Comparing notes

An owl waits in the darkness
We recently had the privilege of spending the day at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park – a great location for photography. Its open and walk through enclosures mean you’re rarely shooting through glass or wires, which gives you a real opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals.

We went along with family and friends and spent an enjoyable few hours with the lemurs, lions and birds of prey. There’s something that fascinates us so about the birds of prey. Their expressions can flit from quizzical to murderous in a glance. Their speed in flight and their considered poses when motionless gives the photographer a real chance to capture the true beauty of these birds.

Having the opportunity to spend the day with a wee two year old at the zoo inspired many a photo from ground level, seeking to obtain a bird’s eye view of the animals from the ground upwards. None of these pictures have made it into the final cut –exposure and depth of field was a considerable challenge when taking pictures of basking black and white lemurs in the sunny grass or taking birds of prey swooping down to ground level in a dark forest, but it was a worthwhile experiment that we’ll no doubt continue to trial. Watch this space for further attempts……

What we really enjoyed was the chance to return home with guests and critique our shots. We discussed what we should and should not have done, how we altered exposure, depth of field and ISO – learning more from each other over a glass of wine than we might have done out in the field that day. A worthwhile and rare chance to share lessons learned with fellow photographers and one we hope to repeat one day. Volunteers welcome!

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About a book – ‘Glimpses from another world’ by Marie & Alistair Knock

Bat suspended upside down
There’s something about the concept of staring into the eyes of another creature which gives me goosebumps. The idea of such an intense connection, of a memory without spoken word – a moment lost in translation. Photography gives you the privilege of getting up close and personal with a number of subjects – and for us, wildlife is our passion. Whether it’s a lingering moment with an animal in captivity or the ferocious lion leaping to protect its cubs in the wild, photography can provide you with an opportunity to get closer to animals in a way you never have before.
Animal eyes became a project of mine for a number of years. Fascinated by the catch light as it reflects off pupils, drawn in by the lingering glances of both cute and dangerous animals, I became obsessed with capturing the essence of an animal through its vision. Choosing to focus on what it stared at, trying to translate the in

The result was a book called ‘Glimpses from another world’ which I am incredibly proud of. What I especially like about this book is that the shots were taken over a number of years and on a range of photography equipment, from Canon EOS 30/40Ds to a Canon powershot, and what’s more, the majority of shots in the book were taken in British zoos – showing that local wildlife and zoological parks can be a veritable playground for wildlife photographers. All you need is lots of patience, a decent UK zoo membership and a sturdy set of waterproofs and the world is your oyster.

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The benefit of hindsight – Lessons with leopards

A leopard prowls in the dried stream beds near Kicheche Mara Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya

I have often heard the criticism that the tourist with a camera sees little of the place they visit. Whilst I understand the sentiment behind this, ironically, some of the best pictures we’ve taken are when we’ve been least prepared – when we’ve been in a situation when our eyes have never been wider and our last thought has been to grab the camera. This is one such shot….

Having been unlucky with leopard sightings previously, we’d been tracking this leopard for hours. Dedicated, committed and it’s fair to say a little obsessed, we’d lost patience with the sight of the occasional glimpse of leopard skin and had downed tools to search eagerly through the bushes, eyes primed for a sighting of the elusive beast. Those sharing the van with us had grown tired hours before and had slipped into peaceful slumber in the back of the truck, but we and the trackers remained ever hopeful as we slipped into hour 3 of our search.

The light grew darker, and false alarm after false alarm led us further and further into the African thicket. Ground cover became heavier and bushes thickened as we penetrated the savannah forests further and further. The light and intense concentration played tricks on us and our eyes started to burn as the contrast between night and day grew more intense.  Hours had passed and it was less of a photographic mission now and more of a personal dream. As we pulled into a dried river bed under the canopy of trees she was there! Standing tall and proud, our presence did not even shake her. With each carefully pondered step she stalked towards our vehicle, turning on occasions to allow her coat to shine in the dappled light of the African sunset. Daring not to remove our eyes from our first leopard sighting, we slunk down into the vehicle to retain our cameras. Each grabbing what was closest to us, I ended up with the EOS 40D, a bad idea having spent most of the week shooting documentary footage with the videocamera. Still, needs must. Aware that it might be another 7 years since we would have this sighting again, we clicked and whirred away. Over 200 pictures taken in what seemed like an instant. Brain failing to engage, I snapped and snapped every opportunity I could get, only pausing once for my husband to whisper furiously about my ISO. Heart sinking I realised I’d been shooting a fast moving and camouflaged animal, in the forest during failing light. The result? One of the pictures I am most proud of – but will fail to replicate again.

With the benefit of hindsight……

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new blog topic – with the benefit of hindsight

As well as my ‘Photo of the week’ post, I’d like to add another post called ‘with the benefit of hindsight’ which will share some of the photography mistakes we’ve made along the way, with the aim of sharing lessons learned.

Look out for the first post on the evening of August 18th, 2010.

We hope you enjoy it.

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Photo of the week: Going back to the sea

Glistening waves in the Drake Passage

Upon hearing that we’ve been to Antarctica, the first (sensible) question people ask (after ‘Why the heck would you!), is ‘What is it like?’

That’s a really hard question to answer and one I’d struggle to answer in words alone. That’s why our photographs are so precious to us – they take that snapshot in time (no pun intended) and lock it away as a back-up for our memories.

The reason for travelling to the polar regions is a question I find myself answering more and more now – especially as we’re about to embark on an expedition to the Arctic. It’s the natural reaction of people to ask ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘when’. But for us, it’s not a case of why, more ‘why not?’

Some people are born for travelling and exploring new cultures, new ways, new sights and sounds. For us… well we’ve grown into it. Fuelled by a desire to see beyond what we already know we’re hungry to travel. To see things that challenge us, to discover new emotions, new people and make new discoveries that fundamentally begin to define who we are and what we stand for. The people closest to us no longer question it – nor do they necessarily accept it. I dare say parents and loved ones would prefer us not to sail across some of the roughest seas in the world and would prefer us not to endure freezing temperatures as we camp alone on the ice with nothing but a wee dram of something Scottish and a sleeping bag to protect us – but for us, it’s the only way and it’s the way we grow stronger and better at what we love doing.

That’s why we’re going back to the sea this Autumn. Going back to a place where we know we’ll be challenged, where we know we’ll fall in love with the landscape and wildlife, to a place that we’ll be proud to call home for a brief 2 weeks.

That’s why I’ve picked this Antarctic landscape as our picture of the week. It cements my expectations of the polar regions, allows me to explain to others the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of travel and exploration. Above all, it daunts and excites me to think that we could be in this landscape again shortly.

We’re going back to the sea…….

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