Wildlife photography by John Devries - High-quality images from the natural world

Image(s) of the month 2011
(All images copyright © Ophrys Photography)

Archives :

December - Primate babies

Lowland gorilla

A couple of images from Apenheul with the ahh.. factor this month. First a lowland gorilla and her baby (as opposed to the larger mountain gorilla found in places like Rwanda)

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV plus 300mm f2.8L IS and 1.4xII extender. 1/320 sec F5.6, ISO 800 , -2/3 exposure compensation

Barbary macaque

Next a barbary macaque with her baby. This is the same as barbary ape - which is found on the Rock of Gibralter and is notorious for being naughty and causing havoc with tourists posessions.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV plus 300mm f2.8L IS. 1/400 sec F3.5, ISO 640 , +11/3 exposure compensation

November - Iguana


This is the beautiful iguana that some people keep as pets. Although I would usually photograph lizards with a short or macro lens, this iguana was on a river bank and was therefore taken with a long telephoto lens from a boat in the Pantanal, Brazil. The iguanas we saw were pretty shy and had a fair turn of speed so I doubt if I could have got close enough to get this picture on land.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV and 500mm f4 IS lens, +2/3 Exposure compensation, 1/400th sec. f9, ISO 400 taken from a boat, handheld.


This is the same Iguana taken in portrait mode with the 2x mkIII converter added. I was dicing with death with the shutterspeed as I was handholding 1000mm of lens at a shutterspeed of 1/160th sec on a rocking boat. I lost two stops of light due to the converter and needed to stop down to f11 to get sufficient depth of field. I probably should have increased the ISO setting to 800 but I seem to have got away with it. Thank goodness for image stabilisation.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV and 500mm f4 IS lens plus 2x mkIII converter, 1/160th sec. f11, + 1 Exposure compensation , ISO 400 taken from a boat, handheld.


October - Hyacinth Macaw

Hyacinth macaws

The hyacinth macaw is the largest species of macaw and is globally endangered due to being collected extensively for the pet trade. Fortuntely in the Pantanal in Brazil they are still numerous and some of the lodges along the Transpantaneira road provide nesting sites for them which allows close access for photography.

Images taken with Canon 1DmkIV plus 500mm f4 IS lens
Top image - with 1.4x III extender, 1/200 sec at f8, Iso 640, exposure compensation +2
Middle image - 1/1250 sec at f5.6, Iso 800, exposure compensation +11/3
Bottom image - 1/30 sec at f4, Iso800, exposure compensation -1

September - Jaguars in the Pantanal, Brazil


September is the best month to see Jaguars in the Pantanal in Central South America. This beautiful and elusive big cat was once near impossible to see, let alone photograph, but thanks to the fact that cattle ranchers have largely stopped shooting them their numbers have risen dramatically and there has never been a better time to see one than now. We were lucky enough to have daily viewings over our 7 days of cruising the rivers near Porto Jofre.

- All images taken with Canon 1DmkIV plus 500mm 5v IS lens except the jaguar pouncing on a caiman which was taken using the 70-200f2.8L IS mkII lens with 1.4xmkIII converter. All images were taken handheld off of a rocking boat.

August - Mating marbled whites, grey squirrel, puffin,
heron with a big fish

Heron with a big fish

I think this heron was a bit optimistic with this fish.It is impossibly big and had to drop it again. Picture taken in Hungary.

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 300mm f2.8 IS lens, 1/1250th sec. f5, ISO 800 taken from a reedbed hide.

Mating marbled white butterflies

While trying to get some images of white-letter hairstreaks in Essex I noticed these marbled whites mating in a hawthorn bush. Amazingly they were able to take flight while still coupled up.

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 180mm f3.5L macro lens, 1/250th sec. f16, ISO 640 full ETTL flash (twinflash) with diffusers. Hand held.

