Under Pressure

I am often asked if there is any occasion when I have felt under pressure when taking photographs of birds. On the whole I am fairly sanguine over what you get and what you miss, it’s part of the deal with this sort of photography, but there is a particular moment that comes to mind when I felt if I didn’t manage to secure a decent shot from this then I might as well give up.

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Losing the Label

I am currently reading Mark Cocker’s beautifully written book ‘Crow Country’ in which he goes in search of the Rooks and Jackdaws that he first encounters in the Yare Valley in Norfolk. There is a small paragraph towards the beginning of chapter six that should be read and digested by anyone who wants to look a little harder to find the extraordinary in the everyday. Although he is concerned with nature watching what he says can be applied to all aspects of looking.

‘… every time you pin a label on a living creature it reaffirms a sense of mastery over it. The naming of the thing gives you the wonderfully reassuring illusion that you know it. You don’t. Sometimes all you have is a single datum. The name. In a bizarre way, the process of recognition can actually be a barrier rather than a doorway to genuine appreciation’

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Entering the Personal Space

We all have a personal space. It’s the area immediately around us and other than those very close to us, we let no-one in. Good environmental portraiture and documentary photography demands that we enter this space and this is only possible if a standard or wide-angle lens is used.  It requires that the photographer communicates with the subject and gains their confidence.

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The Hallmark of a Bird

The Kingfisher is exotic. I remember seeing my first one around the Cob at Porthmadog. It was a long while ago now. It was only a glimpse but something you don’t forget. The words glimpse and Kingfisher seem to marry together frequently, so it was then….”did you see it?… just a glimpse – but that electric blue…..” That blue is its hallmark and I use the word in its literal meaning…’an official mark or stamp indicating a standard of purity’……’any mark or special indication of genuineness, good quality’……and perhaps even more telling….’any distinguishing feature or characteristic’ Only one other bird, in my opinion, has this hallmark, exhibiting such a vivid contrast in its plumage, when seen against the habitat it frequents and that’s the Gannet.

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The Herons Have It

It was interesting recently, when sorting out some images for a talk, to see that the bird I have photographed most since taking up bird photography a couple of years ago, is the Grey Heron. I began to think why this might be and if it reflected anything about myself or the bird or perhaps a little of both.

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Elusive Green Sandpiper

The feed is moving very quickly at the moment with the Nuthatches devouring the sunflower seeds and the tits ever present. Interestingly the Marsh Tit appears to have the least discerning diet of all our visitors! It will have a bit of everything – sunflower, mixed seed, niger seed, fat balls, nuts and cake. Today the species seen at the feeding station hide were as follows:

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Roll on Winter

Down to the farm today mainly to fill up the feeders but also spent about 3 hours in the feeding station hide. The light was good, bright but not full sun, which can cause difficulties with regard to exposure as the light is broken by the foliage and some unwanted shadows are created. The leaves are falling fast at the moment and each visit opens up more branches and extends the areas that you are able photograph. Also the backgrounds are becoming less cluttered – so roll on the winter!

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Building a Narrative – Making Sense of Your Holiday Images

So often, on returning from a holiday or expedition, people are heard to say, ‘ These pictures don’t do justice to the experience!’ Don’t be in this position again!

Over the years photography has been a great way to tell a story. Its zenith occurred during the rise of the picture magazines like Life and Picture Post and of course all moving images are in reality a vast sequence of stills! A narrative suggests that the event photographed will have a beginning, a middle and an end. The time scale that this occurs within does not matter at all. The narrative can occur over a few seconds, minutes, hours or days.

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The Farm

I have been working on Home Farm for about six months now. It is in the Vale of Glamorgan and on the River Ely. We, Richard and I, have been fortunate to find a farmer who is sympathetic to the wildlife on his land and has allowed us to build hides and have total access to all his land so that we can record and compile a list of the wildlife that is typical of a mixed farm in this area. This blog will chronicle the farm through the seasons and aim to show what we are up to and the species we are recording. There will be a little retrospective blogging initially to update on what has occurred so far. It is proving to be a fantastic opportunity and one that we intend to grow into a full survey of this part of the Vale.Continue reading

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