2015 Articles

Aurora at Sycamore Gap

31/12/2015

I made this image of Sycamore Gap in Northumberland after 10pm on New Year's Eve, during a brief period of clear skies. Getting there involved hiking over saturated ground, then up and down steep steps along Hadrian's Wall, all in darkness. I composed looking due north, the stark winter branches of the famous sycamore taking centre-stage, framed by the steep slopes of the Whin Sill on either side. My plan was to show the tree silhouetted against the night sky with the pale band of the Milky Way to its left. It was only when I downloaded the image to my computer that I realised I had also captured the green glow of an aurora borealis along the northern horizon. ...more

The Wave

20/12/2015

The Wave is sandstone at its most psychedelic. The rock formation is located in Coyote Buttes North, on the Arizona/Utah border. It can only be visited by permit, of which just 20 are issued each day by lottery. I have tried for a permit before, unsuccessfully, but this time my number came up. In midwinter the sun only just reaches high enough in the sky to illuminate the whole rock formation. However, I prefer the more saturated colours created by bright, overcast conditions. This image was made in late morning as thin cloud covered the sun. I composed with a swirl of sandstone leading the eye from the foreground towards two further formations striated in contrasting directions. Excluding the sky and any familiar point of reference gives the resulting image an abstract quality. ...more

Snow Geese Mosaic

10/12/2015

The flight of overwintering snow geese at Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge in New Mexico is a great wildlife spectacle. According to text books, the geese are supposed to fly at dawn but it seemed they had not read the book. I waited all morning as a flock of several thousand loafed in a lagoon. Then a helicopter flew overhead and simultaneously they all took to the air . With a 400mm lens mounted on my Canon 5D Mark III, I had preselected ISO 500 to enable me to lock in an exposure of 1/1000th second and F/16. That combination gave me the shutter speed and depth of field to ensure the whole flock is sharp. In this instance, both preparation and patience paid off. ...more

Grand Canyon

06/12/2015

Images made from the canyon rim can lack sufficient foreground to give a sense of perspective and the huge scale of this superlative landscape. I descended South Kaibab Trail early on a freezing cold winter morning to Ooh-Aah Point. Arriving in complete darkness, I waited for dawn to unveil a splendid panorama across Cedar Ridge to the multiple chasms of the North Rim. I was fortunate that before the sun rose over the South Rim behind me, it lit up clouds across the whole sky in glorious shades of pink. That ethereal light was reflected into the canyon, perfectly complementing the many hues of its sedimentary layers. For more images of the Colorado Plateau in winter, see my United States Gallery. ...more

Great spotted woodpecker

21/11/2015

I photographed this Great Spotted Woodpecker from my garden bird hide. To attract the woodpecker, I cut a groove down the length of a log with a chainsaw and filled the groove with lard and peanuts. The log was then positioned in from of my hide so the groove was at right angles to my line of sight, out of view. A diffuse background was provided by the evergreen foliage of a giant redwood tree, about 20 metres beyond the log. I had to wait a little over an hour for the woodpecker to arrive. There was sufficient lard and peanuts to keep it busy for several minutes while I made my images using a 400mm telephoto lens. ...more

Ystradfellte Waterfalls

07/11/2015

Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn (Fall of the Lower White Meadow) at Ystradfellte in Brecon Beacons is a spectacular, multi-tiered waterfall. After days of heavy rain, the falls were in spate and most of the rock architecture was hidden so I composed with ferns provided foreground interest. A faster shutter speed was needed than usual for waterfalls in order to In order to show some detail and texture in the torrent of falling water. Shooting at F/20, I increased the ISO to 400 in order to achieve a exposure of 1/8th second. ...more

Valley of Rocks

01/11/2015

Valley of Rocks on the Exmoor Coast is a distinctive and well-visited location. In order to find a new perspective, I climbed Hollerday Hill from Lynton to look down into the valley from the east. In mid-afternoon the rock pinnacle was slightly backlit by low autumn sun, showing the warm colours and texture of the dead bracken around it. Meanwhile, the Bristol Channel beyond was swathed in sea fog, providing a pleasingly diffuse background. I cropped fairly tightly using a medium telephoto and waited until a car was in the foreground to show the scale of this striking feature. ...more

