Photography

More shades of grey

by on Apr.03, 2014, under Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Photography

Our Beginners Photography workshop on Saturday had got me thinking about an aspect of photography that I’ve neglected in recent years, but one which dominated much of my photography in the late ’80s and early ’90s – black & white.  Back then I spent much of my time composing, exposing, developing and printing landscapes and portraits in monochrome, but in the digital age I haven’t really given it much thought.  It isn’t unusual to see discussions about the relevance of b&w in this age of intensely saturated HDR images, but it makes challenging demands of the photographer.  Stripped of colour, the image relies on something else – dynamic, graphic, dramatic – to grab the attention.

So, on Monday, I drove north on the A1 in heavy fog, which thankfully thinned a bit towards the coast.  After 4 hours of scrambling around Stag Rocks I composed the image that I’d pre-visualised, applied ND grad and ND filters to balance the exposure and slow the shutter speed right down and then waited for the tide 🙂

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Shades of Grey; Beginner’s Photography 29/03/2014

by on Apr.03, 2014, under Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Photography

Early starts aren’t for everyone – I was once approached by a photography tuition company who wanted me to lead some landscape workshops for them, and the conversation was odd, to say the least

“Yeah, no problem.  If it’s in March we’ll start at 05:00, other times of the year will vary depending on sunrise time”

“05:00?”

“Yes, the best light of the day is around sunrise and sunset.  Early starts or sunset finishes, whatever works best for you”

“Why would anyone want to get up that early?”

“Because that’s the best time for landscape photography”

“I’m not sure our clients would like that”

“Okay.  How about December?  Later sunrise, so later start”

“That’s the middle of the winter.  I don’t think our clients would like that either”

Fortunately there are photographers who appreciate the ‘golden hour’ so, at 04:50 on Saturday, I met up with Doug at Bamburgh in the murk and gloom of what appeared to be pretty uninspiring light.  Things can usually be rescued though, and we looked at camera settings while it was still quite dark then, as soon as there was some light, we set about exploring  composition and exposure metering.  With a bright cloudy sky it was time for a bit of creativity; first exposure compensation, always a useful technique when a very dark, or a very bright, area is dominating the scene.  Then, the technique that comes into it’s own when there’s a wide range of exposure values between the sky and the foreground – Doug’s wide-angle lens has the same diameter filter thread as my mine and I got my set of ND graduated filters out of the car so he could reduce the brightness of the sky/increase the brightness of the foreground.  Dull and uninspiring was transformed into something much more dramatic, and the hours had flown by.  I’m really looking forward to seeing Doug’s images from the day, and I’ll be meeting up with him again on our Farne Islands photography workshop on 28th June.  We’ve got a couple of places available on that one, so give us a call on 01670 827465 if you’d like to come along and learn how to get more from your camera.

Doug has very kindly provided us with two of his images from the day, which we think are superb 🙂 You can click the images to see full-size versions.

Bamburgh Castle,beginners photography workshops,landscape photography workshops,landscape photography holidays Northumberland

Bamburgh Castle,beginners photography workshops,landscape photography workshops,landscape photography holidays Northumberland

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Look who’s stalking; bespoke photography 24/03/2014

by on Mar.29, 2014, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Photography

Monday was a day with the potential to go either way, and I was nervous.  I first met John when himself and Helen were on a North Sea pelagic in June last year and we found this little beauty.  This trip was something altogether different though – Helen had arranged a one-to-one photography day.  Our one-to-one days focus on whatever our clients would like to work on – sometimes techniques (exposure/composition/fieldcraft etc.), sometimes species (Black Grouse, Otter and Red Squirrel are just some of the ones we’ve helped clients to photograph) – and John’s request was to develop his techniques for getting good images of shorebirds.  Now, using fieldcraft developed over 40yrs is one thing when I’m in the field on my own…teaching it, with our subject right where it can see us, is slightly more challenging 😉

I collected John from home in Morpeth and we headed north until we were in the impressive shadow of Bamburgh CastlePurple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Eider were all approached with stealth and patience before we made our way down the Northumberland coast to Druridge Bay, stopping off and stalking Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Sanderling, Redshank, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin and finishing the day’s photography with the slightly easier proposition of Reed Bunting, Blue Tit and Lesser Redpoll at a feeding station before admiring the Red-necked Grebe that I first found back in mid-February – now in a much more attractive plumage than it was five weeks ago.

