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.