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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Hermaness, Unst.

I will never, for as long as I am fortunate enough to walk this earth of ours, forget the moment I first laid eyes on the cliffs at Hermaness nature reserve.

The walk in, or rather up and through the reserve is via a board walk - a steep initial assent followed by a slow upward drag - which carrying my MKIII, 500f4l, 70 - 200 f2.8l, 24 - 105 f4l, tripod & wimberly, water, food and clothing for all weathers was a bit of slog.

When I arrived at the 'top', visibility was around 20 yards or less. I could tell the sea was quite a way off as I could hear faint sounds of breaking waves.
I could hear plenty of birds too, but I only caught glimpses as they came through the gloom.

I was a bit knackered from my walk, so I decided to sit down, listen and hope the air cleared.

Half an hour went by - no people, just an overiding sense of isolation and calm.

45 minutes later, and the fog lifted to show me this view......

An incredible scene - towering cliffs, raw weather and a remoteness I've rarely experienced before or since.

Thousands of gannets, fulmar, skua, puffin and many other sea birds, all sharing the cliffs and surrounding seas.

That day, I spent 5 hours on Hermaness. I saw 2 other people.

At times the sun shone, at others, it rained and at others, the sea mist blew back in, but all times I feel in love with this utterly wild and unspoilt place.

I walked back into Hermaness a further 5 times during my week on Unst and in the end, I enjoyed the walk - even with all of my kit !

Saturday, 25 September 2010

to crop or not to crop.......

............well, that was a question raised on NPN a couple of days ago, and boy did it create some interesting views from posters to that forum.

Now I only post my images on NPN - it has a massive audience, some of the best nature photographers and always provokes lively debate.

I'm not going to name names here, but one very well respected wildife tog (IMO the best we have in the country at the moment), made some sweeping and pointed comments re cropping, baiting, stacking, HDR etc.,.

Now re cropping, I've done it, if cropping has let me get that lovely shot of a subject that was just out of reach, then I've taken advantage - along with the other tools in PS that allow all images to be manipulated to a larger or lesser extent.

I do think though that cropping is something that most newer togs will grow out I hope, of as their skills develop - that's my experience in any event.

Minor comp adjustments aside, there is nothing to beat that feeling of getting that full frame image onto your PC, and knowing that you've nailed it !

A question for you - is this a crop of FF ?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Unst Otters

Back in May I spent a week on the Shetlands, staying on Unst, the northernmost island in the UK.

Over the next few weeks, I will blog some of the sightings and my experiences whilst there.
I stayed on a farm close to my friend, Robbie Brooks, who lives in the lovely community of Baltasound.

I was very fortunate to discover that a family of otters lived close by, and on my first morning after I arrived, I made my way to a likely looking spot along the shore line, set myself up and waited.

I can't actually recall how long I sat in my spot, but with such peaceful surroundings, it could have been hours. I spotted movement and the next thing, two otters appeared over the rocks and started to hunt and feed in front of me. The pair were a mother and her cub, and having fed, they settled down on the rocks in front of me for a sleep.

My first ever attempt at otter watching, and I've got a paor of them feeding in front of me, and now settling down for a kip !
For the rest of my week on Unst, I spent many hours sitting on the rocks, watching the tide and waiting for the otters to appear - which, fortunately for me, they did.

This shot was taken after I crawled down the beach to get closer and the otter swum right up in front of me with a crab, and proceeded to eat it within feet of where I was lying. Not a bad experience to have had at my first attempt.....

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Fallow Deer

A quick post tonight.

After many months of trying for a shot, I managed at last to get my shot of the deer that live not far from me. Apparently, there are something like 200+ deer roaming the area, but they keep themselves very well hidden.

This particular deer was feeding in the trees in the last light of the evening.

It slowly moved into a shaft of light and allowed me to take the shot you see above......

Monday, 13 September 2010

Local Patch

I've been working a new site over the past few months with my good friend, Calum Dickson, and very frustrating it's proved too! I can honestly say that I've never spent so much time planning a shot, waiting and watching - so far, we've had no luck. To say no luck is not quite the truth - from a photography point of view it's been a learning curve. Multiple flashes, remote shutter releases, depth of field calculations, tasty food for our 'subjects'...... We've also had some close encounters - two of our quarry charged at us one night, another has appeared from nowwhere and walked right past us. A few nights back Calum flushed one from the a field of corn and it walked over to me and smelt my boot ! What have we been after - badgers ! I've just this one image to prove that they exist, but as natures harvest this year seems to be more bountiful that I've ever noticed before, I guess our peanuts and dog food offerings just don't interest them at the moment........keep checking though and I'll make sure I report when we do get them - which we will !

