Tag Archives: scottish nature

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 6 Outcome

As I had visiteDCIM103GOPROG0123909.JPGd the Cairngorm reindeer centre in the past I knew from previous research what to expect. I was well prepared with my waterproof trousers and hiking boots to go up into the hills where the reindeer can be found, as it is the only free ranging reindeer in Scotland they did mention to us that there is no guarantee of seeing them. I travelled by car and arrived just in time for the final tour to view the free ranging reindeer. I was informed previously that the reindeer at this time of the year are shedding their winter coats and this was mentioned on the tour. After paying the admission fee at the reindeer centre it was a drive along to a car parking area where they meet as a group to hike across the hills to the reindeer. The walk was fairly straight forward leading down one hill across a bridge and up another and we were informed about their behaviour for safety precautions.DCIM104GOPROG0134194.JPG

As there was a large enough group of people for viewing the reindeer I tried to capture a mixture of images between the reindeer by themselves as well as with the peo
ple. The weather was very overcast for most of the time spent with the reindeer and it wasn’t particularly easy to capture reindeer with scenic shots, this due to the location photographing the reindeer uphill so tried to capture the reindeer along the hill. You could see for the most part that their antlers were in the early stages of developing. I was pleased to capture one or two images that I was pleased with, but again very limited in technique. I did try a variety between wide angle and closeup shots for a little variety which gives me options if I want to include in my final 20. The large area the reindeer were kept in was fenced off and so I tried shooting in the opposite direction.

DCIM106GOPROG0156055.JPGPhotographing the reindeer was not so much a problem, some were very tame and others distant, we were warned however not to touch their antlers as that can be seen as a challenge to them. For me the experience was worth it, especially learning more about the reindeer as the information you learn of the animals I feel is every bit as important as the photography, this helps you better understand their nature which I feel can help take better pictures. The preferred backdrop I _20A8256would have liked to have captured with the reindeer was facing downhill which proved problematic as photographing the reindeer shooting downhill I feel wouldn’t have looked right. From my experience when shooting level it gives more of a natural feel and that’s what I aimed for.

Overall I was limited with shots I could say I would place up with my best which was a little disappointing, it wasn’t an easy location to shoot in, however I was delighted with a landscape shot I managed to capture for their natural habitat when walking back down from the hills to the river crossing, it was the perfect moment as the sun had just broke through from the clouds behind me which lit the landscape in front of me whilst capturing the dramatic dark skies in front of me, it turned out one of my best photographs which is something I can take from the day to use towards my final 20 images. My hopes for capturing shots using a pan technique I left for the second shoot which was a wildlife boat tour of Loch Insh later that same day.

Here are is a sample contact sheet of the best images I captured:ContactSheet-001I was pleased to capture the first image with a glare of light breaking through onto the reindeer and captured the closeup of the reindeer eating; the second image i favoured of the two reindeer with the landscape behind them; the third image was one of the fewer shots I captured of them grouped without the visitors in the shot with some of the landscape to the backdrop; I liked the 4th image again for the landscape with the reindeer grouped closer and the one standing closest which I liked for portraiture and the reindeer closeup eating with the backdrop; the final image was arguably my favourite shot, although landscape it is fitting for the habitat of much of the wildlife including the reindeer. The sunlight lighting the foreground set off with the dramatic dark skies to the backdrop.

Here is a sample contact sheet of images I did not prefer and mistakes:ContactSheet-002You can see from the first shot someone was standing in the shot and was very difficult to move as I was surrounded by other reindeer and people; second image was the mistake of over exposure which I had to correct for both my cameras; although I liked the stance of the reindeer, I also included this image to show shooting up hill as less desirable, although I liked the landscape; The fourth image shows the difficulty and limitations of capturing the reindeer with people walking around them; in the fifth image with the reindeer facing uphill it wasn’t a favoured shot especially for composition and finally the underexposure of the landscape river, again having to correct the exposure using my wide angle lens.

The post processing work I did for my favourite image from the shoot I began by reducing the highlights slightly using Camera Raw with the slight increase in the shadows to bring back detail from being over and under exposed in certain areas. I also increased the clarity slightly to enhance contrast and finally I increased the sharpness.

001

Once opened in Photoshop I duplicated the original background layer then used the burn tool to paint over the entire image with 2% strength set to medium tones and finally using the dodge tool set to highlight tones set to 1% painting over to enhance highlights.

