20 December 2010

BBC feature on Paul Miguel!

I was recently interviewed by BBC Leeds for a website feature on winter wildlife photography. Click: Snow is Good News for Wildlife Photographer to see the article on the BBC Leeds website.
The conditions continue to be amazing here in Yorkshire... today with the most stunning and widespread hoar-frost I have ever seen. Hopefully there will be a good few more days of opportunities for sub-zero photography with plenty more snow and ice.!
Best wishes to everyone for Christmas and the New Year.

17 December 2010

Wildlife Photography Competition Finalist!

Another successful competition entry! This time in the Wildlife Extra wildlife photography competition. Click Here to view my image and other finalists. Unfortunately I didn't manage to win the birds category but still pleased to have got so far.

The photo was shot at Adel Dam nature reserve near Leeds, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve. It was taken from the lake-side hide early one summer morning. Herons are often present, as are kingfishers. Foxes and roe deer are regularly seen at the woodland edge and this was the second time I had seen at least one fox snoozing close to the lake. I followed this particular heron as it waded through the water in changing light. As it neared the foxes I expected a stand-off; instead both foxes and bird carried on regardless, providing this unusual wildlife image. I think both knew where they stood: the heron was safe enough in the water and the foxes knew the heron was aware of their presence... or perhaps the heron was a bit too big to tackle. !

Image shot with Canon 20D; 300mm lens plus 1.4x converter; f5.6 at 1/320; ISO 200; beanbag

03 December 2010

Winter Photography Techniques

The current conditions give some incredible opportunities for photography. That said - it requires a lot of effort and planning to take perfect winter shots, so I thought I would post a few tips... not just the ordinary, but those little things that help me during the depths of winter.

1. BE PREPARED! Don't get caught out: think about clothing, keeping your gear dry, your phone charged...and are you prepared if you get stuck..?

2. Whilst driving, keep those extra socks warm by putting them in your pockets or stuffing them under your jumper..

3. Have some food with you: small but light; pieces of cake, flapjacks and chocolate are good ways of keeping your calories up...

4. Keep batteries warm - keep spare batteries in on your person (preferably inside pockets) - the warmth will help. Have at least 2 or 3 batteries as the cold can zap their strength quickly...

5. Make a waterproof covering for your camera if photographing in the snow. I have a sleeve made out of old waterproof trousers to cover my camera and lens when shooting wildlife in falling snow or blizzard...

6. Safety first. If the road looks too dodgy to drive on - don't try it. You are better off finding another alternative than getting stuck in the snow and ending up with nothing.


Winter Wildlife Photography

A couple of days ago I spent an incredible morning photographing the deer at Studley Deer Park near Ripon, as part of a 1:1 photography day with a client. The conditions were magical and we both got some stunning shots of the deer amidst the falling snow. Some of my shots were taken at ISO 800 where I had to hand-hold. Otherwise, I was able to make use of a tree to brace the camera and then reduce the ISO. The falling snow really adds to these wintry portaits. Every so often we would see two young males without antlers - kicking up the snow as they balanced on hind legs to box one another. What a privilege to capture this on camera.!!

Certainly a memorable day of deer photography and some of the best winter wildlife photographs I've ever taken.!

19 November 2010

Woodland Birds Photography Courses

My wildlife photography courses for 2011 can now be booked via my website http://www.paulmiguel.com/ The woodland birds photography course is filling up quickly already so early booking is advised! The workshops take place at Golden Acre Park and Adel Dam near Leeds. We will be photographing the incredibly tame birds there including three species of tit, chaffinch, nuthatch, blackbird... and Jay! Adel Dam also offers a good chance to see kingfishers along with possible roe deer and fox. Further details at Bird Photography Courses

12 November 2010

Is there anywhere better than the U.K.?

It's good to be back. I've recently returned from a week long break in Cuba - you're probably wondering why I'm not posting glorious images of the Caribbean... I will do so in my next post. But returning to the UK during this beautiful season has really impressed upon me just how special this country is, so I wanted to share my thoughts with you all. Although we might complain about the climate here, this green land really is something to be treasured - it's simply the variety that makes this country so fascinating. From the beaches of Cornwall to the rugged highlands of Scotland, the variety of landscape across the UK is unique. It's no wonder that so many visitors flock here from all across the globe. There are few places on the planet that can boast woodland, mountains, rivers, lakes... and such a transformation of scenery during the seasons.
These pictures were taken at Stainforth Force in Ribblesdale at the beginning of November. The water and surruonding colours were simply stunning. In addition, I had the good fortune to manage a shot of one the many salmon leaping in the air as it battled to make its way up the waterfall.

It's good to have a break... but it's even better to be back. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world!!