Barn Owls - 2010

Another target species for me in 2010 are Barn Owls. I had success early in the year with this beauty who turned up for the last 20 minutes of light at a site I know that's an hour or so's drive from home. I love to watch these birds and I'm glad to see that after the harsh winter we experienced this year, their numbers don't appear to have declined - at least not at the sites I know where these birds appear regulary. I've visited this particular Barn Owl several times this year, and each time he's put in an appearance for me and shown very well. Other spots I've been too are the sites I know in North Norfolk, and again Barn Owls numbers there appear to remain high although the pressure from photographers and birdwatchers is, it seems to me, on the increase.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Royal Photographic Society

After 3 years of photography, and many, many hours in front of my PC, processing choosing, changing, reprocessing and arranging, I sent my panel off to the RPS in Bath for the Natural History Distinctions Panel.

Last Wednesday, 8 Sept, my panel was accepted and the recommendation was submitted to the Society for ratification.

I am one happy bunny right now - Graham Goddard ARPS.

I like that !

Yellow hammers

A species I've not had a chance to photograph in the past are Yellowhammers. Early in the Spring, whilst out photographing Hare, I heard that distinctive 'alittlebitofcakeandcupofteeeeaaaaaaa' call of the male Yellowhammer.
A quick search revealed this fine specimen signing his heart out from a near by fence post. So now I had found Badger, Deer, Hare and Yellowhammer at what was turning out to be a very productive site for me.

I posted this shot on NPN recently - a few comments were made re the size of the post that the bird was singing from - of course I'd like to have a smaller perch, but there's not a lot I could do about it until, a
fter a while, the bird moved closer, and I managed another sequence of shots - this time on a more pleasing perch.......

My quest for Hares !

I've travelled far and wide to capture Hare - Elmley Marsh on Sheppey has a population, as does a certain place in Hertfordshire shown to me by my good friend, Calum Dickson.

Well, I was very pleased to find a number of Hare thriving not very far from home which will allow me year round access and I won't have to travel for hours to get my images.

The image above of a Hare bolting in front of me was taken on a freezing morning before I discovered my new site. It had been raining, which had turned to sleet and then snow.

My hands were so cold I could barely operate the camera when this Hare came over to my hiding place. This was the sharpest image of a series of 6 that I managed to take before he dissappeared into the next field.

After 3 hours sitting in the rain, sleet and snow, I've never been to cold ! This image was taken in February in Hertfordshire.

As I mentioned above, I've since found Hare's much closer to home.

Persecuted in the past by poachers and their dogs, I'm pleased to report that numbers are recovering well.

I will be visiting the area regulary throughout the seasons to capture the changing environment of these most photogenic little fellows.

Kingfisher update

At the beginning of the year I set myself a goal regarding my local Kingfishers, and that was to watch them very closely and to hopefully find and photograph their fledged chicks.

So what has happened to these stunning birds this year.

Well, the birds successfully bred early in the season, and I'd been expecting their first brood to fledge in May. It seems however that something happened and this brood failed. I don't know what could have been the cause, but I have seen rats in the location ? Obviously these are shed 1 birds, so I wasn't going to investigate closely, but as the site is fairly 'public' - comings and goings can be monitored.

I'm pleased to say that the birds bred again, and this time, the chicks fledged in August. I didn't manage any photographs, but on my daily dog walks, I heard and witnessed the adults taking good care of their chicks.

So did I acheive my goals for 2010 for these most colourful of birds ?

Well, sort of.

There are only so many 'Kingfisher on a perch' shots I want in my library but I did get 'Kingfisher on a perch with a fish' I did get, as shown here.

2010 update

Hi and apologies for being extremely poor at updating my blog. 2010 has been a very busy year for me, photographically, and domestically as we've had lots of work done on the house.

I'm not going to blog about the endless DIY I've been doing, but I am going to update the blog and I will make sure that I add regular entries from now on.

First things first, I am going to add a few new entries summarising my trips this year, photographs I've taken and my achievements in 2010.

Happy reading.....................