I remember seeing the first images of Japan in winter around 10 years ago, but I had no knowledge of the country and very little idea about the wildlife. However, at the start of 2019 I was asked whether I would like to lead Wildlife
Worldwide’s inaugural photography tour to the country, during the snowy winter months, focusing on red-crowned cranes, Steller’s sea eagles and of course the much-loved Japanese macaques (or snow monkeys).
Firstly, if you decide to visit Japan, I can’t recommend Japan Airlines enough - they were truly exceptional. The majority of Japan’s wildlife is concentrated along the main island’s central spine or on some of the smaller, wilder islands such as Hokkaido. This is where my group spent the majority of their time, on the beautiful snowy island of Hokkaido.
We had wonderful sightings of whooper swan and red-crowned cranes during the first couple of days on the island. We had the chance to see a pair of Ural owls in the nearby forests and numerous woodland birds (many of which are recognisable to those from Europe). For me though, the species I was most looking forwards to seeing was the impressive Steller’s sea eagle. Let’s just say I wasn’t going to be disappointed …
We didn't have the best light for our time in Japan, particularly with the cranes - it was either too gloomy or too bright. Fussy photographers are a pain, but it does make such a big difference. It was really gloomy for my time with the swans, so I didn't really get anything worthwhile, but it was lovely just to watch them.
After our time in the island's volcanic interior, it was time to head to the coast in search of Steller's and white-tailed eagle.
After heading out in to the see ice to photograph the eagles, we headed south towards a frozen lake for more eagle photography. There was also an opportunity to enjoy the glorious birdlife around a traditional onsen. The highlights here were the Japanese pygmy woodpecker, the Japanese sable (a member of the marten family) and the Blakiston's fish owl (the largest owl in the world).
After an amazing week on the island of Hokkaido, enjoying the snowy conditions and stunning wildlife, it was time to head back to Tokyo. We spent a night in Tokyo before heading into the main island's centre to the city of Nagano. To be more precise we headed to the town of Yamanouchi, the perfect place to base ourselves for photographing the famed 'snow monkeys' or as they should be known, Japanese macaques. Sadly, there was a bit of a heat wave in the mountains and snow was rather lacking for the most part.
So what can I say about Japan. Well, quite simply, it is fantastic. Don't expect to be on your own, there will nearly always be other people about, but it is still somewhere I recommend highly. For the opportunities to see Steller's sea eagles alone it is worth it. Be sure to join on Wildlife Worldwide's Japan's Winter Wildlife photography tour.
It was my final week in Zambia, with my third group from Wildlife Worldwide arriving. It was another fantastic week and we were treated to some remarkable sightings. It was a week of lions, leopards, buffalos, elephants and new-born impala.
We were blown away by some incredible game drives, with mating lions, a complete leopard hunt and lions gorging on numerous buffalo carcasses. Once again, I am going to leave you with the images to do the talking. Enjoy!
The first days were all about the big cats, but there was so much more on offer throughout the week ...
As the week progressed it seemed that we had a bit of a leopard fiesta, the sightings increased in the last couple of days and provided some excellent photography opportunities.
It was my third week in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park and I was well and truly in the groove. Being in the African bush is where I feel most at home, it has a hold over me like nowhere else. It was now I really felt in tune with my surroundings and really in sync with the wildlife of this remarkable national park.
It was my second tour of the season leading for Wildlife Worldwide and it was another delightful group of people. Our local guide was Bwalya, who's love of photography and wildlife was immediately apparent.
This week turned out to be the week of leopards and lions. We were blessed with numerous encounters and sightings and rewarded with some fantastic photography opportunities. Once again, rather than going in to too much detail, I will simply let the pictures do the talking.
As you can see from all of the images, my group and I were blessed with some amazing sightings. In fact, for me South Luangwa offers such incredible variety and world-class photography opportunities. These are only a taster of what we were able to enjoy, but I hope it inspires you to join me in 2021 (there are still a few places remaining). You can book your place here.
Back in September I went on a trip for Wildlife Worldwide to Romania’s Danube Delta (for the first time). I had heard great things about Europe’s largest river delta and knew whatever happened, I would experience somewhere completely different to anywhere I had been before.
