This month's Outdoor Photography Magazine features a piece about the wild raven I photographed earlier this year in the Canary Islands. The locals knew him as "Geronimo" and to say he was a character would be a real understatement. Copy attached below..
On a visit to the Canary Islands to photograph ground squirrels, Sam Hobson finds the star of the show is an impressive wild raven, called Geronimo, with a penchant for biscuits and peanuts thrown by passing tourists. It took quite an effort to get this epic shot
"Earlier this year, I went to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands to research a few conservation projects and shoot a photo story on the invasive Barbary ground squirrels that have colonised the island. I quickly found the squirrels, as they gather anywhere there are tourists, and I decided to use this to my advantage by shooting them in context with some nice palm-tree-lined promenades and beachside resorts in the background. After I’d got the more urban images, I headed out on the tourist trail; up into the mountains to search for locations where I could photograph the squirrels in front of the island’s typically arid landscapes. After studying the map, I chose the road with the most lookout points dotted along it. I’d heard about a few cool birds I might encounter on the way, such as houbara bustards, cream-coloured coursers and Egyptian vultures, so I was keeping my eyes peeled, but nearly everywhere we stopped there were ravens, either cronking in the sky above or perched only a stone’s throw away upon roadside fence posts. I’d never encountered wild ravens as bold as these – they seemed to be taking up the role of gulls or crows, which were notably lacking on the island, and were scavenging for pickings around the outskirts of towns and villages. We drove higher into the mountains and when we reached the first of the lookouts, it was a wildlife oasis. Barbary squirrels, or ‘chipmunks’, as tourists call them, were coming out of the woodwork, sparrows were hopping all around my feet and within a few minutes a pair of ravens had landed nearby. It soon became obvious why the wildlife here was so habituated and concentrated, as a tour bus pulled up and its passengers got out with various tidbits to feed the squirrels and birds. A little perplexingly to me at first, the bus driver started shouting ‘Geronimo! Geronimo!’ We soon spotted a massive raven flying up through the valley towards us, straight over the bus and landing on a post very near the driver. The other ravens and squirrels scattered and Geronimo quickly hoovered up all the biscuits and peanuts he could before taking off into the valley, leaving the tourists to continue on their journey. Over the next few days, I returned to that viewpoint to see Geronimo a number of times. After a while, he started to recognise me and became a bit more comfortable with my camera and flash. I set up this shot by placing a piece of flapjack on my lens hood, using a bit of fill-flash and standing back a few feet with a remote release to fire the shutter. Unfortunately, the only perches available were either fences or ugly looking concrete, so I had to lug the rock he’s standing on about half a kilometre to the scene, but it was definitely worth the effort. I wanted to capture some of his character so it was important to get him big in the frame, and by using a wideangle lens I could get as much of the valley behind him in as possible – I definitely think he comes across as king of the castle. Shouting ‘Geronimo’ into a valley and watching a majestic wild raven fly from the distant horizon towards me and landing by my side is a wildlife experience I’ll never forget."
Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm f2.8, SB700, Pocket Wizard +III
Outdoor Photography magazine, 185, Moment with Nature