Ophrys Photography

Wildlife photography by John Devries, Kent UK. Inspirational images from nature.
About us
Copyright
Tips/Tutorials
Galleries
Sales
Image of the
month
Commercial
Contact
Funnies
Free images
News
Site Map
Links

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


News and Blog 2011

News archives :

 



BLOG 2011 - Page 1 December back to June


December

Do you really need to upgrade your camera equipment ?

With Christmas coming up I have been busy fulfilling numerous customer orders for prints. There is no telling what images people will order and with so many on my website to choose from, the chances are that I will not have previously seen the selected picture in the printed form.

It is always tempting to keep updating your camera to the latest and greatest but is this really necessary? One print order I have completed recently got me thinking. It was of a hare taken in 2005 with a Canon EOS 20D 8.3 megapixel camera and a 100-400mm L f4.5-f5.6 IS zoom lens. This was printed to A3 size and displayed in a 20"x16" mount ready for framing. The image had to be interpolated (upsized) using Photoshop C5's Bicubic smoother function to match the required size at a printing resolution (300ppi). The image looked absolutely fabulous and quite frankly could have passed for one taken with a my 5DmkII and a prime lens.


Brown hare (simulation of the mounted print)

Admittedly if I wanted to print larger still, the extra megapixels of a more recent camera would have proven useful. Noise preformance is far less critical in print than when you view on a computer monitor. Presumably the ink droplets diffuse and disperse and the noise goes with it. I have printed quite noisy high-iso images from older cameras or scanned slides from film and the noise is just not an issue. I will also drop in a tip here, if you are printing, particularly if that involves resizing the image, you need to sharpen the image more than looks correct on the computer screen. Don't go so far as to introduce halos or other artificial-looking artifacts when viewed at 100% but you can certainly sharpen with a pretty firm hand.

I sold my 100-400 zoom lens some time ago as I didn't find that the image quality can compete with my prime lenses when viewed critically on a computer screen at 100%. However, the hare above looked very sharp indeed and certainly did not lack colour, contrast or resolution. So technique is obviously key. For best results when shooting with a zoom lens I recommend stopping the lens down a little if light permits and try to get reasonably close to your subject to negate heavy cropping.

So what is the moral of this story ?
Well, provided you have reasonable equipment, even if it is not as good as the very latest available, that still does not make it bad. I was over the moon with my 20D when it first came out, and just because it is superceded in certain ways that does not automatically mean that it has now transformed into a bad camera. My advice on upgrading (unless you have very deep pockets) is - don't do it until you feel that your existing equipment is holding you back for a specific reason.If we are honest, our equipment probably already exceeds our own abilities, so I would suggest that your money may be better spent on getting some decent tuition and spending the rest on travelling to an inspiring location. Just think, you could go on an African or Brazilian safari for the price of a new 1 series camera!


November
Primates at Apenheul, in Holland

I spent a couple of very enjoyable days at Apenheul in Apeldoorn, Holland at the end of October. Apenheul is a large park with natural grass and woodland and is home to many species of monkeys and primates, some of them critically endangered in the wild. Nearly all are allowed to roam free but are kept from the public by clever use of water and steep drops but some safe species such as the squirrel monkeys will actually come and sit on you while frisking you for any food you may be carrying.
Arm candy - Squirrel monkey
Monkey hat


I much prefer to take images of animals in the wild, but there are times when I will supplement my wild shots with some captive subjects. These opportunities can be great for getting extreme closeups and headshots of difficult species. Photo agencies are not bothered whether I have invested thousands of pounds in travel and laboured for hours to get an image or just popped down to the local zoo - I will be paid the same, so I cannot look a gifthorse in the mouth, but I am always open and honest when a subject is captive. Apenheul provides a great opportunity to get to study the animals at close quarters and get some great images. Here is one of the above squirrel monkeys in more natural conditions for example..


Squirrel monkey

Below are a couple of tamarins at close range. The golden-headed lion tamarin on the left looks fierce but is only yawning !
Golden-headed lion tamarin
Golden lion tamarin


The weather was very grey and overcast on both days of our visit and it actually rained for some of the first day. It is very easy to become disheartened when there is very poor light, as taking action shots becomes impossible as shutterspeeds are very low and use of high ISO settings becomes a necessity. Under these conditions, an image stabilised lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8 lens is a boon as it can provide an extra couple of stops of light to the camera sensor. I used a Canon 300mm f2.8 IS and and a 70-200mkII f2.8 IS on my 1DmkIV. At times when light permitted I also used converters to gain focal length. The upside of this dull weather is that you can shoot in any light direction and harsh shadows are avoided. On the last day, the sun did break through the clouds a couple of times and the resultant images do look cheerier but do also look a bit contrasty compared to thise taken in low but soft diffused light.