I stayed at the purpose-built property known as Ultimate Frontiera. Specially designed for wildlife photographers , the purpose-built hides are spread across the estate and provide the opportunities to photography a myriad of different species. On my first morning in the hides I was hoping to photograph the pygmy cormorant, an elusive and rarely seen species. I did get a couple of shots of pygmy cormorant, but it was a common kingfisher that proved to be a real delight, posing perfectly in front of the hide only a few metres away. I have tried photographing kingfishers in the UK and never had any luck, whether it be from purpose-built hides or sitting patiently on a river bank. So, finally, to be rewarded with shots like this was a real treat.
It wasn’t just kingfishers that proved to be particularly cooperative, we were treated to some great views of little owl, a wide variety of small woodland passerines, squacco heron and great white pelicans. We were even luckier in the fact we got to see a solitary Dalmatian pelican, of which there are fewer than 2,000 left in the world.
It also proved to be a particularly reliable place to photography golden jackal, which are moving further west into Europe each year.
It was a great place for anyone with a passion for bird photography, and I can only imagine that during the spring it is full of life. I highly recommend you join Wildlife Worldwide in May to get your very own Romanian bird photography fix.
I hope you like the pictures – and don’t forget to head off to Romania and see it for yourself!
2019 marks the third year in a row that I have led dedicated photography tours to Skomer Island in Wales for Wildlife Worldwide, focusing on the charismatic Atlantic puffin. This rocky outcrop in the Irish Sea is home to nearly 30,000 puffins and a staggering 750,000 Manx shearwaters.
The weather on my two visits so far this year was pretty varied with sunshine, heavy rain and very strong winds all playing a roll. Sadly, during the evenings (when the puffins are most active) the weather was usually pretty dire – lots of rain, strong winds and sea spray.
Of course, I still managed to capture a few other shots which are worthy of a little attention. So sit back, relax and get your annual puffin-fix below …
I did have the privilege to enjoy one spectacular sunrise though and managed to capture some stunning shots of the birds as they returned to their nests. I also managed to get a few shots of razorbills, oystercatcers and guillemots.
At the end of the dry season, the heat in Mana Pools National Park just seems to build up and up. A natural crescendo, until eventually the rains come and bring a little relief. In early November though, the rains had still not arrived and day time temperatures were regularly hitting 44 degrees Celsius.
Driving through the park on this particular morning, it felt like you were in the firing line of an industrial hairdryer, a stifling, warm breeze filling the air and making it feel a little uncomfortable. We were back in search of the wild dogs once more. Having spent the previous afternoon on the river, it seemed like we had to catch up with the dogs and find out what they were up to.
However, no matter how hard we tried, we were unable to find the dogs on this particular morning. Instead we found a very sociable, and approachable, flock of long-tailed starlings. When a group of wildlife photographers are together, any slightly different subject just means you have something new to focus on. Later on we managed to find the small pride of lions, two adult females and a young male and spent a bit of time watching and photographing them before heading back to camp for lunch.
The majority of the group decided to go out on the river once more this afternoon, all but one, who wanted to head out after the dogs once more. In order to keep the group size manageable for the canoe safari, I headed out with the one client and our guide Daryl. Well there is no other way to describe the afternoon with the dogs, other than that it was pretty magical. It was only going to be a shorter game drive/walk as we had arranged a BBQ on the banks of the Zambezi up stream of our camp.
We found the dogs resting in the same drying river gulley we had left them a few days earlier. As there was only three of us, we slowly made our way towards the pack, taking our time and keeping the noise to a minimum. The whole pack were so incredibly relaxed and we were able to get extremely close. This encounter was right up there with my very best anywhere in the world, probably only coming second to coming face-to-face with the gorillas.
I am not really going to say much more, other than that it was a real privilege. The following pictures and footage can do all the talking for me.
If you would like to join me in October 2019, we still have a few spaces remaining. You can find out more and book your place by visiting the Wildlife Worldwide website.