John very kindly supplied some of his images from the day, for which we’re very grateful, so here they are 🙂  You can click on them to see the full size images, and please do get in touch with us if you’d like to get more from your camera equipment.

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Common Eider

Turnstone, Arenaria interpres, Purple Sandpiper, Calidris maritima, Northumberland, photography tuition, bird photography, one to one photography, bird photography holidays

Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone

Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus, Northumberland, photography tuition, bird photography, one to one photography, bird photography holidays

Oystercatcher

Common Redshank, Tringa totanus, Northumberland, photography tuition, bird photography, one to one photography, bird photography holidays

Common Redshank

Sanderling, Calidris alba, Northumberland, photography tuition, bird photography, one to one photography, bird photography holidays

Sanderling

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Marsh Harriers and Murmurations; Photography mini-safari 23/03/2014

by on Mar.26, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Photography

Some wildlife experiences are so special that on their own they can make an entire trip memorable.  Having two happening at the same time is just distracting…

I collected Rebecca and Gill from Church Point, for an afternoon around Druridge Bay that had only been finalised earlier on Sunday morning.  Northumberland hit us with its own peculiar brand of ‘four seasons in one hour’ as we set out, including a shower of hail/snow.  Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Woodpigeons, Tree Sparrows and Reed Buntings were clustered around feeding stations – always a good spot to practice your wildlife photography – and we popped along to Amble Harbour to catch up with some nicely photogenic Common Eider.  Equally entertaining, as always, was Dave Gray 🙂

As sunset approached we headed for the final destination that I’d planned for the afternoon.  A small flock of Starlings was just the warm-up act for the finale to our trip.  Soon, a larger group could be seen gathering away to the south and they began to head northwards towards our vantage point.  Group after group joined the murmuration and suddenly they split as a male Marsh Harrier flew in, followed quickly by a female.  Drifting in unison they kept rolling in mid-air to touch talons, as the murmuration carried on just a few metres above them.  As the sun dipped below the impressive ridge of Simonside away to the west, the murmuration did just what Rebecca was hoping for and passed right over the last glow of the setting sun 🙂  As we returned to Newbiggin a flock of Whooper Swans flew north overhead, calling as they faded into the gloom of the coming darkness.

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Never work with children or animals…

by on Feb.18, 2014, under Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

Back when I was a teacher, and developing demonstration experiments, I came across a piece of advice that has stuck with me since then ‘prior practice prevents poor presentation’.  It served me well; it’s far better to accidentally set fire to the ceiling tiles in your classroom when there’s just yourself, a lab technician and a fire extinguisher there.  And what did I learn from that incident? Make sure your class are sitting towards the back of the room, and keep the fire extinguisher close to hand 😉

We apply a similar philosophy with NEWT.  Recce sites consistently and, even when a site is regularly producing sightings of the target species, keep searching for new sites too.  Preparation for our beginners photography workshop at the weekend involved baiting three locations with hazelnuts, to maximise the chances of Red Squirrels appearing right in front of us in a photogenic location with lighting angles worked out well in advance.  We visited the sites on Saturday in poor weather conditions and re-baited with over a pound of nuts.  Sunday dawned and I met up with Bryan.  His previous trip with us had been a successful search for Otters, and Red Squirrels have always been an easier mammal to track down…

The weather couldn’t have been better; bright sunshine always helps.  Coal Tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Magpies seemed to be everywhere around us.  However, not any sight of a squirrel 🙂 They’d cleaned out the nuts from all of the sites we’d baited, so we re-baited, and waited.  The likely explanation is that the combination of a stiff cold breeze and the extraordinary number of people walking their dogs through the woods meant that they were keeping their heads down.  So I’ve set up a baiting area in a much quieter piece of woodland, and invited Bryan to come along for a session photographing the squirrels there once I’ve determined the best angles and times of day.  No matter how much preparation you put in, sometimes the unpredictable nature of wildlife still gets the better of you 🙂

