Tag Archives: Red Squirrel

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 9 Outcome

_20A8486As arranged I arrived early afternoon to the Osprey Centre in Boat of Garten. Similar to the dolphin’s you don’t know what to expect and what you will capture, however I was lucky enough that when I arrived the female Osprey was sitting guard in her nest as the male Osprey was off fetching food for the female. Photographing the Osprey was pretty challenging, they are a very protected species by the RSPB which I can understand and therefore limited access from the viewpoint of their nest. The Osprey nest is a good distance from the centre which I can respect and therefore I was limited to the shots I could capture of the Osprey. I also tried to avoid photographing where the camera points down at the nest to appear more natural.

As much as I would have preferred to have captured some stunning closeup shots of the Osprey in action, I did manage to capture the female taking off with her food as the male returned to the nest with the catch which was a special moment. From that the female was spotted off to the distance perched on a dead tree eating the fish, I did manage to
capture a few interesting images from that which could be classified with a camouflage technique. To capture the Osprey in action I used my Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens with my 5D Mark iii set to high speed drive mode and with a faster shutter speed I was required to use a higher ISO number to capture the correct exposure. I did use a narrower Red Squirrel Habitataperture for some images for extended depth of field so my settings varied.

I was severely limited to techniques I could use for photographing the Osprey and their nest and since I already had a silhouette shot of an Osprey nest from Loch Insh I decided to concentrate on a composite image which tells a story. There were telescopes put into position to help spot the Osprey and this helped for direction when looking for the female perched on the dead tree eating her catch. There were several other birds I managed to capture in the surrounding forest area just outside the Osprey centre at the car park and was delighted with some of the pictures I captured. I also managed to capture a landscape image of the forest that really caught my eye with the light breaking through the trees, using the extended depth of field with the narrow aperture, slower shutter speed I managed to capture a stunning landscape which has potential to be used for some of the wildlife I’ve already captured such as the red squirrels etc.

Here is a sample contact sheet of some of the best images from that shoot:ContactSheet-001

The first image was one of my favourites as I managed to capture the female just as she was taking off with the fish which you can see clutched in her claw and was pleased with the composition; the second and third images I used for different perspective both of which have the eyes searching for the female Osprey, the portrait shot I wanted to show more of the landscape leading to where the female Osprey was perched to make the viewer feel closer. For the fourth and fifth picture I was delighted to capture two of the smaller birds on the trees and the lighting captured my eye; the final image showing the landscape shot I captured through a forest with the light breaking through, one of my favourite landscape shots.

Here is a sample contact sheet of some of the bad images:ContactSheet-002

The first image shows the ledge from shooting through the window, the weight of the Sigma 150-600mm lens can sometimes be troublesome holding for a lengthy period of time handheld; the second image I captured the female Osprey flying back to the nest, however it was out of focus and I felt in the third image there was too much over exposure on the leaves from the sun and not as favourable on the angle.

For post processing of my favourite shot I reduced the highlights and shadows, increased clarity and slightly reduced saturation to enhance the atmosphere of the forest, then increased sharpness of the overall image using Camera Raw.

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Using the brush tool I began creating a scattered spotted brush by increasing the scattering and spacing.

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Using the spotted scattered brush tool created, I painted over the image with smaller and larger brush sizes to desired effect with a light coloured brush matching the lightest areas of the photograph. Secondly using Filter > Blur > Radial Blur with zoom setting I created the blur effect with the new layer and finally I reduced the opacity of the rays of light to desired effect for the final image.

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CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 3 Outcome

Cairngorms National Park Wildlife With Neil McIntyre

IMG_1101Due to the time of year I fully expected the overcast weather, the third shoot was booked in advance for Wednesday, 5th of April. I researched the weather in advance with some weather forecasts showing cloudy and others showing sun with clouds. Fortunately the weather was in my favour. The arrangement was to meet Neil McIntyre at the Cairngorms hotel at 9 O’ Clock in the morning. Neil is a professional award winning wildlife and landscape photographer, so I was looking forward to the shoot as I knew it was the perfect opportunity not only to capture great images but for the learning experience as wildlife and landscape photography is something I would love to do. Neil proved to be a brilliant instructor throughout the day who clearly has vast knowledge and experience of the wildlife around him. This gives a better understanding that photographing wildlife is not as straightforward as taking out a camera, getting out into the wild and hoping for the best, he understands their habitat and nature.

Neil drove myself to each location and the first location was to capture the Red Squirrels. Using just my 5D Mark iii with the Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens we walked down a path through the woodland area and caught eye of a Red Squirrel darting up one of the tall pine trees. As the Red Squirrel darted up the tree Neil cracked open nuts and placed them down in certain parts of the one location of the forest anIMG_1108d then instructed me to perch down next to a tree further back. Once the camera was set up I waited in position for about half an hour to three quarters of an hour, unfortunately the Squirrel was refusing to come down.

