Tag Archives: wildlife tour

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.

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CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 8 Outcome

001As I had booked the Dolphin Spirit Cruise in Inverness I knew that there was no guarantee I would get to see the dolphin’s, although I was expecting there to be other wildlife surrounding the area. As expected and was unfortunate we never got to see the dolphin’s on the cruise, however it was interesting hearing about the surrounding area which gives me enough information about the wildlife surrounding such as a place you can visit for photographing red kites as they are fed every day at 2:30pm. Due to there being no dolphin’s in sight and constantly keeping an eye out on the water I was limited with what else I captured. There were some pictures I captured of the birds surrounding land that I managed to capture, but nothing I would have personally favoured. I was fortunate however to capture a bird flying low across the water at speed using the pan technique which I captured razor sharp, however it’s a consideration as to whether or not I feel it’s good enough to be placed among my final 20 images.Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 16.57.43

The Dolphin Spirit Cruise toured around the Inner Moray Firth and although it can carry up to 70 passengers I was fortunate I had room for myself to capture anything I wanted. The weather turned out fantastic for it with the sun and clear skies. The tour lasted for over an hour which gave me plenty of time to get back to Boat of Garten for the Osprey Centre in the Cairngorms National Park. I was hoping I would find seals however unlucky. From the shoot capturing one pan shot technique it certainly gives me the option to use towards my final 20 images.

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

The first image was arguably my best shot from that shoot having captured the low flying bird pin sharp with the landscape showing the blurring of the movement; in the second image I liked for landscape and composition whilst capturing some of the birds on land, it also captures some of the surrounding water where the dolphin’s may be and the final image of what looks to be a lone heron at the edge of the water.

Here is a sample contact sheet for the worst images:ContactSheet-002

These were failed attempts using the slower shutter speed as I tried to capture a pan technique, not only were they out of focus but blurred. The third image illustrates not only it being out of focus but did not favour shooting up into the sky. Comparing the pan technique to my favourite image you get some of the backdrop to show for the fast movement of the flying bird, an empty sky doesn’t turn out the same results.

For the best image I made slight adjustments to enhance the image using Camera Raw, first by enhancing the highlights, slightly increasing clarity and then increasing sharpness. Finally for better composition I used the crop tool to get rid of unneeded space and using the shore line to straighten the image.

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After opening the image in Photoshop CC I then used the dodge and burn tools to enhance the lightest and darkest areas of the photograph to give it more punch.

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I then duplicated the background layer and used Image > Adjustments > Desaturate to make the top layer black and white and then reduced the opacity of the desaturated layer to 15% for the final touch.

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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.

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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.

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/