Photography

Light on the water; Bespoke Photography 10/09/2020

by on Sep.11, 2020, under Bottlenose Dolphin, Northumberland Coast, Photography

Yesterday was a trip we were really looking forward to after what has been a really challenging year in so many ways. Emma and Janine have been on a couple of photography holidays that I’ve led since late 2018 and yesterday’s trip was organised for Janine’s birthday. Water and wildlife were the specific requests so I’d discussed how to structure the full day with Sarah and we thought we’d got a workable plan…

We started with wildlife; Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Turnstone all exploiting the rich food supply available on freshly uncovered sand and seaweed as the tide fell. Low-angled sunlight and mirror-calm water were everything we could have wished for and after a morning of wading birds we headed off for an excellent lunch, and outstanding views from our window table, at the Jolly Fisherman.

Post-lunch we stretched our legs and walked towards Dunstanburgh Castle as the tide turned and surf started breaking over the rocks in the foreground while we sat close to the rising water. Juvenile Gannets were diving offshore and I was thinking that there must be plenty of fish when I spotted a couple of dorsal fins and for the next 5 minutes we watched a group of around 10 Bottlenose Dolphins that seemed to be on a mission to get somewhere away to the south 🙂 Heading back south down the coast our final stop was at Howick Haven/Rumbling Kern as the tide started to flood in below the Bathing House.

Lovely entertaining clients who are pleasure to spend time with, fantastic light, obliging wildlife and the Northumberland coast. There can’t be many better ways to spend a day 🙂

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The colour of light; Autumn Colours Photography Workshop 27/10/19

by on Oct.31, 2019, under Photography

Sunday’s photography workshop was a guest short after a late rearrangement for one guest. I collected Sachin and Lucy from the Battlesteads and we headed to Cawfields Quarry. That wasn’t our original plan, but heavy rain meant needing to find a location that wouldn’t be treacherous underfoot. In just over 3hrs we covered exposure, focusing and composition, including how changing camera position and focal length affect the impact that an image has. I had my Samsung galaxy A70 in my pocket so couldn’t resist the beautiful light falling on the landscape 🙂

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Atmospheric; Focus on Northumberland Day 3 19/02/18

by on Feb.21, 2018, under Photography, Uncategorized

Tuesday was the final full day of our Focus on Northumberland holiday and we were heading to the coast for a day of landscape photography…

Blue skies and sunshine can be a bit overrated so the drizzle and fog offered something a bit different.  Daniela had shown me some excellent photographs that she’d taken previously, so I was slightly surprised to learn that her camera was always set to auto.  With a calm sea that only had white along the edge of the breaking surf, and with the impressive edifice of Bamburgh Castle vanishing in heavy mist, Daniela had composed an effective scene looking from the dune tops towards the Farne Islands (also shrouded in mist) so it was time to take the camera off auto and start exploring the exposure trinity of ISO, aperture and shutter speed and the creative possibilities that come once you start to control depth of field.  The drizzle continued as we made our way south along the coast and a very welcome hot chocolate at The Drift Inn came just before we headed west along the line of Hadrian’s Wall and back to The Battlesteads.

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Common Eider; NEWT’s photo of the day 01/01/18

by on Jan.01, 2018, under Photography

2018 started with some very obliging photogenic Common Eiders [Somateria mollissima] along the River Coquet. Common Eider, Somateria mollissima, Northumberland, bird photography, bird photography courses, wildlife photography, wildlife photography courses, wildlife photography tuition, bird photography tuition

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Stoatally different; Beginners Photography Workshop 19/04/2015

by on Apr.21, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Photography

Sunday afternoon was, thankfully, sunny and (reasonably…) warm for our NWT Beginners Photography Workshop.

