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wildlife photographer

Eyes on You

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Eyes on You

I best come clean straight away. The Barn Owl is fast becoming my favourite bird. Sorry Mr Kingfisher, your time at the top of my tree is perhaps coming to an end. There's just something very majestic about watching them hunting silently over the fields and thankfully, given their well documented troubles, a sight I see more and more in these parts. 

When I spot one, quite often at first at a distance, rather than attempting to get up close on my own steam, I let the Barn Owl come to me, bag hide over and hunkering down. I can feel my heart beat rise in anticipation. This doesn't always work of course (it's not as if I've dressed myself as a large tasty vole and laid out prone ready to be eaten) however, with a little patience, it can reward you with some close encounters. The ease and gracefulness at which it moves low over the fields twisting and turning at will. Then all of a sudden dropping down into the grass to hopefully pickup a meal.  

Of course no matter how well you think you are hidden the Barn Owl pretty much always knows you are there, but then again this allows for those piercing eyes to meet yours. A moment which, despite happening on increasing regularity, still has the hairs standing on the back of my neck. 

Click on the image below to scroll through a couple more from the morning. The light was pretty shocking but that, in my opinion, should NEVER stop you from photographing these iconic birds. Actually poor light should never stop you photographing wildlife full stop. I'd far rather have images of wildlife in poor light than no image at all. 

All images shot on the Canon 7D MKI II with the Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens. All images around 1/000 second, f/3.2 and ISO between 640 and 1000. With the crop sensor on the 7D MK II the 400mm lens becomes a 640mm equivalent - one of the main reasons I decided to add the 7D MK II to my kit. While I try and not use the extender too often it also means the 2x can get me at around 1200mm, albeit with the lose of 2 stops (f/5.6). 

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Finding your own voice in photography

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Finding your own voice in photography

Keeping up with the Joneses 

It would seem each and every day when I look through my Twitter or Facebook feed someone who I am following is dabbling in a new technique in wildlife photography. The two latest trends seem to be Drones and Camera Traps, with the latter even having its own BBC owned competition. I'm sure it won't be long before we get a similar specific competition for Drones

Some of the footage coming down the pipe is beautiful and as folks get more experienced with the technology I can just imagine the types of images which we will see - most likely only limited by the photographer's own imagination. Camera trap and drone footage is opening up a whole new world of Wildlife Photography, especially for those species which have been difficult to capture in the past. 

Similarly, the seemingly unending race to capture iconic subjects continues apace, with photography workshops and paid-for hides popping up on an almost daily basis to help one capture pretty much any species out there. Quite often, as I'm peering through my viewfinder at a Tree Sparrow or Roe Deer, I question my own sanity as to why I too am not out there filling my portfolio with Wild Boar, Black Grouse or Harrier images. I've met photographers who spend their free time (and cash) planning their next workshop or hide visit, even before they have finished the one they are on. Don't get me wrong, this is not meant to be a criticism on either the photographer or hide/workshop organiser, rather introspecive look at my own photography goals and path. 

In the past I've used paid for hides and workshops to capture images and I will, I'm sure, do it again in the future. I would however feel more connection with the image had it be all my own effort. (above image taken on a day with  Terry Whittaker . )

In the past I've used paid for hides and workshops to capture images and I will, I'm sure, do it again in the future. I would however feel more connection with the image had it be all my own effort. (above image taken on a day with Terry Whittaker. )

All of this can leave an individual, such as myself, questioning the value of their own images and if they should also start to dabble in new technology or indeed focus on iconic species only. This is especially true for me right now as I take the dramatic step of going full time professional. The feeling that everything has been done before. Then I realise an important point to factor in. Many great images may have already been captured by others - but NOT BY ME ! 

Making my own path. 

It's important for me to ask myself why I've decided to take pictures in the first place. Was it to get 1st prize in a competition, have thousands of followers on social media or to become rich through photography?  While I don't doubt the fact that it can be nice, especially by one's peers, to have your work recognised and appreciated, it certainly is not the reason why I make pictures. 

I myself have been guilty over the past 18 months in hitting the publish button all too quickly on an image and then going back to check the number of Facebook ikes, Twitter Retweets or blog post reads. This really has had zero positive effect on me as a photographer and I felt at times I was simply trying to gain popularity votes. That particular avenue can leave one feeling very frustrated and may actually lead to one loosing sight as to why they are in the photography game in the first place. For me, as I look to develop my own voice, happiness has to be the number one overriding criteria. 

It's important that I find my own voice and keep on singing to my own tune 

It's important that I find my own voice and keep on singing to my own tune 

My Photography Mantra

So as I step out into the next stage of my life I plan to follow a 3 step plan for my photography; 

  1. Take the images I want to take, irrespective of what others in the field are doing. 
  2. Take my time making those images - no short cuts. And only publish when I feel they reflect the work that I am proud of, not simply to keep my name out there in the photography circles. 
  3. Ensure that through my photography I am continually giving something back, be that education, awareness of an endangered species or even through my own time volunteering on specific projects. 

I hope you too can find your own voice and have the conviction to follow it. It will, I believe, lead to a more fulfilled time behind the lens. 

Have a great weekend. 

 

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Nesting Time [Atlantic Puffin]

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Nesting Time [Atlantic Puffin]

I'm going to miss my trip to Skokholm this year, having been there for the past two seasons. I hear from their blog (you should check it out) that the Puffins have started to return and begin the cycle all over again. Checking in on the blog a few times a week has become somewhat of a coffee time ritual for me. Atlantic Puffin with Nesting Material

Puffins will remain one of my favourite seabirds (although the Northern Gannet still wins out for me) and I look forward to getting myself back to Skokholm in 2016.

By the way the staff on Skokholm are some of the most knowledgable folks I've ever met and will always be thankful for being part of the evening bird logs. Although next time I'll make sure to check out if it's a Purple Heron or not :)

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Run to Mamma

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Run to Mamma

A baby Oystercatcher runs back to mum for some protection from the Great Black Backed Gulls on the island of Skokholm. The Great Black Backed Gulls are the Alpha predator on the island. Run to Mamma

Skokholm remains one of my all time favourite places to visit. Of course the main attraction in summer are the Puffins, but the island is brimming full of other birds as well. Sadly missing a visit of Skokholm in 2015 but hope to return in 2016.

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Follow the Leader

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Follow the Leader

An absolutely beautiful morning down at Burwell Fen at the weekend. Quite quiet on the wildlife front but even on mornings like that it is still fantastic to be out amongst the goings on. On the way back to the car the Greylag Geese were starting to make their way to their daytime feeding grounds. Trying to frame the birds between the best colour in the sky and the tops of the trees. I think it works quiet well. Follow the Leader

Technical details

  • Camera - Canon 1DX
  • Lens - 400mm f/2.8
  • ISO - 100
  • Aperture - f/3.5
  • Shutter - 1/1250 second

Oh, on a different note my very first eBook has been published and is available for sale here.

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