Sunday 13 December 2015

Tidal energy turbine

I've spent the weekend photographing the deployment of Tidal Energy's Deltastream turbine in Ramsey Sound. What an achievement by a truly excellent team that I am proud to be part of in a small way. I have documented the build up to this groundbreaking point. This is the moment that the "Daffodil" finally disappears under the water. It will soon be generating clean electricity.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Skomer Island Photography Workshop Participant's Portfolio 2015

I have published the Skomer Island Photography Workshop Participant's Portfolio 2015's%20Portfolio%202015.pdf

Sunday 15 November 2015

Thursday 12 November 2015

Dance of the Scallop

Scallops are one of my favourite subjects to film and photograph underwater as they "dance" away when threatened by a predator. These were filmed in August and I wish I could have spent many more hours capturing them with different lenses. I've just notioced many more interesting subjects watching these clips again such as gobies, anemones and brittle stars. Looks like I will have to wait for next year now to capture these. This was filmed in the Skomer Marine Marine Conservation Zone where it is illegal to take scallops.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

New photography workshop

I have created a page for the new Slimbridge Photography Workshops here

Aberystwyth Pier and starling murmuration

Now is a great time to shoot starling murmurations. This shot was taken at Aberystwyth pier last year before I gave a talk to Aberystwyth Camera Club. Look for where you can shoot the scene "contre jour", or against the light, to silhouette the birds and other features such as the pier structure or trees etc. Image settings were 300mm, f/11, 1/6sec, ISO 31, Exp comp -0.3

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Starling murmuration

I finally managed to get some footage of the starling murmuration at Slebech yesterday at dusk after several visits over the past few years. Most of the groups came in and dropped straight into the reedbed as there were no raptors seen. Must rate as one of the top wildlife spectacles in the world. This has just inspired me to go back again even though it is a real hike to get this viewpoint. 

Skomer dates for 2016

Skomer dates for 2016 are here

Sunday 16 August 2015

Paul Evans' gallery

Some cracking bird in flight shots by Paul from a workshop in May when the bluebells were out:

Mary and Arthur's galleries

Lovely comments and galleries from Mary and Arthur:
"I have been checking your page and looking at the latest photos which are all excellent and to see the pufflings now well out of the burrows must be a delight. I really can't get that wonderful day out of my mind and wished we were closer as it seems to us you could visit every month from April to October and get different photographs every time. Anyway looking forward to downloading the 2015 photos - I have downloaded the 2014 they were fantastic.

Friday 7 August 2015

Nigel Dell's Gallery

I had a really hard job picking Nigel's profile pic with 5 cracking in flight puffin shots to choose from!

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Grassholm Island boat trip gallery by Dave Godfrey

Dave managed to capture an amazing shot of four puffins in flight all with their beaks full of sandeels

New Skomer galleries from workshop particpants

Galleries from Skomer by Julia Burrows, Colin Whitcombe, Lesley Gooding and Pete Llewellyn whose pic is featured

Grassholm galleries

Some excellent galleries from the Grassholm trip last month from Lyndon Lomax and Colin Whitecombe

Monday 27 July 2015

New contract

I've been commissioned by the National Trust to produce 6 videos about the Marloes Peninsula, probably my most favourite location in the world and one that I consider as my spiritual home! I was at Marloes Mere on Saturday evening and the rushes were alive with emerald, blue-tailed and azure damselflies.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Pufflings on Skomer

I saw more pufflings at the entrance to their burrows in one day on Skomer last Saturday than I have seen in total in the last five years. It seemed like that everywhere you turned one would be there watching you. Pity the weather was rubbish on Sunday as I think there would have been a mass exodus. Perhaps they have left in the rain today?

Monday 29 June 2015

Grassholm trip, 2nd July

Thursday 2nd July is looking good for the Grassholm trip. I'm thinking of trying to look for common dolphins and Minke whales as there have been good sightings lately in Pembrokeshire Coast waters. There are still some places available on the Dale Princess where there will be plenty of room as we can only take 12 passengers. Please share and email me if you want to come. Further details are here

Sunday 28 June 2015

Group of puffins

Groups of puffins have been collecting from time to time this year on the rocks on the left as you go up the track from the Warden's meeting point on Skomer Island. This group took flight when they were buzzed by a gull.

