15 November 2013

Beginners Wildlife Photography Workshops Yorkshire

naturereserveworkshopI’ve been spending a lot of time recently at the nearby Nature Reserve St. Aidans near Castleford in West Yorkshire. Run by the RSPB, St. Aidans is proving to be a wonderful place for wildlife photography – and the ideal location for a Wildlife Photography Course The open nature of the site (formerly an open cast mine) lends itself to some cracking light at both ends of the day. With reed beds and intersecting water channels the reserve is perfect for landscape photography, with stunning reflections and evocative sunsets.

naturephotographycourse beginnersnaturephotography beginnerswildlifeworkshopAll year round there are good numbers of wildfowl – with ideal access to the water’s edge allowing for low level images with the camera literally a few inches about the water surface. This gives some wonderful reflections, particularly with the obliging swans that regularly dabble close to the edge.


What’s exciting me the most about this location, is the opportunities at twilight. At dawn and dusk, ducks, geese and swans can be seen flying over the lakes, and lapwings rising up in large groups. In addition, a starling flock continues to grow in number, wheeling around at dusk before dropping into the reed beds. This mini-murmuration is one of the spectacles of St Aidans and an amazing thing to photograph. But the star species has to be the elusive bittern, which can be heard ‘booming’ from the reed beds in early spring.

geeseflockphotography littleegreatphotography twilightwildlifephotography starlingmurmurationTo share the wildlife of St. Aidans with others, I’m running Wildlife Photography Workshops at the reserve in 2014. These are half day courses aimed at beginners, but more experienced wildlife photographers can benefit from my knowledge of the reserve and capture evocative twilight photos including the starling murmuration. For any more information contact me at paul@naturephotographycourses.co.uk

Beginners Wildlife Photography Workshops

27 September 2013

Autumn in Close Up

The other day I indulged in some very relaxing photography. With no particular goals in mind, I set out to my local nature reserve to see what I could find; I simply wanted to photograph what I wanted without any pressures or specific markets in mind. 

What first leaped out at me was the light, very overcast but not too grim. This proved perfect for seeking out the first signs of changing colour on the hedgerows and trees. I set about shooting some wider shots before turning my attention to more close up images. I soon became hooked. As a nature photographer, I find that the best images are often taken when you go with the flow, seeking out what's there and allowing yourself to be guided by the subject and the conditions at the time. This was certainly the case here, as I realised how perfect the conditions were for creating close up images with a long lens.

It was a long time since I had done this kind of photography properly. Literally years.! I started with some hawthorn leaves that presented themselves well against the shaded background of dark reflections in the canal. Technique is really important for this type of photography. I was using a 300mm lens to concentrate on specific compositions, using the shallow depth of field to blur the background. The wind was low with just a gentle breeze, but even so it was paramount to do everything possible to maintain stability. My tripod is great for this - a big sturdy gitzo, capable of extending to around seven feet. Closing the aperture down to around f9 for enough depth of field in the subject meant that shutter speeds were around 1/50 second - fairly slow with a big lens - even on a tripod. I used mirror lock up, and for even more stability, wedged a spare battery between the tripod head and the bottom of the lens. It was then a case of careful focusing and waiting for the minimal movement in the breeze.
The light was just magical. In the wider world it looked flat and boring, but up close... it was sheer perfection. The whole time I was shooting towards the sun and the hazy soft light couldn't have been better for bringing out the colours and textures. I've lost count of the number of people who have walked past me during similar photo-shoots. "What are you photographing..?" they ask. It seems obvious to me - something glorious and uplifting, an amazing combination of colour and light - all for free..! Most just don't get it - carrying on past and looking slightly perplexed at how I could possibly be excited by the scene..!?
If you would like to learn the techniques for this kind of photography then join me for a One to One Photography Workshop photographing Nature and Wildlife

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This Focus On.. BLOG should now be linked to Facebook and Twitter providing automatic updates on both social networking sites.

