Thursday, 24 December 2009

Rosie the red-necked red deer

It hardly seems possible that Christmas is nearly upon us again, although the last few days of snow and frost have helped make things feel a little more festive. I don't have any photos of reindeer, but I rather like this shot of a red deer taken in Bushy Park last week (as I was taking a break from Christmas shopping!).

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and blessed 2010!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

In the deep mid-winter

The last few days have been bitterly cold with snowfall across the south of England - relatively unusual for December. Today, however, the sun was out and the light was beautiful. I took the opportunity for a walk in the park after completing my Christmas shopping. Most of the ponds in the Woodland Gardens were covered in thick ice, restricting the ducks to a few small areas of open water. This enabled me to get up close and personal with a couple of species which generally keep their distance. The first of these was a female red-crested pochard. Not quite as gaudy as the male - but I think I prefer her subtle colours. Particularly in the soft winter light

The second was the tufted duck. I have lots of photos of these - but for some reason very few that I'm pleased with. I think the problem is that if you expose the shot so as not to blow out the brilliant whites, you lose the sheen of their heads. On this shot I over-exposed the white feathers, but cropping them out yields an interesting portrait.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A morning at Cliffe Pools RSPB

I took advantage of the great light today by having a wander round Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve near Rochester in Kent. There was a lot going on down there. Lapwings, egrets and kingfishers to name but a few species I saw. The highlights of the day for me, however, were a chance encounter with a group of shore larks and an extended display by a kestrel.

I'd read about shore larks in another blog last week - otherwise I'd have had no idea what they were. Sadly, they were on the far side of a rather muddy stream so I wasn't able to get close enough for anything other than a record shot.

The kestrel, however, seemed positively determined to be photographed. It kept flying close by and then hovering or perching up in full view. I wish all birds where this co-operative!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Awards and interviews

One of the nice things about blogging is the great people you come across who share a common interest - and the informal community which grows up among them. Recently I've been privileged in that two of these people have chosen to feature my blog on their own.

Chris, of Chris Photo Nature recently awarded me a friends award. - which is very kind of him! Thanks Chris. Part of the conditions of this award are that I pass on a similar award to six others. I've thought about this a lot - and decided that rather than do this in one post I will, instead try to resurrect my blog focus posts in the new year and feature another six blogs.

Friends Award

Then Wren (of Wrenaissance Reflections) offered to feature QuantumTiger in the Nature Blog Network blog!

Yawning Tiger

So despite the lack of photography - November has actually been a very good month! Big thanks to both Chris and Wren both for these particular mentions and all that you do to make the wildlife photography blogging community a great place to be!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

(Not so) Wordless Wednesday: Elephant Seal Pups

Elephant Seal Pups

This week's 'Life' on the BBC featured footage shot on Sealion Island a couple of days before I was there. Sadly I missed seeing the orca - but I did meet the film crew and lots of the supporting cast (ie the elephant seals!).

(If you missed the programme, you can watch it on iPlayer for the next month or so)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Must resist temptation

Lots of rain here this weekend, so no chance to get out and take any pictures. I did have time, however, to read some camera reviews. It seems that the Canon EOS 7D is everything that I hoped that the 50D might be (and possibly a bit more). So now I have to resist going out and buying one. It would be easier to do if the 1D didn't keep playing up on me! Mind you if the prices drop after Christmas I might find myself caving in!

On the other hand I'd find it easier to justify if I was actually managing to get out and get some pictures! What do I want more? More time, good light or a new camera? Probably the first two...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Gannets in Flight

The last few days I've been off work with a nasty throat infection. It's meant no time for photography - but it has given me a chance to look over some older shots. I was particularly taken by some the flight shapes in my Gannet shots from Bempton last April.


I'd forgotten the yellow stripes that they have on their feet.


I liked this one too although I've managed to lose the edge of one wing.

Don't Look Down

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The fireworks of autumn

This weekend I managed a brief walk in this sunshine on Saturday afternoon. The autumn colours are beautiful, and with the absence of high winds still largely on the trees. I was privileged to see my second bullfinch of the year - a small group of them feeding in the trees. Sadly they were too shy to afford a photograph, but it was nice to see them.

On Saturday night I went along to a fireworks display with my father. That curiously British tradition of celebrating a failed attempt to blow up the houses of Parliament, by shooting thousands of pounds worth of gun powder into the sky! It was fun - but I was slightly disappointed this year. The fireworks seem somewhat less spectacular than the autumn colours.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Some like it damp

After a beautiful October, November has got off to a damp start. But for some things that is not bad. On Saturday I was down in the Forest of Dean on an annual foray into autumn. As has been the case in recent years there was not really the light to capture the full glory of this beautiful place. We did enjoy a trip around Puzzlewood (well worth the visit if you are in the area), and the fungi at least seemed to be revelling in the conditions.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Flights of fancy...