Once I’d found everyone near the entrance to the Druridge Bay visitor centre, we walked through to the feeding station hide at East Chevington.  Reed Buntings, Goldfinches, Blue Tits and Great Tits were around the feeders, some remarkably shy Pheasants were quite stunning in the sunlight and we covered the usual beginners workshop topics of shutter speed, aperture settings, ISO, histograms, exposure compensation, and how to attract wildlife close enough to your camera.  Then an opportunity that really doesn’t come along every day as Joan spotted a Stoat.  I started pishing and it popped back up briefly, sitting on a rock for just long enough to allow a few frames to be fired off 🙂  Colin’s shot of the Stoat was a great one to demonstrate how cropping can improve the composition of an image.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was sitting high above the feeding station, frustratingly not coming down low enough to be in front of the array of cameras (Nikon, Canon, Fuji and Sony).  Then, one of the perpetual drawbacks of wildlife photography on a public nature reserve…the Pheasants scattered, all of the small birds left the feeders and a Black Labrador ran through the edge of the reeds 🙁 All it needed was a few minutes after the dog had gone though, and all returned to normal 🙂

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Feeding time; Beginners Photography Workshop 28/02/2015

by on Mar.03, 2015, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Photography

Saturday was the first of three ‘Beginners Wildlife Photography’ workshops that I’m leading for the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, and the morning had started grey and gloomy, progressed to sunny with beautiful blue skies by 09:00 and then was back at grey, gloomy and threatening to rain by the time the workshop started.  After waiting a while for everyone who had had booked to turn up, we set off for East Chevington, and the relative comfort of a hide and feeding station.  Chaffinch, Robin, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit and Reed Bunting all performed well in front of Karin’s, Jean’s and Terry’s cameras, offering ample opportunity to explore aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings and composition, but a real highlight of the afternoon was the arrival of, and several encores by, a flock of Long-tailed Tits.  These subtly beautiful birds are one of my personal favourites, and a species that I’ve always found tricky to photograph – talking to other local wildlife photographers revealed that it isn’t just me who finds them difficult though.  Here’s a Long-tailed Tit, photographed at one of my feeding stations a few years ago.

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Long-tailed Tit

With everyone enchanted by the birds, the conversation turned to whether or not there’s a collective noun for Long-tailed Tits and none of us could bring one to mind.  Apparently the collective noun is ‘volery’, but I think I’ll go with Jean’s suggestion… a ‘cuddle’ of Long-tailed Tits 🙂

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Bone-chilling; Beginners Photography 13/02/2015

by on Feb.28, 2015, under Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Photography

I pulled into the car park at the mainland end of the Holy Island causeway, and Heather was already there for our Beginners Photography ‘Winter Wildfowl’ workshop.  The first thing that struck me as I go out of the car was just how cold it was.  With a bitingly cold cold wind racing across the exposed mudflats, it felt like the middle of the harshest winter.  So, we started with a session in the car, checking camera settings and delving deep into the recesses of the camera menu.  Then it was time to venture back out into the cold.  Curlew, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone were eking out an existence in the wind-blasted landscape, a Little Egret still looked supremely elegant, with barely a feather ruffled out of place, and Heather’s attention was on a flock of Common Eider in the channel under the causeway.  Our county bird is quite stunning, and makes a excellent photographic subject, so Heather was soon engrossed in capturing them whenever they turned their heads towards us and the slightly trickier task of catching one in the act of stretching and flapping it’s wings.  Here’s one of my images of a drake Eider, from a warmer and less windy session a few years ago, showing just how beautiful they are.

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Our Beginner’s Photography Workshops are ideal if you’re just getting used to your camera, or want to improve a particular skill or technique, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to reserve your place.

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Coastal Dusk; Beginners Photography Workshop 18/10/2014

by on Oct.23, 2014, under Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, Photography

I always enjoy our Beginner’s Photography Workshops, whether we’re on the Farne Islands at the height of the breeding season, chilled to the bone at dawn in the late winter or  exploring the hidden world of autumn woodland everyone learns something, including me 🙂  I met up with Sian for a session photographing the coastal landscape at dusk and quickly learned that she was already very familiar with various compositional approaches to photography.  That made the structure of the rest of the session a straightforward one and we concentrated on exposure – exposing for highlights, exposing for shadow areas, exposing for a ‘balanced’ scene, exposure compensation and using the histogram as an exposure guide.  All too soon, the light faded, contrast fell and it was time to finish.  Our next workshop is Autumn Colours on Saturday 8th November.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 if you’d like to learn how to get more from your camera 🙂