I am really proud to work and lead trips for Wildlife Worldwide, one of the UK’s largest specialists in wildlife travel. What I particularly enjoy is that the office is set within an old barn in the charming village of Bishop’s Sutton, what’s more is we have a resident pair of barn owls.
Earlier on in the summer I spent a bit of time trying to photograph the owls. They are really easy to spot, but not so easy to photograph, particularly as there are quite a few buildings around. Anyway, here is a little taster of what I have been privileged enough to watch after finishing work in the evenings.
That's right folks, I have been to Skomer once more and it still isn't enough. It is never enough!!!
My third and final visit of the year was leading Wildlife Worldwide's second Skomer's Perfect Puffins tour in 2018. It as a roaring success and I was joined by acclaimed photographer and film maker Ben Cherry - check out his awesome work here.
Now then, normally a visit to Skomer Island coincides with gale force winds, lashing rain or perhaps ice blasts. Well this trip was a little different - it was quite literally like being on an island in the Mediterranean summer. To be succinct, it was sublime.
To top it all off, we had a great group of people and some fabulous wildlife and epic light. You really cannot ask for more than that. So on to the pictures...
When it comes to photographing puffins, it nearly always starts with a classic portrait. It is just good to get yourself warmed up, then you can start to be a little more creative and try a few different types of shots.
For me, having already accumulated thousands of images of puffin, I now try to capture something different and this trip was no exception. What was incredible though, was watching the sun rise over the Pembrokeshire peninsula and setting over the Irish Sea, without there being a single moment it disappeared behind a cloud. So we enjoyed wall to wall sunshine from 4.45 all the way through to 22.00. Remarkable!
It also wasn't just about puffins. When you have guillemots, razorbills and a friendly seal there are near endless photographic opportunities.
After a the magic of being able to photograph the puffins in some wonderful light, our final excursion was out to Grassholm island in search of one of the world's largest northern gannet colonies. Here is just a little taster of what this remarkable place looks like...
My first photography tour of 2018 was to the beautiful country of Slovenia. In the middle of May, I took 8 clients with me to the Dinaric Alps, where everyone was hoping to photograph brown bear. This was Wildlife Worldwide's Brown Bear Photography tour.
Now I need to make something clear from the start, Slovenia is one of Europe's hidden gems. It is a country filled with history, stunning landscapes and fabulous wildlife. To top it all off, the food is fantastic.
Slovenia's Dinaric Alps, in the southern reaches of the country, are home to between 700 and 800 bear, one of Europe's most important populations. This karst landscape, filled with caves, disappearing rivers and lakes, also supports and array of other species including Ural owl, beech marten and even wolf.
This trip was focused on the bears and the Ural owl, with of course the stunning mountains, wild flower meadows and charming villages as a wonderful backdrop. Over the course of the next 6 days we were treated to some superb encounters and all of the clients managed to capture some excellent images.
After a great first night in the hides we went in search of the Ural owls and were blessed with some great encounters. Slovenia is home to the highest density of breeding Ural owl in Europe, so with a bit pf persistence, you can often come away with some good photography.
The karst limestone landscape is famed for its caves and Slovenia is no different. If you read my last blog post on Slovenia (from last year), you will have seen that I visited Križna jama - a beautiful cave filled with water. We journey a few kilometres underground and explore the remarkable caverns and their unique rock formations.
Of course, for most people it is all about the bears and that was this unique trip is all about. So all of the group spent the majority of their afternoons in the hides, waiting for the bears to show themselves.
As you can see from all of the images above, Slovenia offers something very different from other bear watching destinations and it really is quite magical.
If you would like to join me on this amazing trip in 2019 then please head over to Wildlife Worldwide and find out more.
All I can do is apologise for the lack of posts on this blog … there is no real excuse. Sadly, I haven’t been out with my camera enough recently and with a very busy year ahead leading a range of tours, I took a few days off and headed to Skomer Island with my old man.
The trip was a Christmas treat for my dad, but it was also an excuse to get out there and try my new 1DX II and the new EF Canon 500mm f4 IS II USM lens.