The Holy Grail - puffin in flight with sandeels

The Holy Grail shot of a puffin in flight with sandeels with the Wick wall forming the out of focus background. Taken with a Nikon​ D810 and the new 300mm F4 fresnel lens at F7.1, 1/640sec and ISO 500. This shutter speed requires panning with the bird and gives some blur to the wings to maintain the impression of movement.

PIFs - Puffins in flight!

I've been experimenting with various lenses for capturing puffins in flight on Skomer Island​ this season. This image was shot with the D810 and the new Nikkor 300mm F4 fresnel lens which is wonderfully short, light and easy to maneuver. It is a composite of five shots from a sequence of 6 of which one was out of focus and has been omitted. The resulting image is 834MB! The Nikon​ 70-200mm VR II gives a might higher hit rate of in focus images but the size of the puffin is correspondingly smaller. A 300mm on a full frame camera is the best option for capturing frame-filling shots. A 70-200mm on a cropped-sensor would be the best option.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Grassholm Island

I'm hoping to run a Grassholm trip next week if the weather is good. See here for details.

Monday 22 June 2015

More puffin in flight shots!

Yet more great in-flight shots by David with the Holy Grail of image of a puffin captured in mid-air with a beak full of sandeels!

Friday 19 June 2015

Amazing in-flight puffin shots by Kevin Williams

I thought the Skomer Island​ Photography Workshop on Skomer on the 16th June might have produced the record for in-flight puffin shots by the group but I think Kevin has done this on his own! Gallery by Kevin Willams I don't think I've seen two in the air in the same shot!!

Friday 5 June 2015

A carpet of pink!

The cliffs of Pembrokeshire have been painted pink this year by the best display of thrift (or sea pink) in living memory. This is probably as a result of the incredible storms last winter that doused coastal areas in salt spray.

Monday 1 June 2015

Gannet in flight at Grassholm

The two images demonstrate the flexibility of the Nikon D810 in being able to crop in to the subject using the 36MP that are available. This effectively turns the field of view of 300mm F4 lens into a 600mm F4. I have just bought the new Fresnel 300F4 which I can't wait to try out on puffins in flight on Skomer.

The adults are now bringing in sandeels to feed their newly hatched chicks.

Thursday 28 May 2015

New Skomer galleries

New galleries from recent participants Tony and Ann can be seen here and here

Friday 22 May 2015

Top 10 wildlife spots in Pembrokeshire

1. Skomer and Skokholm
These two islands are world famous wildlife destinations thanks to their colonies of sea birds – puffins, guillemots, razorbills and Manx shearwaters. It really is like visiting another world when you step off the ferry and climb the steps with razorbills and guillemots on the ledges just on your right. The puffins have no fear of man and will literally walk over your feet at the Wick - the largest seabird cliff on Skomer. Visit from April to the end of July to see auks and in August porpoise and gannets are often seen in the tidal races around Skomer. September is the time to see Atlantic grey seal pups on North Haven. Click on this link for details of the Skomer Island Photography Workshop.

2. Stackpole National Trust National Nature Reserve
This man made reserve is great to visit at any time of year. In spring, the woods are carpeted in wild garlic, wood anemones and bluebells and in late May the three arms of the lake are covered in lilies. Mere Pool Valley, at the back of the stunning beach of Broad Haven South, is a delight, with several orchid species and over 22 different dragonflies recorded. Autumn and winter are a great time to see migrating birds; bitterns make regular visits and the robins and blue tits will feed from your hand. The highlight though, is the chance to see otters in the wild, with two families living in the lakes. Click on this link for details of the Stackpole NNR Photography Workshop.

3. Elegug Stacks and the Green Bridge of Wales
Elegug is the Welsh for guillemot, and two colonies of these birds occupy two limestone stacks on the south coast of Pembrokeshire, the largest just 40 metres from the mainland cliff. The birds arrive in early Spring and have raised their chicks by mid-July. The summits of the stacks are crammed with guillemots with razorbills  and kittiwakes occupying the narrow ledges below. Other species of interest include fulmar petrel, chough and peregrine falcon. Just to the west is the majestic natural limestone arch of the Green Bridge of Wales. This is one of the locations on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Photography Workshop.

