Monday, 30 October 2017

Up to now

Following on from the last blog (which can be seen by clicking here), now I'll talk about what I've been up to so far this year, and then future blogs will be on a more real-time basis, with latest images, as well as other stuff as I think of them.

I had a couple of weeks at the start of the year before I was back up to Durham to continue my final undergrad year, during which time I managed to squeeze in a couple of early morning visits to Richmond Park for some of the birds there. This was probably my favourite image - it's a Tufted Duck, one of the most common subjects I see, but I just love the light in it.

I barely picked up a camera again until the end of March, although in February was offered a Research Master's back at Durham starting in October 2017, which I accepted.

Although finals were on the horizon, I had a brief break from work over the Easter holidays in the form of a week in Spain birding with my dad. We spent 3 days in Extremadura and 3 in the Doñana National Park, and it was lovely to be able to forget about work for a bit and enjoy what we were seeing. And we saw lots - bustards, sandgrouse and birds of prey galore in Extremadura, and then a whole host of marshland birds in Doñana. Overall we saw more than 150 species, including at least 20 different bird of prey species. Naturally I had my camera with me, and whilst it wasn't a dedicated photography trip, still managed to get a few I was pleased with.
I spent a few hours one evening sat by the edge of the marsh as a large flock of Spoonbills got closer. Eventually they were within range of a few images as they feed in the shallow water.

Woodchat Shrikes were everywhere, but frustratingly seemed to have an obsession with sitting on anything man-made, and a complete aversion to any natural perches. That was until the last day, however, when I spotted this one perched on a lovely photogenic thistle! Even more amazingly, it didn't fly off when I opened the car, and let me get some images. One can only wish more birds were this tolerant!

At the end of June my undergrad university degree finished, and I was absolutely delighted to graduate with a first, making the slog of the previous 9 months totally worth it. Over the summer I also managed to get out a bit with my camera, making a couple of trips up to Suffolk, where I had an exhibition at the King's Head in Orford. In fact, it's still going, and will run until the end of the year, so if you're in the area pop in and have a look! Ian, the landlord, is a lovely bloke and it's a great place for a pint and a meal.
I was at RSPB Minsmere one evening in late July when I spotted a small murmuration of Starlings performing their acrobatic manoeuvres before going to roost in the Reedbed. Running round to get in position before the sun went down, I just had enough time to get a few images.

These Black-tailed Godwits were still in their fabulous rust-coloured breeding plumage as they fed in front of one of the hides early in the morning.

In August, three other friends and I headed out to Canada for 2 weeks to see a university friend who lives out there. It's a fantastic country and I loved all of my time there, and even managed to squeeze in a few hours of photography here and there.
At their cabin on a small island, a Bald Eagle pair had a nest in one the trees right by the house. On our first morning there I was woken by the young bird's incessant calling, so made the most of the two hours I had before the others got up by getting some photos of it in the early morning light.

I had a day to myself in Vancouver one day, and Connor Stefanison, a photographer friend of mine, recommended I try Stanley Park for beavers. It didn't take me long to find them, and I was amazed at how approachable they were. I soon found out why this was, as throughout the day I saw several people feeding them. Sitting by the water and waiting allowed me to get this wide-angle image of one.

Whilst in Stanley Park I bumped into another photographer who told me about a small pool where Beavers had been appearing regularly each evening for the past few days. As the sun was heading towards the horizon I headed over there, where I was told that if I waited I had a very good chance of seeing them. Sure enough, a short time later the first one appeared, and over the next hour I was treated to ridiculous views of up to 5 animals swimming around and sitting on the banks of this pool. The image above was my favourite purely because of the patterns in the water in towards the top of the view.

Our last few days were spent in Whistler, where we did a fair bit of hiking. On this occasion we bumped into a family of Hoary Marmots which proved to be very confiding and let me get some images. This is one of the young ones.

September saw me back in London, and I spent a few early mornings photographing the Red Deer rut in Richmond and Bushy Parks. In previous years I have only ever been to Richmond, but several other photographers had recommended Bushy to me so I headed down there early one Sunday morning towards the end of September. Despite the day getting off to the worst start (I realised I'd left my wellies at home so had only a lightweight pair of trainers to wear through the long wet grass!), I had a productive morning, and got a couple of images different to what I've had at Richmond in previous years.

The second of the above images graced the Times a couple of days after I took it, which is always nice!

In October I made the trip back to Durham to start my Master's course. This year has been different to the previous 3 in more ways than one, but perhaps the most significant (in terms of photography) is that I now have a car up with me, so can get out with my camera on the weekends. I'm hoping to make the most of this over the next 12 months as there's a huge amount of wildlife in the surrounding area, a lot of which I could never dream of seeing back at home in London.

