Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Wildcat Snarl


It has been extremely busy over the past few weeks here, and I have had little time to take any photographs... but when I have, experimenting was what I was doing. I have a couple of photos in my head which I am very keen to get, and am just working out the best way to do it. One is of a wildcat snarl and strike.

Above is the closest I have got, but work is needed. The light was non-existent and finding a background that works in the pen is very difficult. I think it may have to be a snow shot if we get it this year. Two things I have learn't thought are... 1. Use the fisheye lens (as above). The wide angle just didn't give the effect I wanted, but this does make the background harder to get. 2. Wear a glove! :-)


While setting up I took a couple of simple portrait snarl shots.


And a simple one to get the settings right for the fisheye lens.

Pine Marten

Another thing I was experimenting with was the pine martens. They are looking really good at the moment in their longer coats. The tricky things with this are the pens are not too great for photography, and the light is on Bonnie's pen in the morning when they are more afternoon animals.

Pine Marten

We got somewhere though, and I think we found a nice area to work with...

Pine Marten

This spot has potential for something.

Pine Marten

But still needs a bit more work.

Running Weasel

Another experimentation was a running weasel, this had to be done in the run to get a straight head on shot, but is difficult... and I mean really difficult! Above was on f/2.8 and ISO 3200. Even then the shutter was not really fast enough and I will happily admit, that the above was a lot to do with luck! It was very dark though, so with some light I think it is possible.

American Mink

A couple of photos from a few I took of one of our mink. I have never really photographed them before, but Mindy, our female, was out a week ago in the morning so I took the opportunity to get a few snaps.

American Mink

Thanks for looking.

Friday, 17 October 2014

BWC Photographic Day

Red Squirrel

I joined in on one of our photographic days a few weeks a go, and after having rain on the open days I did and dark skies on the owl day I had... both! for the BWC photographic day. It seems my luck was against me, but I still had a great day, got a couple of photos I am very pleased with and for two brief spells we did get a bit off light piercing through.

As always, we started with our red squirrels. The rain was light, and the skies were dark hence the low aperture and high iso obviously visible in the photo above, but I have to confess I really like this one. Also goes to show, push the iso up if you have too! Better to have a slightly noisy photo which is sharp than a blurry photo with no noise.


We tried the foxes next, but they were having none of it so we had to move on to the wildcats. But since we usual do the foxes second I thought I would show those photos second here too.

This is where the real advantage of a photo day comes to. Having the keeper with you for the squirrels is great, as we can even move them to a certain extent on to logs and branches for natural photos, but with the foxes, wildcats and otters you get to enter the pens with them and not only have a keeper but also avoid the barriers/mesh fencing.


This gives you the chance to get some nice portraits, looking straight at you with a little help from a keeper, or off to one side.

Red Fox

The other advantage is being able to get close enough for something a little more abstract.

Fox Running

And if they are up for it, we can always get the animals moving a bit too for some action shots.


Next up is the wildcats. Once again, close up portraits is the obvious advantage, but we can get the cats running and even jumping for some great action shots. I didn't do too much with them during our session, but at the end of the day went back in of the last few minutes and with a brief spell of sunshine to take the photo above... one of my favourites from the day.

Wildcat Yawn

And who can resist a yawn shot when it shows itself!

Harvest Mouse

After the cats and before lunch, we bring out the hedgehogs and harvest mice for some more natural looking photographs on little sets. The mice are usually on teasel or corn and the hedgehog can be placed on the grass, bark or even leaves during the early autumn days.

Tawny Owl

We don't do too much with our owls, so as not to take away from our owl photographic days, but we do perch a tawny owl and barn owl for those who are interested and don't wish to come on one of our owl days. Ironically, this was my favourite photo of a tawny owl our of both our normal day and owl day I joined in on last month.

Blue Skies!

After lunch we start with the deer, and to be honest this is the one animal where there is not much difference to if you attended the keeper talk on an open day, but next is what I think is the best part of the day... going in with the otters. Once again it was very dull, but with a ten minute spell of beautiful blue sky! I just had to put on the wide angle to prove we actually did get a bit of light during this day.

Otter Swimming

With the otters we can get them on the bank, in the water and if they are up for it even a little bit of running. The big advantage here is you can get very low on the ground to get more intimate photos of them.


And as with the foxes and cats, it really shows the advantage of a photographic day over an open day. The low angle, inside the enclosure, and with a keeper keeping them interested and varying where they are.


At the end of the day we finish up with our stoats, weasels, polecats, mink and badgers. You have no extra access with these than you would on an open day, but having the keeper there does help. They can help position the animals a little bit, and make sure they are out for you to photograph. A little bit of food of course helps keep them interested.

Thanks for looking.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Cobwebs in the Dew

Dew drops on a cobweb

I love cobwebs at this time of year, especially early morning when they hold on to the dew droplets. I have never photographed them before, and have never really used my macro lens in this way before, so thought I would give it a go the other morning for ten minutes.


What I learnt... this type of macro photography is a very different ball game to wildlife photography. Hand holding is difficult, I don't like using a tripod for wildlife... too restricting, but I can see why many people of for macro. The depths of field are so shallow! Can lead to some brilliant effects though.


I've used macro for wildlife before, and a lot of the dancing adders from this year were taken with  my macro lens, but more practice and experience is needed for this real closeup stuff me thinks.


Thing is, although I appreciate good macro photography, I am not a huge fan of it myself. So although I would like to give it another/better go at some point, I will still mainly be putting on a larger lens for some nice mammal shots.




I got carried away with the macro and went for something really arty in the end, and with more colour.