Neil decided to resort to a second tactic having instructed me to wait in position and he would walk away and come back in 20 minutes so the Red Squirrel would get the idea that he was gone. As he told me to listen carefully for a scattering scraping noise which will indicate where they are. Thankfully after 10 to 15 minutes one of the Red Squirrels scattered down one of the trees however it was very uncertain and began making its way back up the tree whilst making an alert sound. I quickly zoomed in to capture a shot using the faster shutter speed, wide aperture and higher ISO to capture the squirrel whilst it was perched on a branch. This was one of the few shots I captured from that area.

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The second location spot he drove myself towards more open on a small hill with trees off the country road, the Red Squirrels were a lot more tame as it was a location Neil spends considerable time at feeding them. Neil placed the nuts in several spots and the Red Squirrels came running across for them which gave me the perfect opportunity to capture some fantastic shots. Neil also gave his advice on the shutter speed with the higher ISO, as well as continuous drive shooting to capture various shots as the Squirrels came running in. I did also attempt the pan technique using slow shutter speed of 1/125 for a while however proved very IMG_1111difficult as even Neil himself explained wildlife like Squirrels are a lot more difficult to track because of how sporadic their movement is, they’re hard to predict. He was also very helpful in giving advice where to stand as he advised to stand slightly down from the peak of the hill so that I would be eye level shooting the Red Squirrels.

Capturing the Red Squirrels whilst they were running was quite difficult given how quick they move and often sporadic, not being able to predict their movement I managed to capture some of my best shots when the Squirrels stopped to pick up and eat the nuts. Neil was also very helpful with some fantastic compositional advice, one of which I managed to capture a Squirrel on a tree stump with the grass below.

I’m delighted with many of the pictures I had captured although can’t help but imagine what it would have been like if shooting during summer period with foliage on the trees that would add vibrance to the backdrops. However when thinking about it what I captured gives a nice seasonal feel of the Red Squirrels during a period of early Spring. Because my Sigma 150-_20A5899600mm Sport lens has an f/5 – f/6.3 aperture I was forced to use a mid to higher ISO range to compensate for the faster shutter speed, thankfully with the Canon 5D Mark iii even at the higher ISO range the picture quality is still impressive.

The second part of the day Neil had taken me out to a stunning location in the hills to capture the Highland Hare’s, it was an experience crawling slowly to get close to the wild Hare’s and managed to capture some fantastic images of the hares close up and also of the backdrop and surroundings. Again, Neil was able to direct me to parts where he knew where the wild Hares were located, one wild hare of which I was lucky to capture with the sun backlighting him which turned out fantastic. For each of my shots between the Red Squirrels and the Highland Hare’s my main focal point was focusing on their eyes to catch sharpness, although sometimes difficult varying on distance or the direction the Squirrels and Hare’s looked. Another thing I aimed for was to capture a wide variety of different shots andIMG_1121 compositions as well as switching focal length between 150 to 600 for variety.

Getting down low was essential for photographing the wild Hare and for most of the time was lying down whilst shooting which gave me support as the Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens is pretty heavy.

The final stage of the day Neil helped me in the same location with a better understanding of landscape photography as I was looking to capture some habitat shots to show in relation to the Highland Hare’s themselves. The biggest thing I learned from that was understanding more to do with the light in the foreground as well as adding interest to the foreground by finding a particular subject that adds to the photograph. As it was cloudy with the sun I had to wait at points for the sun to light the foreground to capture the ideal shot I wanted. Part of the technique I learned was holding the camera up and pointing down to capture the perspective with the main subject in the foreground closest. I also captured some landscapes with leading lines which Neil was kind enough to point out. The shots I captured of the landscapes I was pleased with however feel I could improve upon composition but learned a lot from the experience.

Here is an example contact sheet of some images that didn’t go to plan as I wanted:

ContactSheet-001

The first image was a first attempt at capturing a pan shot of one of the Red Squirrels as it was running to collect one of the nuts, I then corrected the exposure by lowering the ISO and as shown from the second image captured better exposure however again, capturing a Red Squirrel with the pan shot technique proved difficult given how quick they move. In the third image I was rushed to capture and didn’t have the time to switch from the slower to faster shutter speed which caused motion blur. In the fourth image the lens wasn’t quick enough focusing and unfortunately focused on the tree rather than the Squirrel, because it was fast moving it was difficult to capture. The fifth image was perhaps one of my favourite images or would have been, unfortunately the focus was off which was disappointing as I loved the low perspective and light breaking through in this image. The last image was an example shot I captured of the Highland Hare habitat, however as the clouds covered the sun the foreground was a bit dull.

