Wildlife: the review of 2016

January 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

The focus of my work is currently firmly set on landscape and architectural photography genres. I also have some "fun" side projects and on this occasion I would like to share a few examples of my recent wildlife photography work over the last year. Admittedly, I still have a long way to go to match the quality of the images from the award-winning wildlife photographers as seen for example in the BWPA 2016 competition. However, I made a huge progress over a year, discovered lots of new locations and improved my knowledge of the local and international animal and bird species.

The Great Blue Heron

Herons are fascinating, beautiful birds, common to most wetland in Britain. Despite being some of the largest avians they may be incredibly shy and wary of humans, which makes it challenging to approach them within a close enough range for an artistic, frame-filling image. Even with a 600mm super telephoto lens the task can be all but easy in many nature reserves. This is in stark contrast with bird spotters who only desire to get recognisable "ID shots" from any distance.

I had the greatest success last spring in the Warwickshire wildlife reserve near Warwick University. At the location the water reservoirs are relatively small with clear banks on one side, which made it easier to spot and approach a few fishing individuals without scaring them away. The super heavy Canon 600mm f/4L IS was instrumental for capturing the heron in the fading late afternoon light.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

I had another close encounter with the herons in the Ham Wall reserve near Glastonbury. The birds were nesting in the reeds - I behaviour previously unknown to me. They typically raise their young high up in the trees - usually in large colonies.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

Birds of Prey (captive)

Birds in flight can be particularly challenging to photograph. It is not easy to come across a low-flying eagle or an owl in the wild, just in the right spot. Over the years I had several unexpected close encounters with ospreys and other species. It can be a truly breathtaking moment, however the photography requires in depth knowledge of locations, behaviour and lots of patience. It is possible to "cheat" a little and take a quick shortcut to the local birds of prey centre or reserve, which is what I have done try my hand. It is well-worth a visit for anyone who loves nature, enjoys photography or wants a great but relaxed family day out.

It was a very steep learning curve tracking the lightning fast birds with a super heavy, but very sharp and optically perfect 600mm f/4 lens. A monopod support alleviated some of the pain, however made it far more challenging not to lose the sight of the accelerating subject. The demonstrations are also a show of speed and agility which may make the photography exercise a lot harder. After a few hit and miss attempts, I managed to bag several keepers mainly handholding a 7kg+ camera-lens combo. The weather was a little too cloudy, however I still came back very pleased with the results.

EagleEagle EagleEagle

Exmoor Ponies

Exmoor ponyExmoor pony

Most visitors to Exmoor National Park will spot a herd of wild ponies on the scenic Porlock hill. The horses are a relatively easy to close to and photograph even with a moderate lens. Despite this I chose to work with a lightweight Canon 400mm f/5.6L super telephoto prime to achieve a good subject to background separation and give myself a comfortable working distance. I worked the equine portrait to make the best use of the afternoon sunlight, and to capture a nice elegant pose against a bright and colourful backdrop of blooming gorse.

The Scottish Highlands Red Deer

Red Deer, Glencoe, ScotlandRed Deer, Glencoe, Scotland

Glen Etive in the Scottish highlands is home to a large herd of red deer. During my visit in February last year, a stag with impressive set of antlers was happily posing near the roadside. I decided to tightly frame the deer against the backdrop of a snow covered mountain with a Canon 400mm lens. I then proceeded to explore different compositions with a wider Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS zoom lens mounted on the second body. It allowed me to frame the deer in their natural habitat emphasising the frozen mountainous terrain. 

Red Deer, Glencoe, ScotlandRed Deer, Glencoe, Scotland Red Deer, Glencoe, ScotlandRed Deer, Glencoe, Scotland

Birds of Iceland

I came across a colony of puffins near Dyrhólaey Arch in South Iceland. The cliffs were bathed in a beautiful evening golden light. Since I only had a Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens due to airline weight and size restrictions, I had to climb a few meters down a cliff side and position myself low on the grass and then wait till puffins land nearby. Moments later I had several chances. However, the best image was made once one individual started exercising his wings in the preparation to take off again.

I spotted a beautiful, white rock ptarmigan on snow in Thingvellir national park, Iceland in May, 2016. He appeared completely ignorant to the people. I discreetly followed the bird round to the nearest rocks before taking the shot. The darker background and a low eye level perspective allowed the bird to really stand out from the environment.

Brown Hare

Brown hareBrown hare

I planned to shoot seabirds whilst waiting for the sunset during the late evening visit to the Land's End in Cornwall. However, I instead spotted a few large hares around the cliffs. I managed to position myself to take the full advantage of the golden evening light. I even had a great opportunity to photograph a fox looking for a quick snack, but unfortunately both us weren't successful at our game that evening.

Cormorant

CormorantCormorant

The cormorant was indulging in the morning sunlight in Bruges, Belgium as I was walking to the car ready to depart. The shoot was completely unplanned, however I had a 400mm lens with me in the backpack and I was quickly set for photography. Luckily the bird was perched close to a bridge and was completely ignorant to the passers-by. 

Great White Egret

Great White EgretGreat White Egret

At the close of the day I spotted a great white egret wading through the spring reed pool in Ham Wall reserve. Even with a 600mm lens I couldn't get anywhere near close enough for a frame filling image, therefore I had to use the surroundings to my advantage. A strong backlight made photography challenging, however, thanks to a great dynamic range and low light capability of modern cameras such as Canon 5D mark III, I was able to frame the bird and after moderate cropping, highlight recovery and noise reduction I was left with a very pleasing image.

Goose-in-Flight

Geese are some of the most common and most accessible birds even in urban settings. Nevertheless, they can still make a great if a little comic subject and are well worth photographing at the right circumstances. During the spring nesting season the RSPB - Sandwell Valley site on the outskirts of Birmingham proved to be an excellent location to observe these oversized birds taking off and landing. I found the excellent and lightweight Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens much preferable for the job to due to significantly lower weight, faster focusing speed and perfectly acceptable magnification.

Goose in flightGoose in flight Goose in flightGoose in flight

GooseGoose


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