Autumn Leaf

Thanks for looking.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Little Owl Wall

The Wall

The "Wall"!..

Often mocked and belittled, but much loved after spending just a little time with it. It has been through a few incarnations over the past few years, and currently above it is on its third lease of life.

We use this as one of our sets/perches for our little owl on our owl photographic days, and the reactions are often quite fun from the photographers. Some get on with it and seem to see the potential from the start, others seem to take some photos out of pity and just to not make us feel bad and I have even had some in the past not take any photos at all. But given a little patience and imagination, and it really can be a great set which leads to some nice photos.

Little Owl, Scrappy

Of course you can get some nice closeups of one of our little owls, Scrappy in this case, sitting nicely in the gap in the wall.

He loves his wall

But it's real beauty is shooting from an angle. If framed right this can look as if it is a section of a long wall going off in to the distance.

Scrappy doing his "Harry Worth" Impression

Angled even more extreme and you can get some quirky little portraits.

Little Owl Peeking

And it has been built, thrown together, in a way that in can be used from both sides.

Evening Little Owl

Not bad for a pile of a few old stones.

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

BWC Owl Day

Snowy Owl

Following on from my photos taken on an open day, here are a few photos I took on an owl day I joined in on a couple of weeks ago. This is for the third of three bits I am writing, the pics from the second (a BWC Photo Day) I will post in a week or so.

As with the open day, the weather was not great. It didn't rain... which would of stopped the owls all together, but there was no light for most of the day with very little light for the rest of it! However, we of course soldier on, and overall I was pleased with a few of the ones I got.

Snowy Owl Feathers

We always start off with the snowy owl and the short eared owl on our owl days, as they are the ones which are more likely to get fed up sooner. Don't get me wrong, they are both still used to cameras and do settle, but they also call time sooner than the others.

Hedwig, our snowy owl, is always difficult as his natural setting would deb in the snow. But we place him on the ground for some more natural pics and put him on a large post for some portraits. The portrait above is not necessarily natural, but it makes a nice picture and we find a lot of photographers that come on our days are just interested in that.

With the light particularly poor first thing I took a lot of more abstract stuff, and was particularly pleased with the close up of the feathers above.

Short-eared Owl

Once Hedwig has had enough, we move on to Fawkes out short-eared owl. This is another ground nesting bird, and so we try to find areas in the rough grass to make it a bit more natural. In amongst the more marsh type reeds and tussocky grass. However, on the day there was a lovely patch of daisies and I just couldn't resist a "pretty" picture of him surrounded by them.

With all our owls we try to place them in two or three different places for you to photograph them. Some more natural, and others for simple portraits, and we are always open to new ideas of where to try them.

Short-eared Owl

I think Fawkes is a stunning owl, and short-eareds are possibly my favourite owl in the world. On a post he makes for a beautiful portrait.

Long-eared Owl

Usually next up on our list would be one of our tawny owls, but with the light so dire we decided to stay more in the open and brought out Archimedes... our long-eared owl. He was having a bit of an off day and was very sleepy, so we didn't see much of his eyes.

Long-eared Owl

When a bit of light did appear for the briefest of moments, we rushed in to the woods with him to place him on one of my favourite sets. Unfortunately again... his eyes remained closed, but I did manage to get these two in a short period when he was alert. The close up above...

Long-eared Owl

... and a much wider one too. I have photographed Achimedes here so many times, I was looking for something a bit different to what I normally do. I'm not sure if this really worked, but still it is good to try!

Tawny Owl

Staying in the woods it was time for the tawny owl, and we used Florence. Our tawnies are often the stars of the show, and I could happily photograph just them all day! There are so many options as to where to put them that we really need to keep an eye on the time to make sure we don't spend to much time with them.

Florence Preening

All our owls settle fairly quickly, but Florence is such a pro now that she immediately forgets that the cameras are there and just watches the world or even preens herself.

This is where we usually call for a break, and stop for some lunch and a swap around with the owls. After the quick change around we are then ready for the afternoon of owl photography.

Little Owl Peeking

This normally starts off with our little owl, Scrappy! He is such a character, and makes for some amazing photographs. I built a little stone wall a couple of years a go (re-built a few times since), and most people laugh when they see it... but framed int he right way it offers some great photo opportunities. I will do a post later in the week showing just the wall.

One of my favourites of the day was this one above of Scrappy half hidden half seen in the nook in the wall.

Wild Fox

While photographing Scrappy in the wall, we had a visitor who wanted to join in! He didn't stay long after seeing us.

Little Owl

Often we just place the little owl on the ground too. They eat a lot of invertebrates, and so it is not rare to see them on the ground beetling for food.

Barn Owl

Next up are the barn owls. You have probably seen lots of barn owl photos from our owl days before, we have a beautiful old gate which we perch them on, and a hide we can get them peeking around as above.

Barn Owl in Flight

The barn owl is one of two owls we fly on the day too. We also fly the tawny owl in the woods if it is light enough, or down one of the tracks more in the open if the light is not too great.

Barn Owl Panning

With movement I often try to do a bit of panning with a slow shutter.

Ethel, European Eagle Owl

We then finish the day with Ethel, our European eagle owl. Again ground shots in the dead bracken look quite nice, and we also have an old rotten tree trunk which makes the perfect perch for her to sit on.

All the photos above where taken on the same day, on one of our owl days, and with no advantages over what you get if you come along to one of them. Overall I was very happy with what I got considering the conditions, and extremely pleased with two or three of them.

For the article I have been asked to use a variety of photos over the past year to show what is possible in different situations for both this and the BWC photographic day. I may well post these pics later in the year too to show you what was used.

Thanks for looking.