06 June 2012

Wildlife and Landscape Photography: Swaledale

I regularly visit the Yorkshire Dales, driving up and returning the same day. But every so often I stop over for a few days - particularly during the summer when the light dictates very early starts and late finishes. I recently spend three days in Swaledale - a mixture of landscape and wildlife photography. I usually try and book a late room - this time staying at West End Guest House in Richmond. Thanks to Ian and Helen for making me feel so welcome... I will be back.

With a predicted break in the wet weather, I hoped to capture some decent images of the glorious wild flower meadows at Muker. I've tried to get these shots for the past two years, but Swaledale seems to have its own weather system.! Time and time again my attempts have been thwarted, as promising forecasts turned into average or even poor light. But this time was different..  The conditions at Muker were just perfect for the meadows: largely clear skies, soft early morning light, good clarity in the still air.. and the meadows were looking pretty good too. Staying over in Swaledale meant I was on location at the meadows just after 6 a.m. - far earlier than I had been before. As always, the difficulty in such photographically rich locations is in finding the strongest compositions, so I took a little time to make sure I was happy with my images...
 The remainder of my trip was mostly spent on the heather moors, watching and photographing the beautiful upland birds: red grouse, curlew, lapwing, meadow pipit and golden plover. The amount of chicks was incredible - grouse, lapwing, curlew and plover all provided me with at least a sighting of a young bird. The grouse chicks were wonderful - running around just feet away from the car as the parent birds watched over them. Seeing these chicks so close up made really appreciate just how beautifully detailed they are. The amount of detail in their plumage for something so small is remarkable.

One of my best encounters was a young lapwing. Already it was able to catch its own food, and I watched as this pretty bird used its foot - vibrating against the ground before picking up grubs. It would repeat the action over and over: body still with leg quivering, run along the ground; stop again.. run. So wonderful to watch this behaviour at such close range - and the bird was clearly relaxed; not bothered by the car at all.
This location is so reliable; it's why I do my upland bird photography courses here. You are guaranteed to get a good picture of something... in fact my clients sometimes end up getting better pictures than I do..!


  1. Cracking shots, Paul. Looks like 3 days very well spent.

    1. Cheers Craig. I'm really pleased to get the meadows. The birds were a bit frustrating, partly cause of poor light, but I got some I'm happy with.