Monday, 19 January 2015


"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

We had a kingfisher visit one of our otter ponds on Saturday, isn't she a beauty!

Most of you know, I am a mammal man, don't get me wrong... I love all animals, but it is mammals that really get me excited. There is an exception to this though... the Kingfisher!

The kingfisher has and always will be one of my favourite animals. It is the reason why I now work with animals and am doing what I do today... Let me explain...

A long time a go now, I used to work on building sites. I have always loved wildlife, but guess never realised you could actually work with it and make a career out of it, so I worked helping a local builder for several years after college. One summer we were doing a renovation on an old cottage, using all old techniques... really interesting, and every break and lunch time we would all go out and sit on the large lawn out front that led down to a large pond. This pond had a kingfisher that used to visit each day at the same time we had our lunch, so I would just sit there and watch him dive, catch a fish and eat.

It was the highlight of my day, even after several weeks of being there I looked forward to seeing him with more enthusiasm and passion than anything else I had known. And then one lunch time it just clicked in my head... why not work with wildlife?.. There is obviously places out there that have this type of work, places that need people with a passion like mine for British wildlife. So after I had got over the "feeling stupid" stage of not realising this years a go, I went back to college to study animals and then went on from there... In other words, you could say it was a kingfisher that sparked off everything that got me to where I am today!

Anyway, a bit of an anecdote post today I guess, the photos are... well see for yourself, not great, but the experience (and that is still what I take photographs for today) was incredible! Bear with the first few, I am showing them for a reason, but skip to the last two to see her a bit clearer if you so wish.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

So... the reason I am showing these is not just to share the experience, but also to show off the frame rate and focus speed of the Samsung. The dive, catch of fish and return to branch took almost exactly one second. How do I know? The frame rate on this camera is 15fps, and I have 15 photos! :-)

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

As I often do, especially with something as special as this, I was just watching her for a good while and enjoying the experience. But then I thought I would try and get a couple of photos. The lens I have goes to 150mm... no where near enough for this, you can see how small she is in the frame, but for a record shot and for the BWC blog it would be good enough.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

Having watched her for some time, she dived to the spot right in the middle of the frame above a couple of times... so to give myself a chance I focused the camera there and waited, hoping to fire of some shots as she entered the water and catch her coming back out again... but she caught me by surprise.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

She decided to dive to a different area, and for the first few pics you may only just be about to see her in the top right of the frame.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

So I pressed the shutter right away, out of excitement, and moved the camera round to get where she hit the water in the centre of the frame... you can see from the above photos her getting a bit closer to centre frame.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

This whole 15 photo sequence happened in only a second remember, so I had to be quick on the draw so to speak!

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

Luckily I got the splash centre frame just before she came back out again... they usually leave the water where they enter!

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

Next up, the camera had to focus. Not sure how clear the above is, they are all straight from camera, no editing, no crop, but she is not in focus.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

Here she is just above the surface shaking off the water, still out of focus, but a little clearer.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

A little clearer again, the camera really did focus quickly while firing off the shots... Not perfect, but I must admit I was impressed. Full size you can actually see the third eyelid across her eye for protection!

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

And then finally flying off with the fish in her mouth! And it was in focus, camera made it just in time for the classic shot. Yes, still very small and not ideal, but a great record shot and a great souvenir of a magical afternoon.

I got a bit excited after that, and didn't catch the last couple going back to the branch... and then when there she was even further away to attempt taking a photo.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

Here are the last three again cropped in a bit.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co.Ltd"

And perhaps my favourite photo of the year so far... and not due to quality, but due to what it means to me and the memories it shows... new and old! At the end of the day, Isn't that what photography is all about!

Thanks for looking :-)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Samsung NX1

Samsung NX1

A month or so a go now I was contacted by Samsung, through Bright Media Publishing, and asked if I would like to be an "Imagelogger". For this they would send me a brand new Samsung NX1 camera with vertical camera grip and 16-50mm 'S' class lens for me to use and try out for an 8 week period. In return I would upload several images a week to Samsung for them to use, and share across all their platforms to advertise the camera, and in return for this I would be allowed to keep the camera at the end of the 8 week period...

