So, this week was rare week in which I got to dedicate a day to portrait photography and a day to wildlife and animals. On Sunday me and my sister ventured out to the local woodland so I could try out some portraits I had in mind. Followed by my usual weekly trip to the wetland wildfowl trust on the Monday
So, starting with the trip to our local woodland, the top of Goodwood hill (in West Sussex) to be precise. I often go there with family to walk our dog, Poppy (who will no doubt be in several blogs in the future). We started by venturing just beyond the edge of the woodland where there is an area of tall thin trees that could be likened to soldiers standing to attention. I had this in mind for being the background to a portrait but I wasn't sure on much else. It was actually my sister Hollie that suggested sitting on a tree stump which lead to the photograph you see below being the first one of the day.
It was a start at least but the overall image didn't turn out as I had hoped if I am being honest. It seemed, uninteresting for want of a better word. So, we headed to a spot where we knew there was a very large log pile that had been there for at least a year. To our surprise we found that the middle chunk had been removed leaving a gentle slope either side of the gap. Which, thankfully for us we were able to easily get to and take advantage of. The first attempt resulting in this image.
I was a lot happier with this shot but felt it needed a little something. So I asked Hollie to dip her head so as to hide her eyes and add a little bit of mystery to the image. Something that may draw people in or encourage them to look at the image a touch longer. As I took the photograph a gust of wind kicked up which swept past Hollie lifting her hair and adding movement to the photograph which resulted in the image you see below which I was really happy with.
As we got up to leave, and more importantly to warm up with the help of some tomato soup at home, we stopped to look at the log pile from another angel. This, unfortunately for a chilly Hollie gave me an idea for one more photograph.
It is now the beginning of spring. Which means, for the first time since I started volunteering at Arundel I was able to feel my hands without the need for them to make regular visits to my coat pockets.
Each morning I get to Arundel, if I get there early enough (close to opening times) I try to make my way directly to one spot or one hide. This is because most wildlife is very active in the mornings, and in a lot of cases some species simply don't show themselves later in the day, especially when more people are about. This time I decided to head to a hide I hadn't been to first before. It is a small woodland hide next to the start of the Reed bed walk on the far side of the park.
When I arrived I was a little disappointed to find someone had beaten me to it. Thankfully, after taking my seat I found he was very respectful and very quiet so there was little chance he had disturbed anything before I had arrived. We sat facing out to a collection of bird feeders. Inevitably they were attracting only the most common of woodland birds such as great tits and chaffinches. In spite of this, me and the other gentleman sat with our cameras at the ready, waiting in the vein hope that we would see something that would at least be note worthy. To my great surprise we were rewarded after only 20 minutes with a sighting of a very shy and rarely seen bird called a water rail.
After enjoying what felt like a small victory I headed to the scrape hide, well known as being the place to see kingfishers. When there I met a man called Adam who was just getting into photography and had come to Arundel for the purpose of ticking kingfishers off his list of animals that he wanted to photograph. A list which I think anyone into wildlife photography has. We waited for about an hour and a half. But eventually we got a brief and distant view that Adam was able to capitalise on with his high megapixel Nikon camera body by cropping in later. I also came away with a shot I was fairly happy with. Although it is not the best I quite liked the composition and may try something similar when I next visit.
After that brief wildlife sighting I decided to make my way down to the family area where you can feed the ducks and be almost level with the water. I let Adam know about this before leaving in case he wanted to make the most of his trip to Arundel.
n my way however I came across something that I had been hearing all day. WWT Arundel is an amazing place for wetland birds as I am sure you know by now. But at this time of year it also attracts hundreds of black headed gulls. At this time of year they are gearing up for the breeding season and making their presence known. This bold behaviour allowed me to get this rather intimate shot you see below.
After getting this shot I continued on my way, taking my time and making sure to make the most of the warm spring sun.
Before I got to my destination though I stumbled across a pheasant, delicately clearing up the seeds dropped by the birds on feeders above him. He didn't seem bothered by me being there, so slowly I lay down in front of him and took the shot below.
I know some may ask, why make a photograph of such a colourful bird black and white? Well usually I would agree, but when editing the photograph I realised that pheasants have incredible detail. Detail that until now I had never notice, I think this is because of the dazzling colour of pheasants which usually becomes the only thing you can see. So, I made it black and white to hopefully persuade some people to look at an animal in a slightly different way than they normally would.
Despite two distractions along the way I did eventually make it to my destination, only to find Adam had beaten me to it. I said hello and got chatting about various techniques to use when photographing birds on the water then got down flat on the ground, level with the water to create a really soft background and foreground. Unfortunately there did not seem to much activity at all today with almost no ducks other than mallards crossing our line of sight.
Thankfully the boredom was soon broken by the arrival of tufted ducks. Now, any birders reading may consider that not to be a reason for boredom to be broken. But it was not the simple presence of them that spiked mine and Adams interest but their behaviour. Tufted ducks are terrific diving ducks. Plunging under the water to feed and staying there with only the slightest movement on the waters surface giving away their position. So yes you have guessed it, the competition to get a photograph of the ducks as they started their dive began!
After around 900 photos, gasps of optimism, shortly followed by despair from us both and multiple camera setting changes we finally called it a day. When I got home I found a couple of images that could be considered a success. However I definitely want to return and give it another try.
Hopefully next week I will make a trip to Farlington Marshes on the outskirts of Portsmouth. There is a very slim chance I will get to photograph Bearded Tits there. Until then, enjoy your week and I hope you enjoyed this weeks blog!