The following images were difficult to pick from as there were so many great images I managed to capture. Here is a contact sheet of some of my best shots:

ContactSheet-002

I was delighted to have captured the expression as a wonderful portrait of one of the red Squirrels face on, this definitely stands out as one of my best shots for shallow depth of field technique. Although some of the other images you can see shallow depth of field I also captured a few other techniques, one of which is the fourth image showing the Highland Hare camouflaged in it’s surroundings with an extended depth of field to show its environment. The second and fifth images I managed to capture both the Red Squirrel and Highland Hare eating and was pleased with the composition. The lighting I was delighted about when shooting the Hare as I was fortunate to have the sun backlighting the subject. The third image of the Red Squirrel perched on a log I loved for portrait and composition. The final image for landscape, my favoured image of the Highland Hare habitat as the sun broke out from behind the clouds it lit the foreground beautifully and managed to capture the sky and cloud detail using the river as a leading line point of view.

Here is an example of post processing work I did for several of the images including one of the best I had chosen:

Using Camera Raw I made slight adjustments depending on the image by making a slight adjustment increase in warm temperature to add warmth to the image and adjusted shadows and highlights accordingly to enhance the image. Finally increasing sharpness.raw

Once adjustments were made in Camera Raw depending on the photograph I implemented a slight warming filter to give a warm glow to the final image.photoshopfilter

Any final touches I made in photoshop depending on the image, I implemented a slight touch of sharpening using the sharpen tool to the eyes.sharpening

Again, a big thanks to Neil McIntyre for his fantastic one to one day tour that enabled me to capture some fantastic images and gained valuable learning experience. His website can be found at: http://www.neilmcintyre.com/ where you can find some of his fantastic work and many of his own tours he has to offer.

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 3 Research

Cairngorms Wildlife 1 to 1 Photographic Day with Neil McIntyre — Shoot 3

Neil-McIntyre-bio-pic--1024x1024As I planned to photograph Scottish wildlife in the highland Cairngorms region of Scotland upon doing research on Google search engine I randomly came across an award winning Scottish wildlife photographer, Neil McIntyre. I did research on his website for information to find if there was anything I could book and came across his 1 to 1 day photography sessions, as described: “These trips offer the optimum chance to experience the wildlife and photo opportunities of the Cairngorms and surrounding area.” For me this would be the perfect opportunity to get close and perhaps capture some professional images, the 1 to 1 day will start from 9am in the morning and will last throughout the day which will cost £250.

I contacted Neil to find out further information about the photography 1 to 1 day session and also asked about landscape, as mentioned there are no guarantees with capturing any sunset shots. He did mention about the wildlife that at this time of the year photographing the red deer wouldn’t be ideal as they’re shedding their coats coming into spring time. What he did promise me however was the fantastic opportunity to Rsq-03991photograph the Red Squirrels as he does have a close bond with the Red Squirrels. As of now I’m uncertain whether there will be the opportunity to photograph more of the wildlife on the 1 to 1 session as it solely depends on what he offers.

I hope that on this shoot I could capture a number of quality images although will attempt to mix the shooting techniques up. It would be ideal to capture some pan shots if possible, wide angle with extended depth of field and even shallow depth of field. If I could capture 2 or 3 of my best images it would be ideal to use towards my final 20 photographs for my graded unit project. I do also plan to capture some landscape photographs as well to show their habitat.

Knowing how sporadic tRsq-0302he weather can be in Scotland I will be well prepared wearing my boots and waterproofs to ensure I stay dry. It is also required for me to use a 300-500mm lens so I’ll be using my Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens. I will also pack my 70-200 f/2.8 incase as well as my 24-70mm wide angle lens for landscape shots. I will be travelling up by car which takes roughly 3 to 4 hours. The 1 to 1 day photography session has been booked for Wednesday, 5th of April, the weather on some forecasts mentions that it will be partly cloudy with sun and others cloudy, I am hoping the weather goes in my favour as lighting will make a big difference.

Photographing the landscape will be challenging depending on the weather and will look to use half gradient Neutral Density (ND) filters for keeping detail in the skies when shooting long exposures. I will also be required to carry my tripod so may carry my photography bag on my back with what I require for the day with the tripod strapped to the back.

Ideal shots that I would love to capture are photographs of Red Squirrels being active to create wonderful action shots, this would be perfect for capturing pan shots I would like, even just as stills which tells more of a story. The big advantage will be the fact I’ll be able to capture the nature in the 1 to 1 session of the wildlife in their natural habitat.