27 September 2010

Photographing Hedgehogs

Another visit to the local hedgehog sanctuary - they don't deal in anything else: just hedgehogs. As always it's great fun to get so close to these little mammals and I spent a good couple of hours following different hedgehogs around this urban back garden. I decided to use flash photography for these shots to make them look like they were taken at night... I experimented a bit first with my Metz CL4 flashgun; quite a beast and something I've hardly ever used. I placed a clear bag over the flash to soften the lighting - and you can definitely tell the difference. I couldn't help myself where plant pots were concerned... it may look a little twee but these type of shots continue to sell. One of the most fascinating things is to see a hedgehog annointing - they bascially create a smelly saliva mixture and lick themselves. No one apparently knows why, but it's great to get a shot of it! This one adopting a great pose whilst licking..!

And my day was finally complete as I turned my head from the viewfinder to find a baby hedgehog licking my arm... I feel well and truly honoured..!! Hope to get back for some more mammal photography; I've learnt a lot from this visit about the best way to shoot them...

29 August 2010

Birds of Prey Photography Course

Our recent birds of prey photography course was probably the best location we've used so far. We try to use new locations and different settings to provide different backdrops, whilst keeping everything looking as natural as possible. The setting for August's workshop was an old farm in North Yorkshire with barns, old buildings and gates... and beautiful rural surroundings including rolling green pasture and ripened wheat fields.
It's the perfect place to photograph barn owl and little owl in particular, with lichen covered stone walls and barn windows. We even managed to fly the barn owl through an open window numerous times providing stunning flight shots! The farm should now be one of our main locations for future bird of prey workshops.

31 July 2010

Book Launch with Gervase Phinn - Yorkshire Journey

I recently attended a book launch of the new title: Gervase Phinn's Yorkshire Journey - published by Country Publications at Broughton Hall. I'm pleased to have a few images in the book - including shots of Grassington and Ilkley Moor. It was good to catch up again with the editors and see some new faces too. It was also good to finally meet other photographers who contribute to Dalesman and Countryman - some names I knew... but no idea what they looked like!

Gervase is certainly a character and I'm sure the book will be an excellent read (I did hang around to get my free copy signed!). A successful author and public speaker, Gervase has written numerous books and writes a regular column for the Countryman magazine.

Country Publications seems to go from strength to strength, will a very loyal readership. It's clear too that the editors and designers really care about their product, and this recent publication is a superb example of the quality they produce - beautifully set out with stunning images throughout.

Photographing Damselflies

Yesterday morning saw me by a sheltered pond in West Yorkshire, literally teeming with insect life. It's a recently discovered location - and one that is brimming with butterflies, moths and damselflies. The conditions started off well: a lovely still morning with intermittent sunshine breaking through the low cloud. Damselflies were just everywhere, buzzing around the spiky grasses and resting on the low growing plants that fringe the pond. I've always found it difficult to get close enough to the damselflies - they seem particularly skittish.. But perhaps they were just beginning to warm up and not quite at their full speed. Either way, I was able to get extremely close to a number of them as they rested on various perches. I shot towards the light wherever I could, hand-holding the camera and shooting at about 1/250 at f7.1 on ISO 200. As the breeze picked up, photographing insects became increasingly difficult until virtually impossible... this is one of the virtues of an early start as it's the best time to achieve the the stillness that is so important for insect photography.

23 June 2010

A Misty Morning by the Lake

An early start this morning at 4 a.m. and another visit to my favourite patch of water near Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire - to photograph wildfowl. The early start was well worth it and I was treated to some wonderful conditions with a subtle blanket of mist hanging above the water.

Although the light rarely broke, the conditions were still good for capturing some more swan portraits. Shot from ground level, the best opportunities are typically where a single bird swims head on towards the camera. This happens frequently and there is no need to provide any food at all to coax them to perform. In fact throwing out tons of food only leads to a frenzy of birds and a loss of calm reflections... not to mention the difficulty of isolating single birds in the mellee.
I'm still waiting for that 'perfect' swan picture, but the early morning conditions made for some relaxing wildlife photography.

06 June 2010

Nature Photography Workshop Fairburn Ings

Yesterday's nature photography workshop at Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire went really well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The group was full and I think everyone enjoyed the day's photography. Some of the group's nature photographs can be viewed at my wildlife and landscape photography group on flickr Yorkshire Wildlife and Landscape Photography - thanks to those who uploaded their images. There are some cracking close ups including dragonflies, butterflies and moths. We even had a pair of common blues mating which really made the day!!

06 May 2010

Photography Competition - Best of Yorkshire's Summer

I have recently been asked to judge a photography competition for Disability Action Yorkshire - the theme is "The Best of Yorkshire's Summer". Images can be of anything as long as they depict summer and are taken within Yorkshire. Disability Action Yorkshire is a charity and social enterprise providing services for disabled people, so all funds will go towards helping those with disabilities. You can get more information from their website at

There are some good prizes on offer and the winning image will be published in Photography Monthly magazine. Why not have a go and help a worthy cause at the same time. If you want some tips and techniques then why not browse this blog, or check out some of my articles:

05 May 2010

Photographing Upland Birds

I recently led another photography workshop photographing upland birds in Nidderdale. The morning was superb - not just for birds but also for perfect weather. We had a great day and managed to bag a number of shots of lapwing, red grouse and meadow pipit - some of which posed perfectly for us by the roadside.. You can view some images taken on my Flickr group: Yorkshire Wildlife and Landscape Photography

A week ago I was back again (I just can't keep away from this fantastic location!), and once more I experienced cracking weather... in fact I can't ever remember it being so still up here on the moor. The grouse are certainly the easiest birds to photograph here and make great subjects during spring.

