There are a small number of red squirrels living in the Yorkshire Dales in isolated pockets of woodland where the grey squirrels haven’t yet invaded. I spent a few days photographing them this autumn.
Some photos from a weekend watching wildlife. We went to Studley Royal for dawn to watch the deer there. This fallow stag silhouetted against the dawn sky was my favourite deer shot.
Early mornings in autumn often bring mists over the lake here and the swans are also beautiful to capture reflected in the lake, as well as the reflections of the autumn colours in the water.
Another interesting place to visit at this time of year is Spurn point and the surrounding area for autumn migrants, and other birds. Late afternoon I spotted this barn owl hunting in the low sun, with the light shining through its feathers.
This little egret flying across the low sun was my last photo of the day.
I’ve added some new pages to my website giving a bit of information about some of the places I visit for my photography. So far I’ve written about Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Bempton Cliffs, the Farne islands, Donna Nook, Forge Valley and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, but I’ll be adding more about both local sites in Yorkshire, and some of the longer journeys we make to Northumberland or Scotland, and some of the sites we visit there.
Some beautiful birds in Forge Valley, North Yorkshire. It was a dull snowy day, but I felt that made the lovely colours of their plumage even brighter.
We’ve had plenty of birds on the feeders and plants in our garden with the recent snow. The goldfinches are always very photogenic, but particularly so when perched on the snow covered teasels in our garden. We also had four fieldfares visiting for the rosehips we left on our roses, and it was lovely to see these beautiful winter visitors.
I saw some beautiful snowdrops, up on the Yorkshire Wolds, that were lit by the low winter sun, so I tried to get some different views of them – backlit by the sun, and from a very low viewpoint. I suspect some passing drivers must have thought I was mad lying in the leaf litter with my camera, but I think the results were worth it!
There was some beautiful light at Brimham Rocks last week – really beautiful golden lighting through the trees and on the rocks, raking across the landscape and picking out the texture and shapes in the rocks.
I love watching wildlife and capturing an animal or bird’s behaviour or character in my wildlife portraits, but some of my more recent projects have been aimed at capturing more of the spirit and beauty of nature in more creative ways. This is very much a work in progress, and rather than one particular style or technique, I’ve tried a variety of styles and techniques, as I think what is needed to bring out its essence and character is, to some extent, dependent upon the animal, bird or environment concerned.
For example, when photographing terns in the Farne islands, I wanted to convey something of the balletic elegance of their flight, and so aimed for a high key approach with the sun shining through the feathers to give a more ethereal quality, combined with a slower shutter speed to allow some movement blur.
When watching bullfinches feeding in a snowstorm in Scotland, the white background and bright colour palette of the bullfinch plumage reminded me of Chinese bird and flower brush paintings, and this concept certainly influenced how I approached the subject. With the snow helping to create a minimalistic background, I exposed the image to brighten this further, used a slower shutter speed to capture some movement blur, like rough brush strokes, in the bullfinch’s fluttering wing, and aimed to keep the image simple and painterly in my processing.
Sometimes the animal’s habitat is what makes the scene interesting, in which case I aim to use composition and processing to bring out interesting patterns or textures. An example is the long-eared owl in woodland, where I wanted to emphasise the patterns formed by the branches, against a subdued colour palette caused by an earlier snowfall, with the owl being merely a part of the beautiful woodland scene.
Equally I loved the amazing curves and shapes of the eroded cliffs on Noss, Shetland, where the texture and pattern of the cliffs make the picture, as much as the gannet perched on his ledge (see also at the top).
Sometimes the story is about the relationship of the animal to its environment. I photographed this stag roaring on a mountainside in Ardnamurchan. The roaring of stags carried for miles, and was the only sound other than the wind in the remote glen where we stood looking up at the mountainside to spot the source of the noise. When photographing him I wanted to show something of the size and space of his remote habitat, so I waited until he moved towards another stag and stepped out onto the crest of the ridge, so that I could silhouette him as a very small, but still recognisable shape against the colourful sky.
I have also worked on a series of photos of water birds where the colours reflected in the water are a key element of the picture. These great-crested grebes are probably my favourites of these images. I love the colours and patterns of the reflections and ripples on the water.
Most recently I managed to take a series of photos of swans in a style I had wanted to achieve for some time. I sometimes like to use a dramatic lighting style (chiaroscuro style lighting) in my monochrome photos, and had pre-visualised photographing swans in a very high contrast style, with the light shining through, and on, the swan’s white feathers, creating an ethereal effect, as with the tern.
Hopefully these photos capture more than just a record shot of wildlife, though they don’t always seem to go down well with judges, but, as we’re always being told, we should take the photos we want to take, and these are definitely the photos that I enjoy making the most, so it’s an area I want to keep developing and progressing – watch this space!
We visited Studley Royal, near Ripon, on Monday, and I got some photos that I’ve been pre-visualising for some time. I really wanted to get some close-up photos of the swans, picking out details of the their plumage against a dark background. Fortunately I got the light I wanted and some cooperative subjects and I was pleased with the results.