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COGC: Scottish Wildlife—Evaluation

My thoughts of my graded unit project is that I was pretty successful for what I captured despite limited time. Wildlife photography is something unpredictable, like the weather it can change quickly, there is no guarantee of capturing what you would like. I set out the task of trying to capture a variety of wildlife to see in Scotland as part of wildlife tourism. I feel strongly for the protection of our wildlife and there has always been that small part of me that looks back thousands of years when Scotland t003hrived with wolves, wild black boar, bears and many other species that were hunted into extinction. Part of me feels wildlife has been severely limited in many ways and therefore with the interest in wildlife tourism it helps capture people’s love and imagination so they themselves become aware of what they have here to see, not just Scotland’s beautiful landscape to help protect what Scotland has.

I was inspired by photographs I saw for sale asprints in places like Edinburgh Zoo’s souvenir shop or from images captured of the wildlife on Visit Scotland’s wildlife tourism pages. You get a sense of the animals in their natural habitat rather than pictures just taken of them held captive in a zoo, the researched images were appealing and that’s what I aimed to achieve through the images I captured that not only gives an image for what Scotland has to offer but tells a story. Many of the animals aren’t native to Scotland so that was also challenging as much of their natural habitat can be somewhat different. The images _20A7511I captured I feel were very successful in this regard, a great example of the wolves I captured with the woodland surrounding them.

There were a few shoots I felt disappointed with, visiting Benmore Botanic Garden I was unsuccessful capturing any insects using macro technique and became increasingly difficult to find, with the restricted time and the one image I had for a red squirrel habitat I felt wasn’t sufficient enough, the perfectly lined trees felt slightly out of place rather than a natural wild forest. I was also disappointed with the shoot at Edinburgh Zoo as shooting at a downward angle wasn’t appealing, some of the animals I would have imagined and liked to have captured weren’t in the right place to capture such as the meerkats closer to the back fencing, or the inactivity of the monkeys I would have liked to have captured. This shows the nature of wildlife photography, there is no guarantee of capturing something appealing.

Benmore Botanic Garden Trees

Row of trees in Benmore Botanic Garden with sun breaking through.

Some places I had originally planned to visit such as Glencoe, I changed plan. Having visited the Cairngorms National Park it changed my perspective. I visited the Cairngorms early April for a one to one photographic day tour with a professional wildlife photographer, Neil McIntyre and having later visited the Cairngorms over the duration of a weekend later that month there were many things I discovered available in the surrounding area which opened up opportunity for capturing great images, therefore decided to stick around that surrounding area. The day tour with Neil McIntyre proved to be my most successful shoot, not only did I learn a good few things from Neil, the experience was worthwhile and thanks to his excellent work I was able to get close to the red squirrels and wild hare in their natural habitat. You learn from Neil that it’s not as straightforward as taking a camera out into the wild and hoping for the best, you get an appreciation that it takes time and hard work for wildlife such as red squirrels to grow accustomed to you. Also _20A6001why spending a dedicated amount of time in the one area can make the difference requiring a great deal of patience.

From previous coursework I have done throughout the year in telling a story, Neil’s work is certainly inspiring in that regard and when it came to showing me how to properly photograph landscape for habitat shots, it became apparent to me the finest smallest details, such as the patterns on a rock face. You can definitely see this in his work from images he has captured himself of empty trees that although no sign of the red squirrels, it tells a story of where to find them, where they live. It also helped greatly as I gained an important understanding of using the sun behind me to wait for it to break out from the clouds to light the foreground, using leading lines to capture stunning landscape images with detail in the sky using the correct exposure.

I felt it greatly benefited me having done the one to one tour with Neil McIntyre, he has a wealth of experience and knowledge in wildlife and landscape photography, he was able to offer me guidance if that’s the field I wish to go towards in my career as well as helped me improve my insight with techniques. A few examples of this was switching from manual mode which I usually use on my camera to aperture priori_20A5972ty with high speed drive mode when photographing the red squirrels. The camera does fantastic work for correcting exposure as the light behind me kept changing from the sun breaking from
clouds. The second example was learning the camouflage technique using the extended depth of field, something I would not have thought of or spotted myself. These small things greatly helped improve my skillset for capturing some fantastic images.

Having revisited the Cairngorms National Park I did a photographic tour of the Highland Wildlife Park which was a slight disappointment photographing through the wired fencing and the tour guide had no knowledge in photography. I wouldn’t say it was worth £150 however did manage to capture a few fantastic images. If comparing that to the photographic tour I did with Neil McIntyre, there is a big difference. Neil as mentioned has a wealth of experience who can tell you where to stand and suggest what is best, this you can benefit from. Some sections of the park you could walk around yourself and _20A7592capture, the only difference with the photographic tour is that they feed the animals giving you the chance to see them closer.

