Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I wouldn’t normally mention political subjects on this blog but hopefully this goes beyond this. The governmane is currently proposing the sell-off of all publicly owned forests. We have to smallest percentage of forest land of any European country and our access to it is being eroded. This move would undoubtedly have a detrimental affect on the management of the woodlands as fare as environmental and public use is concerned. Please consider the facts presented on the following websites and, if you think our forests should stay in public hands, please sign the petitions.

Woodland Trust Woodland Trust

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Perch Rock Light House New Brighton


First image from yesterdays landscape One2One which I held around the fantastic landscape of Perch Rock on the Mersey Estuary. We had a great day, starting at first light and shooting pretty much non stop until well after sunset.

Todays delegate wanted to look at some more advanced shooting techniques and the use of filters. The images he shot yesterday will be used when we do a second training day next week. This will enable him to see the process through from concept to completion, he will go home with some stunning large format prints when he visits the studio next week for a slightly warmer training day!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Latest One2One Session

Spent Tuesday with another great training client. He wanted to cover some exposure issues and the use of filters for his landscape photography. After a nice early start we went looking for images on the Coast.

Here is one of my images from the session.

Fleetwood 1

Anybody wanting to spend some time on a One2One give me a shout. We can cover a lot of topics in a full day... A really great way to move your photography to the level. Don't forget I am always happy to help via the blog or e-mail if you have any burning questions.

Full week of location shooting this week, I have another training course booked in for Wednesday on the Dee Estuary / Wirral Estuary,and then a couple of days on personal projects.

Also working on a posting looking at all things concerning tripod heads. All being well should be able to post this before the weeks out.

Thursday, 13 January 2011



Don't worry, this is not going to be a posting about the most hated traditional British food....

For some time now I have been finding my self drawn to take images which some years ago, in fact in some cases only months ago I would have never considered taking and to be honest if I had seen them as examples of other photographers work, I would have had very strong opinions against them.

I seem to be on a more artistic path and at first was very concerned that people would not like these new images. I think as photographers we all worry people wont like our images, and as a professional photographer it could lead to a disaster.

Why I have started to head down this path I have no idea, I seem to be looking at more and more images from other photographers. Photographic books have been like a magnet to me since I was a teenager, but more and more I seem to be looking at diverse types of images.

My love of the outdoors and the natural world and the way I combine this with my passion for photography seems to be fueling this artistic quest. Looking for new ways to capture the landscape in a way that inspires me is giving me a lot of pleasure at the moment.

For many years as a photographer I have worked to tight deadlines and in some ways been forced to take pictures that had little appeal for me. Maybe I have always had this desire to satisfy my own personal vision, maybe I have just reached a point in my life were I need to look at things in a different way.

The sheer joy of standing behind the tripod and simply waiting for the right light has become a massive part of my life and I find myself constantly looking for ways to slow down the photographic process. Many of the images I see in print and on the web seem to reflect the desire to get a picture quickly at all costs, maybe going back to film is the way for me to go, possibly, only time will tell.

The lure of going back to my photographic roots is very strong, but in the end I still need to make a living as a photographer, so digital imaging seems to be the only viable direction. Choices Choices.... The taking of pictures seems to have become so important for so many people, it seems a shame so few of these images ever get printed, maybe the speed and ease of image capture removes the connection with the image we enjoyed as film photographers.

Long gone is the joy of waiting for the Velvia to arrive back from the lab and the sheer joy of viewing those 5x4 images on the light box.

Many possible directions to consider both on a technical and an artistic level. So why the title Marmite..... Very simple I have come to accept that in the quest to satisfy my own artistic interests, I will take pictures I love and others hate or simply don't get!!

What is important to me is that the viewer has an opinion. You either love it or hate it but we all have an opinion on Marmite..... I now have a complete section in our stock library called MARMITE, in it goes all the stuff I am not sure about, one day it may form a book or produce good print sales, or it may just get deleted. Who knows, what I do know is I am loving the quest to find out just who I am artistically speaking.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings and please feel free to chip in anytime you like.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

More from Tuesdays one 2 one

As mentioned in my previous posting, I spent yesterday at Martin Mere WWT reserve. The agenda for the day was to cover some of the more basic photographic theory such as exposure, focusing techniques and in general how to squeeze the best possible performance from today's sophisticated SLR's.

On these more theory based days we cover a lot of ground and still find plenty of time for some photography practice.

Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)



I have seen this Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) on a few previous visits to the reserve, so we
made a point of stopping by to try for a few images. We were not disappointed and we both
managed a few nice frames of this fascinating bird.

Whilst a reasonably common species, the Water Rail is a relatively elusive species, more often heard than seen. What was interesting about this bird was the way it was picking small frozen fish from the surface of the frozen pond. I must say I haven't seen this behaviour before. I'm interested to know just how the birds digestive system copes with frozen food!