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Winter Wonderland Day Two 05/12/2013

by on Dec.09, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

04:30, and I wake to what sounds like a train crashing through our garden.  It isn’t though, instead it’s the howling gales that had been forecast.  Meeting up with David for breakfast at The Swan, I’m glad that we switched our day in Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland to today.  Lindisfarne in howling gales and torrential rain would be close to unbearable, Druridge Bay would be much closer to manageable…

Starting with a seawatch as the rain lashed against the rear window of the car, Eider and a single Common Scoter were just offshore as Sanderling scurried around the piles of seaweed on the shore, a ghostly white adult Mediterranean Gull struggled past against the wind and two Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew north low over the waves.  Then the weather cleared and we were suddenly in beautiful sunshine and blue skies with a light breeze…before the wind strengthened again, the sky turned black and a squally shower had the entire surface of the pool at Hauxley looking like it was boiling.  Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Scaup and Little Grebe

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all faced the elements…then it turned nice again and a Peregrine flew through, scattering Wigeon and Teal but paying them no heed 🙂  A line of Black-headed Gulls dip-feeding into the breeze at East Chevington contained a surprise in the dainty form of a Little Gull, then it started to rain again.  Sitting by the River Coquet eating lunch, we watched Eider and Red-breasted Merganser, as well as Lapwing, Turnstone, Curlew and Redshank…as the first of the afternoon’s hailstorms began.  Another break in the weather brought David an excellent photo opportunity with a flock of Eider

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before hailstones the size of peas led to a hasty retreat back to the shelter of the car 🙂 Soon the hail was replaced by snow, before another break in the weather brought some simply sublime late afternoon light.

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and a flock of Lapwings were tossed about in the air like pieces of black and white paper.

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With the howling northwesterly winds, the water at Cresswell was being driven towards the channel under the road and between the dunes.  A Black-necked Grebe swam by and then, subtly, and with the inevitability of the tide, water started flowing the other way and a boundary between wind-driven pond and incoming tidal surge developed in front of us.  After a Starling murmuration just up the coast,

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we followed the road back down through Druridge and discovered the tide had overwhelmed the culvert and was still coming in, but now straight over the road in front of us.  Watching the car in front safely traverse the water, we made our way across and headed back to The Swan at the end of an extraordinary day.  David was a pleasure to guide on this holiday, and he kindly sent us the images that illustrate the two blog posts 🙂

We’re taking bookings now for our 2014 holidays, so please get in touch for more details or to book.  We’ve got a range of holidays, each designed to showcase the best of Northumberland, the North Pennines and the Scottish Borders at the best times of the year.

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Eye to eye with the predator; Bespoke Photography 21/10/2013

by on Oct.31, 2013, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

The chilly morning air was biting as I arrived in Seahouses to collect Peter, Caroline and Aidan.  With camera gear loaded into the back of the car we headed down the Northumberland coast with two species in particular on our target list for the day – one relatively easy, one slightly less so…

I’d planned the morning to take in a couple of sites for Red Squirrel, and the early afternoon to stake out a regular Otter spot.  So, Red Squirrel is the relatively easy species out of those two…but the first rule of wildlife photography should be ‘wildlife doesn’t perform to order’ and both sites we visited, which have healthy populations of Red Squirrel, didn’t produce any sightings.  That’s often the case though when it’s damp, cool and breezy, so we headed on in search of our second target for the day.  After a brief stake out of a handsome male Stonechat we made our way to the edge of a pond, and were told by another birdwatcher who was there that he’d seen an Otter just 15mins earlier, and it had headed across the pond.  I looked across in the direction he thought it had gone…and the entire bank was lined with ducks and geese.  A good sign; the Otter had obviously spooked them out of the water but it must be still somewhere in the pond, as all of the birds were staring intently.  I couldn’t see any disturbance in the water in that direction though and I was just remarking that I thought the Otter could still be nearby, when it surfaced in front of us 🙂  For the next couple of hours we were treated to regular feeding sorties as the sinuous mustelid caught fish after fish, including at least one large FlounderCormorants and Grey Herons were fishing too, a Water Rail put in a couple of typically fleeting appearances, Common Snipe were prodding, probing and miraculously vanishing in short vegetation, Lapwing, Curlew and Redshank were roosting, calling and occasionally flushing, Mallard and Teal kept standing to attention every time the Otter was close by, a murmuration of Starlings away to the north disbanded into smaller flocks that flew straight over our heads and seven Little Gulls danced their dainty flight back and forth over the pond.  Perhaps the moment of the day though, was when the Otter appeared around the edge of a reedbed and started straight into Aidan’s camera lens.  The second rule of wildlife photography should be ‘…and sometimes it does’ 🙂

