Tag Archives: wild

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.


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:


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:


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.


City of Glasgow College Graded Unit 2 HND 2C: The Plan

Scott CJ McKelvie HND 2C

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 22.43.58I have always had a great fascination and love for things relating to the natural world which is part of the reason why I got into photography. Beautiful landscapes, nature and wildlife in their natural habitat really inspired me. For my graded unit I plan to create a series of images based around Scottish wildlife. From my research I came across many wonderfully talented wildlife photographers with inspirational work. A great example of this would be the photographer Art Wolfe who provides some fantastic examples of a variety of techniques that I could use for my own personal project. This includes shallow and extended depth of field, macro, fast and slow shutter speed, as well as wide angle and telephoto shots. Some good examples of his work demonstrate the use of slow shutter speed using a pan technique for creative movement blurring the background.

Another thing I like about Art Wolfe’s work is his ability to capture the viewers eye. For instance in one of his photographs an owl camouflaged with a tree or in another photograph a giraffe blends with its surroundings that keeps the observer searching. His work also includes a variety of landscape environmental shots which I found quite inspiring. I want to be able to show a mixture of environmental landscape images where the wildlife is shown in its surroundings and natural  habitat. Knowing that photographers spend days, weeks and sometimes months with wildlife I cannot guarantee capturing the wildlife doingScreen Shot 2017-03-20 at 22.39.28 something dramatic in action. However, this remains an ambitious target and I feel that if I capture this it will certainly be a nice bonus.

Another photographer that stood out with fine examples of wildlife was Frans Lanting. He shows a variety of images with different lighting, colour and a mixture of other techniques such as slow and faster shutter speeds. I know from research and in my own past experience wildlife photographers will sometimes spend weeks or even months just to get that single stunning shot. My goal therefore would be to try and show the creature in such a way that it looks like it is in its natural habitat by using different techniques. Also to capture a variety of landscape shots of their habitat under a variety of weather conditions will bring a different look and feel in both lighting and atmosphere. Overall I aim to ensure the images of their habitat relate to the creatures I capture. It must be noted that as previously mentioned nature photographers spend a massive amount of time photographing and living amongst nature and that for what I am doing I have a limited amount of  time. I want my final 20 images to turn out to be the best.

The weather may be an issue for certain images but I am not letting that get in my way. With sufficient planning I’ll need to make sure I can get the images I want with sunny weather or sunsets. Travelling and expenses isn’t an issue and I have a fair idea of locations to visit to capture images of wildlife. The only down side for ensuring that I capture wildlife is that I will need to restrict myself to visiting wildlife centres and parks. Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 22.35.49Nonetheless it’s manageable within the limited timescale allocated for the final submission.

There are a number of places that I plan to visit to capture images of wildlife such as; Edinburgh Zoo, Five Sisters Zoo, Blair Drummond Safari Park, Highland Wildlife Park, Black Isle Wildlife Park, Glencoe, Loch Lomond and the Scottish Seabird Centre. I plan to also capture landscape photographs in various places relating to the wildlife such as; Glencoe, Loch Linnhe, the Cairngorms and North Berwick. I also plan on booking day sessions with wildlife photographers that will give me an opportunity to capture wildlife in their natural habitat, locations unknown.

I can say confidently that I’m competent with the skills I have acquired and I expect to capture a variety of shots between the shallow and extended depth of field. An example would be the use of an extended depth of field for landscape shots and a variety of shallow depth of field as well as extended when photographing the animals. I would like to capture birds in flight using a faster shutter speed. I also hope to capture  some pan shots, again relating to slower shutter speeds to capture some motion perhaps of birds in flight. For smaller creatures such as insects I would be keen to capture a variety of macro closeup shots. Depending on the available light I may use a flash.

Rsq-03991For my 20 final graded unit prints I want each individual print to be of the best quality and so I plan to get these final images printed in A3 size on metallic paper. I think this will give the final prints a nice shine. Although having analysed the difference between  metallic and lustre the metallic will really only show best for certain images. The 20 final graded unit prints will come Rsq-0302to an estimated cost of £160 and will be mounted on 3 inch foamex which effectively doubles that estimate to a total of £320. For my exhibition prints I plan on getting two large A1 size prints that will also be printed on metallic paper. I was recommended for A1 sized prints to be mounted on 5 inch foamex where the total estimated cost for both A1, 5 inch foamed mounted metallic prints for exhibition will be £132.

I plan on being well organised keeping track of the weather ensuring that each week I have sufficient images and other material. I also plan to update a blog with information before each shoot with a written plan as well as detailing the results after each shoot. I am dedicated to working hard and allocating time for post processing work including edited contact sheets. I am pretty confident that I can complete my final 20 images with post processing and workbook as well as the evaluation within 5 weeks. I do need to take into consideration the length of time for travelling to certain locations and finding days with better weather. Therefore on days where it is cloudy I will experiment with dramatic shots on location. My target would be to capture at least 3 of my best images per week. This should give me sufficient time to reshoot any images if required. Since I’m skilled in Adobe Photoshop CC and competent with image editing I am confident that I will have each final image completed in post process in less than a day with the creative updated images in my workbook blog.