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23 September 2013

Farmland twilight

Farmland twilight by Paul Miguel
Farmland twilight, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

A colourful and evocative shot of farmland on the outskirts of Leeds. This was photographed after sunset using the subtle hues of pinks and purples. The after-glow really seemed to pick out the green colour in the newly sown young crop.

The exposure was about 4 seconds for this one on a sturdy tripod, with a ND grad attached.

20 September 2013

Autumn Fruits...

It's been ages since I've been out with the camera. In fact, with arranging workshops and building a new web site, I haven't taken a picture for nearly two weeks..!  So I took the opportunity this morning to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather and see what I could shoot.

I decided to concentrate on some of the autumn fruits, and the hedgerows were just stunning - full of berries showing some really deep colour.

Judging by the redness of the hawthorn we may be in for yet another cold winter.!!

I usually prefer to shoot these types of images in softer light, but the blue sky was ideal for contrasting colour and providing a constant backdrop.

It was work this morning, but I really enjoyed it too. I think it did my soul some good...

17 September 2013

Farmland Photography Workshops Updated

barnowl05I have now updated the pages on my website for Farmland Wildlife & Landscape Workshops and Wild Owl Photograph Sessions

Both workshops take place at the same farm in West Yorkshire on private land. Get in touch if you are interested in photographing some of the superb farmland wildlife.

Farmland Photography Workshops Updated

14 September 2013

A Glorious Grouse...

redgrouseinheatherThis image was taken by one of my clients, Julie Butterworth, on a Red Grouse Photography Workshop in North Yorkshire. It was so good that I just had to post it. It really is a stunner..! Good light makes a real difference, but the main thing is being in the right place at the right time and making the most of an opportunity. Well done Julie.. well worth the early morning start.!

A Glorious Grouse...

10 September 2013

Focus On... Red Grouse Photography

redgrouse05Wildlife Photography is far from easy in the U.K., but Red Grouse can be a relatively easy subject to photograph. At a well know location in Yorkshire, these hardy birds can be photographed from the car, often at incredibly close range. With such reliable subjects I use the venue for my upland birds photography courses.

redgrouse02I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve photographed these birds, but a visit this August proved to be the best yet. I arrived early – around 6.00am. I wanted to make use of the early morning light that makes such a difference to the resulting images. It was only a couple of bends up the steep moorland track and straight away there was a stunning male right by the roadside in glorious heather. I slowed down, but alas, he was off… a good opportunity missed. Never mind – you have to put in the work to get good wildlife images and I wasn’t disheartened. I soon found a group of grouse sitting in the heather and captured some rather creative images by tilting the camera down and including the out of focus foreground heather. Perfect.!!redgrouse01

The rest of the morning offered few really good chances – apart from one. A couple of males were posturing on opposite sides of the road and I was lucky enough to get close enough to one of them. I could see him running towards the road and luckily he stopped for a couple of seconds.redgrouse03redgrouse04

The position was just wonderful (not like mine as I was contorted round shooting almost backwards out of the window..!) – the heather was perfect and the background was the distant shaded hillside, giving a beautiful bluish tone. Three shots and it was over. I was quite pleased with myself for holding it all together and capturing it in time. One of the best grouse images I’ve taken to date.

If you want to photograph these wonderful birds on the upland moors, book a Red Grouse Photography Workshop through www.naturephotographycourses.co.ukredgrouse06

Focus On... Red Grouse Photography

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13 August 2013

A slightly different view..

Red Grouse in heather by Paul Miguel
Red Grouse in heather, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

A red grouse photographed slightly differently from the norm. With the grouse distant, I chose to tilt the camera down and use the vast expanse of out of focus heather to fill the frame with colour.

A blue sky would have been ideal, but this situation is typical - only by shooting upwards can you usually get the deeper blue skies that work so well.

Photographed at 6.30am in Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales.