Landscape Photographer of the Year Competition - Commended Image

19/10/2015

My image of one of last year's storms has been commended by the judges of the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition 2015. I made the image on 12 February 2014 at Porthcawl, to which I travelled for afternoon high tide after the Met Office forecast hurricane force 12 winds in the Bristol Channel. I selected my shooting position as a shelter well back from the most exposed end of the promenade. This enabled me to capture waves breaking around the lighthouse with my 400mm lens, compressing perspective. I chose to include people standing on the end of the promenade to give scale to this huge wave and add to the drama of the image. The picture is included in the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2015 book, published today. ...more

Dartmoor Photography Workshop

11/10/2015

My second autumn Dartmoor Photography Workshop was for 18 members of Devizes Camera Club and their partners. Weather conditions were dry but mostly overcast and we made the most of opportunities for creative images of Wistman's Wood and waterfalls across the Moor, all of which photograph best in low-contrast lighting conditions. Venford Falls, illustrated here, is reached by a steep descent into a wooded valley, where the damp atmosphere creates a verdant setting of luxuriant mosses and ferns. Whilst the sun was shining, we made images of St Michael's Church on the summit of Brentor, then ascended Great Staple Tor for sunset and after dark practiced light painting at Postbridge Clapper Bridge. For more details see Devizes Camera Club website. ...more

Lunar Eclipse

28/09/2015

The lunar eclipse of 28 September was the first for some years to be visible in England under clear skies. I made a sequence of images every ten minutes from 1.50am to 6.00am using my 400mm telephoto lens and then assembled a selection into a photomontage sequence. During totality, the moon was illuminated by sunlight refracted through the earth's atmosphere, turning it a beautiful copper red. The eclipsed moon is, however, only 1/1000th as bright as the directly illuminated full moon, so I adjusted the exposure during the eclipse from 1/250th second at ISO 100 to 1 second at ISO 3200. All images were taken at F/5.6. ...more

Dartmoor Photography Workshop

12/09/2015

I led a group of nine photographers from Newbury Camera Club for a weekend landscape workshop on Dartmoor. Subjects covered included tors, woodland, rivers and waterfalls. The group practiced techniques such as selecting the best viewpoint, creative composition, slow shutter speeds and painting with light. This image was made in Tavy Cleave using a ten stop neutral density filter to give a shutter speed of 0.8 seconds, pleasingly blurring the flow of water to create lead the eye from the foreground through the image to the waterfall framed by rocks and the hillside beyond, dotted with flowering gorse and heather. I waited until clouds was in just the right place to complete the composition. ...more

Milky Way

04/09/2015

Namibia's dry air and exceptionally dark skies are excellent for astrophotography. I created this image by stitching together ten overlapping frames, each exposed for 20 seconds at F/2 and ISO 3200. My selected location was the Mesosaurus Fossil Site north-west of Keetsmanshoop. During an earlier daylight visit, I identified the potential of dolerite rock columns and quiver trees to form interesting silhouettes, making a strong foreground for this late night panorama. The image includes the brightest part of the Milky Way, within which lies the centre of our galaxy. To the left can be seen two satellite galaxies, the Large and Small Magellenic Clouds, which are never visible from Europe. ...more

Dead Vlei

30/08/2015

This vlei or pan in the Namib desert has been cut off by a migrating sand dune from floods that used to be brought by the Tsauchab River. Deprived of water, the acacia trees that once grew here died, their skeletal remains preserved by the dry desert air. As the sun rises over the dunes that now encircle the pan, the cadaverous dead trees are thrown into stark relief against golden sand. For more desert images, visit my Nambia Gallery. ...more

