Winter Bird Workshop 2019

Typical Winter weather.....Of course, the weather would have to be its usual unhelpful self for our first workshop of 2019 - the Birds in Flight Winter workshop.  We braved the bracing wind though, and we had a great time with the Jays, then on to the gulls for flight photography, and a wee smattering of woodland regulars thrown in too.

Attendee ShowcaseDavid & Carolyn have been veterans of our bird & macro courses over a couple of years now, and always come away learning new ideas and tips, and also helping others in the way they always do.  Absolute gems of people and I hope to see them again soon 😊
Here are some of their shots from this workshop, where they enjoyed the jay site, gulls and woodland birds.  Enjoy!

David's work (posted with permission) :

Carolyn's work (posted with permission) :

Both did really well given the challenging light and the wind that not only carried the birds at a ridiculous speed past us but froze us too.  It's always nice to showcase the …

3 Winter Species to Photograph

Winter MigrationsIt's not just the landscape that changes over the season, but the birdlife and wildlife get a major change of personnel as the colder seasons arrive.  Gone are the agile terns, so much a part of our coastal shingle beaches in the summer. The swallows and martins who take up residence on our houses, barns, and outhouses, are safely back home in Africa.
In their place come the geese and swans, waders in massive numbers, and wildfowl of all kinds become the staple of our lakes, loughs, and coastline.  The seals pup at the start of winter, then immediately go into season, making for a chaotic change of pace to the normal lumbering summer lifestyle of these mammals.

1. Seal PupsThis has been a target of mine for a long time, I've always wanted to capture the cuteness and typical furriness of the young pups, and this year I had the chance to visit a colony of grey and common seals a few weeks after the pupping season had tailed off.  Many pups were a good few weeks ol…

Shooting Birds at Low Shutter Speeds

Shooting at Low Speeds Handheld
Light is the most important component of any photograph, be it nature, landscape, weddings etc.  If you don't have the light, you can't create the image. Or can you?  There comes a time in every nature photographer's sessions, where the light is just not there. It's not that it's bad light, more like there is very little of it.  Using Aperture Priority mode will let you know what shutter speed the camera thinks is best for the current light, and ISO you have selected, so you'll know if the shot is feasible or not.
Auto ISO will give you reasonable speeds, with the trade off of noise when the ISO levels get into 4 figures (1***+), depending on if you are using a crop sensor or full frame body.
Tripods help of course, but are not always practical depending on the situation.

Techniques Everyone who read or youtubed their way into photography will have been told the "don't shoot lower than your focal length" rule.  Simply, th…

Autumn Woodland Workshop

Autumnal Weekend Workshop GoodnessWe had a ball on the woodland/fungi/autumnal photography weekend from Saturday 19th through Sunday 30th September.  Last year storm Ophelia put this workshop back a month and damaged the woodland enough to wipe out all the interesting mushrooms and fungi; this time round we had storm Ali the week before, and although trees were down, the mushrooms survived!

Woodland PhotographyThe woods at Oxford Island are loaded with photo opportunities in the Autumnal season, not least the mushrooms and fungus that thrive in the leaflitter and trees that have fallen over the years.  The sloe berries are ripe, blackberries are providing food sources for insects and birds, the leaves are wonderfully bright coloured as the chlorophyll starts to disappear.....what a great time to be out in the woods with a group of photographers teaching nature, photography and an appreciation of the wild.

FungiThe most obvious opportunity for photography in the woods this time of year i…

3 Autumn Photography Ideas

Autumn Photography IdeasWe've had out first storm (named Ali), the Christmas decorations are in the shops and there's a carpet leaves beginning to form on the ground.  It can only mean one thing.....Autumn is upon us!
The birds are on the move now, leading to quiet periods on the local patches and reserves, but the chances of a special migrant still stay high.  Buzzards are active on the calm days and waders start to appear in big numbers along with the numerous geese we are used to seeing on the wetlands.
If you plan to go out with the camera between the windy, stormy days, here are 3 ideas to keep you busy and to challenge your techniques

FungiAlways a winner this time of year, fungi and mushrooms can make great subjects in the woodland and grasslands of the countryside - they are there in a abundance now, with hundreds of species available to us to explore. Do be careful, many can be dangerous, but taking nothing but pictures should keep you safe ;)
You can use standard macro s…

Macro Workshop at RSPB Portmore Lough

Portmore LoughOur second macro workshop, and fifth in total for 2018 was held at RSPB Portmore Lough near Aghalee today.
The lough and reserve are close to Lough Neagh, and has a host of native insects and invertebrates on the wetlands of the reserve.  Many dragonflies were present including common darter, 4 spotted chaser.
Once we got the theory out of the way (and good friend Rosie had provided my lunch), we started at the giant bird table pollinator flowerbed, alive with insects.  After an hour there, we moved on to the path to the lough, hoping to see dragonflies and butterflies on the way.
The wind was pretty strong so we had no luck on the dragons, but attendee Lucy got a great speckled wood butterfly, and plenty of peacocks were also present.

Caterpillars!On the boardwalk to the hide, we spotted a Grey Dagger moth caterpillar in the railings.  It posed nicely for everyone before being escorted to a safer location. This striking little larvae is easily spotted with pale yellow, red a…

Macro Photo Weekend (Day 2)

Blue Skies AgainThe weather held today and we had brilliant heat and light for Day 2.  Today was a bug hunt day, with the pond & aquatic insects starting off the day, then the wildflower meadow & grass lands in the afternoon.  The invertebrates didn't let us down all day with all the group getting hoverflies, bees, butterflies, damselflies, diving beetles, backswimmers & grasshoppers throughout the sessions.

Pond InvertebratesThe pond provides an excellent environment for water based insects and invertebrates - great diving beetles and backswimmers featured heavily in the trays and the guys got some great shots of the backswimmers eyes.
Damselflies were aplenty with the azure and blue tailed the most photographed.  

Wildfower MeadowThe meadow is our go-to place for the macro workshop outdoor sessions, boasting orchids and wildflowers galore, it hosts an array of insects and pollinators just waiting to get snapped.
Bombus Lacrourm & Pascorum bees were seen in abundance …