Ever since my first visit to Swaledale many moons ago I’ve been in love with Red Grouse. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited over the years. One particular location provides reliable opportunities with Grouse frequenting the roadside heather. Every day is different but it’s not unusual to get extremely close views if you use the car as a mobile hide. I recently spent a winter’s morning up on the moors, using my Canon 500mm f4 Mark i lens. The technique is fairly simple – just wind down the window and use a good quality beanbag as your camera support. Beanbags provide particularly good support for long lenses and I personally prefer this to using a tripod.
To increase stability I also push down slightly on the barrel of the lens with my left hand; with good technique you can use surprisingly slow shutter speeds if the bird is relatively still. Red Grouse are beautiful birds but they seem to have that kind of plumage that camera’s don’t like! If you’re using off centre focus points and the camera is struggling, try switching to the centre focus point and recomposing – you might find the focus more accurate. Above all try to spend as much time as you can when you find a photogenic bird: capturing some kind of behaviour will really lift your images.
I’ll be at Leeds Birdfair on 24th June at Rodley Nature Reserve. Come say hello and check out my range of Photography Prints and Greetings Cards – or just come and have a chat.! Looking forward to seeing lots of keen birders and meeting the other exhibitors too. This is the second Leeds Birdfair, established by Linda Jenkinson from Start Birding. Linda has an incredible knowledge of birds and runs a number of birdwatching courses for all levels. Hopefully this event will continue to grow and grow in future years. I’m very happy to be part of it.
Great news! I’m very happy to report that RSPB St. Aidans Country Park will now open on Monday 10th April. The site, between Leeds and Castleford in Yorkshire, has been cultivated into a world class nature reserve. I’ve been photographing here for the past three years, capturing stunning images of both the landscape and its wildlife. I regularly run Photography Workshops at St. Aidans, aimed at beginners. Few people know the site as well as I do, so why not come and take advantage of my local knowledge.
To see more images of St. Aidans visit the Gallery
A great way of getting into wildlife photography is to practice on captive subjects such as birds of prey. I don’t consider this as ‘cheating’. In the wild you often have to react quickly and know your settings inside out to get the best out of any given opportunity. Bird of prey workshops offer you the chance to learn the skills necessary – in natural surroundings and often with variable weather conditions. Working with SMJ Falconry in Oxenhope, Yorkshire we have access to wonderful surroundings including moorland edge with gritstone boulders and heather.
The male merlin is one of my favourite birds. This particular merlin is incredibly relaxed around photographers and often preens for us.
We also like to make use of prey. This peregrine was photographed with a quail. It soon ripped into the bird with feathers flying, making for images with real impact.!
Flight photography is always a test – not just of the photographer but also the equipment. Our barn owl is perfect for straight flights and we can usually repeat this a good number of times.
Willow, the female red kite is quite a star. We usually let her fly around the valley before photographing as she comes in to the food. The beauty of this location is in being able to get flight shots against the hillside rather than just sky.
If you are interested in joining one of theses Bird of Prey Photography Courses get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org Further photo workshops can be found at www.naturephotographycourses.co.uk All the birds at SMJ Falconry are in remarkable condition and it’s obvious that this family run business put a lot of effort into the birds’ welfare.