12 June 2011

Photographing Upland Birds

I recently had an amazing few hours on the moors above Grinton, photographing four different species of bird - all within a couple of hours. Lapwings, red grouse, curlew - and my first ever Golden Plover (!) all came within yards of the car. A perfect morning of wildlife photogaphy.

This was my first photo shoot of the morning - a beautiful lapwing chick that ran around the grass, every now and then peeping out and posing beautifully for the camera.

Summer offers good opportunities for young birds, such as this grouse family that bumbled along the heather close to the roadside. I had about twenty minutes with these birds, watching the chicks clambering over the heather - overseen by the parents all the while. The lighting here was just fantastic: the sun was now stronger so I shot towards the light and used a diffused flash for fill-in. I'm a big fan of this kind of lighting - and it worked so well here.

Probably my favourite encounter was with this curlew - partly because a good image of this bird has eluded me until now. Usually curlews are flying away from the car: this one was running towards me..! I couldn't believe my luck when it stood on a mound and posed perfectly... pure magic! I had a number of chances as the birds did circuits around my car, running behind me then flying in front, scuttling around and calling constantly. The light was lovely too - soft backlighting which is fast becoming my favourite type of light for wildlife photography... it gives a wonderful quality that I think highlights the delicacy of so many birds and animals.

This day had to be one of the best wildlife photography sessions ever - I can't wait to return! Definitely worth the 4.00am start!! Evenings would be great here too I imagine, but nothing quite beats the stillness and serenity of early morning, punctuated by the evocative calls of the upland birds on this Yorkshire Dales moor.

As part of my wildlife photography workshop programme for next year, I'll certainly be including this location - and with further visits, I'll know the best spots too.

06 June 2011

Red Deer Photography Workshop

The Red Deer Photography Workshop on 23rd October is now fully booked. Anyone interested in an extra date - please send me an email and I will add you to a waiting list.

Photograping wild Peregrine Falcons in Yorkshire!

Yorkshire has some truly fantastic sites for wildlife photography, but perhaps none quite as exhilarating as Malham Cove during the breeding season. Last Friday saw me on top of the cove watching a pair of wild peregrines flying against the perfect deep blue sky. These kind of mornings are what gets the blood flowing... truly inspiring... a special wildlife spectacle, played out in a majestic landscape. Peregrines have nested on the cove for the last few years, and whilst they are protected near the nest by law, here it's possible to photograph them from the public footpath.

These flight shots have only had slight cropping - showing just how close the peregrines can be! All were shot with a 300mm lens and 1.4 converter. I always think that trying to use a tripod or monopod is just a waste of time... these birds are so fast that you really need to handhold to follow them effectively. Still, it's tough..! A peregrine can be on the other side of the valley one minute and then right above your head the next. These images were taken on ISO 400 at shutter speeds between 1/1250 and 1/2000 of a second. I slightly decreased the aperture for some to increase depth of field - which seemed to improve the image a little.

Watching these birds drop like a stone then rise steeply above the cove is an incredible experience. I had a number of chances as both birds performed against the crystal clear blue sky - lit by bright sun.

The conditions were just perfect, and I'm itching to get back before the young fledge. Last year I pretty much missed the whole thing, so I'm more than happy to have these shots in the bag..

Next year I am planning to run a workshop concentrating on the bird life of Malhamdale - to include the peregrines. If you're interested in this wildlife photography workshop then send me an email or give me a call. It's certainly one of the most exciting wildlife shoots you'll ever have!!