28 August 2012

Photographing a Captive Merlin

I spent this evening photographing this young male merlin on the edge of Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire. Choosing this natural perch I was able to hide the jesses whilst the bird sitting down really helped too. This falcon is so relaxed - it's a real joy to work with. Thanks to Ben and Joe for letting me get some cracking portraits of what is my favourite bird of all time..!

 This first year male merlin is just one of the captive birds used on our bird of prey photographic workshops in Yorkshire. Hopefully by next summer he will be in his full adult plumage.

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

24 August 2012

Who's your Favourite Wildlife Photographer?

I'll let you in on a secret: I don't think I'm the best wildlife photographer in the country. I say that because up until recently I've been reluctant to mention other photographers too much - it's competition after all..   But the reality is, I've admired a number of nature photographers for many years, and some more recently.

I especially thank Neil Mcintyre and Niall Benvie, both who have given me plenty advice and have always been friendly and helpful. There's many other names out there, some more familiar than others: Danny Green, Mark Sisson, Mark Hamblin, Pete Cairns, Ben Hall, Ross Hoddinott, Mike Lane and Dave Kjaer.. I enjoy the work of all of them. For sheer quality, Guy Edwardes is one of my favourites... and for an individual who really inspires me - that would have to be Andrew Parkinson, a wildlife photographer who's really setting the bar in my opinion.

So who's your favourite wildlife photographer, and why..? Why not stick a comment at the bottom and let me know..

Thanks for reading.

22 August 2012

Landscape Photography at Malham Cove

I love photographing wildlife. But I also enjoy my landscapes too... and it's actually been fairly lucrative in terms of image sales. Malham Cove is undeniably one of my favourite places in the Yorkshire Dales, but it's anything but easy to photograph well. Here is a diary from a day spent at Malham Cove a couple of weeks ago...

"This weather is just stunning. A few clouds around but that's o.k.; I'm confident it's going to stay clear enough with plenty of blue skies. It was 50/50 whether to trust the forecast today, but I'm glad I did. Perfect weather! Only thing is, it's crawling with people - they're absolutely everywhere..! Guess I can't expect much else - it is a Sunday in July after all... The base of the cove is so difficult to photograph well. I've taken countless pictures here, and seen some absolute crackers too. But I know that I never quite do it justice, so today I'm taking my time; I'm here with plenty of it before the light starts to soften, so let's get scouting...
I stop at each vantage point, checking the compositions, assessing the light; thinking who will buy these images. Must remember to really nail a Dalesman front cover one... oh, and try to use that stream as a really strong foreground. I carry on towards the base of the cliff. I 've now selected about three main spots from which to shoot from. There's still loads of people about. Oh, god.. maybe they're just never going to leave.! Not to worry - I can still hide them to some extent... and then maybe clone a few out if I have to..?? The light starts to drop and I begin taking pictures. I know it's not perfect light yet, but if it does cloud over more later then at least I'll have something in the bag. It's a form of safety net really. I've arrived with around four hours of shooting time; it seems a lot, but it's amazing how much time you need when the extra elements of people and changable weather are factored in. With these extra difficulties - double, or even triple the time you think you will need!

I'm finding some nice shots - they look like decent compositions - but still, I'm just not completely happy. Once again I feel there's something missing - and  I don't quite know what. I think it's just that this place is a really tough one, where everything needs to be perfect. I carry on, knowing that I'm doing the best I can and hope that instinct tells me where to make those little tweeks. The light is quite good - I'm getting cracking blue skies above the cove, but the moving cloud is also changing the light and casting variable degrees of shadow. I experiment with this... firing the shutter as the sun disappears and reappears again. I'm really pleased with the results..!

I'm now into the golden period of light, and I'm re-visiting the compositions I did earlier. Nothing wrong with that; I've been guilty in the past of not paying enough attention to detail at this location, so it's definitely worth it. I'm taking great care over the exposure, and my focusing point too... must get as much as I can from this camera and lens. The people are actually beginning to drift off - finally!! It's great to have this place to yourself. There's a few couples around and a family, but not enough to cause me problems. I'm now shooting in wonderful light - beautiful clarity, and blue skies too. Just stunning!

As the sun begins to drop below the hillside, the cove gradually becomes shadow. This is great - I love shooting in this type of 'half and half' light. I carry on shooting with a polariser as normal, then, as the shadow increases, I add a graduated ND filter to even up the contrast. I notice a shot I've never really seen before, a little up the hill. How have I not spotted this before..?? From this spot I can use some rocks in the foreground - and the overall effect is great - a classic image of Malham Cove. The light continues to drop and I realise I'm not going to improve on anything now. Back to the car to gulp down a sandwich and then it's off to the top of the cove for sunset.
I arrive on top of the cove at about 8.30pm, looking at the wonderful view of the valley below. I can't believe it - there's actually someone else up here too! Must be as crazy as me I reckon. We acknowledge each other but never really speak, content to create our own images as the sun sets. By 9pm, the sky is now a classic twilight hue, with lovely pinks above the limestone pavement. I take a few shots, moaning once again that something's just not right...

The pics look o.k. but nothing special. It starts to get darker. It's time to go home. I return to the car at 9.30pm, knowing that the 10.30 ETA I've given my girlfriend is not really going to be true."

It was an exhausting but enjoyable day and at least I felt I'd done the best I could on this session. But, anyone who tells you Malham Cove is easy to photograph, is lying... or just not doing it that well.!!

15 August 2012

Juvenile Red Grouse Yawning

Juvenile Red Grouse by Paul Miguel
Juvenile Red Grouse, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

This red grouse posed absolutely perfectly this morning. He was a real beauty, giving me plenty of activity and behaviour. I was lucky enough to capture him yawning on a number of occasions. Note the detail inside the mouth, due to a little fill-in flash.

10 August 2012

Male Merlin perched in bilberry

Male Merlin by Paul Miguel
Male Merlin, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

This is one of my favourite shots from my bird of prey workshop today at Sutton Bank. Plan it right to create the perfect setting... and get a bit of help from the light, and you can end up wonderful natural portraits. This, for me, really sums up what I am trying to achieve when I shoot captive birds in the correct habitat.

03 August 2012

Swans at Dawn

Swans at Dawn by Paul Miguel
Swans at Dawn, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

I was up at 5.00am this morning to capture these swans. The early morning sun coloured the rising mist above the calm surface of the lake. Great conditions for wildlife photography..!