Tag Archives: photography

Another 10 Christmas present ideas for wildlife enthusiasts

Breaking news: Christmas is coming. It’s kinda crept up on me, but I notice from the web stats that quite a few people have been looking at my previous posts on Christmas present ideas for wildlife lovers.

So I guess it’s time for the next installment.

The previous two lists cover some fairly broad ideas. This year I’m trying to give some specific ideas that fall under the categories mentioned in previous years.

  1. A Sting in the Tale: this is by far my favourite wildlife book that I’ve read this year. I’m not particularly into insects, but Dave Goulson’s evident passion for bumblebees, engaging writing style and fascinating facts held me entranced. I ended up underlining loads of sections that I knew I’d want to come back to again and again. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in wildlife.
  2. Trip to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition: I’ve not yet been to this year’s exhibition, but it’s always one of my highlights of the year. It’s on at the Natural History Museum in London until April.
  3. Wildlife Broadcasting on a Smartphone course: Surrey Wildlife Trust are putting on an intriguing course next year. Having recently been delving into filmmaking in my professional life, I’m keen to find out more about how I could apply it to wildlife. It doesn’t come cheap, but sounds fascinating.
  4. A monopod: having got myself a massive telephoto lens this year, and had to lug my tripod around, I can see the appeal of a lighter, sturdy monopod to take with me on walks.
  5. Some wildlife art: I’ve seen so much beautiful wildlife art this year – things I’d love to have around me at home to remind me of the wonders of nature. The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation has a good selection, with profits going to fund conservation. Try your local gallery as well.
  6. The New Wild: I bought this book because of its beautiful cover, and intriguing (and controversial) central argument: invasive species will be nature’s salvation. It’s certainly a thought-provoking read. (I’m planning a blog post on this soon, as there’s lots to mull over…)
  7. A subscription to Lynda.com: The Lynda.com website has a huge library of online courses, including hundreds of photography ones. I get access to this through my work, and have found the courses very informative. Useful for brushing up your skills during those long winter evenings…
  8. Wildlife photography courses: there’s a wide selection available. Local Wildlife Trusts or wildlife centres often run them. Birds, badgers, deer, fungi, reptiles, flowers – something to suit any wildlife photographer in your life! I’ve got my eye on David Plummer’s courses.
  9. Some sturdy wellies: I’ve really appreciated having comfortable, sturdy wellies this year, helping me through the muddier dormousing months and squelchy harvest mouse surveys.
  10. A good head torch can really make a difference for night-time wildlife surveys, camping or just walking back from a country pub. I’ve really appreciated my new one this year.
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Wild South’s second foray into retail

After last year’s moderate success selling wildlife photo cards and prints at a craft fair, I decided to do it again.  I’ve been doing my best impression of a candidate on The Apprentice, trying my hand at selling. This doesn’t come naturally to me, but it does give me a good opportunity to talk to people about the wonderful wildlife we have. and raise money for Surrey Dormouse Group.

As Lord/His Eminence/Sir Alan Sugar advises his candidates, I tried to ‘smell what sells’ based on last year’s experience. This meant a few changes:

  • British wildlife sold much better than my more exotic pictures, so I decided to focus on that
  • Several people suggested that I should do a calendar, so, after in-depth consumer research (AKA asking my Facebook friends for their views) I put one together with a mix of British mammals, birds and insects (listening to the focus group is something that Apprentice teams never seem to do)
  • Packs of cards went well last year, but I hadn’t prepared enough, so this year I put together plenty, and made the ‘packaging’ a little more professional (having a printer that actually prints really helps with this!)

I set myself a target to make enough profit to pay for 11 dormice boxes (which is, completely coincidentally, how many I want to add to my site next year, and just a little above my profit from last year, which went to another charity).

Wild South stall at a craft fair, November 2015
Wild South stall at a craft fair, November 2015

The craft fair went well – I smashed my fundraising target, got lots of compliments, got to chat to some interesting people, and even managed to do some Christmas shopping. The best selling items were the calendars, followed by packs of four British Mammal Cards. Hopefully, thanks to the support of all my customers, a few more dormice will have cosy boxes to nest in next year!