Yesterday I was back in Bushy Park. I didn't take many photos this time because I was doing some one-to-one wildlife photography training. The light was not the best for wildlife photography being a sold grey overcast. Conditions like that do, however, act as a giant soft box which does makes for interesting effects when shooting all white birds.

Towards the end of the day we were focusing on action shooting, so I headed to the main pond where people feed the ducks. There was lots of bread being thrown and the seagulls were very active, so whilst my client was occupied I grabbed a few shots myself. I now have rather too many flight shots of gulls - but I love the way that each new batch reveals new wing shapes and patterns. Here are a handful of my favourite shots from the day.

Black-headed gull

Angels Wings
Angel's Wings

Walking on Air
Walking on Air

Friday, 23 October 2009

Wildlife Photography Blog: Full steam ahead

Three months ago Wildlife Photography Blog was a twinkle in my eye. The initial concept of an RSS aggregator for wildlife blogs. It was only after I started working on it that the idea to publish its stream via Twitter occurred to me. Now heading towards November, it is the Twitter feed which is enjoying the most success.

The main site gets a reasonable amount of traffic, and performs well on Google searches, but it is not generating many clicks for its member sites. The RSS feed so far has less than ten subscribers and I have seen no evidence of it generating any traffic at all.

By contrast the Twitter stream has 350+ subscribers and is definitely referring traffic for member sites. At present the numbers are not huge - between 7-20 clicks for a single tweet. Where a WPB posting is retweeted by other twitter users this can increase to 40+.

The experiment is still live; it is too early to tell if the page rank element will be successful. For traffic generation, however, Twitter definitely seems to be the way to go.

So how can you help? Even one retweet of an entry significantly increases its visibility. And more followers means more traffic. So if you’re a wildlife photography blogger you can help the other members by retweeting their posts and encouraging your followers to follow WPB.

There are some wonderful blogs being written with fantastic photography, and I know there are hundreds of people out there who love great wildlife images. Hopefully over time WPB can be a way of connecting that audience with our blogs! Lets keep it moving…

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Diving Gannet

Having seen the gannets diving on Autumnwatch last night reminded me of an image I took on Mull but have not posted up so far. Over the week I was there I saw a lot of gannets diving along the cliff road by Loch Na Keal, but the weather was mostly too wet to even contemplate photography. The one day I did pass by and it was not raining there was just one gannet.

I watched it for about an hour and it was mostly too far away. I almost missed this shot as I was looking the other way as the gannet came closer. I turned just in time to see it do that little stall they do before drawing in their wings and plummeting like a Stuka. I fired off just three shots and this is the best of the bunch.

Not the best light, but I'm not unhappy with the shot. Now I need to find a friendly fishing boat and see if I can find them in larger numbers....

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Wildlife Photography Blog

A couple of months back I mentioned (Kestrels in the Park) I'd been spending too much time in front of the computer on a new project. Yesterday I realised I'd not announced that it was ready! So here we go.

The new site, the Wildlife Photography Blog Aggregator, already has a good number of wildlife photographers on board. If you enjoy wildlife photography check it out and it may introduce you to some excellent photographers you've seen. If you're a wildlife photography blogger, do consider joining the site. We'd love to have you aboard!

Of course I'm still spending too much time in front of the computer - but that's another story. In the meantime here is another shot from yesterday's walk in the park.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Return to the Rut

Today I'd arranged to meet a friend to take photos of the rut. The weather forecast was for solid overcast so we'd elected not to make too early a start. Of course the forecast was 100% wrong and it was a stunning morning. Then as I packed my bag I realised that I'd lent someone my 70-200mm lens, which meant I had no choice but to use the 400mm. Whilst this is a nice lens for the rut because it allows you to keep your distance, I generally prefer the flexibility of the 70-200mm with a teleconverter when photographing deer.

Their were a lot more stags out than the last time, but most of the action was deep in the long bracken. The smell of deer was very strong. By the sound of their antlers we located one pair locked in an extended duel. It was not really possible to get a good angle for photos - and when they broke off they emerged dangerously close to us - one leaping eight or more feet into the air to clear the bracken. It was an 'interesting' moment.

This was probably the best shot of the day. I'm not sure if this stag emerged the victor. He was very tired. I love the crown of bracken, and the steam of his panting. Shortly after this we lost the light for the morning.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Light and water

Well as expected I failed to make it out with the camera this weekend - so here are a couple more shots from my recent time in the Lake District. The first is a long exposure shot of the stream that flows from Grasmere to Rydal Water. I've sat in that exact spot on several holidays always looking for a shot which captured the place. This time is the first time I've come away happy.