I was particularly happy to get images with more interesting lighting as I shot towards the early morning sun. The resulting shots make such a difference to the atmosphere.. Now I know the best spots for backgrounds I think it's a case of waiting by these places for something to happen in order to get an extra special image.

Lapwings are also confiding - a particular patch of open grass often proves fruitful for these stunning birds. I was even lucky enough to photograph a chick as it ran by the roadside before finding a hole in the stone wall to step through...
Meadow pipits continue to give me the run-around, but occasionally one will stop long enough for me to get a clean shot. What's really surprising me up here is the more unusual species that have come close to the car. Wheatear is definitely possible, and add to that the ring ouzel... a really difficult bird to shoot. As always it's a case of putting in the time! Next year I plan to run the same wildlife photography course. View Uplands Birds Photography Course to see the details.

19 April 2010

Location, location, location

Wildlife, water and perfect light: this is a combination that's guaranteed to provide good pictures. A recently discovered fishing pond has given me the chance to endulge in some very enjoyable photography of the resident ducks and swans. Nothing too unusual, but the surrounding backgrounds and reflections along with the perfect angle of light make this place a real treat. Getting down to the water surface makes all the difference, and here it's possible to shoot from literally inches above the pond. This gives stunning low level images with beautiful liquid colour and attractive waves ahead of the birds' breast as they push through the water. This viewpoint provides much more attractive portraits, and there's also the potential of capturing action too...

Simply watching the water birds preen and wash is the best way to predict the action. Birds will often cover themselves in water before stretching up and flapping their wings. A fast shutter speed of at least 1/500 second will freeze the action.
Although it might seem fairly simple to photograph mallards, swans and geese - achieving spot on portraits isn't all that easy. The main problem is the movement. The birds are constantly swimming or drifting making them more difficult to photograph. There are a number of different techniques for focusing: the servo mode can work well as a bird swims directly towards you; with the one shot mode try focusing on the bill then firing a series of shots as the bird's head passes through the zone of focus. White or black birds can be trickier. Coots are one example, where the focus may struggle to lock on - in this case you could use manual focus by focussing slightly ahead of the bird and again firing as it moves through the zone. It's worth trying all these techniques... ultimately it depends on the movement, speed and the species in question. The other consideration is the focus point. Use the central focus point and you will miss out on reflections, whilst a higher focus point will allow you to compose with the birds head towards the top of the frame and a full reflection below. Calm conditions can create almost perfect reflections for these images.
I'm a great advocate for concentrating on species close to home. With a perfect location you can return again and again to improve your images, using the varying seasons to create intimate and colourful images. And like all wildlife photography, the more time you put in, the greater your chance of capturing special behaviour to set your images apart from others.

13 March 2010

A Ton of Food - and a Ton of Birds

The last couple of months have been fantastic at my feeding station. The cold weather kept the birds coming in and it was particularly busy. Up to 5 species of tit came to feed, with the marsh tit a fleeting but welcome visitor. I've been through numerous perches: hazel catkins, alder, lichen covered branches, logs, and stumps - all to provide interesting perches for the birds. The good activity also provided excellent opportunities for those who came on my bird photography courses to photograph the birds.

Light levels sometimes made life difficult, but although difficult to obtain a truly sharp image, the resulting detail and colour remind me just how useful this lighting is - I would shoot in this light all the time... if it were possible! Fast moving birds just don't really allow this..
This year was particularly good for woodpeckers. Both male and female quickly took to my 'woodpecker feeder' and it was rare not to see one during a session in the hide. They can become wonderfully comfortable once they get used to the food, and are completely used to the camera shutter. At times they simply clamp themselves onto the food and clear the lot. It's such a privilege to watch these birds at such close quarters... On every woodland bird photography workshop I ran, everybody managed to get a shot of this colourful and vibrant bird.
As always, I strive to capture something a little different, whether it's unusual behaviour or a creative setting and backdrop. With this in mind I used a fallen sweet chestnut (kept in the freezer) and filled the inside with fat ball mixture in order to add some shape and colour. The resulting images are perhaps a little too set up, but experimenting is always worth a try, and it allows you to make those extra tweaks and changes that eventually might just lead to that 'perfect shot'..

Next year I hope to run the same nature photography course at the same location.

25 February 2010

Long Tailed Tit image Highly Commended

My image of a long tailed tit braving a snow storm was recently highly commended in the 'International Garden Photographer of the Year' competition. Thousands of entries came from all over the world for this prestigious competition. It is particularly satisfying to see a common British species make it this far. The image is without doubt one of my favourites from last year, and it goes to show that making that extra effort can make all the difference, whether it be lighting, composition or weather conditions...

Click on the link below to see my image along with the other commended photos.