Some images I captured were a slight disappointment such as the noticeable wired fencing in the backdrop when photographing the wolves or even the Scottish wildcat. Another disappointment was shooting down at some of the animals such as the monkey’s which is less desirable. I knew that from what I captured on the tour with Neil, the pictures I captured of the red squirrels and wild hare stood out as my best images. It was then challenging for me to try and capture images that could match that standard, especially in places such as Blair Drummond Safari Park or the Highland Wildlife Park.

Another slight disappointment was a shoot I planned for the Osprey Centre in Boat of Garten, I was limited to what I could capture due to the distance between the Osprey nest and the hide we watched from in the Osprey Centre. Saying that it was a wonderful experience getting to see the nest and the birds in flight and for the limited images I captured they tell a story with the male having flew back to the nest with food and the female taking off with it to eat. It wasn’t until later that I discovered therewas a Rothiemurchus hide for capturing the Osprey diving for fish which gets you close to thestunning birds, however from research on the BBC documentary, ‘Highlands:
Scotland’s Wild Heart, the BBC mentions it took them 5 days just to capture the action Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 20.59.05they wanted, so there is no guarantee. When you look at some of the images other photographers have captured of the Osprey closeup diving for fish it is spectacular and therefore I couldn’t help but feel I could have captured something spectacular, but with costs and time I’m pleased with what I captured given the limited time I have.

I feel that overall from the 11 shoots I done and some of which weren’t as successful as I would have liked, I managed to pull off many fantastic images that illustrates the variety of techniques which fits perfectly with the project requirements. It was a difficult task narrowing down my final best 20 images which was no easy task, especially knowing that I had to swap out many stunning shots in exchange for other shots to show for the variety of technique. Some techniques I struggled with such as the pan shot technique _20A8377using the slower shutter speed. I captured some pin sharp images using this technique, however didn’t feel the images were good enough to be placed among my final 20 images. Another technique that was tricky as I depended upon the sun was the silhouette
technique, I did use Camera Raw to help me achieve my desired result.

The techniques I used to show for variety throughout my final 20 images were:

  • fast shutter speed (red squirrel leaping in mid air).
  • shallow depth of field (wild hare, red squirrel and variety of other images).
  • silhouette (Osprey nest at Loch Insh).
  • extended depth of field (landscape habitat shots).
  • camouflage (wild hare).
  • Shapes (wild hare looking up hill).
  • Composition (framing the wolf).

The weather was sometimes unpredictable and challenging and managed to work around that. I tried to capture as much as I could using the sun for good lighting, I also managed to capture some dramatic skies such as one dramatic landscape shot I captured with the dark clouds, however never included it into the final 20 images. I did mention it would be nice to include a variety and this was perhaps the only thing missed out. Bearing in mind, wildlife photographers capture photographs of the wildlife throughout the different seasons of the year and I was somewhat fortunate enough to have a lot of good weather making the best of the lighting I had. Taking into consideration the time spent and travelling I made best for what was made available to me.

The research work I did towards each individual shoot was pretty straightforward, some of the shoots turned out different than expected and I do feel that for some of the research perhaps deeper research could have led me to something better.

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Illustrated from my workbook, some of the post processing work I did were of images I had not yet completely decided whether or not I was submitting towards the final 20. The editing I feel shows a consistency which I wanted and aimed to keep the images looking as natural as possible with bear minimal editing. Upon attending a one to one with my lecturer I discovered there were several other techniques in post process I could have used that may have helped further enhance my images such as using Camera Raw to lens correct, fixing individual colour luminance and even the use of high pass filter for enhanced sharpening. Some of these were techniques I had forgotten about but I feel with more use and experience it will help me improve in that area. Unfortunately I had already ordered my final 20 prints IMG_1226prior to the one to one meeting as I knew I needed to give the printing business Deadly Digital time to print as they have a heavy workload of other orders to deal with.

After paying for and collecting my final 20 prints I am delighted with the quality of the metallic print and for many of the images you can see the quality most notably from the picture of the lions playing. I was told however that metallic does look similar to lustre however noticing the difference with certain prints. Having looked through the prints all have been printed correctly to the correct given A3 size which I’m delighted with. I was pleased that the pictures turned out bright and clear and none of the prints turned out dark. I feel the format I used having them printed was the right choice, a book format would have been nice but you do commonly find also separate individual prints sold in tourist souvenir shops in the highlands etc for the wildlife. It is also notable that several of the images I showed in post processing I decided not to use due to having to break down not only my best images but what I felt would tell a story as well as show the variety of techniques as mentioned.