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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hare today

I went out on Sunday for a few hours, hoping for birds or a deer. But I spotted, and was spotted by, this nosey little chap. I had seen him mooching around some trees and positioned myself in the only clear path available. Still quite cluttered however.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A lesson in flexibility

I will not fib, I tend to overlook that which does not interest me. Take landscapes for example, I began taking pictures because of them. Waterfalls and the hills of Yorkshire, breathtaking scenery which had me going back every week, for more. Then my old love came back to haunt me, wildlife. I used to draw things from books and watch Survival and Life on Earth on TV, I loved it. Now I have the chance to not only capture but to see first hand natures beauty. But this constant desire for living things has meant I don't use half the lenses I own, nor the filters and remote release cables...

So stood atop a viewpoint in Mauritius, admiring the Chamarel Falls (despite the lack of water), I had to think back on how I took a wide shot. Low ISO, mirror lockup, f16!!! Even got the old CPL out and blew off some dust. Need to frame with foreground, middle and background. I even got some clouds to gather to finish things off ;)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Never leave home without it

Whilst in Mauritius we spent a few hours at Pamplemousses botanical garden. Of course, I did not want to lug the 300 2.8 around if all we were doing was looking at trees. But my other (better) half convinced me to take it, after all I had lugged half way around the globe (well, nearly). So I did and boy was I glad I did.

7D, 300 2.8 IS

Not only have I never seen an Amazonian lilly pad, I have never seen a green-backed heron on an Amazonian lilly pad. Come to think of it I have never seen a green-back heron before.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just one shot

I visited my small spot in the forest today, leave some seeds and fat out for the birds. On my way back, fortunate to have the 7D and 500 with me, I managed one quick shot before the roe deer was off. 

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate grass? ;)

Friday, December 10, 2010

All inclusive

As a wildlife tog I am always looking to take a new species, or an old one in a new way. Recently on holiday I had to get up really early to find time, family comes first, to look around the hotel and area. Birds were in abundance but mostly sparrows and minahs, and mostly they were in the dining room stealing from your plate! But those early morning strolls with my 300 2.8 proved worthwhile and I did get the odd new species (for me at least). Here is a Madagascar fody (at least I think it is) which got a bit close while searching for crumbs on the beach.

Now isn't he a pretty bird then!?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Too close for comfort...

....or a decent shot?

So there you are are, lying on my stomach with 600mm of lens in your hands and a nervous lizzard before you. You look through the viewfinder got too damn close! What to do? In this example I was actually after another lizard in the grass when I spotted this fellow basking on an electrical outlet. At 600mm all I could get was his head and moving or removing the TC would have scared him off. So thinking on my feet I focussed on the eye and pressed focus lock on my 7D. I then took three shots which I later stitched together in Photoshop.
These lizards do not move much so it was a simple job. The advantage here is that I can now print this BIG if I want ;)

Another weapon in the nature togs arsenal, sometimes too close can be advantageous.

7D, 300 2.8 IS, 2xTC, f8

Friday, November 12, 2010


So there I was thinking "Oh no, not more shots of the same boar" when I remembered my 24-105 in the bag. I figured what the heck, lets try something different. Knowing mothers inquisitive nature, I think she knows about humans and food, and her non-aggressive attitude towards me (so far) I got on the floor with my angle finder and waited. Did not take long before she vanished into the trees with her clan, only to re-appear alone in front of me. I have noticed whenever she investigates anything new the babies get chased into the trees. If they try to wander out for a look she chases them back again. 
It took her a while but eventually she came close enough for some 24mm shots, on my 7D. Not the best, a CPL might have helped, but I am pretty sure that is as close as I want her to get for now, after all with my hat on I probably look like a super jumbo acorn!

7D, 24-105 IS L, 400 ISO

Monday, November 8, 2010

Small stuff

Sometimes I like a background so much I will take anything that happens along. Autumn trees give wonderful opportunities for this, so I did just that the other day. Was just another great tit but I liked the surrounding.

7D, 500 f4, 1.4TC, ISO800

I have also, after much umming and ahhing, registered I intend to stop using sites like Smugmug as design-wise they are highly inflexible and rather impersonal. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

The family

Early Friday morning I once again had the pleasure of my second family. Mother appeared, as usual, from the left. The mini boars arrived too from the left, but further off down the clearing. This time of course I had 500mm + to play with (and test). The sun came out, was quite early so no bad thing, and testing could at last commence with ISO200 rather than taking pictures of noise. I had fun for a few minutes until mother retreated to the right looking for food.

