I was originally trying a photograph with a wider view to try and show off the lines of colour in the grass, but it didn’t seem to be coming together. I then attempted an image using just the lines in the grass which worked better, when the man in white started walking across the path in the field. I placed him in the lower right third intersection originally but this allowed a row of trees to come into the top of the image which distracted from the patterns in the grass. By placing the man in the top right third intersection I could get rid of the trees which made the image stronger.

I hope to get some more images uploaded soon once I have edited them and processed them. I have been a bit slow doing this as I have been busy with a few days of 1-2-1 tuition recently and also planning the courses and workshops for next year, which I have just announced. Check out the main website for the full details. I have a busy few months leading up to Christmas with lots of project ideas and a few days of personal training with a sound recording workshop in December plus I will be attending WildPhotos 2009 in London in October. Anyway keep checking back for the latest posts with some more images from my travels.