2013 Articles

Lake District

31/12/2013

Wasdale is perhaps the most scenically stunning of the Lake District dales. Facing south-west, it is also ideally oriented to catch late afternoon winter sun. I composed this image with a foreground of golden bracken and two focal points - Yewbarrow on the left counterbalanced by a rocky islet on the right. The higher mountains of Great Gable in the centre and Scafell Pike to the right are enveloped in cloud, an integral part of the Lake District landscape. ...more

Sword of Orion

29/11/2013

The well-known constellation of Orion has a distinctive "belt" of three stars, below which hangs a "sword". I made this picture using my 400mm lens, revealing the central star is in fact a giant nebula of dust and gas, within which new stars are being born. Capturing this image required a 30 second exposure, which at this focal length, if the camera were stationary, would render the stars as trails. To avoid this I mounted the camera on a telescope which tracks to compensate for the earth's rotation, giving a completely sharp result. My thanks to Andy Schofield for the use of the telescope and assistance in processing the image. ...more

Storm

28/10/2013

My second weekend photography workshop for Devizes Camera Club this year was to Cornwall and coincided with the biggest storm in Southern England since 2008. As the storm approached, we photographed huge waves at Mullion and Kynance Cove on the Lizard peninsula. My favourite image was made just after dawn the following morning from Land's End. Longships Lighthouse is 1.5 miles west of the mainland so I took a 400mm lens with me. For less than a minute, a rare shaft of sunlight caught the lighthouse, enabling me to shoot at 1/640th of a second and almost freeze this massive wave breaking around the lighthouse. ...more

Jaguars

25/09/2013

Jaguars are the largest cat in the Americas but across most of their range they are much harder to see than the big cats of Africa. Only in Brazil's great wetland, the Pantanal, can they easily be observed and photographed. The young adults in this image are brother and sister, known to biologists as George and Patricia. Pantanal jaguars are active during daylight and spend much of their time patrolling, hunting and resting along riverbanks, making photography possible from a boat. Shortly after I made this image, George swam across the river and successfully hunted a capybara. For more jaguars, see my Big Cats Gallery. ...more

Rainbow Bird

20/09/2013

Macaws are perhaps the world's most charismatic parrots; large, colourful and noisy. In rainforest they are hard to photograph. At Buraco das Araras in Brazil's Mato Grosso do Sol, a huge sinkhole has created vertical sandstone cliffs where several dozen red-and-green macaws nest. The macaws spend the day flying around the sinkhole, enabling them to be photographed from a viewpoint on the rim above. Early in the morning the sun does not reach to the bottom of the sinkhole, enabling a striking image of rainbow-coloured macaw against an inky pool of blackness. ...more

Giant Anteater

19/09/2013

I have always wanted to see a giant anteater, because they are just so quirky. I hired an expert guide to help me find them in the Brazilian cerrado (savannah). The day had been relatively cool so the anteaters became active around 4pm, giving us an hour of good light to photograph them. Anteaters rely on hearing rather than eyesight so I quietly approached this female and lay down on the ground to get an eye-level view, emphasising the size of this magnificent animal. I had to wait until she turned exactly the right way, so I could include the whole animal in the frame whilst emphasising the length of her nose and showing the baby on her back. ...more

Harvest at Liddington Hill

31/08/2013

Harvest is a magical time in Wiltshire's countryside, especially when illuminated by golden evening sunshine. I prefer round bales to the more common rectangular ones as their form is much more interesting. The beech clump on Liddington Hill is a well-known landmark, visible from the M4 motorway. On the last evening of summer the bales, tree clump, evening light and sky came together to make a pleasing image. I composed with the nearest bale and the tree clump on opposite thirds of the picture. Getting enough separation between the nearest and further bales needed a little extra height, so I mounted my tripod on top of another bale. Optimising the composition meant I had to roll that bale into the right position - another advantage of round bales over rectangular ones! ...more

Dunstanburgh Castle

06/07/2013

Situated on a lonely crag, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland are amongst the most evocative anywhere in Britain. From the north side, a solitary gate tower dominates the view. However, this aspect works best as a landscape because huge beach cobbles make a dramatic foreground, left wet by a falling tide. In early summer, late evening sun illuminates the scene at its best. All that was planned but I needed luck too; the image is completed by perfectly placed cirrus clouds. ...more