7D, 500mm f4, ISO200

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Public access

In Germany nature is public access, unless in a Nature Protected area. Many areas are privately owned, but still open to the public. This is great, means I can plonk myself down wherever I will and take pictures. But this also means anybody else can disturb my peace, should they so wish. So it was on Saturday. On Friday evening after a long day trying to shoot jays I moved off to a grassy clearing where I had already witnessed red and fallow deer grazing. Evening came and eventually I was rewared, all be it from a distance, with a pair of hinds and their offspring. Brilliant. Tomorrow I will choose a better hiding place!

Saturday here was a warm, mild November day. The sun was out, which meant the walkers, cyclists and joggers were out in force. Mostly this is fine, I can hide myself off the beaten track. After another hard day, really hard, with the jays (and mosquitos) I set off for an evening at the grassy clearing. Except somebody had decided upon this exact spot for a picnic and a game of badmington. I moved on, dejected, knowing that we all have a right to enjoy nature (although I do not count playing badmington as appreciating your surroundings).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Sometimes, when the plan has gone horribly wrong for five hours, it can all of a sudden nearly go right. You can nearly get the invisaged shot, the smooth background, the right perch and the right pose. I would have liked more eye contact but I like the inquisitive look. I guess I am nearly there on my quest for the perfect jay shot ;)
I had to use a touch of flash, really not enough light, but maybe I need more....a reflector, a diffusor? What I need is more time to experiment, not sit and do the same thing week in, week out.

7D, ISO800, fill flash, 500 f4

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Planning is everything...not!

So I had four days free, mother-in-law visit, what to do? So, fours days in the forest with the 500 f4 IS? No brainer! I had planned on getting better shots of jays and baby boar, if they played nicely. Planned being the operative word.
So you set yourself up on a quiet stretch of path where you know the jays will arrive and pick up scraps from wandering forest visitors. Arrive they do some, forty meters up the path. After a few hours of waiting for them to work their way down to you, and they nearly do but get full bellies before reaching you, you wander off dispondent. Waiting a further two hours in another spot brings you nothing and thoughts of taking up golf enter your head (but not for long!) ;)

Eventually moving to another known spot where a previous feeding of nuts and seeds (in a hole in the tree) should bring something. Hmmm, great tits and nuthatches, oh good.

All of a sudden a great spotted woodpecker arrives and has a mooch around. At last, ACTION! The day got better from then on but I still did not get the shot of a jay I was really after. Something for weekend perhaps? :)

7D, 500 f4, 1.4TC, 800ISO f5.6

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


So now I have a 500mm lens. Great, I spent all my money and now require nothing else in the world? Er. Except maybe a new camo cover, white lenses look odd sticking out from green camo. New Kirk tripod foot would also be a good idea, save my current plate coming lose all the time. Better Beamer too, to illuminate those far off creatures. Lens cap, neoprene of course, as I hate Canons idea of a cap (more like a heavy leather bag). Oh, and of course my Vertex 100 is a girls bag and I need something big enough for the 500 :( It is adding up.

But as I was browsing the rucksacks in an expensive camera store a thought came to me. So next day I spent my lunch hour looking in the supermarket. V Markt here is rather large and sells everything. So I got one of these:

30€. Big enough for the lens and then some. It weighs a kilo, not two-plus like the Vertex or even more as with the Vertex 200. It is not padded, waterproofed or badged with a cool name, but my lens fits and it is camo coloured :) my new forest back pack. If it rains I will carry a bin liner. I may even use it in Africa someday, saving weight on handluggage is no bad thing.

So I can afford the camo cover afterall :)

Monday, October 25, 2010


So it is. You are the proud new (ish) owner of your most longed for lens and all you wish to do it go out and make sure it works right. But of course it is raining. So you need to mount your flash on the camera, up the ISO to 1600 and hope that you can see sharpness through the noise. You go out with every intention of shooting jays and finches, but come home with only pictures of wild boar. Thankfully my family are still in the same territory and largely ignore my presence. Well, it is nice that they do but they were a little too close for testing a 500mm lens. Dang. Oh well. About the lens.
It is huge. I had fancied the 600 f4 but am glad I saw sense. At 3.8kg this thing sounds little heavier than the 3kg f4.5 version, but it aint. It is a bugger to transport when you are on a bike, but luckily fits in my new ruckack (20quid from the supermarket, yes I know but it is light and does the job and is camo coloured). But as the sparrow shot shows it is sharp wide open, even wth TC. Not as sharp as the legend, 300 2.8 IS, naked but works better with TCs as I only need a 1.4 now. Bokeh too is nicer. I think I am in love.