The main reason for going to Skomer is to spend time with the puffins. However, this year has been unseasonably cold and all of the seabirds seem to be a little behind their usual breeding cycle. The island’s plantlife has also been delayed, so we spent a few rather cold days in a pretty brown landscape. Let’s just say I wasn’t left disappointed as this provided something completely different to what you usually get on this rocky outcrop in the Irish Sea.
I must say that the first day was a little wet. Scrap that, the rain was relentless and after only an hour out in the sodden landscape I was soaked through. We beat a hasty retreat back to the relative warmth of the island’s accommodation. I only took a few photos in the evening but the light was, well it was awful.
The fact it was easier to photograph the island's large rabbit population, rather than the puffins, speaks volume as to the day's activities.
The second day on the island was a completely different story – the Sun shone for the day’s entirety. And the photography opportunities were almost limitless. It wasn’t just the puffins that cooperated either, there were a myriad of other species who were keen to get their moment in the spotlight.
The puffins were particularly quiet during the day, but as they are either sitting on an egg, or ready to lay said egg, or perhaps out fishing it wasn't a complete surprise. However, as the sun started to set I was blessed to an hour's worth of exquisite light, obliging birds and countless photographic opportunities.
The above are some very low res version of the images I managed to capture in that glorious golden hour. They are only a sample of what I was able to capture, but I hope it gives you an idea of what you can do by playing around with light and trying out different ideas.
I will be back in Skomer in May and June this year, leading trips for Wildlife Worldwide, so keep your eyes peeled for more images in the coming months.
Next week I am leading a trip to Slovenia's Dinaric Alps with Wildlife Worldwide - you can find out more about the tour here.
Towards the beginning of June I was fortunate enough to lead a small group of photographers to the island of Skomer. This rocky outcrop, which sits just off the Marloes Peninsula, is one of the UK’s seabird strongholds and supports around 6,000 pairs of breeding Atlantic Puffins.
These charming little birds are what most visitors come to see on Skomer Island and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It has to be one of the UK’s finest wildlife experiences – quite simply it is hard not to smile when you see your first Puffin. Only about the size of a pint glass, these small birds are one of the world’s great ocean wanderers, their tenacity and dedication to their chicks is truly inspiring. They provide the perfect focus for this short photography break.
I spent 3 nights on Skomer, having only planned on staying for 2. It turns out that my clients (and me) were experiencing some of the worst low pressure systems for many a year, we were stranded on the high cliffs of the island for an extra 24 hours. Although it was a little inconvenient it provided further opportunities to enjoy the island’s varied birdlife including 300,000 pairs of Manx Shearwater (only possible to see in the dead of night), thousands of gulls (Greater and Lesser Black-backed as well as Herring), Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Short-eared owl and the list goes on.
I thought I should give you a little taster of what this exciting trip is all about, so here are some of my favourite images from the trip.
After arriving on the island around 1pm on the first day and then having a hearty lunch, we set out to photograph the Puffins at 'The Wick'. The Wick is famed for its large colony of Puffins, all along the top of a dramatic coastal inlet on the southern side of Skomer. As the afternoon went on the skies cleared and provided us with some spectacular light for photography (see below).
The second day started quietly, as most of the Puffins had already left their cliff top burrows, they spend as much time as they can catching fish for the pufflings (yes that really is the name of the chicks). The light was already pretty bright, but the group managed to get a few images of a Raven and of course a few Puffins here and there.
I was lucky enough to capture one image as a bird flew in across the water in the blustery conditions, capturing it all in a muddle in mid air.
The afternoon proved to be another puffin bonanza, and many of the group tried their hand at bird in flight photography. This is known to be one of the hardest skills sets any wildlife photographer can learn, but photographing a bird this small in gusting winds is near impossible. However, a few of us got lucky and their persistence paid off.
But there were also opportunities to photograph an obliging Oystercatcher and the Rabbits were about as tame as you can get!
Having stayed on the island of Skomer for an extra evening, strong winds and poor visibility meant that no boats would be crossing over from the mainland. So after a morning of horrific weather, not even good for capturing images of Puffin in the rain, we headed out for one final time to add to our portfolios. For the most part, I kept my camera off, going around the group and making sure they were all getting what they wanted.
