Monthly Archives: May 2011

Pearl Beauties

I’ve always loved my macro photography at this time of year and our beautiful Butterflies have to be right up there amongst my favourite subjects to work with.  When I got an e-mail from a good friend Jason to tell me that he’d found a meadow for Pearl Bordered Fritillaries that was working well at his end of the county it was only a question of sorting out a day when I could squeeze an early morning session in and that worked for him too since he has a proper job to do!

You can see why I was particularly keen to get up for another pre-dawn run as these really are one of the prettiest species we are lucky enough to enjoy in the UK in my opinion and after some initial anxiety on both our parts as we searched for their overnight roosts all worked out well and it was well worth the effort.

This fellow had obviously had a tussle with a predator of some sort as part of his wing was missing and as a species these beautiful butterflies have been struggling significantly over recent years and are still in sharp decline.  This is due mostly to the lack of clearings in their woodland habitats as the whole traditional practice of coppicing has almost disappeared except where woods are specifically managed for wildlife.  Their hillside habitats too have been under pressure as general grazing by cattle and ponies that traditionally kept the balance between grass and bracken in check and these habitats have become more scrublike in their nature.

When working with a subject like this I like to try and cover a number of different options and and compositions as well as the classic side-on profile that I opened with, and although some of these may not be very classical I like the fact that they get across some personality as well as the inherent beauty in these delicate species.

I particularly like this last one – an approach you often see with damsel and dragonflies but less so with butterflies – I think it works quite well.

Thanks for a good morning Jason, and I know you got some decent stuff yourself too!

Looking Forward to Going Back

It might sound like a bit of an oxymoron, but there’s times when looking forward to going back is very apt.  I’m very fortunate in that I get to travel quite a bit with my work, and whether that be locally, around the country or further afield I can honestly say that I look forward to revisiting locations, regions, and countries that I have been to before with my camera just as much as I get enthused about visiting and working somewhere new.  In a week or so I’ll be off to Skomer once again, the first of 2 overnight trips once more this year, this first visit as part of a Natures Images trip I’m running but the second with personal project goals in mind. I think this will be the 6th summer on the trot that I have stayed there this many times, and it’s not simply because I love my Seabirds or that I can’t define my seasons any other way either!

I’ve tried to rationalise it and it’s definitely more than just the familiar or safe that appeals to me; I think it’s more like a birder working or knowing their “patch”, except for me they are multiple and varied in terms of thier location and often visited at certain times of the year only. With the familiar comes complacency though and it’s one of the easiest traps to fall into in wildlife photography as it leads to similar material routinely captured, and I think this is what keeps me on my toes and why I enjoy re-visiting places time and again: I know them well, I know how they work and as a consequence I look for and can spot the subtle changes that inevitably occur over time and can respond accordingly.  As a result fresh material is nearly always achieved, fresh experiences are added to my life and that little bit more understanding of how certain habitats and species work achieved.

One place I am really looking forward to going back to next year is Svalbard.  Last summer I enjoyed an amazing 3 and a bit weeks co-running a trip on the tough ocean-going yacht Jonathan 4.  The habitat and species were all I could have expected and more, and some of the interactions will live long in the memory as well as on the hard drive I filled up from the trip too! We’re running a similar Arctic Adventure trip there again next year and I’m absolutely certain that this too will fall into the Skomer camp in terms of finding the new based on the experience of the old as well, and now that the initial planning is done and places beginning to sell then I find myself looking further forward for sure, but still relishing going back.