I'm not so sure about including the second shot. Technically everything about it is wrong. But somehow I quite like it. Taken with my 400mm and 1.4x teleconverter whilst I waited for a bird that never quite came close enough. Looking at it now I should have taken it a second or two earlier to fully include the rear yacht and composed it slightly higher to not clip the tops off the sails in the background. But somehow, for me at least, it still has something.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Autumnal Deer

Having had beautiful light all week I've been itching to get out and take some photos. Yesterday I made it into Bushy Park and immediately spotted a group of red deer feeding in the fallen leaves near the entrance. I approached them quietly via wide dogleg so as get the best angle whilst not frightening them into the shade.

I managed about ten shots - of which this is the best - before a young girl cycled directly towards the group to take a photo with a camera-phone. This forced them under the trees and out of the light. I don't want to be a grumpy old man about this kind of thing - she had as much right to be there as me - but it is very frustrating when you've put in the effort to get a decent position without startling the animals and someone else blunders in and scares them off.

After this a thin layer of cloud came in and took the edge off the light, which was a shame. I was hoping to see some action between the stags - but they all seemed to be resting. Perhaps I'm a little early for the rut this year.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

An abundance of butterflies

So maybe we've not had the best of summers, but it does seem to have been a good one for butterflies. On my recent trip to the Lake District I saw rather more butterflies than birds, which was a bit of a problem because I left my best butterfly lens at home! Taking photos of butterflies with a 400mm lens is definately possible, but it does make getting the right angles more interesting.

It was nice to see tortoisehell's again. It seems a long while since I last encountered one.

And the speckled wood was a new one for me - but there were a lot of them along the banks of Lake Conniston.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Weather and Waders

My week on Mull was quite wet, and the weather prevented me from getting a boat out to the Treshnish Isles. It did not prevent a good time though - and in between the showers I managed a number of photographs. I spent the majority of the Thursday on the beach photographing waders. They were a bit flighty to start with, however, I knelt on the (very cold and wet) sand, and eventually they largely ignored me.

Fidden Beach is a beautiful Hebridean white sand beach. It had large numbers of dunlins, sanderlings and ringed plovers as well as a pair of bar-tailed godwits and an otter.

Uisken beach was a bit wilder (and rather smelly due to a dead sheep on the high-tide line). Here I saw more plovers as well as a number of white wagtails.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Encounters with otters

I love Mull.It's official. After nearly fifteen years of Highland visits I discovered Mull only three years ago. It has everything that Scotland has to offer, plus the widest variety of wildlife compressed into one relatively small island. When the weather is good you cannot beat it.

Last time I came with the express intention of seeing otters. This, apart from the briefest glimpse from my B&B window, I spectacularly failed to do. This time I decided not even to try. Consequently of course I have seen at least one otter every day. On Wednesday I spent over an hour watching a mother and two cubs fishing, playing and resting on the far bank of a loch. They were too far away for a photo, but great to watch. As I did so another otter emerged on the seaweed about fifteen yards from me affording me my first decent photo of an otter in the wild. I wasn't expecting it to get much better than that.


On Friday in the company of an otter-mad family from Yorkshire we found two more in nearly the same place. A stealthy slither across the seaweed covered rocks put us about twenty-five yards from these. As we settled down to watch, a car went by on the road behind us and one of the otters looked up to see what was going on. Right down the lens of my camera. Fortunately he did not see us.


After a short fishing expedition, the pair hauled up on the other side of us and afforded us another excellent view.


This, and several other unexpected otter encounters, have made this perhaps one of the most exciting wildlife holidays ever. In my personal 'top trumps'of British wildlife a wild otter beats almost anything else...

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Pre-trip optimism...

Looking out of my window this morning the sky is a cloudless blue, and low morning is highlighting the first tints of autumn in my neighbour's garden. After a grey few days it is a wonderful sight. It fills me with hope for the next few days. I'm off up to Mull for a bit and then coming back via the Southern Lakes. Very much looking forward to it all; but rather hoping that the light is good

I've just review my last my Mull shots. Some potential there in terms of subjects, buzzards, curlews, sea eagles, seals - but all uniformly drab and uninteresting thanks to unhelpful weather. Hopefully this year will turn up something more noteworthy!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Kestrels in the park

Having spent the last few days solidly in front of the computer working on a new project (of which more soon!) I decided to head out for some fresh air this afternoon. On arriving in Bushy park, I'd not walked more than ten yards from the car park when I spotted a kestrel. She was perched in some small trees and diving repeatedly into long grass.

So intent was she on her activity that she seemed oblivious to my presence. Over the next half an hour she treated me to a display of her hunting skills. I'm not sure if she'd had a hard few days, but she seemed to mostly be catching beetles.

After a while she settled down in a larger tree, and we sat and watched each other for a while before she finally disappeared off in a display of high altitude hovers and swoops. A good afternoon in my book!