A few more primate images:


Barbary macaque

Barbary macaque group


White-cheeked gibbons in late afternoon sunshine on our last day


Lowland gorilla with infant

There are also some free-flying birds in the park such as the
macaws and peacock below...


Red and green macaws. This is one species of macaw that I failed
to locate in the wild in Brazil this year.


Red and green macaw preening


Male peacock


 

October

October 18th 2011 - Canon announces new 1Dx full frame professional camera

Canon has announced today a very interesting new 1 series camera - the 1Dx which will replace the 1DsmkIII and 1DmkIV, thus amalgamating the 1.3x APSH crop sensor and full frame lines into one.

Most rumour sources were expecting the 1DsmkIII to be replaced with an ultra- high megapixel count camera but Canon have taken a more sensible approach and have decided that 18Mp is enough and are concentrating on combining this with better image quality, improved noise performance, low-light ability and high frame rate. The 1Dx will combine a full frame sensor for maximum image quality and dynamic range ability with 12 fps shooting rate (14fps in jpeg with mirror locked up). This requires staggering processing power and this is provided by two new Digic 5+ processors and one digic 4 processor dedicated to metering and autofocus duties. The autofocus system has apparently been improved and greatly simplified for use by sensibly doing away with the multitude of custom functions and replacing them with six user-selectable presets defined by subject behaviour.

IDs mkIII users hoping for an even higher Mp camera may be disappointed in the 1DX but it is not inconceivable that Canon won't also release a 1DXs or 5DmkIII with a very high megapixel count at the expense of frame rate and noise performance but this is all just speculation.

Wildlife shooters may lament the passing of the 1.3x crop sensor as theoretically a longer focal length lens (or extender) will now be required to maintain the same number of pixels on target when focal length limited. Nikon shooters using the D3s seem to have managed pretty well with just 12mp up until now and the Canon 1Dx will have 18Mp to crop from. I suspect that in the real world, a high quality 1DX image with large pixels and ultra low noise will withstand heavy cropping better than a 1.3x sensor image despite a small pixel deficit though only time will tell.

Summary of features:

New 18.1MP Full Frame sensor
Dual DIGIC 5+ with 17x the processing power of DIGIC 4
Carbon fibre shutter rated at 400,000 actuation life
ISO 100-51200 native expandable to 204,800
100,000 Pixel RGB Metering Sensor
EOS iSA (Intelligent Subject Analysis)
61 Point AF
21 f/5.6 Cross Type Sensors
20 f/4 Cross Type Sensors
5 f/2.8 Cross Type Senors
Zone, spot and Af Expansion focussing modes
EOS iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking & Recognition Auto Focus)
12 Frames Per Second
14 Frames Per Second JPG Only
5 stop exposure compensation
8.11cm (3.2”), 1.04 million pixel Clear View II LCD Screen
Dual CF card slots
Ability to take multiple exposures
On board RAW conversion
Ethernet Connection
Improved video performance : (Full HD Movie shooting with ALL-I or IPB compression
29mins 59sec clip length in Full HD Movie)

Nikon's current D3s 12Mp full frame camera has a reputation for superior noise performance and autofocus tracking. The new 1Dx promises to eclipse it in all respects, but we must watch to see if Canon can meet its claims and also what response Nikon will make with the forthcoming D4. Exciting times !

My concerns with 1Dx as a wildlife camera

The 1Dx looks very exciting, but one disappointment is that it cannot apparently autofocus to f8 (centre point only) like all the previous professional 1D models - just f5.6 like the lesser Canon cameras. As the 1Dx is already lacking a bit of reach for telephoto use compared to the 1Dmk IV body which has a higher pixel density sensor. This slight shortfall on reach means that the wildlife shooter who is focal length limited (having difficulty getting close enough to subject) will be reaching for a converter more often. Unfortunately the lack of Af at f8 means that a 1.4x converter fitted to an f5.6 lens (such as the 800mm f5.6 supertelephoto) will not autofocus as the resultant aperture will become f8 . Similarly a 500mm f4 fitted with a 2x converter will no longer retain autofocus like it would on any other 1 series camera. I think this is a serious omission and I hope this will be addressed before launch in March.