7D, 500 f4, 1600ISO, flash for fill

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bluddi sparrows

A little background. We have a balcony. It is a large balcony on the first floor, also acts as a roof for the ground floor appartment. I put out seed for the birds, mostly because my daughter found them fascinating but also just because I love watching them. As I sat here today waiting to test my new purchase I noticed in the surrounding gardens quite alot of activity. A greater spotted woodpecker frequents the neighbouring apple tree. A flycatcher frequents the willow. A bull finch frequents the fence of the next house. Greenfinches pop in and out of the apple tree. Jays squark as they leave the oak tree in the school yard and land on the roof over yonder. Nowhere is there any gratis, for free and for nothing, bird food available. 

So why is it that on my 'free food for all' balcony I only get sparrows. I get lots of sparrows mind you, but only sparrows. Maybe in January I will get a blue tit or two, but mostly sparrows.I have tried maize, corn, sunflower seed, meal worms...still only sparrows.

So here is one of the little b**gers. 

7D, 500 f4, 1.4TC, f5.6

More on the lens later ;)

Friday, October 22, 2010


When one is rendering things in 3D software one generally is unable to do much else but watch the screen as the percentage slowly increases. So instead, I will add a few shots and thoughts from last year.

The pause (or in German "pause" meaning rest).

After visiting Kruger National Park before, and seeing very little of interest, it was amazing to spend a week with a fellow togger and spot six leopards. Not all up close, like this one, but still amazing.

Along with the leopards we saw over thrity lions, some big, some small and some in morning light, just chillin'.

One, just strutting his stuff.

Everyday was a new high for us, until we figured we had had our fill. Then on the very last morning we got the one thing we had been waiting all week for, and is quite a rare sight in Kruger.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A week off

It is raining in Munich, damn! Knowing that I would have to shoot everything at ISO1600 or higher I decided to give it a miss. Having two sick ladies at home meant I was kept busy, no doubt I will catch something in time for next weekend.

So, instead, here is a shot taken last week but processed in CS5 RAW rather than DPP and CS5. Noise control is rather nice in CS5 RAW and I hope I made a better job of this shot.

7D, 300 2.8 IS, 1.4TC, ISO1250

Friday, October 15, 2010


Having had little time this week to process any of the dismal shots I took at the weekend I looked back. One shot I thought worthy of posting today was a real one off, for me at least. There I was, patiently waiting in my new hide for the green woodpecker to land on the ant hill and start digging. The green woodpecker did not appear, but a lone young fox just happened along. I took two shots before he made a run for it. One shot was pure motion blue, it was very early and quite dark. The first of the two however was keepable, not perfect as my Sigma 500 f4.5 had no stabilizer and was not that good wide open.

But it was usable and foxes are rarely seen during daylight hours here in Bavaria. This is a rare shot! So rare infact that colleagues who lived here all their life wondered how it was possible, seeing as they never got a glimpse of one, not alive that is! So I came home happy that day despite, to this day, never getting the green woodpecker!

5D, sigma 500mm f4.5

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On edge

There really is no better time of the day than day break. No really. I like my sleep, my family likes to sleep but the enjoyment of being completely alone, in almost darkness is unparalleled. No dog walkers. No joggers (well sometimes the odd ball comes running past at 6am in his day-glo orange) . Just you and your quarry and the singing birds. So quiet it is, that even from a distance your quarry can here the clicking of your camera shutter. Puts them on edge, which in turn puts you on edge because the next click could be your last.

7D, 300 2.8, 1.4TC, ISO1250

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sometimes a suprise

I have found wild boar to be shy, difficult and also curious creatures. The forest park near Munich where I find these creatures, wild, is frequented by many people but the wildlife is still wary. Occasionally however a hungry mother will get the scent of food in her ultra sensitive nostrils, leave her litter in the undergrowth and boldly approach. The photographer meanwhile is not sure whether he should press the shutter or scarper, so I did neither, for while.