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The final image I wanted remain as natural as possible and therefore didn’t require much editing.

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CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 5 Outcome

G0082141.JPGThe Highland Wildlife Park shoot was something rather quite unexpected, perhaps slightly disappointing, although can understand due to the nature of the animals and
safety of those they take on photographic tours, however for what it was worth I wouldn’t quite value the photographic day tour at £150. As the website described they would get you closer to the animals, however didn’t state how. The biggest disappointment was knowing that the tour guide for the tour was not a photographer therefore had no experience with photography which I found odd, he was a nice enough guy but again if you compare that to the day tour I did with Neil McIntyre there is quite the difference:

  1. IMG_1121.JPGNeil himself has more than 30 years of experience shooting wildlife and was able to pass on his knowledge and experience which I learned from. When doing a photographic day tour of the Highland Wildlife Park with someone who has know knowledge in photography there’s nothing to take from that.
  2. Being out in the wildlife it is more of an experience such as where to stand and how you approach. The Highland Wildlife Park we were given access to certain areas the general public wouldn’t have however still shooting through wired fencing. We were photographing the animals during their feeding time, that was a benefit but I wouldn’t value the tour at that price.

I managed to get some great pictures which I was pleased with such as the wolves eating etc, however a lot of the time we were left photographing either up or down at the animals which I felt wasn’t favourable. If I were to compare how many good images I captured through Neil’s photographic day tour to that of the Highland Wildlife Park there’s a telling G0031027.JPGdifference, then again it was to be expected as it’s a task in itself photographing through fencing and in restricted areas, especially the task avoiding capturing the wired fencing.

When photographing the animals, as expected I was pretty much limited regarding the techniques I could use and wide angle wasn’t ideal, especially when shooting through fencing and surrounding fencing to the back of the wildlife. I managed to capture the odd stunning shot however that made it appear as if I was level with the wildlife, an example being the Musk Ox which I may consider towards my final 20 images. It was difficult photographing much of the other animals due to the angles, but was pleased with shots I captured of the wolves as it appeared as if they’re in their natural habitat in the woodlands. I was disappointed with several images however such as capturing the wildlife with fencing or being slightly off focus such as the tiger and any closeups I did capture I wouldn’t quite place it as my one of my favourites.

For much of what I had captured I could have captured myself going around the park like a normal visitor. Some of the time I had to use a higher ISO for my 1_20A771050-600mm Sigma Sport lens as zoomed into 600mm the widest aperture is f/6.3 and using the faster shutter speed. I am pleased I captured a variety of shots of the different animals to give me options but will limit that as I want my final 20 to show a variety of different techniques and will only include if I feel it stands out.

The photographic day tour started at 8:30am in the morning and lasted throughout the day until 3:30pm in the afternoon. Within that time we were given a certain allocated amount of time photographing the wildlife whilst they were being fed. Thankfully I did take the Sigma Sport lens with me as I was unsure how close I would get to the animals and what I was to expect on the day.

Here is a contact sheet of some of my best shots I captured on the day:ContactSheet-001The first image of the alpha male wolf staring directly at the camera was one of my favoured portrait shots I managed to capture with the hint of the trees surrounding him, this certainly helped make the picture stand out; another shot I was fortunate to capture was one of the wolves eating a carcass showing it’s teeth, not only does it show the character of the wolf but was also pleased with the framing of the shot with the trees to make it appear as if in it’s natural habitat; the third picture was one of my best as I was lucky to capture the wolf eating with the expression on its face looking at the camera. I also captured it framed with the wood across the bottom and the tree, again appearing natural; The fourth image of the Musk Ox looking to play with another was another one of my favoured shots not just for the moment but also managed to capture them framed with raised bit of land to make it appear level with them which appears more natural; for the tiger, although a slight disappointment with it slightly off focus on the eyes but love the composition and finally one my favourite closeup portraits of a monkey with the sharp detail on its face and eyes as it calls out as it knows it’s about to be fed.