Grey squirrel

Lots of people have a thing against grey squirrels but I think they are great characters and are really cute. It is a shame that they carry a poxvirus that decimates red squirrels, but I guess that is not really their fault. Grey squirrels have chewed open a few of my bird feeders but I have made more cash from my grey squirrel sales than any other species, so I feel they deserve a few free peanuts !

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm f4L IS lens, 1/640th sec. f6.3, ISO 400. Tripod.

Puffin with sandeels

This is the classic shot of a puffin with a beak full of sandeels. I have visited the Farne islands where this picture was taken on numerous occasions and was pleased to see that the birds still seem to be able to find plenty of eels. In some places where the eels have been depleted the young are fed similar looking pipefish that do not contain as much nutrient and this can lead to poor breeding success.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 300mm f2.8L IS lens, 1/1000th sec. f5.6, ISO 200. Tripod.

July - Northern marsh orchid, merlin, puffin in flight

Northern marsh orchid

Just outside Dunbar in Scotland I came across a fantastic roadside colony of Northern marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza purpurella). The grass that they were growing in was rather long so I used a 300mm lens to isolate the plant from the messy background. I used the camera's Liveview to focus accurately in manual.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 300mm f2.8L IS lens, 1/640th sec. f5.6, ISO 400. Exposure compensation at +1/3. Tripod.

Merlin taking flight

The Merlin is Britain's smallest falcon and looks like a miniature Hobby or Peregrine. This stunning little captive-bred bird was taken to some moorland in Northumberland and it provided some wonderful photo-opportunities.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 300mm f2.8L IS lens handheld, 1/1600th sec. f7.1, ISO 640.

Puffin in flight

I never tire of visiting the Farne Islands in Northumberland as the nesting seabirds are a fantastic spectacle. This Puffin was coming into land with a beak full of sandeels for its chicks. They fly very fast and erratically so getting a sharp shot like this requires plenty of attempts before the angle of the light, wing position and head angle all come together to make a pleasing image.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 300mm f2.8L IS lens with IS switched off, 1/4000th sec. f5.6, ISO 500. Exposure compensation at +1/3. Handheld.


June -

Heron sunrise, hoopoe with bug and night heron displaying

Heron at sunrise

This shot was my reward for getting up at 3:45am and wading through a reedbed in waders to get into the hide just as the sun was rising.

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 24-105mm L IS lens at 40mm, 1/4000th sec. f4, ISO 800. Exposure compensation at +2/3.


This fantastic bird is a hoopoe with its crest raised.It is holding a bug in its beak which it is about to take to a nest which was located in an upturned concrete ring. The shot was taken from a temporary canvas hide in Hungary. The bird visited the nest every ten minutes or so and brought a range of food which included several lizards.

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 300mm f2.8 lensL IS lens, 1/1250th sec. f2.8, ISO 800. Exposure compensation at +1 1/3.

Night heron

This is another image taken in Hungary. The night heron was displaying to a hooded crow just out of shot which was trying to steal its perching place.

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 300mm f2.8 lensL IS lens, 1/1600th sec. f5, ISO 800. Exposure compensation at -2/3

May - Orchids & speckled wood

Green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio)

This image was taken at my local nature reserve on the 20th April. The weather had been hot for a few days so I thought that although it is a bit early in the year, there might be some in flower. This proved to be the case and I was able to find a few mint specimens to photograph. I have been wanting to try a long telephoto lens fitted with an extension tube for orchids and this is what I tried here - I was very pleased with the results.

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 300mm f2.8 lensL IS lens plus 25mm extension tube, 1/160th sec. f6.3, ISO 100. Exposure compensation at 0.

Early spider orchid (Ophrys sphegodes)

As its name suggests the early spider is one of the first orchid species to flower in the UK. Finding the first orchids in flower is always exciting as it means the new season is under way. The plants grow close to the ground amongst scruffy vegetation so it is often difficult to get an uncluttered background. A long focal length macro lens helps isolate the orchids from teh background.

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 180mm f3.5 L IS lens , 1/160th sec. f16, ISO 400. Exposure compensation at 0.