Doug Brown tackled Chuck Westfall (Canon USA Technical advisor) on some of the concerns of wildlife photographers about the 1DX. Click here for his interesting interview with CW
.

The D1x will be released in March 2012 and will be priced at $6800 dollars in the US. (£5299.95 pre-order in UK)

To read more about the 1Dx click here :

Canon technical article

DP Review overview of the Canon of 1DX

Rob Galbraith overview


September

Some time ago I was approached by Ailton Lara from Pantanal Nature asking me if I would like to go to Brazil to photograph jaguars. I was coincidentally already thinking about going to the Pantanal as it is a premier wildlife location, so after a few long (but free) phone calls to Brazil thanks to Skype I could tell that Ailton was both very knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife of the Pantanal and I was persuaded that he would deliver me the trip of a lifetime that he had promised. I booked my wife and I for two weeks (plus travelling time at either end) at the beginning of September as this is the very best time to see jaguars. Ailton booked us one week in a couple of lodges along the Transpantaneira road plus a week in Jaguar camp where we would then spend all our time looking for the elusive cat.

At the end of our long overnight flight from Heathrow to Cuiaba (pronounced Kwee-ah- ba) via Sao Paulo on the Brazilian airline TAM, we arrived to 39c heat and were met by Edilson, our English-speaking guide who was to be our escort for the full two weeks of the trip.


Edilson serenading us with his guitar

After some hours of travelling in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle we arrived at the Transpantaneira road - a 149km, straight, unmade cattle-driving trail which ends at Porto Jofre
as it was never completed.


Gateway to the Pantanal - the Transpantaneira road

The road has 126 wooden bridges (in varying states of repair) along its length and these cross the water when the area floods extensively in the wet season. These bridges are good places to stop and look in the pools for anacondas.


Anaconda
Most of the pools are packed with birds such as white-necked herons, woodstorks and snowy egrets. It is such a delight to see such numbers of birds, and what's more they were pretty confiding. I soon learned that I did not have to photograph from the vehicle, but I was usually able to just get out and start firing away. I read that there are 650 species of bird in the Pantanal region, and I can believe it. There seem to be birds everywhere - this place is a wildlife paradise for sure.


Southern caracara on the road

The Pantanal is also very rich in mammal species and we encountered the critically endangered Marsh deer and Red brocket deer along the road on our first day.


Marsh deer

Capybara (world's largest rodent) are common as are the Caiman (a type of crocodile.) They can be seen in their hundreds lining the ponds and riverbanks warming up or waiting for prey.


Caiman

Despite being tired and jet-lagged we could not help stopping repeatedly on our journey to marvel at the animals and birds that flocked around us. Eventually we arrived at our first lodge - the Pousada Rio Claro and got ourselves unpacked. We stayed at two lodges and visited a third throughout our stay and all offered something different to see. The food at all the lodges (and jaguar camp) was surprisingly good and we never suffered with upset stomachs. The Rio Claro was the most luxurious lodge and had a swimming pool and the fabulous river behind it which was just bliss on a boatride at sunrise. The lodge's bird feeders attracted noisy black-headed parakeets and various finches and the large mango trees brought in Campo flickers - stunning yellow woodpeckers.


Campo flicker

Some lucky people managed to see ocelot from the Rio Claro river, but we were not fortunate ourselves to see any other cats other than jaguar - but I am getting ahead of myself.


Black-headed parakeets

In the morning we needed to be up for dawn at 5am to get the best out of the day but we were inevitably woken up at least an hour earlier by Chaco Chachalaca birds which shout a duet of deafeningly loud calls that can be heard a couple of kilometers away! I could have spent hours photographing birds around the lodge as there was so much to see. I took pictures of Caracaras, Cuckoos and Cattle tyrants, Southern lapwings and a family of Burrowing owls that were nesting just outside the lodge grounds in disused termite mounds. With a slow approach, these let me get very close.


Burrowing owl

Our guide worked us very hard and certainly gave us our money's worth- up at 5:00 and back at sunset and after our evening meal we were out again for night safaris with a powerful torch looking for the eyeshine of Nightjars and mammals such as Crab-eating foxes, Pumas and other cats. A siesta in the (considerable) heat of the day was meant for a rest time, but of course, yours truly was upholding the tradition of "mad dogs and englishmen out in the midday sun" photographing birds around the camp. We saw the Crab-eating foxes in the torchbeam at night but were also astonished to find one at the lodge the next morning scavenging kitchen scraps.