09 August 2013

Wildlife Photography Workshops 2014

I'm busy working on a brand new photography course website to include all my workshops for 2014.

It's time to go back to what I love best, and my first passon: Wildlife. I've taken the decision to concentrate almost fully on wildlife photography and as such, the Workshop Programme will be completely wildlife based, with a beginners landscape course thrown in.

The site www.naturephotographycourses.co.uk will be replaced by a brand new site, created with Wordpress. It's important to keep up with the times and current technology, and Wordpress is superb for updating information and showing off images with some pretty nifty plugins. I am in no way a techno-geek, but have spent a lot of time teaching myself this completely new type of web design. Hopefully I'll be in a position to launch the new site by September. This will be followed by a brand new www.paulmiguel.co.uk with smart photo galleries using the pop-up/lightbox type of presentation.

There are  a few changes to some Wildlife Photography Workshops for next year: Birds of Prey courses now have a maximum of just 8 photographers, with room for 2 non-photographing spectators; the reflection pool should soon have a comfy wooden hide to accommodate 2 photographers; I  am looking at a little owl hide over the winter months at the same location too; also, I will be offering a new Beginners Nature Photography Course at an excellent nature reserve close to home - the perfect site to practice on wild subjects, with lots of opportunities for both wildlife and landscape scenes too. Watch this space, view my recent images on Flickr or read my Twitter tweets

06 August 2013

Starling Roost at Sunset

Starling Roost by Paul Miguel
Starling Roost, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

I've been lucky to see this a few times over the past couple of weeks. It really is one of Nature's spectacles.. and carried out by one of our more common species in th e UK.

This starling flock must have been into the hundreds as it wheeled around slowly growing in number. The sky could barely have been much better to record them in silhouette...

Photographed with a 300mm lens + 1.4x extender; 1/2000 second, F6.3 using servo autofocus. I used AV mode to turn the image into a straight silhouette, with a slight bit of over-exposure compensation.

28 July 2013

Mute Swan in evening light

Swans are one of my favourite subjects to photograph. To capture strong images of them you really need to use the very best light. This image was taken at around 8.30pm using the last rays of sunshine. The quality of light makes a huge difference and helps to maintain detail in the white feathers.

For this shot I used a beanbag and angle finder and photographed from the ground just a few inches above the water surface at the edge of the lake. Exposure settings are always difficult with wildfowl - I try to set an ISO that give me at least 1/500 second to arrest the almost constant movement on the water.

20 July 2013

Barley at twilight

Barley at twilight by Paul Miguel
Barley at twilight, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

It's a while since I've done this type of photography as I'm concentrating much more on wildlife these days.

Farmland provides some of the most distinctive images of the British countryside, but it's hard to do it justice. With a clear evening forecast I used the colours of twilight, and the still conditions, to create an evocative scene at the edge of a ripening barley field.

Photographed with a standard wide zoom and a 4 stop ND graduated filter. I got down low for this image and zoomed in to create a tight crop. Shot at about one and a half seconds at f11 on tripod. Photographically very simple to do - it all relies on good light and finding the strongest compositions.

16 July 2013

Starling Flock coming to roost

Starling Flock by Paul Miguel
Starling Flock, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

I was lucky enough to watch this flock gathering to roost in reed-beds at RSPB St. Aidans reserve. After a few images on the standard fast shutter speeds, I switched to a speed of about 1/60 second to create some motion blur. Good panning is the key. All the images were hand-held.

08 July 2013

Gannet coming in to land

Gannet coming in to land by Paul Miguel
Gannet coming in to land, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.

Photographed at Bempton Cliffs on my Seabird Photography Course. Great light and perfect wind direction combined to give some amazing flight shots of these stunning birds.

More Gannets to follow soon.!!

30 June 2013

Wild Little Owls!