One project I'm quite keen to work on over the winter is showing the coastal birds in the context of the massive industrial landscapes that dominate the horizons here. While it is still early stages, I have managed a few images, such as those below.

That just about takes things up to the present. Over the winter I'm hoping to continue photographing the birds and industrial landscapes, as well as hopefully get a couple of subjects in front of my lens that I've had no chance to see so far. Whatever I end up doing, I'll hopefully be posting it back on here, so make sure to keep checking in! I will post details of new posts on Twitter and perhaps Facebook (but definitely Twitter, so follow me by clicking here!).

Friday, 27 October 2017

Getting back into it

I've been absent from this blog for some time now (almost 2 years). This was due to a combination of reasons: while I love watching wildlife, taking pictures and being outside, I'm less keen on the other side of the coin: activities like downloading, editing, and especially posting images on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. As posting on these sites takes significantly less time than writing a blog, they tended to get more service, and this blog rather fell away. Trying to make money out of photography makes me feel I should be doing absolutely everything to get photos out there in front of potential clients, but with other things on such as university and everything that goes with it, I've struggled to keep this up, and will often post regularly for a couple of months, before leaving it empty for just as long.

Recently, it is becoming harder to increase followings on social media. Sites are now doing everything they can to take money off you, offering you the chance to "promote" your posts. Obviously what this actually means is that if you don't pay to promote posts/images, the number of people that see them in their newsfeed is vastly reduced, compared to the number of people that have liked your page or follow you. This reached another level earlier this week, when I saw a number of articles reporting that Facebook is trialling a system for Pages, whereby almost all non-promoted posts (i.e. ones that you do not pay to increase the reach of) are moved to a secondary newsfeed, so people that like a page will see very few, if any, content from the page, their newsfeed instead being filled with adverts and content from friends.

What with the declining benefits seen with social media sites such as this, I thought I would try resurrecting this, assuming I find enough to write about! I figure the best place to start might as well me what's happened during part of the intervening period since my last post, which was at the start of 2016. The next post will cover what I've been doing so far this year!

Back when I wrote the most recent blog, I was pretty much halfway (or so I thought) through my 3 years at Durham University studying Biology. Funnily enough, my first 3 years at Durham probably were the least productive in terms of photography. During the terms, I never had my cameras up with me (other than when my parents came up to see me and we could get out for a weekend), and even if I had done, I had no access to a car (public transport up here isn't the best!) and I doubt I would have found much time for photography anyway. That leaves the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays. During Christmas and Easter I usually managed to get out a bit, but never had enough time to start something long-term, and always had work to, so I never came away with anything I was that proud of. The photo below is an example - it's a nicely lit photo of a Stonechat in nice early morning light, but it's not exactly going to blow anyone away or win any competitions! Having said that, I still loved just being able to get out, so it wasn't all bad.

Summer holidays were generally better, although their timing from July-September meant they fall in pretty much my least favourite time for photography. However, in 2016 I spent a couple of weeks in June in Suffolk while Springwatch was on, doing some photography for the RPSB. While I was there several evenings found me stood waiting for Barn Owls which would come out to hunt just as the sun was setting. These were some of my favourite images from the year.

Later in the summer I was lucky enough to get back to Peru for 3 weeks, this time with my family. Whilst by no means a photography trip, my camera spent most of the time there glued to my hand! Although we didn't have the time (or desire!) to go as remote as I had been before, we still managed to squeeze in a few days in the rainforest, including some mid-elevation forest, a habitat I'd not previously visited. I particularly enjoyed this as it meant we had a couple of hours at an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek! This is right up there with the best things I've seen, and despite it being over all too quickly, I managed to get a few photos.

After that it was back to Durham to start my final undergraduate year (via 10 days in South Africa for a uni field course). I did manage to fit a couple of visits in to Richmond Park before I left, though.

After a work-filled term at uni I was home for Christmas, when it was back to the Stonechats in Richmond Park, this one taken on a particularly cold morning.

If you've made it this far, congratulations - it's been a bit of an epic. I'll leave 2017 for the next post as this one is definitely long enough already. Hopefully this will be the start of some more regular posting, as I'm getting out more than I have done for a while so should be getting plenty of new images. If you feel like keeping up to date, I think you can "follow" the blog via a link on the right somewhere. I'm also going to start a newsletter, the link for which is at the top of the page, just underneath the title photo, so go ahead and sign up if you'd like!