Here are some of the images used in the calendar:

Badger
Badger
Kestrel stare
Kestrel
Tawny owl in dappled light
Tawny owl in dappled light
Hedgehog
hedgehog
Fox
Red fox
Water vole
Water vole
Blackbird
Blackbird
blue butterfly
Holly blue butterfly
Red squirrel eating
Red squirrel eating
Bumblebee on yellow flag iris
Bumblebee on yellow flag iris

October Photography Challenge: Autumn colour

Falling autumn leaves against a blue sky
Falling autumn leaves against a blue sky

I took advantage of the glorious sunshine to visit my local National Trust estate to take photos for this month’s photo challenge – autumn colour. Yellow and red leaves against a blue sky

Autumn sunshine through trees
Autumn sunshine through trees

Dry, brown leaves

Looking up through yellow leaves on a tree to a blue sky
Looking up through yellow leaves on a tree to a blue sky

Yellow leaves

Autumn sunshine through the trees
Autumn sunshine through the trees
A parade of fine old trees
A parade of fine old trees
The sun shining through a yellow leaf caught on a hedge
The sun shining through a yellow leaf caught on a hedge
Autumn sunshine over the Surrey Hills
Autumn sunshine over the Surrey Hills

September Photography Challenge: seascapes

I had no shortage of opportunities to take photos for September’s Photography Challenge, the theme of which was seascapes. The photos below are a mix of ones taken with a proper camera, and ones taken by my phone.

Near Kynance Cove
Near Kynance Cove
Near Kynance Cove
Near Kynance Cove
St Agnes sunset
St Agnes sunset
Bishop Rock lighthouse, west from the Isles of Scilly
Bishop Rock lighthouse, west from the Isles of Scilly
St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
A sailing boat and Cromwell's Castle, Tresco
A sailing boat and Cromwell’s Castle, Tresco
Looking from Byher to Tresco
Looking from Byher to Tresco
Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly
St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
St Agnes, Isles of Scilly

May Photography Challenge: garden

The theme for May’s photography challenge was the garden. I love plants at this time of year – everything is fresh and verdant, bursting with life. So I spent a happy hour pottering about the garden, trying to capture some of the textures and colours of May.

It took me a while to get round to looking at the photos I shot, and when I did I was disappointed with the results. A lot of them are unusable as the focus was off, or the composition too messy. I must remember to check the images in the screen as I go along, rather than waiting til I upload them on a computer. Here’s the best of the (poor) bunch.

sage
Sage

wildflowers

Buddleia reaching to the sky
Buddleia reaching to the sky
Dandelion clock (plenty of them in my garden!)
Dandelion clock (plenty of them in my garden!)
Fresh ivy leaves
Fresh ivy leaves
wisteria
wisteria

March Photo Challenge: wild birds

For my March Photo Challenge I visited my local park to take photos of the wildfowl. Spring was in the air, as can be seen from the fighting moorhens… The swan was also rather combative, chasing off ducks who came too close.

Moorhen
Moorhen

Swan Fighting moorhens Fighting moorhens 2015 03 26_Meadowbank birds 2_3424_edited-3 Bark

Duck tail
Mallard tail
Greylag goose legs
Greylag goose legs
Greylag goose feathers
Greylag goose feathers
Greylag goose
Greylag goose

Swan

February Photography Challenge: Still Life

February’s Photography Challenge pushed me beyond my comfort zone: still life. But that was a good thing – the whole idea of the Photography Challenge is to get me experimenting and trying new techniques. So, I set myself up a little still life studio, using greaseproof paper as a backdrop, and tin foil to reflect light towards the subject. I stuck with a 50mm prime lens, and used a combination of flash and a lamp to light the scene.

Candle flameBarn owl sculpture Barn owl sculptureThe photos I’m most pleased with are the single skeletal hydrangea flowers – I like the simplicity and detail. It has a melancholy feel that is right for late winter.

Skeletal hydrangea flowerHydrangea flower - black & whiteI used the challenge as an excuse to get some flowers, although I’m not satisfied with the flower photos I took – flower arranging isn’t my strong point, and the composition looks messy for all of them. But it’s still nice to have the real thing to look at.

White roses and irises White rose and Iris still lifeThen, although it’s not really ‘still’, I took some long-exposure shots of the fire. I like the vibrant colour and movement this has captured – warming on a cold winter day.