So even with some of Britain's finest summer weather (by that I mean gale force winds and torrential rain), we managed to spend plenty of time with the 'clowns of the sea'. I hope to be hosting more Skomer photography trips in 2018, all in partnership with Wildlife Worldwide.
Last year was one of great change for me … after spending a year photographing in Australia, it was time to get crack on with my career and put photography on the back burner. Don’t worry - the photography will be back in force in 2017!
I had built up an incredible portfolio of images in 2015, thanks to my time ‘down under’, and I decided to try my luck in a few competitions. It turns out I had some success – who would have thought that would happen?
Well I was delighted to have images shortlisted in Outdoor Photographer of the Year, Bird Photographer of the Year and Australian Nature Photographer of the Year. The two images shortlisted in Bird Photographer of the Year both featured in the accompanying book and my image Murray Magic featured in the Kew Gardens exhibition.
When I got the news that three of my images had made it through to the final of Australian Nature Photographer of the Year, I was excited but didn’t really think too much of it. It wasn’t until a friend (the incredibly talented Trevor Scouten) alerted me to the fact that these three images were actually going to feature in the exhibition, and accompanying media, that it really hit home. In June I was contacted again by the competition, informing me I was either a winner or runner up in one of the categories I had entered. I learnt no more until the results were announced in the press – I found out through the Australian news that I was a winner of the ‘Threatened Species’ category with my image titled Palm Grove Dingo. The image has since been used in the accompanying book, wall calendar, desktop calendar and diary. The image was then used at the main entrance of the exhibition – printed in large format … this for me was the greatest honour.
It wasn’t all about the competitions though. I had a great year of travel once more with trips to India, Tobago and Colombia. None of which were necessarily exceptional from a photographic point of view but I did strike lucky on a few occasions (you can see a selection of images below).
2017 promises to be another great year for me with trips to Africa and Ecuador planned for my own photography. I will be leading two dedicated photography trips in June, one to Skomer Island in Wales for Puffins and the other to Finland to photograph Bears, Wolverines and Wolves. I will also be running one-to-one workshops a little closer to home focusing on Roe and Fallow Deer. If you have any interest in joining me on these trips I would love to hear from you – feel free to email me at any time.
I wish you all a very happy new year and I hope to see as many of you in 2017 as possible.
There is one animal that elicits an emotional response like no other in the natural world. Which creature could it be? For me, and many others I know of, the Tiger has an aura, a spirit that seems to soar above those creatures around it. Don't be fooled though, this isn't the only draw to India ... it is just a case of trying to find a wild corner of this vast country to explore its natural delights.
I have recently returned from a trip to India searching for Tigers and some of the stars of the Jungle Book. I had some issues along the way with cameras and park legislation but I won't go into that here.
I didn't have the best trip from a photographic point of view but there were a few stand out moments which I thought I would share with you.
The week started off pretty slowly and I didn't really have any sightings of any of Tadoba's standout species. However I did seem to have some better luck on the bird of prey front ... as you can see above. The my luck changed and I had an incredible encounter with a very handsome young male Tiger.
Only moments after driving through the park gates we heard a sound that is comparable with that of a Lion in Africa. We heard the territorial call of the Tiger and we knew that it was heading back into the park, having spent the night patrolling the park boundary.
We drove up into the park proper and stopped at the top of the hill and listened. The deep call sounded again from the forest, it was coming closer. We moved further down the road and waited for a moment that will live long in my memory, an intimate moment with one of the most striking individual cats I have ever seen.
I was also really lucky with a particularly close encounter with a pack of Dhole (Indian Wild Dog), but the photography opportunities were tricky as the dogs being rather unsettled. Only moments before these images they had failed to hunt a Barking Deer, they weren't particularly keen to oblige and pose for photographs.
I will be writing another post about the last few days I spent in Tadoba and going on to describe a few of my concerns too. Although I saw plenty of wildlife, I was rather shocked at some of the tourism practices within the park and the way this could directly affect the wildlife.