Crab-eating fox

After three nights at the Rio Claro we moved on to the nearby Pouso Allegre lodge. The lodge is situated in 11,000 hectares of unspoilt land and the drive up to the lodge yielded our first Coatis.


Coati on the Pouso Allegre track


Coati resting in a tree

The main reason for staying at the Allegre lodge was to hopefully photograph the hyacinth macaws that nest there. This endangered bird is the largest of the macaws and was one of my three target species for the trip. The others being giant otter and of course, Jaguar.

Just behind our room there was a big old tree with a nest hole and a huge artificial nest box. As soon as we arrived I set about getting some shots in the bag. My favourite was this sunset silhouette.



The next morning I was up before sunrise and counted 14 of these big, acrobatic, noisy but very beautiful birds roosting in the palm trees. As the sun rose, they became more active and I was fortunate to photograph a couple of matings. The macaws gradually flew off to feed but a few hung around long enough to get some pictures taken.


Hyacinth macaws

Pouse Allegre was also excellent for the Ostrich-like Rhea and Toco toucans that visited in the early mornings. We took the opportunity to do some horse-riding too as this was a great way to see the extensive land surrounding the lodge.


Rhea

We hoped to perhaps see the giant anteater and the smaller tree-climbing Southern tamandua around the lodge but were out of luck, but some other guests did manage to see them both.

The next day we visited another lodge called the Pousada Rio Clarinho as it has a high lookout tower built around a huge tree. After watching some brown capuchin monkeys we scaled the tower which provided a beautiful view of the Rio Claro river and the surrounding landscape. From the hide we watched a tapir rooting around so we descended again and tried to persuade it to come out of the jungle and onto the track where the failing light was a bit better. We saw two Tapirs on the trip and both were extraordinarily tolerant of human presence and allowed us within almost touching distance.


Our friendly Tapir


A ridiculously approachable blue and yellow macaw at the Clarinho

It is so difficult to know what to put in and what to leave out of this brief report. We were thoroughly spoilt with the riches of wildlife and photo-oportunities on offer in the Pantanal. But I must move on to cover our second week at Jaguar camp.

The camp is located at the very end of the Transpantaneira road and is located on the bank of the wide Cuiaba river. There are lots of tents and temporary buildings as sports fishermen also use this camp as a base. Pantanal Nature have around 8 large tents and a restaurant which provided everything we needed. The spacious tents contained proper beds, a proper bathroom with shower and flushing toilet and power was provided all night. This was at the expense of having to put up with the noise of the camp generator, but after 12 hours on the river in a boat each day we were so exhausted we hardly noticed. The flipside was I had plenty of power to recharge camera and laptop batteries.

The boats we used were excellent. As a photographer I sat up front in a swivel chair which gave me the ability to shoot left, right and straight ahead. Behind me sat my wife Gail and Edilson our guide beside her and the boat driver sat at the rear. The boats are shallow bottomed which allowed them to get into some very shallow creeks when looking for jaguar. They were quite powerful being fitted with 18hp outboard engines which was useful if you needed to get somewhere quickly - e.g. if a Jaguar had been spotted. (If you will excuse the pun). The sport fishermens' boats were much faster than ours however and they made a huge wake as they roared past us on their way to
catch the large catfish, piranhas and other fish that that the river holds. Our boatman was very adept at crossing the wake - just as well as I'm sure that they could have sunk us otherwise.


Pantanal Nature boat with rain/shade canopy down

The routine everyday at jaguar camp was up at 5am, a quick breakfast and out to the boat for sunrise. Lunch was taken with us and we returned by the light of the stars after dark. Each day in the morning we would zoom off for about 40minutes to the jaguar hotspots which are to be found along one of three rivers, around a small island and and also in some of the small watercourses that are choked with water hyacinths. We would then start cruising slowly looking for our quarry.You are in the most superb wilderness and if it wasn't for a small number of other jaguar watching boats (and a couple of film crews) and some fishermen you were absolutely on your own with nature.