You can find the source for my research through Neil McIntyre’s official website which has his contact information and tour offers here: www.neilmcintyre.com

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 1 Outcome

Benmore Botanic Garden: Outcome

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Having done research on Benmore Botanic Garden I travelled out to the location with high expectations. The weather was good, the location was beautiful, although I did stumble across a few obstacles; I arrived a bit later and felt time was against me and having seen the size of Benmore Botanic Garden it’s a place you require a full day to navigate around. The second problem was perhaps the main problem and that being the absence of insects, this came of quite a surprise to me given the amount of plants, trees and flowers I saw which were beginning to blossom. There was one tree I came across with a lot of bees
swarming around the upper part of the tree, I had IMG_5031waited for considerable time however none would appear in sight. It makes you appreciate what wildlife photographers have to go through to capture shots that they want, a lot of time and patience is required and that was not in my hands, especially in a location with opening and closing times.

Struggling to find insects to capture macro shots I decided to dedicate the remainder of my time to navigate Benmore Botanic Garden for ideal spots to show the habitat where insects may nest and their surroundings. I am disappointed to say I was limited to what I could find, had I more time to navigate more of the location I may have found more. Upon scouting around I did find a pond with a tree which rea_20A5008lly stood out, it was tricky using the tripod in the uneven surface. I switched to my wide angle Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens to capture more in the shot, my idea was to show some of the surroundings in the background but to use the tree to frame the shot showing the pond where insect life may surround it.

Another spot I came across was close to a Red Squirrel hide with a row of tall trees both sides. As the sun was beginning to set, the light breaking through the trees onto the grass really captured my eye. Again using the tripod with my 5D Mark iii and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens I took several different exposures to capture the ideal shot I wanted. Although I initially set out to find ideal backdrops for the insects habitat,IMG_5022 this one spot stood out for me for the habitat of the Red Squirrel. The backdrop I captured may go towards as being one of my final 20 images unless I find and shoot something I may prefer for the Red Squirrel habitat.

From the research I had done, Benmore Botanic Garden, although beautiful isn’t quite the same as what I imagined it to be as this time of the year the place isn’t out in full blossom. I should have perhaps researched to find out what time of year is best for finding insects as well, although to get around that problem I have planned a visit to the Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World which has a lot of their natural plant life indoors to make them blend. I plan to capture macro shots of them where the backdrop colours blend as if they’re in their wild habitat. I maybe restricted from using flash however depending whether the indoor place allows flash photography or not.

Here are 3 exposures I shot for the Red Squirrel habitat:
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Using the 3 different exposures I was then able to decide in post process which of the 3 was best suited for a possible final landscape image. I then began by opening the camera raw image and made slight adjustments.

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After making slight adjustments in Camera Raw I then opened the file in Photoshop, duplicated the background layer and began using the Clone Stamp tool to remove a relatively small and distracting unwanted part of the image on the grass.

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Before and Afterbefore-after

The next step I implemented a warm photo filter from the adjustment layers in the layers panel to enhance the overall image.

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I wanted to add a subtle hint of light rays to give it a little more atmosphere. First I created a round soft spotted scattered brush.

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Using the spotted scattered brush I then painted the spotted scattered brush over the picture on a new layer and finally using Filter > Blur > Radial Blur I chose zoom to create the rays of light and reduced opacity of the light rays layer.

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Finally to finish off the image I added my own warm tone gradient layer, set the filter to Overlay and Opacity to 10% to add subtle warmth.

final   Some of the skills used for the first shoot wide angle with extended depth of field, on that particular shoot I was unfortunate not to capture macro shots I mainly planned for.
I was limited in shots I captured for the first shoot, however thought it was worthwhile as it gave me a fair idea of the location if I wish to revisit and with having a possible photograph I may use toward my final set of images.

Here below you will find my contact sheet for the first shoot at Benmore Botanic Garden.

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I would definitely say the fourth image from the first four photographs stands out as my favourite and best shot due to the compsition, lighting with the leading trail of trees the captures the eye. The first image with the fountain I do like however felt I could have captured better composition and wasn’t pleased with the limited space and distracting fencing in the backdrop. The second image I liked for the lighting and composition although feel I could have captured more in the image. The third image from the contact sheet I felt it could have been better with lighting and composition.

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Another image I captured of the fountain from different angle, again I felt there could’ve been more to the backdrop surroundings and better lighting. The sixth image is one of my favourites for the composition and thought it would be a nice location shot for other insect life. Another image that stood out for lighting and my favourite for composition was the seventh image from the contact sheet, this was something I captured thinking it might even be relative to the type of habitat for wild hares etc. For the final image of my contacts I felt I could have found better although it reminded me of the habitat you find ants nesting.