For now though I will leave you with a shot of this cute little fellow ...
Coming towards the end of our amazing road trip meant heading back northwards. We would end up going back up the east coast we now know relatively well. We will be saying goodbye to friends along the way but first there were a few more destinations we wanted to visit. In New South Wales far south, is the coastal town of Narooma. My girlfriend and I fell in love with Narooma and its beautiful watery lifestyle. Amazing beaches, a crystal clear tidal lagoon and some noisy locals all made it it one of our favourite spots. By noisy locals, I don't mean the human inhabitants, instead I am talking about the small population of Australian Fur Seals.
We spent an afternoon watching these playful and rather characterful individuals, only wishing we had more time spend with them and this beautiful setting.
After leaving Narooma we headed on, northwards up the eastern seaboard of New South Wales. This meant we were heading past one of my favourite places in Australia. I have already mentioned and highlighted Kangaroo Valley on this blog but I had to pop in once more and catch up with the Wombats. There was one particularly obliging and inquisitive individual but it was a little on the skinny side. It wasn't just the wombats that knew how to pose of the camera, a Kookaburra that seemed to be completely at ease around people, posed perfectly on a fence post as I snapped away.
The next stop is Sydney so you will have check back here to see what adventures I had in a city I know quite well.
Having travelled down the New South Wales coastline it was time to head inland on this last part of our Aussie adventure. Our first stop was in the rural town of Goulburn, there wasn't much in the way of wildlife there but we had heard of a place called Kangaroo Valley. This, as you might expect, is a valley home to plenty of Kangaroos but it wasn't these critters we were after. We had also heard that the valley was home to a thriving population of Wombats. Up until now we hadn't found any wombats so we really hoped that we might be in luck ... we certainly were as you can see below!
We then headed further inland, across the Hay Plain towards the farming town of Mildura in northern Victoria. This is one of Australia's fruit growing capitals but nearby is the remote Mungo National Park. We headed out early on morning driving off the main highway onto a gravel road, an incredibly long gravel road of nearly 100 kms. After a few hours, we finally arrived at this wild landscape in search of the Red Kangaroo. This was the only chance on our trip to Australia that we might see this incredible desert survivor, so we had to make the effort. We struck gold, not only seeing the Red Kangaroos but also the Western Grey Kangaroos and wild Emus.
The next leg of the inland part of our journey took us across another state border to South Australia. We followed the Murray River from Mildura towards the riverside town of Mannum. Nestled right on the edge of the winding river it was a bird-watcher's paradise with a very obliging community of Brush-tailed Possums just to top it off.
The possums were fantastic and we loved the mother with her young baby, the images just don't really show the difference in their size. The next morning we awoke to a valley full of a thick mist and I knew I had to go to the waters edge and see what subjects I could find. The Black Swans and the Galahs were just superb and so cooperative, it was a truly magical morning.
The next part of our journey is to the magnificent Kangaroo Island so come back soon and check it out!
I have now been travelling around Australia for 7 months, it has been an incredible experience so far. I have loved every moment of it both photographically and just from a life experience point of view. I just hope you have enjoyed the seeing the images as much as I enjoyed taking them.
I have been filling up my hard drives, working my camera to death and there is only another month to go now before we move on to Bali and then New Zealand. This final leg 'down under' is a long road trip, heading from the warm sub-tropical climes of Brisbane to the cold temperate coastline of southern Australia. Of course with a bit of semi-arid landscape in the middle just to add a bit of variety.
Here are just a few photos from the first leg along the coastline of NSW before we headed inland through the ACT, Victoria and South Australia.
Our first stop with wildlife was the small town of Urunga which is known for its boardwalk across a mangrove habitat to the beach. There is the usual local population of Australian Pelicans who are more than happy to pick up the scraps from the fisherman, they also posed superbly in the perfectly still water and I was blessed with a soft evening light. It all equated to a really artistic shot, very striking but really rather simple. I always remember what I was taught at school ... K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid) and it is often very apt.