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A walk in the woods; Beginners Photography 12/10/2013

by on Oct.29, 2013, under Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

Our October photography workshop subject was Fungi.  The morning was damp and drizzly, but I’d packed several versatile waterproof camera covers – you can pick them up from your local supermarket, usually free with your shopping 🙂 Dave was on his third day with us this year, and kindly emailed some of his images from the day to post in our blog.  We’ve just added our 2014 dates and topics to our Beginners Photography page.  You could come along yourself or, if you’ve got a friend or relative who’s trying to get to grips with their camera, our Gift Vouchers make ideal Christmas presents 🙂

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

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Shining in the gloom;Druridge Bay 02/10/2013

by on Oct.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Photography

I always look forward to trips with returning clients, and Louise was booked in for her third bespoke photography day.  A client who’s a professional photographer is a real treat as there’s a lot to chat about; equipment, photo libraries, how to deal with your images being used without permission, wildlife photography workshops, other photographers… What I’m not so keen on though, is weather forecasts that promise rain for the Northumberland coast 🙁

With occasional heavy showers, the day around Druridge Bay brought a mixed bag of photographic opportunities for Louise.  Too quick, and in rain that was just too heavy, a Peregrine entertained us during our lunch break as it targeted a flock of Starlings. First it appeared just few metres in front of us, coming from below our feet and shooting up above a clifftop.  A few minutes later it was heading at breakneck speed in the opposite direction, straight through the StarlingsCurlews, Dunlin and Little Grebes all appeared in front of the camera and, as a female Eider drifted by, Louise mentioned that drake Eider was something that had so far evaded her camera.  A few minutes later, after a quick change of location, a flock of drake and duck Eiders were particularly obliging, cooing contentedly as Louise focused on them from just a few metres away.  Turnstones posed helpfully on fishing nets laid out on the sides of trawlers in Amble harbour and, as the light worsened, we had a surprise in the shape of an Arctic Tern, roosting next to a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull.

Even in poor weather there are lots of possibilities for excellent wildlife experiences.  Having a client who’s excellent company helps too 🙂

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Unbridled Passion

by on Jul.02, 2013, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Photography

I love a lot of things; seabirds, cetaceans, Northumberland, photography and, of course, Sarah 🙂

When news broke yesterday that a Bridled Tern had been discovered roosting near the jetty on Inner Farne I immediately began wondering whether it would hang around until today and, if it did, how could I fit a visit to Inner Farne into my schedule, between office work this morning and a meeting with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust this afternoon?  After getting a few of my admin tasks out of the way first thing, a quick ‘phone call to Billy Shiel’s booking office secured my place on a sailing at 10:00.  The drive north on the A1 was plagued by the ever-present worry that accompanies a twitch – would the bird still be there?

Arriving at Seahouses harbour in good time for the sailing I was chatting to William Shiel when he mentioned that he was about to send a boat across to the islands to collect one of his crew…and would I like to go across on that one?  So, I had the extraordinary experience of being the only passenger on Glad Tidings IV and was soon watching the tern, although it was quite distant.  The 10:00 boat arrived and the birders on it had a view of the bird for about five seconds before it flew off.  At about 11:00 I heard the bird calling, but it couldn’t be located anywhere in the roost.  Then, half an hour later, Phil found it roosting on the rocks just below a group of Puffins.  As boats arrived and collected their passengers, I was eventually left on the island with two other birders and a few of the National Trust Rangers.

We could see our boat heading across Staple Sound from the outer islands then, the stuff of dreams; the roosting terns lifted and the Bridled Tern flew past us, then back, then past us, then towards us…then settled on the rocks no more than 30′ away 🙂

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

With excellent help from William and his skippers, the very accommodating Farne Islands rangers who were ‘enjoying’ the unusual experience of visitors on Inner Farne in a morning, and the remarkably obliging Bridled Tern posing in front of my camera, I headed back down the A1 for my meeting full of enthusiasm…not that I’m ever anything other than enthusiastic when meeting with NWT of course 😉

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