Not three or four meters from me she shovelled through the grass and twigs looking for something. She eyed me at all times however, unsure what the big green camo sheet was. At no time did I feel threatened. Her litter were safely hidden in the trees and I was as still as could be, respecting her right to charge should I make any sudden movement. My heart was pounding with exhileration though. I sat mesmerized. This is where I belong, not behind a desk in an office pushing polygons. What a high, coming this close to wildlife, wildlife which weighs as much as I do and could have made short work of me with those tusks. But she had no reason. I wish I had had a wider lens, but this shot at 100mm shows how close we were.

Eventually she grew bored, or hungry, or both. Bring on next Sunday!

7D, ISO 800, 100-400 @ 100mm f4.5

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So there I was, waiting an hour for the jays to get confident enough to land on the log. You need a certain level of self control, start clicking the shutter as soon as one lands and he may not land again, so you wait, till he is in the right spot. This means of course they get a free feed until you are sure you have it right.

I thought I had it right. The background is not quite far enough away to be blurred but I came home happy, I got one shot with a jay in the right spot. Hurrah for me!

7D, 300 2.8 @ 600mm 5.6, ISO800.

Spot the imperfection? You will need to click on the image and look at the larger version. 

Still not sure? Well, this fellow has a peanut in his beak, obviously from a previous raid. I thought it was perfect, until someone on a forum spotted the nut. Now I have to go back again, next week. Grumble. ;)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Keep an open mind

Last Sunday, in the early darkness of the forest, as I was stalking wild boar (or at least dark shapes resembling boar) I heard the rutting red deer begin their calls. They were a long way off mind and being on foot in a 20 square KM forested park, I decided they would have to wait. My time being short I concentrated on my targets, baby boar and jays, and wondered how I would find the deer?

So this week I took the bike. Weighed down with bird food, tripod, camo cover, lots of lens and TCs I set off in search of rutting deer. As the darkness lifted the calls began and I was soon, in the dark, tramming down forest tracks. I tried clearing after clearing, but no deer. Then whilst trying to become un-lost I stumbled across a clearning, a large one, where two young reds were busy play fighting. A large bull  was just disapearing in to the trees with a hind. I snook up through the trees as best I could. The light was worse than bad and fighting deer tend to move around alot. But I had found them and know where to find them again ;-)

7D, 300 2.8, 1.4TC, ISO1250

But the playful youngsters heard the shutter and soon were gone too. I waited a few minutes, as animals often re-appear, only to find a fallow deer wandering across the clearing. Bonus.

7D, 300 2.8, 1.4TC, ISO1250

Friday, October 8, 2010


To crop or not to crop? Recently, over on, there has been some discussion about cropping. When one looks at a photo one wants to believe that one is seeing exactly what the photographer saw when he looked through the viewfinder. To discover that this was only 50 or 25% true sends some toggers into a spin. Many purists would have it that this is a cheat of the digital age, and that such practices should be banned along with cloning in or out large amounts of content. But this practice of cropping dates waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to the days of film (centuries or so ago ;) ), so why does digital get the rap again? Because it takes seconds, not hours to setup and get right.

Of course if we want the maximum amount of detail and lower noise we must fill the frame, but that is not always possible as we either have a prime lens on or our zoom is not long enough, so we crop. Modern sensors, such as my 7D's 18MP, can handle a lot of cropping (at lower ISOs), so why whould I not?

On the otherhand cropping is commonplace for film and video, especially as there are differing aspect ratios, a wide 19:6 capture must be cropped down for a 4:3 display.

Eventually it comes down to the photographer to decide on what he wants to show. Like here, I could have cropped down to the bunny and still had enough resolution for an A4 print, but I wanted to show some of his environment, set the scene, leave space for a message incase someone decided to buy it as an easter card ;)

50D, 100-400, ISO200

It is all down to the artists vision, let them decide what should be seen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Looking back...

Something I seem to be doing alot at the moment, as I do not get enough time alone to go out shooting wildlife, is cataloguing and deleting old images. This invariably involves processing images too, since I now have a greater understanding of colour and luminosity (not to mention noise, saturation and sharpening).