The mangroves were also home to a small breeding population of the Beach Stone-curlew which were surprisingly obliging on the photography front. The low light levels did make it pretty tricky to the get shots but the high ISO capabilities of the 5D Mark III helped no end.
We also visited the nearby Dorrigo NP, famed for its spectacular stand of sub-tropical rainforest. It really is a landscape photographer's dream ...
And back to the wildlife ...
The Sooty Oystercatcher is a bird that I have been trying to find ever since I arrived in Australia, these stunning birds live on the rocky foreshore and can be pretty flighty. It wasn't until we visited the township of Iluka (close to Urunga) before I got my first sightings and they were superbly obliging. Bearing in mind that I only have a 300mm f2.8 lens, my reach is rather limited when it comes to bird photography but these were really compliant subjects!
I spent over an hour sat on the volcanic rocks trying to capture them and feel I put together quite a collection. Above is just a small taster of the time I spent at Iluka. I was also accompanied by a White-faced Heron for much of the time.
Whilst eating my lunch I also had a few cheeky Australian Magpies come and keep my company ...
Our final stop on the first leg of our tour was Seal Rocks. All I can say for this tiny community is ... WOW! It is so peaceful, utterly beautiful and pretty much untouched. A truly special place on this stretch of Australia's coastline, just make sure you don't tell too many people about it! The lighthouse was the real start
Having been in Australia for over 5 months it was about time we had some visitors, luckily for us, my girlfriend's parents came for a holiday. We decided we should show them around some of the areas we already knew in norther New South Wales and southern Queensland. We started off in our old haunt of Byron Bay, showing them the area's amazing national parks and even the marine park. We were very lucky to see turtles and a whole host of other species but as I don't specialise in underwater photography, you'll just have to take my word for it.
I did manage to take a few photos of the shore-based wildlife ...
From Byron we headed northwards, stopping for an afternoon at the Daisy Hill park which is famed for its Koalas, we didn't see any Koalas but we did some some lovely Red-necked Wallabies.
Our main destination for this mini holiday was Fraser Island which is famed for its population of Dingoes. These wild dogs are thought to be the purest left in all of Australia, due to their isolation. We saw one within only 30 minutes of our arrival on the island but as I was driving I didn't manage to get an image. Thinking we would see plenty more I was a little nervous after two full days without any further sightings.
On the evening of our third day on the island, I went for a sunset walk and I was treated to a real spectacle. The sunset was stunning ... but as I was waiting for the light to turn that incredible golden colour I felt like I was being watched.
The next day was our last on Fraser Island, we went out in search of the Dingoes first thing but had no luck. Was that to be the last encounter with these beautiful dogs?
Well as it turns out, no ... we went to stop for lunch at a campsite and picnic ground we were surrounded. There were two adults and two rather large pups, all seeing what they could scavenge. Of course we made sure not to leave any food behind for the Dingoes, hoping that others did the same.
Photographing birds is a speciality within the field of wildlife photography and it is a discipline which I am by no means an expert in. I specialise in photographing mammals, and that is what my equipment is focused towards, but every now and then I dabble in photographing our feathered friends. With a 300mm lens photographing any species of bird can be a challenge but sometimes it is important to broaden your horizons and go out of your comfort zone. So in Beachmere, Queensland I did just that.
Rainbow Lorikeets are one of the most colourful and common birds throughout Australia, they make superb photography subjects and I did my best to do them justice. Here are just a couple of images from lorikeets around the house we were staying in ...
It wasn't just the lorikeets that made great subjects around the area there always Blue-faced Honeyeaters around too. There was also a number of pairs of the superbly named, Willie Wagtail. These charismatic little birds were tricky to photograph due to their small stature and speedy movements.
Australian Pelicans are the giants of the sky around Beachmere, with their powerful long wings they cruise overhead or skim across the water before settling and searching for the fish they feed on. They are incredibly accomplished on the water too, more than happy to move silently across the water with their submerged feet paddling away.
Wading birds are incredibly common across Moreton Bay, which Beachmere is central to. Eastern Curlews are fabulous but incredibly shy and with a 300mm lens I sadly wasn't able to photograph them. However Masked Lapwings and Bar-tailed Godwit were also common and a little easier to approach. It wasn't until the last day that I cracked the technique to photograph them at so close distances so I only managed a few shots as the tide receded.
