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Saturday, 29 August 2009

Trip report - The Farne Islands, day 2

Having now visited the islands on Day 1, I knew what to expect, and more importantly, what I wanted from Day 2.

Everyone wants a shot of a Puffin with a beak full of Sand Eels, and I'm not different, so I sat on the board walk and watched what was going on for an hour or more.

What was taking place in front of me was something I didn't expect.

The Puffins rear their young underground, in burrows. As I watched, I would see a Puffin arrive with a beak full of eels.

Now, there were gulls present constantly. These gulls just waited and watched.

The Puffin would return with 10 - 20 eels and fly low and fast over it's burrow. If there was a gull nearby, they would fly past and keep doing so until the coast was clear.

Once landed, they were in the burrow within seconds.

This is all good to watch, but with a 500 f4 to use, not ideal.

I managed a few shots, and this is my favourite:

Trip report - The Farne Islands, day 1

What can I say about the Farnes Islands ?

Well, if you like your sea birds, if you don't mind a boat trip and you can put up with a bit of a pong.......well, get to the Farnes in July.

They certainly provided me with my closest encounter with seabirds yet, and a trip that I will never forget.

The Farnes are managed by the Natural Trust, so access is limited.

Trips are available from Seahouses harbour based on half or full days - essentially this gives you a couple of hours on each of the two islands that are open to the public.

I was lucky enough to pay a visit with a super group of people made of members of EOS Network members and CFF members - some knew each other from previous adventures, and some didn't.

Day one started early for me with a quick visit to the beach in front of the hotel at 5.30am. The early morning light showed this heron off against Bamborough Castle -

After breakfast, a sea mist rolled in which turned to rain later in the day.

As I've mentioned before, I like extremes of weather and the mist over the Farnes made for challenging conditions for a photographer.

This Puffin was taken as the mist was rolling in...........

Later in the day, the rain started.

As I've mentioned before in my blog, I've become a lover of the rain and added dimension it adds to my photography. Good waterproof gear is essential, as is being able to keep your gear dry.

This image was taken after after everyone had run for cover, leaving me to lay in the muck and get my shot........................

I just love the water droplets on this Razorbill.

The boat back to the mainland picks you up at 4pm, so once back, we dried off and hit the bar......

Photography Days

I love my wildlife. I love to watch wildlife.

My photography is a bonus - a creative medium that allows me to indulge my passion for wildlife.

Photography has helped me to see more of our natural world and to appreciate it's beauty more than I've ever done before.

This brings me to photography days.

I was invited earlier this year to attend two arranged days out with one the UK's leading wildlife photographers, Danny Green.

Now, I have to admit I was dubious - prearranged shoots are not for me. I get a kick from planning and executing a shoot of a subject, but to have it placed in front of me ?

I'd met Danny before, so knowing his relaxed approach, I was happy to go along.

The day started at around 10am and didn't finish until almost sunset.

We 'enjoyed' rain, wind and sun at Vinnies Barn Owl Centre and Vinnie certainly has a way with his birds.

Danny as always was relaxed and available for any advise or assistance if needed.

This image was taken in the rain, and won one of the monthly comps on Canon Fodder Forums, which I was really pleased with.

Am I still dubious - no.

Photography days have to seen for what they are - a prearranged event, where the subjects are brought to you.

Vinnie was excellent at being able to present the subject in as natural a surrounding as possible - the rest is then up to you.

It certainly allows the a photographer a chance to practice, and to mingle with like minded individuals.

Would I go again- yes.

Danny is a super bloke - straight as they come and very willing to share knowledge.

Vinnie is passionate about his birds but also understands what photographers want - natural looking images from captive subjects.

Worth the money - yes.

Where else can you hire a professional photographer, all you need for lovely images - for 8 hours, for under a hundred quid ?

Local patch

Local patch is shameless plagiarism I'm afraid - taken straight from an idea on the Wildlifeacrossthewater blog.

My patch is Essex - my local patch is Hornchurch, Upminster, Rainham and Elm Park.

RSPB Rainham Marshes is 10 minutes away in the car, and, for those of you who've read my blog before, you will know that I've previously said that it is a relatively new reserve, but with great potential.

I'm pleased to report that Rainham is doing very well indeed - they've even sighted Osprey this year ! Development has been extensive, and it is well worth a visit.

With Rainham being so close, I can visit the reserve and focus on a particular subject so a few weekends ago, I went looking for Water Voles.

The Vole population at Rainham seems to be increasing year on year, and I read recently that the Wildlife Trusts are seeking to reintroduce Water Voles where ever possible through a breeding and relocation program.

The board walks at Rainham are excellent for viewing the Water Voles at provided you are quiet, I can almost guarantee that you will see one. Photography, especially at this time of year is difficult however due to the amount of reeds and growth, but if you're lucky, you might get to see this rare riverbank specialist.

The fellow in these photo's was happily posing for me not 6 ft away - previously, I've had them so close that they were within the focus distance of the 500 !

Macro - a new subject for me

I've owned a 150mm f2.8 Sigma macro lens for a couple of years now thanks to a close friend who lived in Hong Kong and was able to bring me back to the UK whatever I wanted at bargain prices.

I wanted to own a macro lens, and this one has come good reviews, so I duly sent him an order and next time he flew back to the UK, he had my lovely new macro lens with him.

The problem has been that I then bought a 70 - 200mm f2.8L (same source) and then a 500mm f4L. The macro lens never left it's box - until this year.

I've not been out a few times with it having seen some great macro work posted on NPN and CFF.

My first effort was this soldier beetle, and in taking the shot, it really brought home to me how difficult and specialised this medium of photography can be.

The slightest movement and you've a blurred image.

Having studied the exif data of some of the images that have
impressed me, some of the togs are shooting at very high f stops - I saw one stunning image taken at f22.

This presented a problem for me in that I set the camera at f12, and got a shutter speed of around 1/6th - ie., a fuzzy blurr.

More respect due to macro guys, and more practice needed for me !

My next effort produced a more pleasing result and a more compliant subject. This Southern Hawker was hunting when I spotted him and flew around me for about 10 minutes before he settled and allowed me to approach him.

I wasn't sure of the species, but a quick post on CFF and I had an id from Martin Dyer (Wildlifeacrossthewater).

I am very pleased with the result, and having considered selling this lens through lack of usage, I'm going to keep it, and get out with it more as I think macro opens up a whole new world - provided it's not windy of course !


I was given a super opportunity to photograph Dippers with my good mate, SJK, so after the usual early start, we arrived at the 'location', which is a beautiful spot in the depths of Derbyshire.

The dippers at this location are pretty much unfazed by humans and so close approach is possible, although dependent upon the time of year, one must be wary not to disturb possible nest sites.

I've watched these birds a few times now at several different sites, and if you know what to look for, they are more common than I ever thought. I've seen them this year as far north as the Cairngorms and more recently down south near Dartmoor in Devon, but none have been so easy to approach as the one's in Derbyshire.

Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, Dippers don't live in Essex but if anyone out there knows different, let me know...............