I have not been back tot he UK for nearly 12 months. I know that UK stock sites like to have shots of wildlife from the UK, rather than jsut lions and tigers. So I figured I would edit and re-edit some older files from last May. Here is one from Harewood House. I was not thinking cute fluffy at the time, I was rather hoping a kite would swoop down and give me the perfect shot...oh well.

50D, 300 2.8 IS

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wildlife is always hungry!

I really do not want to feed wildlife, it is a sin to make wild animals dependant on man, for then they would no longer be wild! I will of course try to temp birds with tidbits, they are usually so fast they do not realise you are there. But sometimes things do not go smoothly. Like the jays. I had placed peanuts on the back of the log to attract the jays. From experience I KNEW absolutley that the wild boar would appear further up the track on their daily patrol, meaning I would not need to remove tele converters to shorten my focal length and they would not find the nuts. Perfect?

Hmm, nature bestowed upon wild boar a brilliant sense of smell. Damn.

7D, ISO800, 300 2.8 IS, 1.4TC, f4.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Success, partially.

It has been six months since my parental leave ended, during the last few months of that wonderful time I had chance to spend time alone doing what I love. Photographing wildlife. I spend around six weeks towards the end trying, in vain, to get a half decent shot of wild boar offspring. Recently though I discovered the forest once again and found me a new family.

Only having six hours a week, Sunday mornings, to spend doing this I have little hope of ground breaking images. But I try. This week I waited patiently for three hours or so in a known spot, a passing male entertained me for a few minutes but otherwise nothing. Then as I was packing away my gear, they arrived. As usual mother wanted her children to stay in the darkness and security of the trees. As usual the little 'uns disobeyed. It was dark and shaded, my ISO was at 800 (this was perhaps not enough) and my throw over hide was only half over.

So my images are a little on the noisey side. Most were blurred and useless. One or two I may manage to salvage. Like this one perhaps?

7D, ISO 800, 300 2.8 IS, 1.4TC @ f4

I often think I do not require an f2.8 tele lens, then on a day like sunday I think "Wow, a 400mm f2.8 would have been a godsend!"...grumble, too many options in life and no perfect solution!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nature, it KNOWS!

The scenario: bird food on a log. 600mm of lens pointed at log. Wait for jays to land on log.

3 hours later, wild boar arrive and jays are not to be seen. Change to 420mm of lens and shoot away at baby boars. Jays arrive. Change back to 600mm. Jays land behind log, behind a tree or in the long grass. Back to 420mm and shoot more boar because jays know. Jay lands on log now....dang, I swear they know! So for reference I shot the jay, cropping with high ISO ont he 7D is not a good option, but it was that or nothing. I need a zoom, come on Canon, 200-400 f4... :)

7D, ISO800, 300 2.8, 1.4TC

As always, more images available on

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chance continued

A day after being suprised by a charging hare I was once again patiently awaiting the arrival of buzzards. Once again I noticed movement at the far side of the field, but this time something far larger was lurking. A far off dog walker disturbed a pair of roe deer and they charged directly at me.

300 2.8 IS, 1.4Tc, 7D

They veered off once the sound of my shutter reached their sensitive hearing, or I would not be here today ;)

Once again my patience paid off, just not quite how I had intended.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


So there I was, had been waiting patiently in my hide for a buzzard to appear and was ready to call it a draw, when I notice two hares playing at the far side of the field. I watched thinking "Why that side?" when all of a sudden, and for no apparent reason, one hare dashed straight towards me. Then the sun came out. Then when he was almost in shooting distance he veered off a little. Click, click, click...

I came home that day with not one shot of a buzzard, but I had a series of hare shots I never dreamt I would capture. Nature is amazing, she makes you want to go back for more.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Looking back

After spending every spare minute I had, once back from last years Kruger trip, sorting and processing images it is only now that I find the odd gem, such as my banner image or the one below.
Moral of this story? Take a break, you will get so used to seeing the pictures that they will all become one blurred ball of pixels.

50D, 300 2.8 IS

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I have a blog!

Well it took long enough but eventually technology gets to us all. So here is my blog. I will concentrate on my efforts to immortalise nature through the photographic medium. So for now here is a pano shot, 2 shots I stictched in photoshop, from Sunday morning near Baierbrunn, Munich. Females with young are very cautious and even in my camo I only got this close with 600mm of lens.

300 2.8 IS,2xTC, 7D