What a deal! I of course said yes... I get a free camera worth just shy of £2,500, they get some (hopefully) good images and the BWC gets some great exposure... Win win!

Samsung Imagelogger - taken by Izzy Coomber

The camera arrived on Christmas eve, but the kit lens was not available... and still isn't... Would of thought they would of had all that side of things organised, but in the mean time and for the rest of the test period Samsung have kindly loaned me two longer lenses which I asked for to help with the wildlife photographs I will be taking. An 18-200mm lens, which to be honest is not too bad at the wider angles but forget about it above 150mm, and the 'S' class 50-150mm lens which I have to say so far I am very impressed with!

As well as myself, 4 other photographers have been asked to be image loggers to make up 5 of us. Looking at their sites I think I am the only "wildlife" photographer... I was surprised to be asked, but their is no doubt I have great access to wildlife models :-)

The eight week period will not start till we have our 16-50mm lenses, which should be fairly soon, but expect a few blogs posts over the next couple of months on this camera.

Me - taken by Izzy Coomber

I have been asked to do at least one blog post a week about what I think of the Samsung NX1, but having planned it all out... eh, I mean... by introducing a little anarchy I will do at least two. My reasoning behind this is I know a lot of you will just the interested in seeing the photos from around the BWC and not care what camera it was taken on, some may just want to see the photos from the NX1 to see what it is capable of. Others will be interested in what I think of the camera from a photographers point of view.

Every Monday, once it all starts, I have to upload my images to Samsung. Therefore around that time I will also upload the images I give them here for people to see.

Then later in the week I will do another post on how I have got on that week, what I photographed/tested etc and my thoughts and opinions... Those interested can then take them how they wish, but I will always be honest from how I use a camera.

Just to warn the photographers out there though... I am not a "camera geek"... I don't mean that in a negative way, all I mean is I don't know all the ins and outs of how a camera works... but I do know how to take a good picture, compose a nice image and get the best out of a camera I use.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd"

I have to start the first week with an un-boxing, first thoughts post and finish up after the 8 weeks with a full review.

But just to get you interested/excited, here are a few initial test shots. Above, Frodo at the wider end of the 18-200mm.

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd"

This is Macavity above, and Elwood below. Both taken with the 50-150mm lens. I am not sure how they will appear on this blog, but I can assure you on my Mac at full size they are pin-sharp!

"This content is created with the Samsung NX1, which has been provided by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd"

So there you go, exciting times. First "Official" post on this will be coming soon hopefully, but if you want to follow how I get on with the Samsung... as well as keep up with my other photos, extra BWC photos and news etc then you can now do so with the following (linked in the titles):

This is where I will share photos through out the week I take, and any interesting shots from around the Centre.

I don't use twitter, but have linked this account to Facebook. Therefore if you want to keep up with the photos, but prefer twitter to Facebook, this is the place for you.

I have an account on Google + for writing the blogs and youtube, but again only use them to share the blog posts I make. However if you prefer to use Google + to keep up with things, here you go.

My flickr photostream. I share some photos here with the BWC group, and if you are just here for the Samsung pictures... then I have made a "Set" to upload all the Samsung photos too.

Finally, this is where I post some of what I think are my better images. 

Feel free to follow, like and or share any of the above with anyone you think may be interests. If you have any questions on the camera, feel free to ask, and I will happily answer them if I can.

To see the camera and its specs, take a look here... Samsung NX1 And I will explain more on the first thoughts post.

Thanks for looking :-)

Monday, 5 January 2015

Favourite photos from last year

Common Dormouse

This blog may have a few new visitors over the coming weeks from a project I am about to start for Samsung. I will announce what that is later this week, but thought I would share some of my favourite photos that I took last year.

For those that are new to looking at this blog, these also reflect quite nicely what my blog is all about. These are perhaps not always what I consider my best photos, but are my favourites. Ones I particularly like for one reason or another. Whether it is because I consider it a good photo, or it reminds me of something that happened, or it shows something that many people rarely if ever see... but due to my position and benefits, I get to see it and so like to share.

