Monthly Archives: November 2011

Meeting things head-on!

No, this isn’t a post about an upbeat approach to life or a new form of positivity training, but I was feeling both upbeat and positive when I found that for the second consecutive month I’d had an image chosen from one of my image libraries to be used on the front cover of Birdwatching magazine (thanks again for letting me know Gary).

The interesting thing is that in neither instance were they rare or particularly “difficult” subjects to be looking to photograph – last month it was Long-Tailed Tits and this month (perhaps unsurprisingly) it was a Robin: both photographed at my local feeding setup but could equally have been done so in my garden as they both frequent it quite regularly.

It did get me thinking though as to just why they might have been chosen.  I’d like to say that it was because they were simply so stunning in terms of their execution that they were images destined for great things, but aside from some decent thought on composition and space for the designing process, made even easier by the selection of a nice clean background aided by a long lens, I can hardly claim any unique maserpieces here.

One thing did strike about this Robin shot though and that’s that it’s head-on: not always the preferred approach from a classical photographic or even a natural history perspective but it does give just that bit more sense of personality and character and in this instance the inquisitive and almost cheeky charateristics that Robins undoubtedly possess certainly comes leaping out at you.

It prompted me to have a look back through some old images for a number of other examples of this head-on style appeared that I have liked in the past and in some instances done well for me commercially as well as in competitions too: this haughty looking Hare was selected for the British Wildlife Photography Awards book last year and the Puffin was a cover shot on RSPB’s Birds a couple of years back too.

It’s food for thought in these hyper-competitive times when it comes to making any money at all out of your images, but maybe tackling your subjects head-on might just open up some new opportunities. What price this Black Guillemot somewhere soon?

Frustrating for Fungi

One of the highlights of autumn each year is the fantastic array of fungi in our woodlands – something I’ve always enjoyed photographing as it’s a different approach and style to the norm of my work.

As well as having a number of local haunts that have worked well over the years I have also run a workshop at a great location in the south-east on precisely the same day of the year for the last half dozen or so now.

This year was the hardest I’ve ever known though – normally there are fungi in abundance in late October/early November but this really has been a bizarre autumn – warm, dry and frustrating for fungi and fungi photographers alike.

There was still enough to make it an enjoyable day with a good nuber of earthballs, a couple of very fresh fly agarics and some nice bunches of sulphur tufts too (although someone had decided to put a boot through the nicest bunch I’d spent the previous afternoon discovering…thanks whoever that was!) but as in so many ways this autumn I don’t think 2011 will be going down as my favourite fungi year for sure.  Good job you learn to roll with things in this line and look forward to next year eh?!

Wild Shropshire

Well it’s finally here.  Many of you will know that for the last couple of years I’ve been working on a fairly substantial collaborative project with Shropshire Wildlife Trust in preparation for and ultimately celebration of thier 50th anniversary in 2012.  The cornerstone of the project is my very first book – self-published too – called Wild Shropshire and this week it arrived from the printers and it’s now out there selling – with a very positive initial uptake too my wholesaler advises me!

There’s much much more to the whole Wild Shropshire proposition than the book though and you can read all about the various talk, exhibitions and a brand new photographic competition we’re running for next year too on it’s own bespoke website .  There’s a separate blog too which I’ll be updating with different stuff to here and I’m even being persuaded to wander into the realms of Facebook on there ….. shortly for that though!  Perhaps more importantly (or so my accountant reminds me) you can also order a copy of the book there – it won’t be available on Amazon and we’re only looking to distribute it locally too so that all the earnings (including contributions to Shropshire Wildlife Trust) look to stay locally within the county too.

At the heart of the whole project is a desire to highlight that in a county such as Shropshire, probably not the first on the wildlife hotspot radar, there is still an incredible array of diversity in terms of wildlife and habitat to be found: if you’re prepared to put the time in trying to find it.  My recent BWPA video award is a typical such example – the lake in question is in the middle of a Telford housing estate and for many not worth a second glance but for almost 2 months I was drawn every morning to record and observe the dramas of one family of Great Crested Grebes and their neighbouring Coots.  How many more such dramatic opportunities play themselves out every day near to your home?

We also want to encourage and inspire residents and visitors to the county to take some time to find their own bit of Wild Shropshire and record it on camera themselves – hence the photography competition which is open to all.

It’s been a great deal of work, has caused several sleepless nights (particularly filling in some of the more difficult gaps in terms of iconic and important species or habitats that I wanted to include) and there has been much help and support along the way from Ellie, Mike, and John and Sarah from SWT – many many thanks to you all, and without getting too far ahead of myself (and also proving that I’m a real glutton for punishment) the next book project is already well underway too!

Hope you find and enjoy this one.