Hi and welcome to my new blog. I've started it so that I have a place where I can go into a bit more detail about my pictures, subjects and projects and where I can post pictures that I think deserve sharing, but for whatever reason didn't quite make it onto my portfolio site. I'm hoping it will also help me keep track of my photography projects so that I can look back and see how my ideas and pictures have developed and hopefully improved.
To kick things off, and now that Autumn is well and truly in full swing, I thought I'd take a look back over the Spring and Summer and start with my top five pictures of recent months...
#5 FROG AND TOAD
I shot this image in the park just next door to my house. I live on a big hill in Bristol, and every Spring, hundreds of frogs and toads make their way up to the ponds at the top of the park to breed and spawn. I've got a bit of a frog radar - a bit like when you can tell it's going to be flying ant day - and usually know exactly when it's going to happen. I've had this shot in my head for a while as it's the perfect place to get city lights in the background and as frogs and toads are pretty slow and easy to photograph, I had plenty of time to set up and experiment a bit with composition and lighting. This picture was an instant favourite as the female toad has made the march all the way up the hill with a male frog attached to her back. It shows how desperate they both are - her to get to the breeding pools and him to make sure he is the first to fertilise some eggs - any eggs. Or perhaps he's just lazy and was hitching a ride..
30 sec at f22 with SB-800 off-camera
#4 GREAT SKUA
Great skuas or "bonxies" are easily in my top 5 birds. I've photographed them a few times, but this summer I got an opportunity to spend a few days on Handa Island, off the north-west coast (the best bit) of Scotland. Usually you can only get on the island during the day, when the light is at it's most harsh, but staying on the island for a few days meant that I got the early morning / late evening light and Handa and the bonxies pretty much all to myself. This year, the long Winter and late Spring meant that the seabirds that nest on the cliffs which the bonxies usually either predate or steal eggs or food from were back late and the bonxies were starving. This meant they were being fiercely territorial - and in some cases predating each other! This one spent the evening defending its territory by perching on this rock, displaying and calling at any bonxie or great black-backed gull that came anywhere near. It let me get pretty close, which took me a bit of time, but was worth it as I could move about to frame it up nicely with the mountains in the background. I got quite a lot of interesting shots, but this image, where the bird is stretching was my favourite compositionally. I was really lucky with the weather for my whole stay, which is pretty much unheard of in northern Scotland! I'll share a few more from this project on the blog soon.
70-200mm - 1/4000th f3.5 iso 400 Manual
#3 URBAN GOSHAWK
Goshawks - definitely in my top 3 birds! In the UK, these birds are so elusive that in my whole life I've only had a handful of sightings - even living pretty near the Forest of Dean, which is one of the best places in the country to see them. This shot is from an ongoing project on urban goshawks making their homes in European cities. I've spent a bit of time finding some good locations where I can include a bit of urban context to help tell the story and had my eye on this church steeple as it was in a big, open city square where I knew there were gos. I got there at dawn and just as I arrived, an adult brought in a rat for this youngster. The good news was he was given it in a tall tree to the left of the steeple and I knew that it's favourite perch was in a smaller tree to the right of the church. After about 45 mins (which seemed like hours) on high-alert with sweaty palms, it took flight and flew right in front of the spire. Despite my shaky hands, I managed to get the focus to lock and was pleased to see that as he passed the spire, he was carrying the remains of the rat and had his bill wide open, shreiking. I'll be going back to photograph the goshawks in early spring and once again when they're nesting and will hopefully see how this guy is getting on. Again, will share a few more from this project in a separate post.
300mm f4 1.4x converter - 1/3200th f8 iso 800 Manual
#2 GRAVEYARD BADGER
This was quite a lucky picture, but still one of my favourites of the year. Myself and a camerman friend had visited this urban cemetery a number of times to film the badgers, but on this particular night, his camera was playing up, so I didn't mind getting my flash out and setting something up that would have otherwise ruined his shot. This young badger was rootling around under this grave stone, so I quietly set my camera and flash up and stood back with a remote release and waited for it to emerge.
17-35mm f2.8 SB800 Pocket Wizard +iii - 1/60th f8 iso 400 Manual
#1 PEREGRINE FIGHT
Perhaps my favourite bird and subject to photograph of all - the peregrine falcon. I love these birds and can't get enough of watching and photographing them. This picture was literally a couple of years in the making. I have been following the pair in Bristol city centre closely for 3 years and have learnt so much about their daily lives, routines and behaviour. This season, they successfully fledged 3 young, which is the best they have ever managed and which meant that I finally had some decent opportunities to photograph food-transfers and a bit of sibling rivalry. Everything fell in to place on this occasion - the parents had just caught a pigeon, and after preparing it, so that it was a more manageable size for the youngsters to carry, the adult female flew from her perch, calling loudly to her offspring. All 3 fledglings quickly chased her and as she dropped it, the large juvenile female snatched it out of the air and came heading straight for me. She came almost too close to fit in the frame, but just as I managed to lock on to her, her smaller brother came swooping in to steal it from her. I pretty much always shoot on manual when possible, so knew that the action would be frozen and my exposure would be spot-on, but I was seriously lucky with the framing as the 5 shots either side are just bits of wing or blue sky. I'm really happy with this picture as it shows some really interesting behaviour, there's a nice bit of light on them and of course, it's got peregrines in it. Seriously, every time I photograph these guys, I come back with something different and I'll even go and watch them when the light is dreary, just so I can think about the pictures I'm going to take.
300mm f4 1.4x converter - 1/3200th f7.1 iso1000 Manual