So, in no particular order, above is one of a Common Dormouse. Not so common in the UK anymore. I rarely get to photograph these beautiful animals, due to their nature and lifestyle... we don't like to disturb the animals unless we have too. But one afternoon last summer this one was up while we were chaining around her hazel. I took the opportunity to take a few snaps while the keepers were sorting out her home, then we put her back. About twenty minutes of her time as a model, and this was my favourite. Looking through the hazel at the camera.

With this, and the others below, if you search for the animal in the bar below you will see the other photos from each shoot.


A classic example of favourite photo. Is it a good photo? To most of you, probably no, but I love it! It shows the connection I have with one of our pine martens, Clyde. I like the expression on his face, and the fact you know it is me because of my tatty ol' crocs. :-)

Those that are new here will soon realise I am quite laid back with my photography. I am an animal person and head keeper first, very much a photographer second. But I do love photography and taking pictures, and it is a great way for me to spend time with the animals I care for. Any photos I get out of that time with them is a bonus, and often I will sit in an enclosure with my camera and never pick it up... just sit there and watch the animals and have fun.


I enjoy using the light with my photographs too. And often here people complain about bad light, bad weather, any excuse to forgive their photos... Don't get me wrong, of course there are many conditions which are difficult for photography... and some that I don't go out in or try, but in many cases you can use these conditions to get something different. I was talking to someone one afternoon last summer with the sun high in the sky, and they were saying how it is pointless and you couldn't get any decent photo in that light with the harsh shadows. I was trying to explain the above, so took this photo with a high negative exposure and using the shadows to hide half the face.

Many won't like it, and that is fine, but I really do and it has become one of my most popular photos of last year.

Barn Owl in the Evening

Taking the lighting to the extreme, this is one of our barn owls on the reserve in the evening light. It is nice to get some backlit photos of them, and again just messing around I tried to lower the exposure even more to emphasise the golden light. Not sure on this one, sometimes I look at it and like it other times I don't.

Snowy Owl Feathers

I am working on another little, well big actually, side project which probably won't be in a position to announce for a year or so!.. But it has led me to take more "detail" photographs such as feather detail etc. This one above doesn't really show that, but shows some of the patterns you can create with the feather or fur of an animal.

Tawny Owl Grooming

Florence, probably our scruffiest owl, getting ready for a photo shoot. Different behaviour, however simple, is what I love most about an animal.

Red Squirrel

Another example of a "bad" photographic day. It was dark and raining. ISO was set high, aperture low, but again I was happy with this result. Any good blown up for a billboard? No, but for small prints and web use it is fine. Yes there is more noise than a lot of people would like... but I would rather have a noisy image that is sharp than no image at all. This one has actually been used a lot for the centres advertising.

Scottish Wildcat

One of my favourites. A wildcat walking out of the darkness, possibly symbolising them coming back from the brink of extinction? Time will tell...

Mating Adders

Another classic example of what I share on this blog. The photo above is not great at all, but what it shows is incredible. Two of our adders mating. Very rare to see this. Only happens every other year, and usually they go in to cover, as they did this time after a few minutes. But this year they were out in the open for a while, and I was lucky enough that a member of the Centre came and found me to let me know.

I like to share photos of things rarely seen, as I am lucky and privileged to see it myself, I want  you to see it to.

Wildcat Snarl

Above is a bit of a work in progress. I really like it, and it shows one of my benefits. I can of course go in with animals that no one else can, for various reasons... bit obvious with this one I think :-)

I am still trying for that really good snarl and swipe picture, that doesn't show the animal is in an enclosure, but I just don't know if it is possible.

With captive photography you should never tell people it was taken in the wild, but you should still try and make it look as if it could have been. That's what I think anyway... unless you are telling a story.


One of my recent images. A couple of months ago I had a small obsession with the wildcats, and their eyes in particular. Took several images and the above was my favourite.


