Now having left work and wishing to get fully into wildlife photography I booked myself on a winter photography workshop. Not one of those that sits you down and give you death by power point but a workshop mostly in field conditions. The workshop was run by Marcus Conway of Ebirder
. On the first night we an given an introduction, on various equipments, hides, camoflage, safety etc and after about one hour that is the power point done. On the first day we have to trek into a Scottish forest in search of Capercaillie, we are fore warned that some of these birds are territorial and will sometimes chase people who stray into their territory. Also we are told it may take a few visits to find the Capercaillie. We walk about a mile and off load our excess bags and start to venture into it's territory. Were in luck as we round a corner in the forest a Capercaillie is in the open. And as warned it is on the defensive approaching a photographer who got to close. It is low light, a light covering of snow here and there, and Marcus is continually giving out information on exposure settings and warning us to step back when necessary if the bird approaches. All works out well and despite the low light we get some images. So a good start and we leave the Capercaillie after a short time. We return to the Landrover for lunch and a brew. Were lucky with the weather at the moment it is mid winter but really mild in Scotland.
After lunch we head to a feeding station where we hope to get Crested Tit. We arrive there and the lights still poor with the odd glint of sunlight now and again. Marcus sets up a couple of props and lays on some inviting morsels for the birds. It not long before the birds start arriving, but they dart in and out not that easy to get pictures. Marcus helps out by telling us where the birds are and what direction they approach form etc. We spend about an hour here, but have to move on to photograph Red Deer.
Next it onto photograph the Red Deer, this has been arranged with a Game Keeper who we hope can get the Red Deer down to the edge of the forest. After a drive up a dodgy road we arrive at the forest. The Red Deer are no-where to be seen, but after some calling from the Game Keeper they soon appear. I get out my camera with 300mm lens and disaster it won't focus. I switch to manual, I can now focus but can't set the aperture so the 300mm lens, my main lens for the trip is fubarred!!!! Well this is not good news, I try, Marcus has a look but it is not going to work. I grab a couple of Red Deer shots with my wide angle lens.!!
Back to our B+B we down load all the photos, have a bite to eat and then assess the days images later.
Day two and Marcus informs us were climbing in the Scottish Highland to photograph Ptarmigan. He also informs us the weather is perfect. We get a brief on the perils of being in the highlands and how changeable the weather is, field craft etc. We then start the long trek up hill. Me accompanied by my monster 600mm as the 300mm don't work. After a while we stop, crampons are the order of the day.
This sort of photography to get these images needs a good level of fitness and if your lucky like me an higher level carrying the 600mm lump all day. After two/three hours we are told we are in the area for Ptarmigan, it's quite a large area, covered in snow and the Ptarmigan winter plumage is mostly white. Were described the noise these birds make and after about thirty minutes we locate a bird. (getting to it is another thing) We cautiously approach and learn if we can stay with the hen bird the males will come, which they duly do later on in the day. Were lucky again were onto some good photographic opportunities. We left all our surplus gear in a pile a look behind us reveals just how high we have gone in pursuit of the Ptarmigan. After a couple of hours we mange to find around five birds in one area, so lunch is postponed. Satisfied with the photography we get some lunch and make our way down the mountain. It tricky I keep loosing my footing for some reason, on taking my boots of at the bottom I realise I have lost the crampon of my left boot. My phone goes off a text says Liverpool have beaten Man Utd in the cup, despite the hard days trekking this is turning out to be a quality day. Back to the B+B and I am knackered, but still time for a meal and a look over the days images.
|The Long Way Back (well about half way actually)|
The final day see us in pursuit of Mountain Hare, we venture to a steep sided valley, and I mean steep. We spot the Hares from the road and they are a long way up, (bugger more carrying the 600mm lens around) We get briefed on the field craft and best way to approach the Mountain Hare and duly set off after the white spots in the hill side. We have varying amounts of success but do spot a distant Golden Eagle as a bonus. What a gigantic bird. After spending sometime on the first hill we venture down for lunch. We then have to climb the steeper hill on the other side, joy.!!! Well its now blown a gale a holding the camera steady is a mamouth task, but I manage some how (must be all that time in the gym!!!) After the ascent I look down and the Landrover is a minor speck in the distance.
|Golden Eagle (Distant)|
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable workshop, hard work physically, combined with delicate field craft and skills, certainly makes you appreciate the time and effort that goes into get these shots by pro photographers. It is not a case of just pitching up an getting the image. Lots of research of the area's etc is also required first. Makes me think I need to do a lot more looking now before picture taking.