I have been very busy with my camera over the past 12 months. My last blog post was in February, so there’s plenty to tell you about. Danger: if you find insects, spiders or photography boring, stop reading now.
Winter in Scotland
During the winter months in the UK I certainly miss my insect friends, but always look forward to getting up to Scotland for some frozen landscapes. Early this year I spent time on Skye and in the Cairngorms, immersing myself in the winter scenery. I met up with friend and fellow photographer James Shooter for a few days and enjoyed some wonderful encounters with red deer and mountain hares. Thanks for sharing some great locations with me James!
Spring at Last
The arrival of spring meant it was time to head out in search of invertebrates. I live at the edge of the Peak District in Derbyshire and have several local sites that I regularly visit to hopefully catch a glimpse of a particular invertebrate or plant species. On one of the first properly warm and sunny days of April, I headed out to a thicket of goat willow that I hoped would be covered in yellow catkins. The catkins are an important food source for pollinators at this time of the year when not much else is in flower. Sure enough, I was rewarded with a dozen or so peacock butterflies that seemed as pleased as me to welcome the spring.
In Search of the Obscure
Throughout the rest of the year I enjoyed many more outings in the UK, several with my pal Chris Mattison. Chris and I very often end up photographing natural history subjects that are by many peoples’ standards small and obscure, such as tiny details of lichens. Working with macro subjects can be fiddly and often take a long time to set up for, shuffling the camera backwards and forwards with a macro focusing rail to get the composition just right and maybe adding a bit of light from an off-camera flash. Seeing the camera gear setup, passers-by will sometimes come up and ask, ‘what are you photographing, a bird?’ and look rather perplexed when the answer comes back, ‘see here, this section of decaying leaf, the veins make an interesting pattern’.
I have spent ages working with tiny organisms in my garden pond this year. Much of this work was done using my trusty Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens. Whilst not big, my garden pond remains a source of inspiration for most of the year, it is home to so many fascinating creatures.
Isle of Mull Tour
In June I ran a photography workshop week on the Isle of Mull with my friend Nick Garbutt. We had a really enthusiastic group and some very memorable puffin encounters, as well as plenty of time to explore macro photography. At present there are still a few places left on the June 2016 tour here: >>click link.
More UK Photography
I wish I could tell you about all of the subjects I found in the UK this year, but one of my favourites was this beautiful female raft spider in Dorset:
The Peak District Photography Gallery
I am lucky enough to be a member of the Peak District Photography Gallery, along with four other local photographers who are all good friends. Our gallery is situated in Bakewell and gives us a chance to display (and hopefully sell!) our Peak District landscape and wildlife photographs. We regularly put on themed exhibitions and early this year we worked on a fascinating joint project at Haddon Hall. Our aim was to recapture exact viewpoints that had originally been recorded over 150 years ago by Samuel Rayner in exquisitely detailed lithographs and drawings. Not my normal style of photography and all the more enjoyable for it!
Notice Nature Feel Joy
A real highlight of the year for me was being commissioned by Derby Museums to photograph their impressive historical insect collection in connection with the launch of their new nature gallery ‘Notice Nature Feel Joy’. I was tasked with photographing several specimens for their information booklets as well as producing a number of interesting abstracts for use in various other designs. If you are in the Derby area do drop in to explore this inspiring and interactive natural history gallery: http://www.derbymuseums.org/other-galleries/
Here are some close-ups of insects from the collection:
Slovenia, Croatia and Austria
I had never been to Slovenia before, and greatly enjoyed photographing the alpine flowers on the limestone scree slopes. The meadows were full of critters and the mountain walking was excellent. This was actually a family holiday rather than a ‘work trip’, but as usual I sneaked my camera into the luggage…
I ran my first tour for Wildlife Worldwide in June to Austria, once again teaming up with Nick Garbutt. The tour is called ‘Close-up on Alpine Nature’ and is all about mastering macro photography out in the field, including topics such as off-camera flash and focus stacking. At this time of the year the alpine meadows are bursting with flowers and insects. I was really pleased with how the tour went and it was gratifying to get off to a strong start with Wildlife Worldwide. 2017 dates are up on my website: >>see here. Special thanks to Andreas, Marlies and family who looked after us so well in their fantastic alpine hotel.
I visited Croatia twice with my friend Ian Daisley, both times concentrating on Plitvice Lakes National Park. The scenery is jaw-dropping and there were plenty of smaller details to explore as well including some fascinating cave invertebrates.
Thank you Crane Fly
I was very honoured to win the Hidden Britain category in the 2015 British Wildlife Photography Awards with my image of a dew-covered crane fly. I also had three highly commended images. I am still very excited about the whole thing, even though it was a while ago now!
My apologies to those I have worked with but not had the space to mention in this year’s review. Thank you for reading and I wish you all a happy and productive 2016.