The cliffs are part of the Castlemartin Firing Range (open most evenings, at weekends and in school holidays). For further information on live firing times, contact 01646 662336 (manned during firing), 01646 662367 (recorded message) or from the gatehouse 01646 662280 (manned 24 hours a day).

4. Cemaes Head and Traeth Godi’r Coch
At 167 metres Cemaes Head in the most northerly part of Pembrokeshire is the highest sea cliff in Wales. The inaccessible pebbly beach below is the location for the largest Atlantic grey seal haul out during the winter months in Pembrokeshire with up to 200 seals seen at the same time . It is also an important breeding site where many pups are born from late August to December. Ravens, kestrels and peregrines cruise along the cliffs together with chough, an iconic bird with a distinctive call. Take the cliff path at the end of the road to the west of Poppit Sands, where there is a car park at the farm.

5. Grassholm island
Situated 7 miles due west of Skomer, Grassholm is home to more than 79,000 breeding gannets, together with a number of “club birds” who have yet to reach maturity, bringing the total to nearly 100,000. It is the third most important site for northern gannets in the world, after St Kilda and Bass Rock in Scotland, and is managed by the RSPB. Guillemots also nest on the island and Atlantic grey seals can be seen swimming in the water and on the rocks. Late evening is the time to witness great rafts of Manx shearwaters gathering in St Brides Bay as they wait for the sun to set to return to their burrows on Skomer. See here for my evening boat trips.

6. Westfield Pill
Located along a valley just north of Neyland on the Milford Haven Estuary, this nature reserve is managed by the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales. A 20-acre lake runs along the valley, where the Great Western Railway once ran. Winter is a great time see migrating wildfowl and over half the Pembrokeshire population of little grebe winter here together with goldeneye. Other highlights include a resident otter family and kingfishers. Don’t be surprised if you are surrounded by blue tits, great tits and robins on the bridge at the north in winter months, as many of the locals feed the birds here. This is one of the locations on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Photography Workshop.
See the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales' website for more information.

7. Deer Park and Marloes Mere
The Deer Park overlooks Jack Sound and Skomer Island at the end of the Marloes peninsula. A former Iron Age coastal fort on a grand scale, it was the intention of Lord Kensington to keep deer here but his plan never came to fruition. It is one of the best mainland sites to see Atlantic grey seals – they use the two coves on the headland to raise their young from the end of August to the end of December. It is an enchanting experience to sit on the cliff on a still evening and listen to the cries of the pups echoing around the natural amphitheatre. Chough are invariably seen along the cliffs and Wooltack Point is a great location for viewing porpoise. This is location for the St Brides Castle and Marloes Peninsula Photography Workshop.

8. St Brides Haven
This pretty fisherman’s cove has a delightful sandy beach exposed at low tide bordered by fascinating rock pools. These contain a wide diversity of intertidal marine plants and animals, including a fascinating collection of anemones. Look out for snakelocks, gem, beadlet and dahlia as well as fish such as the shanny. The reef on either side of the cove has a kelp forest which is an excellent snorkelling area – reef fish, such pollack and wrasse, are plentiful swimming among the kelp fronds whereas the rock crevices are full of prawns, crabs and lobsters. This is location for the St Brides Castle and Marloes Peninsula Photography Workshop.

9. Minwear and Blackpool Mill on the Eastern Cleddau
Minwear Woods have an excellent collection of woodland birds and spectacular covering of woodland flowers in spring. Keep an eye out for waterside birds such as heron, kingfisher, wagtail and dipper along the banks of the river. The reedbeds on the Eastern Cleddau at Minwear, are used as a roost by hundreds of thousands of starlings in October. The birds arrive in the valley in small flocks that coalesce into a magical whirling shapes formed by thousands of birds seemingly acting as one. The best place to enjoy this spectacle is from the viewpoint on the southern bank of the estuary in Minwear Wood. This is one of the locations on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Photography Workshop.