Cherhill Down Panorama

13/06/2013

To me, this image epitomises Wiltshire's countryside; a harmonious blend of rolling downland and human influence. The white horse, Landsdown Monument and Scot's pines are the visual focal points, drawing the eye and conveying a strong sense of place. Equally important is the sky, summer blue offset by just the right amount of cloud and contrasting brilliantly with the startling yellow oil seed rape in the foreground. Waiting in the middle of the rape field until evening sun illuminated the whole scene and a strong breeze propelled the clouds into just the right formation, I made three overlapping frames and stitched them together to convey the expanse of the landscape. ...more

One Good Tern

31/05/2013

Leading a photographic weekend on Brownsea Island in Dorset provided the perfect opportunity to make images of birds and red squirrels in the early morning and evening, when the light is at its best and few people are around. A colony of common terns nests on islands in the lagoon, overlooked by a strategically positioned hide. Terns are elegant, graceful and fast in flight, requiring good autofocus and reactions. I captured this sharp image at 1/1600th of a second as the bird turned to land. I like the central position of its head in the composition, dynamic wing orientation, light on its fanned out tail and the contrast of red beak with blue sky. ...more

Ancient Woodland

18/05/2013

Spring is late this year and now everything seems to be happening at once. One benefit is that flowers usually separated by a week or two are flowering together. I found these exquisite drifts of bluebells and ramsons in Gopher Wood, on the chalk escarpment overlooking Oare in Wiltshire. I composed to give equal prominence to both species and included a wood spurge to frame the left hand side of the image, balancing the tree trunk on the right. The trees, being less temperature dependent, are fully in leaf, providing a backdrop that avoids any distracting elements of sky. Cloudy bright conditions give good detail throughout the image and avoid excessive contrast, though requiring an adjustment to the colour temperature to accurately record the bluebells. With intricate detail and diverse flora, the image shows a classic ancient woodland. ...more

Lacock Abbey

27/04/2013

The beautifully preserved Medieval cloisters at Lacock Abbey are built from Cotswold limestone. At 3.20 in the afternoon, the sun shines directly into the corner of the quadrangle, illuminating two sides almost equally. In April, the sun is just high enough in the sky at this time that the windows project a pleasing pattern of light and shadow across the floor. As the sun emerged from cloud, I made this image using a panoramic tripod head to take six overlapping frames in portrait format, each at three different exposures, between them covering a 90 degree field of view. I stitched the resulting images together using PTGui to create a high dynamic range file, then post-processed with Photomatix to bring out the superb detail and rich tones of the stonework. ...more

Aurora

14/03/2013

The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights are a spectacular natural phenomenon caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the earth's magnetic field and outer reaches of our atmosphere. Most frequently observed north of the Arctic Circle, their duration and visibility can be fleeting. A week's landscape photography in northern Norway provided four nights without cloud and aurora were visible on three of them. The most impressive display was near Nordkapp, continental Europe's most northerly point at 71 degrees latitude. I identified a location where a snow-clad mountain ridge and fjord provided foreground interest and exposed for 30 seconds at f/4 to capture this striking image. ...more

Jurassic Coast Workshop

13/01/2013

I led a group of 19 photographers for a weekend workshop on the coast of east Devon and west Dorset. At Ladram Bay, spectacular red sandstone deposited in a huge desert over 200 million years ago has been carved into giant sea stacks. We made our images as the rising sun cleared cloud on the horizon, giving strong side lighting and rich colour to the rocks. The previous day's storm had left the sea stained red with sand pummelled from the cliffs. For more information about the workshop, see Devizes Camera Club website. ...more

Bharatpur

04/01/2013

Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur in India's Rajasthan State is one of Asia's finest bird-watching destinations. Extensive wetlands, created by flooding marshland, attract huge numbers of wintering wildfowl and wading birds from colder climates further north. Many can be approached closely on foot and by boat. The pied kingfisher is the largest bird capable of true hovering flight, as it as waits for a fish to approach the surface. My shutter speed of 1/1250th of a second has rendered the bird sharp but its wings, beating ten times per second, are nonetheless softened by motion. ...more

Taj Mahal

02/01/2013

The Taj Mahal is a cliché of travel photography, so I was determined to try something different. My plan was to photograph the monument from the north, across the Yamuna River, with the setting sun on its right hand side. However, on arrival I quickly realised that the mist enveloping Agra would make such a distant viewpoint unviable. Instead I positioned myself beside the Taj's south-west minaret with the sun behind me, waited for the foreground to clear of people and made a series of six wide angle shots. Although hand held, I was able to stitch them together using PTGui to create this panorama. The low, misty winter sun imparts just enough light to bring the marble to life. Understated yet dramatic, the image provides an unusual perspective on this most familiar landmark. ...more