Thursday, July 31, 2008

Storm Hares

I popped out a couple of days ago to undertake a short evening session with the hares. As I left home some storm clouds were bubbling up over ahead. By the time I was half way to the site the clouds overhead had formed into a swirling black mass, punctuated with lightning and then the rain just dropped in a heavy downpour and the road along which I was travelling quickly appeared to turn into a small river. I nearly turned back home but carried on knowing that such summer storms are often fairly short-lived events. It was still deluging as I arrived at site and not surprisingly very few hares were to be seen. However, the storm passed and as soon as the rain stopped' some very soggy hares started to appear for their evening feed.

Shaking off some excess rainwater
Fortunately the sun soon then reappeared and photography conditions improved rapidly. Crossing the track or was it chasing its shadow?
I came across one hare that was busy cleaning itself. It was interesting to watch as it cleaned its front paws.Before tucking them tight against its bodyand then settling down for a snooze with its front paws resting on it hind legs so that they would not get wet and dirty again. It is glimpsing these small intimate moments of behaviour that is one of the great joys of wildlife photography for me. A pleasure that can only be gained by spending long periods in close proximity to animals.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Some Winning Shots

Well the computer problems at this end should be shortly sorted as I am hopefully picking up a new custom built machine today, and so normal service may be resumed. I thought I would put up some photos that have been recognised in various competitions.

First up is a bathing curlew photo that was runner up in Birdguides Photo of the Year Compeition 2006.
This photo of a Short-eared owl just about to jump on a vole was also recognised at Birdguides with Photo of the Week earlier this year.
I do not often enter competitions and in fact the following photograph was entered on my behalf and unbeknown to me by my sectretary into the National Trust Autumn Photo Competition and won first prize of a holiday voucher for one of their cottages. I decided to enter the Britsh Birds Bird Phtograph of the Year competition this year and one of my enteries of a sanderling was short-listed in this large competition.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Beautiful Brown Hares

As regular readers will know I have a real fondness for photographing brown hares. I love to watch their antics and their unpredictable and shy behaviour always creates a good challenge. Sometimes I just put the camera to one side and enjoy watching them.

For those who have not seen a hare at full run the speed they can produce is blistering. In full flight...
and always enjoyable to watch the chases and female fending off the advances of males.
I came close again to catching that boxing moment but still not quite there. I am sure one day my perserverence will be rewarded.One thing I know for sure I will never tire of photographing these beautiful and interesting animals.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Return to the South

I am still suffering some computer problems at this end but slowly getting them resolved. I have just taken a last minute trip down south this week to Somerset and Wiltshire. A short trip away for a couple of days before I return to work on Monday, after my 3 month career break. The weather was not great and so time behind the camera was very limited. I managed to get a couple of shots though on one of the days during a visit to Longleat. Photographic opportunities while travelling around the safari park there were not great, and as usual my eyes where constantly hunting around for any wild birds. A bird I seem to always photograph of my trips away, a jackdaw. I also came across this grey heron.
which was concentrating on a spot of fishingThe highlight of the trip was locating a young green woodpecker. This is a species that is very difficult to approach and after a bit of patience I was rewarded with my first decent photographs of this very wary bird.Showing typical behaviour, the bird was constantly looking around while digging for ants in a grass bank.
A passing buzzard upset it and it quickly adopted the 'I'm not really here' pose by flattening itself on the ground.A great encounter and one I have waited a long time for. Just need to try and get a photograph of an adult bird although that may be some way off in the future.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Meltdown and Public Aquariums

Apologies for the lack of posts during this last week, but I have been away on a trip to Ireland. While away my computer seems to have gone into meltdown mode, although fortunately nothing is lost. As it will take a short while to get fully back up and running, I thought it was a good opportunity to continue my story in photography.
Public aquariums were my next target. These present so many photographic difficulties. Low light, the use of flash prohibited in some areas or the whole aquarium, thick tank glass or perspex on large tanks and the use of curved tanks. I have visited many public aquariums and making the most of conditions is always a challenge. If you are allowed to use flash then my recommendation would be to use a flash diffuser and angle it upwards. Also by shooting slightly downwards helps reduce reflections.

Here are a selection from the Birmingham Sealife Centre, starting with a barracuda head shot:
Panther Grouper are always good subject as they are slow moving!!

From my local aquarium, the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire:
A yawn from the largest freshwater fish in the world.
and some shark and awe to finish this post.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Where It All Started

I thought I would do a mini series of posts of my journey in to wildlife photography. My love of photography started back in 2005 with fish. Not that I was prepared to jump into a wetsuit, this was strictly photographing my own and public aquaria on terra firma. This type of photography is far removed from my current methods and requires multiple flash set-up on the home aquaria and coping with the diffculties of thick perspex and awkward tanks and lighting in public aquaria.

I keep two tanks at home, a 'community tropical tank' and a larger tank with mbuna cichlids from lake Malawi.
A few shots from the community tank, starting with a 'Guppy Train'Male Congo Tetra
A Sailfin 'Plec' known as 'Iggy' who is now about 14" long.
From the Malawi Tank, I won't bother with the names of these fish as they are all long and in latin. They are generally aggressive fish, which mainly feed by scraping algae from rocks and are mouthbrooders. Beautiful but quite high maintenance.
Obviously there is only so many times you can photograph or your own fish, although I still have an occasional session. I then progressed on to public aquariums. This presented a whole range of new challenges that I will discuss in the next post of this series.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Some of the Locals

Its entering a quiet time of year for the birds locally. There are still some to be photographed though, although the warm bright weather has not created the best light during the day for photography, with high contrats conditions.

There are still some skylarks to be found. There is something about this species that holds my facination. They may not be the most visually colourful but they make up for that in their behaviour and song.
Its not often you see them perched on plants or singing when not in flight.
Pairs of stonechats are still to be found amongst the dunes along the coast. For some reason this year I seem to be photographing many females, which are usually the more wary. I found a solitary Knot, a reminder that some of the waders will be returning from the north soon. Unusually, considering its June, it was already in full winter plumage.

This is probably the worst time of year to photograph waterfowl which are in eclipse plumage. However, this passing shelduck caught my eye.

The other birds gathering locally at the moment are Sandwich Terns that roost on some of the local beaches at high tide. However, they are difficult to photograph and it a case of hoping for a close fly-by, as they move around the beach.

Some of the birds turning into winter plumage with the black cap turning to white.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Down South

I have just come back from a week's holiday with my better half in Lymington, at the bottom end of the New Forest. I didn't get much time to get out with camera but managed a couple of short sessions on some saline lagoons that run along the coast. A few oystercatchers were present that allowed fairly close approach but I thought I would concentrate on some fly shots.

There were quit a few terns moving between the lagoons' islands, where they were nesting, and the Solent where they were going on fishing expeditions. Sandwich Tern (although I only saw one), Common Tern and Little Tern were all to be seen. The Little Terns were out of range so I concentrated on the Common Terns. Fortunately one bird landed by my feet which allowed a potrait.

Even though I was a very distant from the nesting islands, birds will still come over to warn me off. A screaming fly-by

The main problem I encountered was wind and light being in opposite directions but a few shots were still to be had.

I managed a photo of the solitary passing sandwich tern

The highlight of the trip was a very close encounter with a Little Egret which allowed a very close approach, to the extent I had to keep backing away to fit the bird in frame.
A moment of self-reflection.
The spines on this stickleback did not help it from an inevitable fate.


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