10. Ty Canol
This is an ancient woodland that has never been felled and there have been trees here for over 6,000 years. It is special for its boulder-strewn landscape which has an exceptionally rich collection of lichens growing on the stones and trees. Nearby is the impressive Neolithic site, Pentre Ifan Cromlech, and the woodland represents the type of forest that grew here when the tomb was in use around 4000 BC. It is easy to imagine the Welsh druids walking among the lichen-covered boulders and twisted oak trees. This is one of the locations on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Photography Workshop.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Skomer Gallery by Melanie Evans

This is lovely gallery by Melanie Evans from the first day that the Dale Princess sailed to Skomer Island​ this year on the 5th April.

The Picture Taking Process - 10 steps

I've broken this down into the following 10 steps which I hope you will find useful. Please share!

The key to improving your photography is to go out with the camera, relax, take your time and go through the picture taking process:

1. Find a location.

2. Choose your subject and how it is lit. Decide on your angle of lighting.

3. Decide which lens you will use i.e. select your focal length which controls field of view and perspective (the relative size of objects and how far apart they appear to be).

4. Use Aperture Priority mode and choose your aperture which controls depth of field. A small F stop number is a wide aperture which results in a shallow depth of field which isolates your subject against an out of focus foreground and background

5. Roughly compose your picture and see what shutter speed your camera is giving you. Remember how your point of view (POV) changes the dynamic of your picture. Getting down at the same level is often a good idea.

6. Increase your ISO if you need a faster shutter speed (make sure you set your ISO back to its lowest setting before each new subject). Higher ISOs result in noisier pictures.

7. Take a test shot and look at the overview screen, highlight warning screen and histogram. Decide which part of your scene is the brightest and position this at the best point in your histogram (bar graph). Is there is a white this should be represented in the last columns on the right of the histogram.

8. Use exposure exposition to adjust your exposure if required.

9. Work on the composition remembering that you are “Writing with Light”. Understand your scene from how your eyes and brain are reading it.

10. Take a step back and consider other ways in which your subject could be captured by changing your POV, lighting, focal length, aperture and shutter speed.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Skomer Island Photography Workshop 13th May 2015

The workshop yesterday went well with Skomer Island now coming into its best with a fantastic display of bluebells coming through. There is the best display of sea campion on the cliff slopes above South Haven on the way to High Cliff I have ever seen. It has been confirmed that the puffins have now started to lay eggs so adults will be coming in with sandeels in around 3 weeks time at the beginning of June. The guillemots starting laying eggs on the ledges in April so this is regarded as being an early season for them. There is a whole mass of them on the ledges at the landing with great interaction between them.

Thursday 30 April 2015

First Skomer Island photography workshop

The Skomer Island Photography Workshop season kicked off with a bang on the 5th April on the first day that the ferry could run due to windy conditions on the previous 4 days. The puffins turned up on land with 10 or more at times in the afternoon. The winter seal haulout in North Haven was the largest I have ever seen. Can you count them? Extra bonus if you can count the bulls and cows separately.

Monday 27 April 2015

Tripadvisor review

Many thanks to Andy Lamnea for this great review of the Skomer Island Photography Workshops

Tripadvisor Review

Sunday 19 April 2015

Dog voilet

I have been trying to create a pleasing composition of a dog violet for many years and came across this one yesterday at Monk Haven. Taken just before the sun was dropped below the trees in the valley with a Nikon​ D810 hand-held, 60mm macro lens, F6.3, 1/640sec ISO 2000. The wide aperture created the shallow depth of depth directing the viewer to the veins that lead to the stamens. This is their purpose in guiding an insect to pollinate the flower. I hope you like it.

Thursday 19 March 2015

Depth of field simulator

I've just found this and started to experiment Looks like to will be very useful in teaching depth of field.

Monday 9 March 2015

Gower coastal photography

The forecast for yesterday was for heavy rain in the morning possibly clearing in the afternoon. Potentially the best forecast a landscape photographer could have! The rain clears the atmosphere of dust letting the winter light penetrate to illuminate the colours in the landscape. I needed to shoot a new cover image for my walking guide to Gower which will be out as a new edition in October. A quick check of the tide times and I was in luck as the low tide was early afternoon and it was a spring meaning a the really low tide would expose more of the beaches.

