23 December 2011

What Makes a Good Picture??

These days I find myself analysing more and more. There are so many excellent nature photos around these days - but why are some pictures more successful than others? There are many elements that make an image appealing: light, composition, colour; and then there's the subject itself. Established nature photographer Niall Benvie has an interesting take: he believes in 'the edge'. The concept is pretty simple really - the edge can represent the end of the season; the coast meeting the land; the edge of daylight, or perhaps the edge of life itself. I've always liked this idea, although for me I'd say that it is the 'transition' that can make the best images - as an example, imagine a plain green barley field in spring, or the same crop just before harvest; both are monotonous in tone and colour, but view the field during that brief period where 'the change' takes place and you'll see a wonderful tapestry of texture with colourful flicks of the new season creating more variety in the scene. That might work for fields of barley, but not for everything.
I've come to the conclusion that the best pictures are simply the ones that linger. Time and time again I find myself drawn to the same images (mine and others) and it's this lingering quality that keeps me coming back. Images where your eye continues to move around, and where you never seem to get bored - those are the most successful of all. So for next year I know what I will be trying to achieve: fresh wildlife images; and ones that truly - linger.

www.naturephotographycourses.co.uk   www.paulmiguel.co.uk

20 December 2011

Those crazy Grouse..!!

This morning I had one of the most fun experiences ever photographing wildlife. On Grinton Moor I came across what seemed a particularly obliging red grouse. After getting out of the car to check its reaction, I realised that this was a rogue bird - with no fear whatsoever..!  Not only did the bird come close enough for frame filling portraits... but it seemed intent on trying to see me off! It was rather comical to watch the grouse follow me around, but also quite frustrating photography wise. I would quickly run to put enough distance between us, then hit the deck with camera on beanbag, waiting for it to stop. The only problem was that it didn't. It didn't stop! The bird would simply carry on running until it reached me - well below the minimum focussing distance of my lens..! After a few attempts the bird seemed to settle down and I watched it pecking at the tops of the ling heather before having a brief preen. Finally I managed to get some cracking portraits and lovely backgrounds.

This was a somewhat strange experience to have a wild bird follow me around. It was literally like taking the grouse for a walk.. bizarre! I'm not entirely sure why some grouse behave in this way; I think it's purely territorial This male didn't take kindly to anything - from people, to bikes and cars.! It was clearly 'his patch'.

My technique was surely put to the test today. With such an active bird I was constantly having to re-compose whilst trying to keep everything as stable as possible in low light. Even using a beanbag I had to work hard to keep everything pin sharp working at shutter speeds of around 1/40 second. Many were unsharp, but my hit rate overall was good.

15 December 2011

Wildlife Extra Competition - Published Book

Following the Wildlife Extra Photography Competition, my commended image will be published with many other images in a book produced by Wildlife Extra. This has been produced through Bob's Book -  Click Here to browse the book online.
www.naturephotographycourses.co.uk     www.paulmiguel.co.uk

09 December 2011

Winter Photography Workshop, West Yorkshire

I will be leading a nature photography workshop at RSPB Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire on Saturday 14th January. We will be concentrating on capturing winter scenes - so hopefully plenty of frost, ice or even snow! We will look at close up photography, wider landscapes and birds too. These half day courses are ideal for beginners and also for photographers looking to improve technique.
The day runs from 11am til 3pm including lunch. Bookings are made through Fairburn Ings nature reserve .  These photography courses were very popular last year so I imagine it will book up fast! I will be running at least two more courses during 2012.

www.naturephotographycourses.co.uk   www.paulmiguel.co.uk

07 December 2011

01 December 2011

Perfect Light for Landscape Photography

When I first set up this photography blog, I did so with the aim of posting wildlife and landscape photos. As it happens I seem to end up almost always posting something wildlife related - perhaps there's just more to talk about! That said, I still spend a lot of time photographing landscapes in the Yorkshire Dales - for magazines, article and my picture library .

This image were taken at Gordale in Malhamdale in the Yorkshire Dales, just as the sun was rising above the horizon to illuminate the hill top.
It's a real cliche, but when it comes to landscape photography, light is key. In particular this is true of Gordale Scar. I had never had a proper go at photographing Gordale Scar - it's always difficult for the light. The sun only reaches the whole scene during midday - and too much contrast can be a major problem. However, on this cold winter morning the conditions were just about perfect. The hour or so I spent photographing in the valley bottom proved to be a masterclass in lighting - and a reminder of what landscape photography is all about.
With strong winds and moving clouds, the weak winter sun would momentarily cast soft light on the scene whilst still creating shadows in the background. With the sun behind me I had no need for a polariser - and the cloud filled sky was dark enough to maintain detail without using a graduated filter. An image photographed in natural light with no filters. This is quite rare in my landscapes - but when the conditions are right, the conditions are right...