Here is a sample contact sheet of images I was disappointed with:ContactSheet-002The first image of the wolf was a disappointment due to capturing the back cross hatched wired fencing, I did try to take out in post processing but the higher ISO grain noise makes that extremely difficult. This would have been one of my best images had the wolf been closer to blur the background out more; the second image was one of my absolute favourites for the way the wolf was walking towards, again it shows the character of the wolf and loved the framing of the shot, however it was a big disappointment with the eyes completely out of focus; for the third image of the Scottish wildcat it chose to eat at the back of the enclosure with the wired fencing and shooting through the fencing was problematic especially shooting down at the Scottish wildcat; another disappointment and example shooting upward was the snow leopard on top of the rocks as you can barely make out the creature; the second shot of the snow leopard eating, again it was one of my favoured shots but disappointment due to the wired fencing you can see slightly blurred across the face of the snow leopard which ruins the overall image and finally although I loved the shot of the tiger walking towards and looking at the lens, the eyes were slightly off focus due to the woods and fencing.

A sample of post process work I did for one of my best images I began by making slight adjustments in Camera Raw, first by reducing shadows to enhance contrast in the shadows and then by increasing sharpness. I also added a slight increase to the clarity:

postprocess1

Using the Smart Sharpen tool from the filter menu I reduced the grain noise in the image as well as enhanced the sharpness by 10 to retain sharp detail on the wolf.

postprocess2

After reducing the grain noise and retaining sharpness in the detail, I used the burn tool at 2% to paint over the midtones and the dodge tool at 1% set to highlights to enhance the overall image.

postprocess3

The final touch I made to the photograph was by adding slight colour desaturation. I began by duplicating the second background layer, then choosing Image > Adjustments > Desaturate from the Image menu. From the layers palette with the 3rd background layer selected I reduced the opacity of the layer from 100% to 20% for a more realistic look.

postprocess4

COGC Graded Unit: Cairngorms Wildlife Tour and Reindeer Centre: Shoot 6 and 7 Research

1207039441WildlifeBoatWebHaving successfully completed my photographic tour and currently staying in the Cairngorms over the weekend I have planned 2 shoots in one day. The first shoot I discovered from a leaflet posted on a wall in a restaurant / hotel advertising about a wildlife tour at Loch Insh which begins midday between 4pm and 6pm and having been to the Cairngorms reindeer centre previously when I did the photographic shoot with Neil McIntyre, I was informed the reindeer centre take groups of people up the mountains to see the free ranging reindeer before 11am in the morning. I’m hoping with both of these tours I will be able to capture some more of the wildlife and plan to capture some landscape images especially to show for the reindeer habitat.

cairngorm-reindeer-centre-see-do-walks-largeThe wildlife I captured at the Highland Wildlife Park are well suited to the environment surrounding that area such as the wolves, likewise the reindeer would be in their natural habitat. For this I would imagine the terrain will be mucky and therefore will be wearing my waterproof trousers with my hiking boots in preparation. Admission costs to visit the free ranging reindeer will cost £14 per adult for the hill trip and will be travelling to the reindeer centre in the Cairngorms by car. I would hope that on the hill trip I will get enough time to spend photographing the reindeer in their natural habitat, it does mention however that there is no guarantee of seeing the reindeer.

The wildlife tour bcairngorm-reindeer-herdy boat midday I plan to use my 150-600 Sigma Sports lens for capturing distant subjects, depending where the boat will travel and much of the wildlife birds I may find on the outskirts of Loch Insh. If the boat stops at points I maybe able to shoot landscape shots depending what I see, however I maybe restricted if the boat tour is inside which I would then have to shoot through the windows. The boat travels at a speed of 2 to 3 mph which is ideal and tour lasts roughly 1 hour. There are specified times for booking and due to visiting the reindeer centre first I will be looking to book the wildlife boat tour at Loch Insh for 4pm. As noted there is the opportunity to capture the Osprey’s which is something I would love to photographand if lucky I might capture one of them fishing or flying. The
y are fascinating and beautiful birds and would be great to cWILD2apture some images of their nest. There is no admission costs for the boat tour which is also greatly beneficial.

As the website mentions about the boat tour there will also be a nature walk available that can be done before and after the tour. I would love to capture some nice landscape of woodland area as it would be fantastic for Red Squirrel habitat. The tour has to be booked so hoping to visit in the same day, if not available I hope to have the boat tour booked following day. The weather is forecasted to be overcast but may work in my favour for woodland habitat shots. On the Monday the weather is forecasted to be sunny.

Sources for my research can be found here:
http://lochinsh.com/product/tour-boat/
https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/the-cairngorm-reindeer-centre-p253801
http://cairngormreindeer.co.uk/