Early spider orchid var flavescens (Ophrys sphegodes)

I photographed the previous early spider orchid on an exploratory trip and I was pleased to find some plants in flower as I knew my timing was a bit early. I was therefore surprised and delighted to find two specimens of this rare early spider variant growing very nearby the first plant. The variant lacks any markings on the lip and lacks the normal plant's "eyes".

- Image taken with Canon 5D mkII, 100mm f2.8mm L IS lens , 1/200th sec. f10, ISO 400. Exposure compensation at 0.

Speckled wood butterfly

The spring butterflies have also made an appearance. Orange tips, brimstones and commas are all in evidence, as was this speckled wood which posed obligingly with its wings fully open.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 100mm f2.8mm lens , 1/300th sec. f8, ISO 400. Manual exposure, ETTL flash, handheld.

April - Goldcrest

Goldcrest singing

This tiny male goldfinch was singing his high scratchy song in a spruce tree to advertise his presence to females or possibly to warn off other males from his territory.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm plus 1.4x extender III , 1/320th sec. f5.6, ISO 400. Exposure compensation +1/3.

- Heron and watervole

Heron nest-building

In early spring birds start building nests and this heron was no exception. This one is carrying a twig to add to its big untidy nest.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm , 1/2000th sec. f7.1, ISO 800. Exposure compensation 0.

Watervole eating pondweed

The watervole is an endangered mammal largely due to the presence of mink in our waterways. It is a real shame as it is such an endearing animal. They are quite tricky to photograph as the coat when wet is very easy to over-expose if the light is bright. Also, although they appear to sit still, their nose, hands and mouth are all continually moving at high speed and demand a much higher shutterspeed than you would think. They are quite dumpy too and you need to stop the lens down a bit to get them all in focus. You can see from the exposure details below that I had to balance these factors carefully.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm , 1/1000th sec. f6.3, ISO 1250. Exposure compensation -1.

February - Waxwings



There have been a lot of waxwings in the UK this winter but I have not been able to connect with any in good light up until now. A group of 24 appeared in a Tescos carpark in Kent and were feeding on cotoneaster berries. After a raid on the berries they would fly back to the safety of the surrounding trees.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm f4 lens plus 1.4x converter , 1/800th sec. f11, ISO 800. Exposure compensation +11/3.

waxwing on berries

Waxwing on berries

Another one of the waxwings actually on the berries this time .

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm f4 lens plus 1.4x converter , 1/400th sec. f5.6, ISO 800. Exposure compensation +11/3.

January - Birds in flight
goldfinches fighting

Goldfinches fighting

These goldfinches were squabbling over access to a niger seed feeder which was hanging just below the branch with the berries.Lots of noise and bluff and bluster but no harm done. Small birds in flight are the ultimate challenge in wildlife photography as the action happens so fast.
- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm f4 lens , 1/1250th sec f5.6, ISO 2500

yellowhammer taking flight

Yellowhammer taking flight

It takes a snowfall to bring yellowhammers into my garden- when their hunger overcomes their natural fear. The male are very beautiful, resembling a canary. I managed to capture this one just as it took flight.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm f4 lens plus 1/2000sec f5.6 ISO 640, Exposure compensation +11/3.

great-spotted woodpecker in flight

Great-spotted woodpecker in flight

This woodpecker had taken a peanut and was flying off to wedge it in a post where it would be easier to eat. Previous attampts to photograph this species flying have been unsuccessful as the birsd always seem to fly away from the camera. For once, this one flew to one side enabling me to get one sharp shot. The background is melting snow.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm f4 lens 1/4000 sec, f6.3, ISO1250, Exposure compensation +1/3.

kestrel taking flight

Kestrel taking flight

This kestrel was perched at quite a distance so this shot was taken at 700mm. I have a whole sequence of the bird taking off and flying away.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIV, 500mm f4 lens plus 1.4x converter , 1/2000th sec. f5.6, ISO 800. Exposure compensation +2.