Springy Lambs and Sneaky Squirrels

With it being spring and Easter, I decided to visit a farm last Wednesday to see if I could see some tiny lambs and chicks. The farm, Amelia’s Trust Farm near Barry, was just a short journey away so we set off with the cameras to see what we could see. There were so many lambs it was hard to keep track of them all although I have to admit, my favourites were two that just couldn’t keep their eyes off a crow and continued to chase it whenever it landed in the field. Sadly there were no little chicks just yet but there’s still time for that! There was however, a cross looking cockerel who was so badly behaved attacking people that it ended up being locked in a hen house. There aren’t many animals I’m not a huge fan of and try to avoid but cockerels are up there and to me this proved why!

On Friday, up in Lancashire, we decided to visit Formby National Trust as I’d been there loads as a child and wanted to catch a glimpse of some red squirrels. I’d heard that a few years ago the population there had been decimated due to a disease brought in by grey squirrels so I wasn’t too hopeful that we would see anything due to them still repopulating but I was pleasantly surprised. There was quite a few of them all scrabbling around on the floor searching for snacks and nuts and trying to sneak them past the nosy wood pigeons also pacing the area. They were also leaping around in the trees which, although was quite hard to photograph, definitely was a challenge and very nice to see and something I want to come back to see very soon. Springy Lambs

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A Walk in the Woods

Yesterday, whilst Cardiff was finally basking in the sun again we decided to go out for a walk in the woods with JJ the Jack Russell who was visiting from Preston. By the end of the walk he was absolutely shattered, had made friends with a couple of horses and had made sure he’d walked in as much mud as possible!

Stray Cats in the Sunshine

Friday was the first properly sunny day I’ve seen so far this year and so I made sure that I got to see some of it. Where we live, there isn’t a little garden or anything as there are garages behind the house instead so it’s more of a car park but it was still nice to sit outside and make the most of it. I had intended to take a few pictures of the stray cats that live around here (there’s around 8 of them) and so I took my camera down with me to see what I could see. To begin with, I focused upon photographing the magpies who seemed to have gathered in the trees and were cackling at each other loudly along with the seagulls who perched on top of the chimney pots, glaring down at the other birds. At this time there had only been one cat out and he had wandered off somewhere I couldn’t see so I just had to be patient. Eventually he wandered back over and when noticing we were looking at him, came running over meowing loudly expecting a tasty treat as I usually take them some biscuits and treats down for them all. Unfortunately, he managed to eat most of the ones I had quite quickly and so I thought he was going to leave but instead he hung around sunbathing and waiting for more snacks. This cat in particular was quite helpful although slightly jumpy if anyone left the house but another of the cats I previously photographed, I nicknamed her ‘Chunky’, wasn’t so sure and didn’t stick around for long until the treats returned.  I managed to get quite a few shots of this one, I’m going to call him Bob, even if he kept turning his back on me and I have to say, I think I prefer cat photography to dog photography. Not because I prefer them as an animal but because I like their attitude towards people; they either want to cooperate or won’t even bother and will do their utmost to make sure that they do as much as they can to challenge you. Pet photography is definitely something I am interested in continuing and these cats have made me consider feline photography in particular a lot more. It’s challenging and fun but the end results are definitely worth the patience.

“There is no easy way from the Earth to the stars” (Seneca) – Astrophotography in the Brecon Beacons

After hearing about aurora borealis making an appearance in the Brecon Beacons on Thursday night (annoyingly the night after we went and took photos of the wild ponies) we decided to head back to see if we could see anything. To be honest, it didn’t really matter whether we saw anything or not as it was just nice to get away from the city lights and see all the stars which was a good thing as despite staying there from about 8 until midnight, we didn’t see even a glimpse. It did give me the opportunity to have a go at astrophotography, however, and although the results aren’t the greatest, I’m quite pleased for a first attempt. I’m not sure whether it was my amateur attempts or wrong choice of lens (Sigma 10-20mm) that led to a lot of the images being overly noisy despite having the noise reduction applied but I do think that this is not necessarily a bad thing; they might not be in the league of ‘Astrophotographer of the Year’ but they still show off the stars. Likewise, a lot of astrophotographers say that you should go somewhere where car lights will not disturb the long exposures in order for you to get the best images of the sky you can but where we were meant that cars regularly drove past. Understandably, if you are aiming to get the best photos of the sky that you can this makes a lot of sense but I really enjoyed using the car lights as a light source in themselves. The resulting photographs may not be entirely ‘astro’ yet I still think that they still show the wonders of the stars above the Brecon Beacons and why it deserves to be named a Dark Sky Reserve.