After finding a little owl nest on the farm I've been been working on them for the past few weeks. This included slowly introducing a hide - and a perch to get them out in the open for clear views. Today was my first session in the hide and I was overjoyed to see this stunning looking adult land right on my perch.

I'll now be changing the perches and backgrounds to capture a variety of images. I'm also hoping to offer the little owl hide for hire. email: paul@naturephotographycourses.co.uk

28 June 2013

Mute Swan with Cygnets

Mute Swan with Cygnets by Paul Miguel
Mute Swan with Cygnets, a photo by Paul Miguel on Flickr.
This was such a delight to see. Three young cygnets all hitching a ride on the back of their mother. Eventually she slowed down and then began to bathe. The youngsters stayed on briefly, but then were virtually thrown off as she began to thrash around and preen.

This was really tricky to photograph. My main concern was not blowing out the highlights so, as often, I used manual to adjust the exposure. Where to focus was a problem - I wanted all birds sharp, but particularly the adult's head. I increased the ISO to give me more depth of field and also a fast shutter speed as I was shooting hand-held. This was shot at around ISO 250, f8 at 1/1250 second - good all round settings to keep everything sharp but not too noisy. This shot was a real bonus as it captured some movement from the adult, and all three cygnets were parallel... a dream shot!!

09 June 2013

Nature Photography in Swaledale

Swaledale is one of my favourite places to visit: it's somewhere where you can mix wildlife and landscape photography, and know that you have some reliable locations in which to shoot. I spent three days in this stunning part of the Yorkshire Dales. To get under the skin of a place, and particularly with wildlife, in the summer you really need to stay over so you can take advantage of the best light - both early and late in the day. I stayed at Crosby House Farm - a family run B + B .The room was excellent and very good value too. Although it was in Wensleydale, it put me just twenty minutes away from where I wanted to shoot. Landscape photography was on the agenda, but my main aim was to photograph the upland birds in Swaledale, some of which are very tolerant to an approach in the car.

On my first evening I was lucky to catch some good light at the end of the day and capture a lovely sunset close to Carperby.
The next day an early start was rewarded as I was treated to a beautiful Golden Plover, close to the car. This was the first time I had been up here so early and the light was just stunning - well worth the 4.15am alarm to get me on the moors for 5.00am. 
I also witnessed a female lapwing sheltering her chicks (count the legs!), a very endearing sight. Lapwing chicks are lovely and very cute to photograph. There were four of them that were simply wandering around fending for themselves, already learning to feed just like their parents.

Lapwings can present some of the best opportunities in Swaledale. I came across one lapwing that was often feeding around the same grassy bank. I decided to concentrate on the one bird for a while and photographed it at such close range that it was often too close! The light was lovely and soft as it was around 8.30pm. A bit of diffused fill-flash helped.
The next morning was fairly quiet, but at least I managed one of my better curlew shots. These birds are really tough to photograph - generally wary and rarely near the car. This one however had a chick nearby and was keeping a close eye. After a few minutes, its mate joined it and they both watched their lone chick as it bumbled through the grasses.
I also managed some decent grouse shots even though I had to use some fill-in-flash for some as the sun was far too harsh. Much better to shoot into the light and use fill-in. These are reliable subjects and easily photographed on my Red Grouse Photography Workshops
On my last evening I had to work hard for my landscapes. The meadows at Reeth were breath-taking, but so many times I am thwarted by continual cloud and lack of good light. It seemed to be the same again as I cursed the huge blanket of cloud towards the west. I did the best I could, shooting an attractive meadow with a gate and summer hedgerow. 
I stuck it out - and eventually my luck changed. completely! Around 7.00pm the light completely broke and I was able to shoot in stunning evening light. Amazing quality. I tried to get as much as I could in case the light went, and took many photographs with varying compositions. Some shots required a polariser - others worked better without - and simply adding an ND grad filter.

To get some cracking wildlife photos of wild birds of Yorkshire book one of my Upland Birds Photography Courses