The Nature's Home mailbox is filling up now our January issue has finished mailing - thanks for all your letters and e-mails. As usual, I am enjoying being thoroughly blown away by your photos and am having a difficult time choosing which ones to feature in the April issue. I'm pretty convinced that today, I have been sent the best picture of a bittern I have ever seen!
While you're getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch this coming weekend, 24-25 January, have a look at our feature on RSPB Birdfood and how buying it is helping birds in your garden and our migrants making their way across continental Europe. Hopefully it will inspire you to stock your garden with birdfood in preparation for a successful Birdwatch this weekend. I look forward to hearing how you got on. Do let us know!
I couldn't resist sharing this brilliant cartoon sent in by Andrew Kay.You can see more of Andrew's work on his website at at http://invisibules.org
Here's the latest from our guest blogger, and ace wildlife photographer, Tom Mason. Enjoy!
So its December… The John Lewis Christmas advert has been on our TVs for a few weeks, people are getting all het up with worry due to the impending family occasion, that will most probably result in much over indulgence, festivities and stress. So why not take a few hours for yourself, pick up your camera and have your own great escape? (Although this one involves a few less daring tunnels and barbed wire fences).
December is a brilliant time for working on a wildlife photography project and due to the harsher conditions and time constraints (because of that aforementioned occasion) its the perfect time to work right outside, in your own backyard or local patch. Photography much like birdwatching is a skill that develops with time and effort and sometimes due to restrictions it can be hard to plan in a weekend in Norfolk or casual trip abroad. Instead, we have to look to our local sites to fulfil our desire to produce beautiful images.
Make a plan
Planning is vital in order to maximise productivity from the time available. Draw out the images you are after and set to work attracting species to your site in order to provide some regular photographic subjects.
Working on something small, such as garden birds, is a perfect winter project for a few hours escapism. Set up feeders and then place a selection of perches along side them, to provide a more natural setting for your subjects. Focus on the perches, using a wide aperture to throw out the backgrounds to remove distracting elements from the frame.
If you don’t have your own outdoor space don't worry, many reserves around the UK have excellent feeding stations that are always stocked up and brimming with species. Locations like RSPB The Lodge, Rainham Marshes and many more are excellent alternatives.
With your set up in place you are ready to get to work. With your location pinpointed and prepared that two hour window when the family are out shopping or the turkey is in the oven becomes a dedicated moment for your photography, that could have so easily been lost without prior planning.
In the winter having a set up prepared also has a huge benefit when it comes to snow. Waking up to snow can seem exciting, but all to often our photographic ideas can turn to mush if we don’t have a fall proof plan in place, ready for the rare white covering! Get ready and know where you will be going, Scout out locations ahead of time and keep your kit bag packed.
Snowy conditions provide a whole new set opt conditions tot set your photography skills on familiar subjects such as robins
A rare treat
Snow doesn't happen all to often in the UK (especially down South) so make the most of it, and by setting up a feeding station in advanced, you will always be prepared with a fall proof back up plan.
Keep in mind that when photographing in snow you will need to over expose to make the whites white. Be careful however, as its all to easy to push it too far and blow out the highlights. If you haven’t already, think about delving into your camera a little deeper and learning how to use the histogram efficiently to help you make sure your exposures are spot on in the conditions you are shooting for.
Hard weather many bring reed bunting s into your garden, so have your camera ready
Take a break
Winter is a wonderful time for photography and by setting up in advance, planning and aways being prepared, even over the most hectic of Christmas periods can yield some perfect photographic opportunities over the yuletide season.
As my next post wont be until after the big day, I wish everyone the best over the Christmas Period and hope that Santa brings everyone some gorgeous photographic opportunities!
I would love to hear how you get on out in the field, so why not Tweet me @TomMasonPhoto? To see more of my work you can always visit my website at www.tommasonphoto.com
The first frosts have hit my part of the world, Cambridgeshire, in the last couple of nights, so winter is well on its way. Our latest guest blog from Tom Mason has inspired me to wrap up and get to the coast to see some of our many arriving winter visitors. I know I won't be getting shots that can rival any of his amazing ones below, but with Tom's top tips, you'll be well on your way. Do let us know how you get on! Here's Tom...
Head for the coast
With the nights drawing in. Days breaking with a chill in the air, now is the perfect time to head to the coast for a day on the beach. Not for sitting in deck-chairs of course, but instead to focus on photographing waders!
In the UK we are extremely lucky, with 19,491 miles of coast. We are spoiled for choice with many locations where we can get up close and personal with some of the sexiest (in my opinion) of UK birdlife.
During the autumn many species of waders are migrating to their wintering grounds. Whilst some will stay around the UK coastline (species such as dunlin, sanderling, turnstone) many will continue heading south to Africa, for the winter. During November the numbers of shorebirds around our coasts provide excellent opportunities for photography, the low winter light in conjunction with the shorter days, mean the conditions are favourable for working down by the tideline.
The winter [provides great light conditions for catching sanderlings in action on the shore.
Where to go
Location, as with most wildlife photography, is key. Norfolk is an obvious choice, the beaches of Titchwell, Cley and Horsey are great places to find numerous species and of course Snettisham for the high tide spectaculars. If you don’t live in the South East don’t despair as the entire coast of the UK is wader-rich: the Hayle estuary, Cornwall, Lindisfarne island,Northumbria, the Ythan Estuary in Scotland, The Shetland Isles and many others offer wonderful locations photographing waders.
Packing it in - knot mass in the high tide roost at Snettisham
When photographing waders, in most cases you are going to want to grab your longest focal length lens. Generally an DSLR with a 300mm lens can produce great results when used in conjunction with some good field craft. To isolate your subjects try working with a shallow depth of field, setting your camera to a wide aperture, f4 or 5.6 is a great place to start. This in addition to a fast shutter speed, will help freeze the action of the birds running along the shore. When shooting, try working with a bean bag to give some additional support and make sure you use a waterproof cover to protect your camera from both salt spray and sand!
Freeze the action to catch an oystercatcher in full flow
With birds, the most important problem to address is the outline of your body. Birds can very easily recognise a human figure so changing your shape is a sure fire way to let you gain those extra few feet. Get down low, crawling or even lying on the floor will help you appear less of a threat to your subjects. Give up any thoughts of looking cool when photographing waders...If you want the best images you will need to get dirty.
Fieldcraft will get you up close and personal with turnstones
A long day on the shoreline can be tiring and leave you soaked through. Make sure to take a change of clothes and a hot drink/ soup to warm you up after a long session lying in the wet sand! Or of course if you work on the beach at Titchwell they have an excellent Cafe… ;-)
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