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Farne Islands; Beginners Photography Workshop 28/06/2014

by on Jul.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Photography

Saturday afternoon was our Farne Islands Beginners Photography workshop.  I picked Peter up from Eshott as I headed north, and we met up with Doug at Seahouses harbour.  This was Peter’s fourth trip this week (on his birthday, following his North Pennines trip on Friday – his wedding anniversary!).  Doug had been out with me before too, on our Coastal Dawn photography workshop in March, although the weather was a bit more amenable this time round 🙂  Settings for wildlife and action photography are very different to the settings for extracting a landscape image from the gloom of an early spring morning, so I ran through the settings on Doug’s camera with my recommendations for how to improve his chances of catching ‘the moment’.

Perhaps the greatest skill a photographer needs on Inner Farne is the ability to tune out the chaos that surrounds them.  Common and Arctic Terns form an angry buzzing cloud around the heads of visitors to the island, the harsh calls of Sandwich Terns cut through you as they fly to and from their colony, Puffins shoot by with beakfuls of sandeels, so close that you can feel the rush of air from their wingbeats and the clifftops are covered in Shags, Kittiwakes, Razorbills and Guillemots as Fulmars soar by on stiff outstretched wings.  Around the Puffin burrows, groups of Black-headed Gulls sit and wait for the return of what should, on the face of it, be an easy meal.  It doesn’t always work out that way though, and the melee provides excellent photo opportunities.  That chaos is the Farne Islands strength as a location for our photography workshops though.  The wildlife is approachable and obliging, so it’s a great place to concentrate on learning, and practicing, new photography techniques.

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We’ve still got a few spaces available for our Farne Islands photography workshop this Saturday (July 5th), so give us a call on 01670 827465 if you’d like to come along 🙂

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Choosing your battles; Farne Islands bespoke photography trip 31/05/2014

by on Jun.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Photography

Last Thursday should have been a bespoke photography trip to the Farne Islands, but a discussion with William on Wednesday evening confirmed what the forecast had been suggesting for a few days – heavy easterly swell would make it impractical to sail.  I was out and about in the drizzle so Sarah got in touch with John, David and Sheila and we rearranged the trip for Saturday instead.

That turned out to be an excellent decision, with  Saturday dawning dry, bright, sunny and with only a hint of a breeze.  We arrived in Seahouses just after 09:00 and were soon onboard Glad Tidings II, with William at the helm, on our way to Staple Island, passing groups of Grey Seals lazing in the sunshine.  Staple can be a difficult island to land passengers on, but it’s always worth the effort.  Puffins with beakfuls of sandeels were next to the landing and many photographers from our boat didn’t make it any further on to the island for quite some time.  Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shags, Guillemots and Razorbills are all good photographic subjects, Puffins are the real stars of the island but there were some very accessible female Eiders incubating too. A frequent mantra that I try to instill into our photography clients is to choose their battles carefully – whatever focal length lens you have, there’s always the opportunity to take stunning images.  Don’t frustrate yourself by trying to over-reach the performance of your equipment.  I had a camera with a 70-200mm lens in my rucksack – not a long focal length, but enough when you’ve got a subject quite close.  We explored bits of the island looking for a spot that offered Puffins in flight at reasonable distance, and the best bit of the morning on Staple came during our lunch break, when  Puffins were flying so close overhead that you could hear the whirring of their wings, and everyone sat back, relaxed and tried to second-guess which direction each Puffin was going to fly 🙂  With a lovely group of clients, the day was a real pleasure, and we were soon on Glad Tidings IV, transferring to Inner Farne for the afternoon.  Inner Farne offers similar to Staple, but with the addition of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns and we explored the island in search of photographic subjects.  The first three images below are my own.  Puffinin flight, Black-headed Gull tussling with Puffin, Arctic Tern and Common Tern images are all (c) J. Spence.  Many thanks to John for letting us use his stunning images in this blog post 🙂

Beautiful weather, great clients and the ‘Galapagos of the North’ – what a great end to the month, although for NEWT the month wasn’t quite over yet…

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