Flames Flames Flames Flames

 

Photo resolution

2015 arrived while I was sleeping. Happy new year, everyone! A new year, time for a new challenge. Obviously there’s plenty to keep me busy with the British Animal Challenge. But I’ve also resolved to take more photos.

Preparing for the craft fair in November made me realise most of my best photos are years old. But I also got some really encouraging feedback. Not only did people give me lots of complements, they put their money where their mouth was and bought some of my photos.

Going to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was humbling.  It also reminded me there are loads of photographic techniques that I could try out.

Reflecting on those things made me decide to do more photography in 2015. That’s easy to say, but I know if I left it at that I would soon run out of ideas and lose interest. So, to push myself, I am going to set myself a new challenge each month. Hopefully this will encourage me to try new techniques, and actually get out more with the camera.

The list of challenges may well change a bit over the course of the year, as I get new ideas and opportunities. But here’s the first draft.

  • January: winter nature
  • February: still life
  • March: birds in the wild
  • April: spring nature
  • May: garden
  • June: insects
  • July: summer nature
  • August: woodland
  • September: seascapes
  • October: autumn leaves
  • November: landscapes
  • December: portraits

There’s also a number of techniques I want to experiment with over the year, including:

  • Using flash
  • Low-light / night
  • Macro
  • Using my 50mm prime lens
  • Using my USB microscope
  • Timelapse
  • Motion blur
  • Black & white

I’ve put these into my calendar, and hopefully it will spur me on to improve my photography skills and boost my portfolio. I’ll try to post any good photos I manage to take…

 

My highlights from Wildlife Photographer of the Year

I spend about 12 hours a week travelling to and from London, so it takes a lot to drag me up to town on a day off. But last week Dr C. and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London. The exhibition always justifies the trip. If you get a chance to go, do.

As ever, there was a stunning collection of images. I won’t try and describe it all (why bother, when I’m sure I’ve already persuaded you to see it for yourself?!). But I thought I would share a few things that stood out to me.

Firstly, the quality of images was stunning. I thought the overall winners were beautiful, fascinating pictures. The main winner, an infra-red picture of lions basking on a rock overlooking a panoramic landscape, was the sort of photo you could spend a long time looking at, and always be noticing something new.

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year categories are  humbling, and the winning image of a scorpion, taken with 2 exposures, has encouraged me to try to experiment technically.

The winning photojournalist portfolio examined the interaction between lions and humans. It really stayed with me, as it thoughtfully portrayed a range of issues, including canned lion hunting, and a survivor of a lion attack who can no longer wash himself, having lost both his arms. It showed the prestige that lion hunting can bring in some communities, and the former lion hunters who have turned to protecting the big cats. I liked this portfolio as it went beyond the obvious, and made me think. It didn’t offer easy solutions, but improved understanding of what’s at stake.

The other thing that stood out was the dedication of the photographers to getting the perfect image, often involving considerable discomfort, and persistence beyond anything I could dream of. I enjoy looking at the technical details of how the photos were taken – the equipment, aperture and shutter speed. I have a few new ideas for techniques to try.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the exhibition. I’m sure few people have come away from the exhibition without feeling amazed by the beauty of nature, saddened by the impact humans are having on it, and inspired to protect it.

Photo special: Lundy Island

Lundy is a small British island, marking the point where the Atlantic becomes the Bristol Channel. It’s a lovely destination for wildlife lovers, as it’s a breeding site for many seabirds, including puffins. The waters surrounding it have been protected for 40 years, making it one of the best spots for diving in the UK.

Here are a few photos from my trip there a few years ago.

 

The ferry departing from the small harbour on Lundy
The ferry departing from the small harbour on Lundy
The sheltered east coast of Lundy
The sheltered east coast of Lundy
Sika deer
Sika deer
Sika deer
Sika deer
Seabirds (including puffins) nesting on the sheer cliffs of the west coast of Lundy
Seabirds (including puffins) nesting on the sheer cliffs of the west coast of Lundy
Seabirds (including puffins) nesting on the sheer cliffs of the west coast of Lundy
Seabirds (including puffins) nesting on the sheer cliffs of the west coast of Lundy

Bird View of the sea through an old windowframe Lambs

Two rabbitsBunny rabiit having a bath