Tag Archives: Peregrine

Familiarity…but no contempt.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt but even though I have been running Birds of Prey photography workshop days now either under my own name or more recently through Natures Images for almost seven years I can genuinely say that I still enjoy them hugely.

Cheep the Great Grey Owl is a bird I’ve worked with throughout that period of time and she’s an absolute star when it comes to offering flight photography opportunities such as this: I’ve seen images of her in all sorts of camera club displays when I’ve been on the talk or slideshow circuit and why not – it’s a dramatic image and a great experience.

The perhaps uninspiringly named Busby has been on the scene since I started too but can still offer great opportunities when the lighting, setting and his natural instinct to lift his wings all fall into place once again.

New birds can come such as these recently arrived Hobby and the most naturally curious Barn Owl, and that offers the opportunity to learn their new idiosyncrasies, just how they position themselves and what sort of lighting or location will do them best justice photographically.

And just occasionally the weather will throw up something totally different which not only brings new inspirations but also the chance to experiment with slower shutter speeds and darker backgrounds to emphasise the spray as this female Merlin shakes the steady rain off her feathers and the young Peregrine seeks to sit out the downpour too.

All of these images have been taken in the last few weeks either on a Natures Images workshop or weekend break and have proved a salutory reminder what these sorts of days have to offer over and above the obvious in terms of great image opportunities.  Many people turn their noses up at working with captive subjects such as these but in terms of a photographic learning ground if you’re relatively new to the art then the time this genre allows you to really get to grips with the little things that make the difference to your images is only going to etch it into your brain when you find yourself having to respond instantaneously in the true wild.

For the more seasoned photographer though, and especially the old stager who organises the days (yours truly that is) then sessions here are in many ways a microcosm of just what working in this game is really all about.  It may appear (and at times actually be) a bit glamorous and I for one get to some amazing places and to see and work with some amazing subjects and that’s the output that the world at large sees. The vast majority of it though is about looking for something new from what you think you’ve already covered, thinking about what might work better, spending time looking for the nuances and characteristics of your subject that you want to express in your images, being able to recognise and respond to the opportunities that the weather conditions offer you and remembring that it’s great to be out with your camera rather than stuck in the office!   Birds of Prey workshops remind me of all of this every time I run one and that’s why although I may be very familiar with them they get respect and enjoyment in terms of how I treat them, not contempt.

Highland Highlights

I’m not long back from a week in the Scottish Highlands – the Cairngorms to be precise -and it’s a part of the country that I truly envy those fellow pro’s who do live there for having on their doorsteps, particularly at this time of the year.

The main purpose of the trip was a Highland Raptor weeekend I was running for Natures Images and we certainly had some treats in terms of birds and conditions to work with – my particular favourites being a characterful Peregrine and an absolute belter of a male Merlin – even more stunning when we were treated to some late afternoon light to die for!

With particular thanks to friend and fellow pro Peter Cairns I also managed to have a couple of mornings (as did a number of guests) in his Red Squirrel hide, and although conditions weren’t great on either morning (oh for some snow I had prayed the night before, to no avail) you can’t help but enjoy these fellows when they scramble about in front of you.

In the free time I had at the beginning and end of the trip though I’d hoped to make my way onto the top of the Cairngorms in search of Ptarmigan once again, but conditions were never really ideal when the time was available but the presence of fresh and falling snow in the ski-lift car park area had brought the hardy resident Snow Bunting population into regular sight, so after some strategic seed placement a couple of enjoyable sessions waiting for them to arrive and then looking for clean settings whilst I lay in the snow were enjoyable and productive too: I do love the simple images these conditions can offer if you look!

The final day did allow a walk in the hills though and yet another to add to the list of amazing Mountain Hare experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy over the years.  You always hope to find one that sits rather than scarpers as you stalk them (it’s a very low percentage however good your stalking skills are) and this little fellow, nestled in his hollow out of the wind was completely aware of us from several hundred yards out, but slow, steady, patient and visible approaching meant no surprises to him, and after settling in as close as we dare (almost at the minimum focussing range of the lens in the end) a fantastic half an hour of enjoying the highland winter with one of it’s hardiest inhbitants was the reward – a true Highland Highlight!