Like everyone who attended I suspect, I thoroughly enjoyed the Wild Photos conference in London this last weekend. It was very easy to be inspired by professionals at the very top of the wildlife photography tree as well as heartened to see the next generation coming through. There were certainly some thoughts, approaches and techniques that I will be considering and building into some of the projects I have planned for the coming weeks and months too.
One of the clear messages that came through though was the need for dedication and what I like to call stickability: others might call it sheer bloody mindedness, but it’s the drive that makes you keep going out in the belief that this time might just be the occasion when something special happens.
Although it pales into insignificance in comparison with a 90 day vigil in a hide in remote Kamchatka for just 3 images of the incredibly rare Amur Tiger which we heard about at the conference, simply keeping on going back to places that you know work well and have serious potential (especially if you have certain images in your mind that you have pre-visualised there too) is an approach that I have always worked on and encouraged.
On a very small and personal scale, a third visit to the now very popular glacial lagoon at Jokuslaron in southern Iceland earlier this summer proved the benefit of this.
I first visited here nearly 10 years ago now, and this was my third visit in total. Like much of Iceland it is now very popular, very well photographed and during the normal working hours of the day also pretty busy with people stopping in on their way round the island. Fortunately at the time when the light has the potential at least to be at it’s best then it is less so, but it’s not a place you can expect to have to yourself anymore.
In spite of having stayed there for a number of days on both previous visits, I never felt this was a place I had done justice from either a landscape image perspective or with regards to the wildlife to be found in and among the icebergs floating here on their way to the sea having broken off the vast Vatnajokull glacier.
The quality of images that have been taken here are very high now, and I don’t consider myself really to be a high quality landscape photographer, but on this visit was both determined (and ultimately lucky with the way weather conditions worked out) to at least feel I was doing the place justice when it came to the magical scenes of broken pieces of ice on the black sandy beach at the mouth of the lagoon as well as the incredible colours of the lagoons ice itself.
Still very much work in progress, but these were certainly the best representation of the nature of the place that I feel I have achieved yet.
A closer look at this last image reveals a Great Black-backed Gull perched on top of this particular multi-coloured piece of ice; in and around the icebergs were large numbers of Arctic Tern who nest in a large grassy area adjacent to the lagoon and working with the tides, use them as a base to fish from and rest on. These make a great background and setting for the birds as they go about their business.
Although I have been lucky with a beautiful male Harlequin duck here in the past, the star bird here though (and more reliably present), for me has always been the Eider. Emerging from the seeming chaos of ice across the still calm waters of the further reaches of the lagoon, these elegant ducks look very much at home.
The final morning though this summer offered the best conditions I have had in terms of the different elements that go into the small in frame type of photography that they offer here – mirror calm water, intense colours in the icebergs and the fantastic early morning light that these northern reaches can offer in the early hours of a summers day.
All you then need is the ducks themselves to swim into exactly the right places and the icing lands well and truly on the cake.
With the usual resident Snow Bunting also playing ball (albeit briefly) and allowing an iceberg created background I knew this was a special morning.
None of these images are going to be prize winners – the bar is way way higher these days. What they are though is a simple reminder that persistence does pay off, and as my autumnal targets are just about to enter my sights then this, along with the messages of the conference, is an always welcome tonic.