Giraffe

24/08/2015

We waited by Jakkalswater in Namibia's Etosha National Park all afternoon. Early on, springbok, gemsbok, eland, wildebeest, zebra and ostrich were drinking at the waterhole. In mid afternoon, a lioness arrived and they all retreated to a safe distance. As the afternoon wore on, 32 giraffes arrived and formed a well-mannered queue. Giraffes are generally safe from lions but when drinking they must bend down, making them vulnerable to predation. Obviously thirsty, none of them dared to drink whilst the lion remained in occupation of the waterhole. Eventually a herd of 12 elephants appeared, sending the lioness running. The elephants stayed for nearly an hour, drinking, bathing and wallowing, after which it was finally the turn of the giraffes. I framed tightly to emphasise how this most elegant animal is forced to adopt an ungainly posture in order to quench its thirst. ...more

Giant's Causeway

19/07/2015

The Giant's Causeway, on Northern Ireland's Antrim Coast, comprises a remarkable formation of hexagonal basalt columns exposed by the sea. I made this image long after sunset as a wave inundated part of the foreground. A 30 second exposure renders the moving water misty in appearance and shows the form of the basalt columns beneath it drains away. A portrait format enabled me to show the form and scale of the Causeway together with a little colour in the sky. ...more

Silver-Studded Blue

05/07/2015

A tiny, jewel-like butterfly, the Silver-Studded Blue in confined to heathlands. I arrived at Winfrith Heath in Dorset just as the butterflies were settling down for the evening and found one clinging to a heather flower. The image was made with a macro lens, the camera carefully positioned on a tripod so that all of the wings were sharp at F/11 but the background pleasingly diffuse and free of distractions. As the sun dropped towards the horizon, it was reflected by the silver studs that give this butterfly its name. ...more

Lightning

03/07/2015

After a week of sunshine and rising temperatures, an intense thunderstorm passed over Wiltshire around midnight on Friday. I set up a composition at Avebury stone circle whilst the storm was still several miles away, its approach signalled by lighting up the south-west horizon. As the storm arrived, I made a sequence of 30 second exposures. I had planned to light the stones with a powerful hand torch but that proved unnecessary as lightning almost overhead did the job for me, giving very even, non-directional illumination with no shadows. On this 30 second exposure I captured four bolts of lightning in the background, one arching down from a dark cloud and back up again. A few minutes later the rain started, leaving me drenched and the main road through Avebury carrying a torrent of surface flood water. I described the technique for making this image in two interviews I was invited to give on BBC Local Radio. ...more

Sark

27/06/2015

The fourth largest of the Channel Islands, Sark has 600 residents but no cars. For visitors, transport is by bicycle or horse drawn carriage. I was intrigued by the photographic potential of La Coupee, a narrow isthmus connecting Big Sark and Little Sark, so I made a number of excursions to photograph it during a three day visit to the island. Having enquired when a horse and carriage would be crossing La Coupee, I selected a viewpoint to show the elevated roadway winding its way from Little Sark with the blue ocean beyond. For more images of the island see my Sark Gallery. ...more

EFIAP Award

01/06/2015

I have today received an Excellence award from the Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique (EFIAP). FIAP awards distinctions for photographic merit based primarily on acceptances in international exhibitions. The minimum requirement for the EFIAP award is to have achieved at least 250 acceptances (including 25 prints) of 50 different images in 30 exhibitions across 20 countries. My EFIAP is based on 304 acceptances (of which 27 are prints) of 115 different images in 23 countries, up to December 2014. All 115 accepted images can be seen in my International Exhibitions Gallery, in my Illustrated Talk One Hundred and Fifteen Steps to Excellence and in a printed hardback book (copies available for purchase on request). ...more

Bittern

29/05/2015

I led a photography weekend in Suffolk at the end of May, focusing on the unique, little-known landscape of Orfordness and the rich bird life of Minsmere. A particular objective was to photograph one of Britain's most elusive breeding birds, the bittern. The group waited for several hours in an elevated hide overlooking England's largest reedbed. Whilst their booming call cannot be mistaken, bitterns are shy, their skulking habits and superb camouflage making them hard to see. Eventually we were rewarded when one walked out of the reeds and crossed open water, giving us a few seconds in which to capture images in superb evening light. I selected this composition as it shows the bittern in its habitat, surrounded by young reeds. ...more