Our own two boats were in radio contact but other Jaguar watching boats would share information. Without this we would not have seen many jaguars as they are very hard to find. Most sightings were usually in the afternoon when a cat would be located sleeping on the river bank underneath a tree in a tangle of undergrowth. If the river was wide and fast-flowing we would drop anchor or moor up to a tree, but in the narrower watercourses we were often able to moor up and watch the jaguar from the opposite bank. This meant I was able to set up a tripod on dry land which was much easier than shooting from a rocking boat. The jaguars usually started becoming active around an hour before dark. We were lucky enough to have three very good and prolonged sightings which included a wonderful occasion when a male came down to drink right opposite us. We also witnessed a couple of failed hunting attempts to catch a capybara and a caiman. This same jaguar then went on to swim for 100m to get to a more accessible part of the shore.

We had at least one Jaguar sighting every day over 7 days which is remarkable really considering just a few years ago the only photos you would ever see of this secretive animal would have been taken in a zoo. To see my images of the jaguars we saw please click here : Jaguars

Jaguar


Jaguar swimming

The other one of my three main target species that I haven't mentioned so far is the giant otters.You may have seen these on TV as they have been featured several times. They are very different in nature to the otters found in the UK. Firstly, they are much larger, far more vocal, hunt in broad daylight and appear to be totally unconcerned about human presence from a boat. They are fantastic characters and will play and catch fish and put on a fantastic show for nature watchers. We were able to visit the family groups daily at two holts and watch them for ages at point blank range. We followed them through the floating water hyacinths while they fished, swimming at great speed and crunching noisily through anything that they caught. We also witnessed young otters being taught to swim in a nursery pool and then being carried back by the scruff of the neck to the holt. I hoped to see and perhaps photograph giant otters but was totally unprepared for the incredible wildlife watching spectacle that was made available to us every day.


Giant otters playing watched by an Anhinga in the background


One of many fantastic sunsets we witnessed from the boat on our return to
camp. What you can't see in the picture is the myriad of Fishing bats and
Nighthawks that are circling the boat.


One of the things that I haven't really emphasised is how approachable a lot
of the Pantanal wildlife is. Here is a tourist boat taking pictures of an Anhinga
drying its wings at point blank range.

You will probably have gathered by now that I rate the Pantanal somewhat highly. In this trip report I have only covered a fraction of what we witnessed in this action-packed two weeks.We have been fortunate enough to travel to many destinations in search of wildlife and both agree that this one is right up there with the very best trips we have ever had. Many thanks to Ailton and Edilson for such a great experience. I would recommend Pantanal Nature without hesitation to anyone considering visiting the Pantanal. Their friendliness, expert knowledge, enthusiasm and dedication is second to none. Thank you so much guys - Ailton, you kept your promise - you did deliver the trip of a lifetime.

Advice for the Pantanal

For those of you who are planning a trip to the Pantanal, I would recommend visiting in September if you are wanting to see Jaguars. In late October/November the rainy season starts and the Pantanal is converted into a massive flooded wetland. It is still possible to visit and I'm sure that you would have a great but very different experience to ours.

In September it is the dry season but some beautiful trees are flowering. The weather was generally very hot - around 40c most days but on one day a cold front moved in and we had heavy rain on and off all day and it felt really cold. I'm really glad I took my waterproofs. This still didn't stop us seeing a jaguar and giant otters though !

We had very little problem with biting insects during the day (but a couple of small, non disease-carrying ticks at the Allegre) but the mossies in the tent at Jaguar camp were a nuisance. There was a mosquito net that we didn't bother using as malaria is not a problem in the Pantanal, but in hindsight we should have done as we were both bitten repeatedly. It is cold on the boat in the morning but roasting by about 10am. Take plenty of factor 30 sunscreen. For Photography I took a 70-200 plus 1.4x , the 500mm f4 and a 24-105 plus two camera bodies. This worked out very well. A 100-400 on a 7D would also be absolutely fine too.

Power is 110v at the lodges and jaguar camp and is the two-pin type. I carry a 4 way UK lead fitted with a two pin on the wall end. Take plenty of memory cards and backup storage - you will need it, there is so much to photograph.

If I had my time again I would add one extra night at a lodge half way along the Transpantaneira road at the end of the trip. It is a very long drive back along the full length of the unmade Transpantaneira with two flights ahead of you to look forward to.


August

They say as you get older that time flies. I thought, I must update my News page for this month and I noticed that I have missed writing something for a quite while. So apologies, but I will make up for it big time next month as I am just off to a very exciting destination with a very specific (mammalian) species as a key target. So please bare with me and watch this space!