 

Eye To Eye: Animal Encounters at the Zoo

As I’ve mentioned before, many people think that photography at zoos is an “easy” way of photographing exotic and interesting animal species and yet when it comes to it, it’s really not easy at all. Like in the wild, the animals movements can be unpredictable and smears on glass and fine wire fences can prove to be a real problem at times, especially when there are a lot of visitors eager to get up close to themselves. However, it is also a very satisfying experience and the perfect way to practice animal photography on a smaller scale.  People may judge the very nature of the genre yet if natural history filmmakers use zoos to obtain difficult shots or sequences they couldn’t in the wild, why can’t photographers? For me, zoo photography allows me to get up close to animals I couldn’t normally see without paying a fortune to travel the world and so providing that the animals are well cared for and there are conservation programmes in place, zoos are a photography paradise.

The following gallery was created to showcase the connection made between the person and the animal, through a long stare or fleeting glance. In my opinion, the inquisitiveness of each one highlights the individual personalities and really illustrates the idea that humans are just a single part of a huge, interwoven and global natural web.

 

Photography At The Zoo: Take 2

Bitten by the bug of zoo photography (again!), last week we headed to Bristol Zoo to have another go. With such a wide variety of animals and a completely different way of showing them, it was a lot of fun trying to capture them in the best way possible. The glass, at times, proved to be a bit of an issue as it was a very sunny day and so there tended to quite a lot of reflection but the animals were all active and playful which made it all the more interesting. The lions in particular were some of my favourites as I’d visited last year when they were only tiny so it was nice to see them growing up and still so much trouble!

After last week’s post, I’ve had a few people commenting and saying that zoo photography really isn’t an achievement because you know where the animals are and so the mystery is taken out of it. Whilst I do agree with this, I think that as with anything it is important to improve your skills and practicing to get better and so for exotic wild animals there is no better place than a zoo or safari park to do so when it’s hard to travel abroad. As long as the animals are cared for well and there aren’t any welfare issues then zoos can be the perfect place to prepare yourself and learn more about your own style of photography.

Capturing Captivity

After being provided with a couple of tickets to Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol in exchange for some marketing photographs, we headed back there on Thursday to try and obtain some better shots of the lions. It was a particularly chilly day so armed with hats and gloves we set off towards the big cats to have a little look at them first and to prepare a bit. Straight away one of the females walked over and seemed to know we needed to take photos of her, slowly walking to her sister, yawning and turning to face us. I had thought it would take a lot longer to get such good images and so I was pleased that we were then able to have a look around at the other animals as well including my favourites, the giraffes, and the magnificent tigers.

A lot of people have been saying that zoo photography is a cheating version of wildlife photography but I couldn’t disagree more. Yes the animals may be easier to spot but the majority of the time you have to be very patient and work around a number of obstacles in order to get a vaguely decent image. It’s a perfect opportunity to ‘rehearse’ your photography skills on wild animals that you wouldn’t normally be able to see and whilst I strongly oppose zoos where the animals are kept in terrible conditions and are quite clearly miserable, I find them extremely useful places for photography and expanding my knowledge and skills. Whilst researching this particular genre, I also came across a number of articles that pretty much said that unless you are able to make it look like the animal is in it’s natural environment, then you are taking an amateur approach. I think whilst this can be the case, showing some of the background can add a lot to a photograph like the cage and a big cat- it adds a lot to the mood and contrasting ideologies present in the images. I’ve chosen to use this method as well as trying to eliminate it too as I am very interested in showing the truth through my work as well as the contrasting ideas of freedom combined with captivity.