Storm over Cherhill Down

12/05/2015

The advantage of photography close to home is being able to wait for exactly the right conditions. This image of Cherhill Down was several years in planning. It all came together when the white horse was re-chalked in early May, oil seed rape was flowering in the western field adjacent to the Down and I noticed the potential for a dark cloudy sky to the south with the evening sun shining from clear sky to the north-west. My composition is balanced by the white horse and Lansdowne monument on opposing thirds and the contrast of the bright yellow oil seed rape with the stormy sky. ...more

Glen Affric

09/04/2015

Glen Affric's tranquil lochs fringed by native forest and surrounded by mountains are a vision of Scotland as it must once have been. Arriving at dawn, we were rewarded by perfect light and reflections. I waited for this boat to drift into exactly the orientation I wanted before pressing my shutter. For more pictures from Glen Affric, see my Scottish Highlands Gallery. ...more

Mountain Hare

05/04/2015

The Cairngorms are a stronghold for mountain hares, which unlike lowland brown hares, turn white in winter. Early April is a good time to photograph them, as the snow melts just before they moult their winter coats. For a couple of weeks, this makes the normally well camouflaged mountain hares very easy to see. The population on the steep slopes around Findhorn Valley is quite accustomed to people, enabling us to approach them on foot. This individual was relatively untroubled by our presence, as it groomed, washed its ears, stretched and finally yawned whilst I made a series of images using a 500mm lens. ...more

Caledonian Pine Forest

04/04/2015

Scotland's largest remaining area of Caledonian forest is at Abernethy in Cairngorms National Park. I noticed the fallen branch of this ancient pine tree on the forest edge and thought it would make a good foreground, leading the eye into the main subject. Returning just before sunset, I was rewarded by beautiful light and a dark sky beyond. I had only a few minutes to set up, compose and make the image before the light was gone. ...more

Night Sky, Salisbury Plain

22/03/2015

This image of the whole night sky was made using an 8mm focal length fish-eye lens on my Canon 5D Mark III. I placed the camera flat on its back in the centre of an almost complete circle of trees high on Salisbury Plain and captured a continuous sequence of 86 frames, each exposed for 30 seconds. By combining all the frames, the resulting image shows the entire night sky as the earth rotates over a period of 43 minutes. The brightest trail, just above centre, is that of Jupiter, whilst Venus sits low on the western horizon and Sirius is in the north-west. Two meteors can be seen crossing the star trails. For a short duration exposure at the same location, giving an image of the night sky as seen by eye, see my Night Sky Gallery. ...more

Glamorgan Coast

04/02/2015

The coast of Glamorgan is one of the most spectacular in Britain. Pounded by Atlantic waves and overlooked by dramatic limestone cliffs, the scale of this little-known landscape is awesome. Facing south-west, it is ideally oriented for late afternoon winter sun. I made this image of Traeth Beach about an hour before sunset as the rising tide was about to flood the pool of water and disturb the perfect reflection. I chose to include some sand ripples within the pool to frame the shot at its base. ...more

Running on Ice

23/01/2015

Ice presents birds with challenging conditions in which to take off and land. This mute swan successfully became airborne after a slightly undignified run across a frozen lake at Welney Wettand Centre in Norfolk. ...more

Reflective Pochard

08/01/2015

A morning of heavy rain gave way to an afternoon of sunshine and I arrived at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve at Slimbridge just as the sun emerged. Rain had calmed the water, giving it a beautiful reflective quality. In early January, even midday light can be pleasing. Pochards are amongst my favourite ducks as their colours seem so complementary. Although resting, this one kept a watchful eye on me. For more winter wildfowl pictures, see my Winter Wildfowl and Waders Gallery. ...more