I impatiently waited for the sky to look a bit more promising from my house window in the Gwendraeth Fach valley and decided at 2pm to give it a go. I headed straight for the car park at Penmaen and from there it is a short walk to one of the best landscape views in the UK of Three Cliffs Bay. The sky had an excellent cloud structure with a "cloud train" running in thr direction with my focal point of the Three Cliffs.

I knew these clouds were not going to last and a couple of hours later, the sky was an uninterrupted blue spelling the end to any landscape photos. The beach was popular that afernoon as many had taken the opportunity to go out for a walk and it was surprisingly busy with horse-riders. All these elements added scale and interest to the scene.

I then walked to the headland to the east of the bay to capture a different angle as the tide turned and rapidly advanced up the beach. The plus side of having a 36MP sensor is that you can readily crop into an image in a number of ways including creating a panoramic image. I can remember the days when only a rich few could afford a 16 x 9 Fuji film camera!

Thursday 5 March 2015

Mountain landscape photography

I ran a one-to-one mountain landscape workshop in Mynydd Du, The Black Mountain, in the Brecon Beacons National Park yesterday. It had snowed on Sunday night and the cold temperatures meant that the tops were still covered. High ground can easily be gained by driving over the mountain road from Brynamman and walking east from the car park to the summit of Foel Fawr.
The forecast was for clear blue skies which would not be good as there would be no interest/structure in the sky. As it turned out, we had the opposite problem as the mountain front to the north was creating a thick cloud bank.
We found some interesting foreground looking over to the Carmarthen Fans and the challenge was to create some sort of order

out of chaos, trying to find an arrangement that would would lead the eye to the mountains beyond. We waited and waited for a break in the clouds to hit the mountain slope in the background which would add depth and interest but we were unlucky on this occasion.
Following to the road to the north and then taking a narrow mountain road leads to some of the best viewpoints for Carreg Cennen Castle.

Advice for a first time exhibitor

I've just been having a discussion with someone who is exhibiting their work for the first time and my first pieces of advice are:

The first reaction people have when they see an image is emotion so I would make sure that all of your selected images are going to evoke a feeling in the viewer.

Secondly, you need to convey your personality in communicating this so it is important that your selected images do not invoke multiple psyches. So, avoid displaying multiple styles. Try and put differing themes on separate walls so that there is a clear distinction where one chapter ends and another begins.

Thirdly, I would select images that the viewer will admire for your photographic skill and creativity i.e. they should not feel "well I could have done that!"

Wednesday 25 February 2015

New species found?!

A forage for marine wildlife specimens during last week's spring tides on the foreshore at St Brides Haven, Pembrokeshire, led my companion, Mike Crutchley, to collect a sample of an encrusting algae from a rockpool. Back in his lab, he noticed a minute creature living in a crack in the red algae. We imaged this using a Zeiss Tessovar and found an interesting creature that the experts are still trying to identify. Each "head" is about 1-2mm across and the best bet is that it is an anemone but which species is not known at the moment.

Thursday 5 February 2015

First photography workshop of 2015

I ran the first photography workshop of 2015 yesterday with Hannah, Adam and Ellis at Dinefwr. It was a crisp and sunny day with great views form the castle and the best scene was in the afternoon when the whole of the fallow deer herd gathered in the valley in front of Newton House.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Zeiss microscope

I have just sent my D810 off to Nikon for the service recall and am looking forward to putting the Easycover on it when it comes back. Also fitted a DIC condenser to the Zeiss Ultraphot microscope I bought a few weeks ago and my friend Mike is modifying the camera tube to be parfocal with the eyepieces as well as making an LED light source. It is time to search out the first flowering snowdrops!

Photography Workshops 2015

This year will see new weekend and short-stay breaks based at Slate Mill Lodge which is only five minutes away from the departure point for Skomer Island. I am in the process of building two hides here, one for photographing kingfishers and the other for woodland birds. A barn owl nests close by and is being seen frequently hunting over the nearby reedbed. A day on Skomer can be combined with another day shooting landscapes or wildlife or a combination of both. See here for details of Slate Mill Lodge