Tuesday 26 February 2019

Well that was 2018 !

   Well that was 2018 and it was quite a busy year in one way or another !

  The first 'highlight' was an email early in the year, to say that two of my pictures had been shortlisted in the environmental category of the Scottish Nature Photography Awards - here , then just over a month later, I got the news that I'd won 1st place and 3rd with the two images below (I'd had 2nd place in 2014). The 1st place prize, was a weeks stay at the Treshnish and Haunn holiday cottages on Mull  - here. (We took the holiday in Nov 2018 and a few pictures from then can be seen here on my FB page). I have to say that its a fabulous place to stay, and would thoroughly recommend it.

 1st place

3rd place

(A follow-on from the competition was that in June, the pictures were used on BBC Springwatch) 

  The next 'bonus' for me, was a trip with Sula to the Black Isle for a week at the end of May and into June. One of the main reasons for the trip, was a day in a hide with the hope to see and photograph Pine Martens with Black Isle Nature Photography We we were't disappointed and despite having to wait for a few hours, we watched a mother and her kits feeding just feet in front of the hide in full daylight. 

Pine Marten

  There are more images from the Black Isle trip here.


  The 3rd 'treat' of the year - and the best - was a family trip to Finland in late July and in to August. It was a brilliant trip and would take far too long to put it all up here, but THE highlight for me, was the almost 14 hours in the hide at Martinselkonen,  watching Brown Bears.

  After a long drive from the 'cabin in the woods' where we were staying, we arrived at Martinselkonen in the late afternoon. After a late afternoon meal, we set off in the mini bus for a short drive to the parking area in the forest, followed by a short walk of around a km to the hide. I had asked what was the odds of seeing bears - thinking we might see one or two - and got a reply 'you'll see bears'. As we arrived at the hide, there were bears just yards from the door ! The hide was more like a log cabin than a hide; as, not only did it have the viewing windows and camera openings, it had bunk beds and a chemical toilet, such luxuries !

  Over the following hours (actually, many, many hours) we saw lots of bears feeding, grooming, resting - at one stage, there were 17 in front of and around the hide. (Over the whole evening/night/early morning, our guide reckoned we could have had over 40 individuals in front of the hide !)

 There are a lot more photographs of our summer holiday on FB Here


  With modern digital cameras, HD camera-phones and the like, it has become so much easier to capture images (whether still or video) of the natural world. When you see a picture or a video, the time and effort that is often required to capture the subject isn't obvious - or overlooked. It's only in the last few years on some of the fantastic David Attenborough programs, that the producers have shown how some of the iconic images have been captured and how long it takes.

  I have had first hand experience of this sort of thing with a short time-lapse I made back in 2016. I first had the idea of trying to get an aurora over the gannet stacks way back in 2012 - or maybe earlier - and even then I knew a lot of luck would be required to achieve my aim.

  There were a number of things that would have to fall in to place to achieve the desired effect; these being, a possible aurora, a clear sky, moonlight, little or no wind - and if there was, it had to be from the right direction and last but not least, Gannets ! All of these things put together, somewhat limited the opportunity to attempt it to either March/April, or mid August to mid September.

  Due to the camera location and the 2.5 mile walk (each way) it wasn't really feasible to go there at short notice at night - safety being one of the reasons. The first few attempts failed, partly to 'user error' and partly because of the weather or the aurora predictions had changed. I mentioned earlier about the wind direction; well, the image below is what happens when it's not taken in to account - the lens got covered in Gannet 'crud' !

  So, gradually I got the camera settings side of things sorted and practiced so that it was almost 2nd nature getting set up. Finally, after countless walks (and miles), going up to Hermaness in the late afternoon and then returning the following morning to retrieve the camera, it all came together in September 2016. The conditions were perfect, the aurora forecast was for a '4' (strength), there was a half moon, it was clear and the wind was light; all it needed now was for me to make sure I got my part of the equation right !

  Arriving at the location in the early evening, I set up the camera gear, programmed the small time-lapse invervalometer - which controls the shutter times,  the delay between the exposures, the delay before starting,  overall time etc. and then left, fingers crossed.

  Returning the following morning, I was full of anticipation. I knew there had been an aurora, but had everything worked ? I was very reluctant to look at the back of the camera as I'd been there before so to speak - full of hope, but something had then gone wrong. Anyway, thankfully this time it had worked ! My only regret was that I'd wished I'd let the camera run on for longer so as to get the aurora finishing as the dawn broke; hey ho, I was VERY lucky to get what I did ! 

  So, after several years of keeping it 'under wraps' so to speak, it was recently used in an hour long documentary called 'Wild Shetland' on the BBC, which was produced by Mara Media ; - well worth watching for the incredible footage of some of Shetlands wildlife if you get a chance.

  The image below is one frame from the time-lapse and is now without doubt, my most favourite picture I have taken.

Hermaness, Unst Sept 2016