June

I had a holiday planned to Northumberland to visit the Farne islands and to the Scottish borders to visit Bass Rock this June. I wanted to take my wife along this time to show her these places as they have have become two of my absolute favourite UK wildlife hotspots. Bass rock is home to a huge colony of Gannets, in fact the rock looks white from a distance - the white being the nesting birds.

Getting onto Bass Rock has become quite difficult these days due to few boat trips running and the inevitable increase in demand. We arrived at our hotel in Dunbar in torrential rain which continued through the night. Next morning we awoke with great excitement to blue skies and a clear view of Bass Rock so we assumed our trip was on.


Bass Rock from Dunbar harbour

Unfortunately the Scottish Seabird Centre had cancelled our trip the day before based on a (poor) weather forecast and would not reinstate it. We were terribly frustrated as we had driven for 6.5 hours to Dunbar and conditions were perfect but we were going nowhere. We tried to get on another trip later in the week but these were all fully booked. I therefore had to make do with photographing the very approachable kittiwake colony in Dunbar (I got splattered a few times with fishy-smelling bird poo - unfortunately this did not improve my luck).


Kittiwake with chicks, Dunbar harbour

We left Dunbar the next day and set off for the English borders and onto Northumberland. The weather was very windy and we were in need of something to raise our spirits. This came in the form of a roadside verge on the A1 which was peppered with bright magenta dots which transpired to be Northern marsh orchids (D.purpurella). Amongst the NMO's were some nice bee orchids - a species that I think is very scarce north of the border. I chose an NMO as one of July's Image(s) of the Month.


Northern marsh orchid colony

We arrived at Seahouses, the stepping-off point for the Farnes after just an hour's drive and so we visited Banburgh castle in the afternoon. This was fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Northumberland.

The next day brought wonderful weather and we managed to get boat tickets to visit the Farnes. I never used to book, but was advised by the B&B landlady to do so. I'm glad I did as 160 people had already made reservations when I rang to check. It seems that everything is getting horribly over-subscribed in the UK these days. As good as the Farne islands are, I'm not sure I want to visit them again as I feel that the number of visitors is getting out of control. The queue for boats extended from one end of Seahouses harbour to the other and 80 people were crammed into each small boat. The National Trust charge a landing fee on each island on arrival, and I would say that the temptation to collect the landing fee from so many visitors is becoming the main reason for not limiting the number of visitors.

I always use Billy Shiel as he does an all day bird watching trip which lands on two islands - Staple and Inner Farne. Both islands are superb but very different in character you need to visit both. Sadly we learnt of Billy Shiel's death while we were in the Farnes. He was quite a character and was even awarded an MBE.

Despite the crowds, my wife was bowled over by the incredible sights, sounds and smells of the thousands of nesting seabirds on the islands. The Arctic terns were in fine form on Inner Farne, dive-bombing the visitors and landing painful pecks to the head if you ventured too close to their nests and chicks. It is not an exaggeration that you can take pictures of these beautiful birds with a 50mm macro lens as they sit so close on the fence posts !


Arctic tern

It would be impossible to mention the Farnes without referring to the wonderful puffins - everybody's favourites. These comical little birds continually fly backwards and forwards bringing sandeels and small fish to their chicks that are waiting in their burrows in the grass.


Puffin in flight with a beak full of sandeels

Finally, I was pleased to get some shots of fulmars nesting this year. Fulmars are in the albatross family - look at the head and beak with a breathing tube on the top which gives the family the name "tubenose".


Fulmar

The rest of the week in Northumberland was spent sight-seeing (there is lots to see e.g. Alnwick House and Gardens, Hadrian's Wall and the superb nearby Roman excavation and museum called Vindolanda.

On our last day we had booked a day with "Photographers on Safari" for a Pro Bird of Prey shoot.
This involved taking 5 species of raptor (Merlin, juvenile Peregrine, Golden eagle, Eagle owl and Barn owl) to a piece of very nice moorland above Banburgh and getting them to fly and pose against very natural backdrops. I don't do much photography with captive subjects but I don't have a problem with this as long as the photographer is open about the fact. It was fun to be able to shoot pretty stunning images of these normally difficult species with a short 300mm lens. Efforts were made to conceal the jessies (handlers leather leg straps) and the birds were placed in natural habitat and fed with very natural prey - such as a rabbit for the golden eagle. We both thoroughly enjoyed the day and here are a few shots that I took.


Barnowl with mouse


Eagle owl flying in the rain


Golden eagle with rabbit


Merlin with wagtail


Juvenile peregrine on dry stone wall