Lastly, and for me most spectacularly, I had incredibly close encounter. Sitting in the house one day I received a shout from my girlfriend that a large bird flew over her, she had been sunbathing on the beach at the bottom of the garden. I rushed out with my camera to see if I could spot whatever it was that had flown over. At first, it seemed as if the vast mudflats were empty, there was nothing in sight. After a minute or two I decided to head back in to the house, retreating from the blistering Australian sun, but at that moment I noticed a brown shape moving on one of the exposed pieces of mud. Looking through my lens, I instantly realised I had been too hasty and my girlfriend was right. I knew it was a bird of prey but without my binoculars I couldn't tell what. There was only one thing for it, to start crawling through the mud and the shallow pools and get closer.
As I got down to the high tide mark, I noticed that the bird was standing atop of an object but it was too far away to see what it was. I kept on shuffling closer, ever closer until I was within perhaps 25 metres. I thought that the bird must leave the mud as I started to make my way through a pool of water. It continued to feed, seemingly unconcerned by my presence with just the occasional glance in my direction. It seemed to realise I meant it no harm, and with my low profile I can't have looked much like a person. It was now that I could see it in incredibly clarity, the setting sun had turned the bird's plumage a beautiful golden-brown and the eyes positively glowed. It was a magical experience, an encounter with a raptor like no other I had ever had. I spent over an hour watching and photographing, all the while the bird was completely relaxed. It was only when the food item had been stripped clean (seemingly a bone that had been left high and dry with the falling tide) that it flew off down the beach. What was it I hear you ask ... a Whistling Kite of course!
Having returned back to Byron Bay, I was fortunate to spend some time with the amazing bird life found along the golden beaches. It is amazing to watch how different people react around the wildlife that surrounds them. Some people truly astonish me, they would tell their children to chase after the groups of Crested and Little Terns, others would send their dogs off after them and a few would just walk at them showing a complete and utter disregard for their natural surroundings and the wildlife within it.
I understand that some people are not interested in wildlife but surely they should learn that they must respect it? Anyway, I was privileged to spend some quality time watching the amazing bird life, particularly the two species of tern. The extra cast members included the Australian Pelican, Pacific Golden Plover and Pied Oystercatcher.
Firstly, let's start with the terns ...
The Pacific Golden Plover is incredibly hard to get close to without disturbing so I always made sure that I kept my distance, this did mean it was much harder to get a quality image but I did what I could. The lovely warm, evening light certainly helped and the beautiful blue sky really helped provide a striking backdrop.
It was incredibly important that I kept as low a profile as possible throughout my time with the birds, if I stood up at anytime I would have scared off the individuals. I primarily kept myself in the prone position and generally got pretty mucky or sandy in the process. Generally, you have to get dirty or suffer in some way to get a shot worth keeping.
The Pied Oystercatchers were my favourite of the shorebirds and I never tired of photographing them.
Lastly but certainly not least, the Australian Pelican. A leviathan of bird world, the pelican is pretty impressive but the surf certainly made it look small on this day.
After the amazing sightings of Platypus in Eungella NP, we headed further inland hoping to visit Carnarvon Gorge. We first stopped off in the gemfields and stayed in the small community of Sapphire, where I got up close and personal to an amazing Oscillated Velvet Gecko which was searching for a meal in the extraordinary heat.
After this short stop we continued southwards to the amazing Carnarvon Gorge but sadly it didn't go quite as we had planned. We were hoping to stay there for 4 nights, that way we could make the most of this amazing destination. Unforunately, after only 1 night we had to leave, a large rainstorm was forecast and we could be cut off for a couple of weeks. We got to spend one afternoon enjoying the local wildlife though and it was great from a photographic point of view. With close encounters of both Swamp Wallabies and Eastern Grey Kangaroos the highlight.
As the sun started to set a Kookaburra appeared in the trees above me and started to laugh until the light was no more. I took a single silhouette as my final image of the day.