I love the adders, especially while they are "dancing" in the spring. I wouldn't really classify any of my dancing shots as my best/favourite last year unfortunately, but I did like a few of my portrait shots I took while experimenting with a macro lens.

The above was my favourite of those, deliberately low aperture to just get those amazing red eyes in focus.

Otter on Ice

One of the very last shots I took last year of the otters on ice. I was trying to get Emmy here to run to me on the ice with the reeds in the background. Didn't work to well, I got one I liked, but the others were not good.

I did get this one though in the same shoot. Closer to me with out the reeds, but i still liked it. Currently have it as my wallpaper on the Mac.

Tawny Owl over Bluebells

Bluebell season of course, and I had to include this photo. My biggest award this year. Ironically not my favourite photo of 2014, far from it, but possibly my most popular and seen so thought I should include it.

Thanks for looking, and more to come this year :-)

Friday, 2 January 2015


Dancing adders

Happy new year to you all! I have three posts which will appear quite quickly in the new year, most likely over the next week. This first post is just a brief review of 2014 in terms of what I photographed. I am sure I have missed a lot out, and have not necessarily put in my best/favourite photos, but ones that remind me of what I did throughout the year. I have also limited it to 10 photos just to make me think a bit when selecting them.

Next up I will be sharing my favourite photos of 2014, and then introducing a new project I have been asked to participate in... very exciting, and it will lead to a regular weekly blog post for a couple of months. More on that later though, first lets look back on last year...

Every year the first thing I look forward to, if we don't have any snow, is the dance of the adders. I experimented with the macro lens this year and got some lovely shots I was pleased with. Above is one of my favourites, although I feel my back catalogue of this behaviour is still better. I am still waiting for that one really special photo of this event... maybe this year.


I try and sit in on at least one BWC photo day a year, and one BWC Owl day a year. This gives me a good opportunity to get some fresh photos for the office to use, but also see how the day goes from a visitors view. Above is one of a stoat I took and is now used for the cover of this years leaflet.

Little owl

On the owl day I joined in on the above is one of my favourites, Scrappy peering around the edge of our stone wall set.

Bee swarm

Our bees swarmed a couple of times last year, and having a lot of photos of them all in a mass from before I tried something different. Changing the angle slightly came up with something I really liked.

Fallow deer

I was asked by the owner, David, to help with a project he is doing for a children's educational DVD and book. For the book he needed specific photographs, so with a list in hand off I went. It was the first time I have really taken photos to demand, but it was good fun and I learn't a lot from it. I am sure it will happen again in the future if the book is successful, but above is one of a fallow deer grazing.

Ironically I don't think the above photo was used, but it was one of my favourites front he shoot.

Harvest Mouse

Lucy "found" some nice corn over the summer, so we spent an evening photographing the harvest mice. You can look back in the archives for these photos, but this simple portrait above is one of my favourites.

Common Dormouse

While doing some routines in with our dormice this summer, we noticed one was up... very unusual, so after checking that they were ok I made the most of this rare chance to take some photos.

Emmy and Buster

Later in the year we had another otter cub born, little Ol' Buster. He has just started to come out more regularly. This photo above is of him on one of his first days out.

Tawny owl

Winter is always a good time for photography here. Although the days are shorter, the light when out is usually a little softer... especially in the afternoon, and you often get that nice red glow. We have done many owl days for ourselves and Andy Rouse, and Andy has recently decided to offer half and half days. I took this one late afternoon while testing the best times to use certain perches for the light. Previously we saw this location as a potential place to put the tawny owl, but were running late in the day.

Otters playing through the ice

Finally, the other day, I took this photo of Emmy and Elwood playing and chasing each other throughout the ice. Something I tell people every winter, but have never been able to show them... By luck I had my camera with me a couple of days ago while they were chasing each other, so I took a couple of snaps. Not the best, but it shows what I want.

Next week I will post my favourite images from 2014 before sharing new photos taken this year, and announce the new project I have been asked to help with.

Thanks for looking :-)