We also captured a few Shots of a very confident Moor Hen(Gallinula chloropus) which showed well in some super light. The Moor Hen was also feeding on the frozen fish, so this must be fairly normal winter practice for these water birds.



To finish off the day we stopped by the Swan Link Hide aiming to catch some Whooper Swans and do a spot of wader photography to test the focusing skills.


Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) all images Nikon D3s Nikkor 600mm F4VR

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

One 2 One Training Day At Martin Mere WWT Reserve

Whooper Swans (Martin Mere)

Just a quick post from todays One 2 One photographic training day at Martin Mere. Spent the day with a great delegate covering many of the photo basics as they relate to bird photography. We had some great views of a Water Rail and I will post some images as soon as I can.

I just love being able to share my love of wildlife and photography with people so keen to learn, Its a great job!!!!

Plenty more sessions like this booked in over the coming weeks and months, more days crammed with great company, wildlife and photography.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Grey January Skies

The first few days of the new year have been spent on trip planning and post production, mainly due to the dark and very grey conditions we been stuck with at the moment.

There has been a great interest in ONe 2 ONe training courses and the next few weeks will see some great interesting days with new training clients which I am really going to enjoy, and Im sure they will too.

So very few new images to show to be honest. However I did manage a trip out to do some location planning for future trips and found myself on the beach at Blackpool in Lancashire. Here are just a couple of images from the day.



Sunday, 2 January 2011

Tripods (You can't live without them)


After many requests for more technical articles on the blog, here we go with what is the first of many, I hope!!

I pondered for some considerable time, as to what the first technical article should be. I considered all the sexy equipment I use and decided we should start with the most basic equipment first.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of delegates that turn up on my courses and the number of photographers I see out in the field who don't use or indeed own a good tripod. I have even had delegates who own 500mm and 600mm lenses who tell me they don't need one or they just can't be bothered to carry a tripod. These same people will constantly worry about dust spots on sensors and photograph news papers in their garden to test the sharpness of lenses.... A strange breed!!

I can honestly say the tripod is the single most used item of equipment I own, and I use a tripod for 90% of my images. Its the first Item packed and the very first item unpacked on location.

Firstly the tripod you choose needs to be sturdy and reliable. It needs to be quick and easy to operate in particular it needs to be light enough that you can carry it. Also its a great help if the tripod reaches high enough, so you don't need to bend. Low level ability is also a great feature, which I use very often.

Over the years I have used most makes of tripod some have been good others have been a waste of money and about 10 years ago I decided I needed to take a really long hard look at what was available and buy a tripod that would do everything I needed and last more than the 12 months or so my previous tripods had managed to survive.

For me there was only one choice, and that was Gitzo carbon Fibre tripods and I decided on the 1645 model which at the time set me back over £500. It seemed a crazy price to pay for a simple tripod, but its still going strong after 10 hard years. Its been used in jungles and deserts, its stood in 3 feet of snow and its often seen standing in sea water or mud. It has possibly been the best investment I have made in photo equipment.

The only complaint with the Gitzo was the design of the leg locks, which could be a bit tricky to operate. Also as digital equipment developed I sold my large and medium format camera systems. This gave me the chance to look for a smaller and lighter tripod, and a few months ago when I was upgrading my long lenses, I decided to look at the smaller tripods in the Gitzo range.

After some internet research I decided on the Gitzo GT3530LS and this is now the tripod I use every day. I use it for all my landscape and macro work and I also use it to support all my long lenses, including the 600mm Nikkor. The 3530 weighs just over 4 pounds and uses the new 6x carbon tubing. The leg locks are a new design which are so easy to operate even when wearing gloves. Were possible I add to the mass of the tripod by using a bungee cord between the tripod and my photo pack. This enables the use of a lighter tripod in all but the most windy conditions.

The tripod is very sturdy indeed, so much so I have not used my Gitzo 1645 since getting the new legs. So without doubt for most general photography and long lens telephoto work the Gitzo GT3530 is the tripod I would advise you to purchase.

But lets be real for me a tripod is a vital item of equipment I need it to make my living, so the price tag of £500 or so is justified. For most people this is a lot to pay for a tripod, for others the cost excludes it from their short list. So for a few seconds lets look at more affordable options. In fact when you consider a tripod like this is also going to need a head, this will possibly set you back a further £400. So a good pro grade tripod can easily be a £1,000 investment. A serious commitment by anybody's standards.

As I mentioned over the years I have used most tripods and in the more popular price range there is only one make that has impressed me and that is Gittos. They make a superb range of very reasonably priced tripods including a selection of Carbon Fibre legs. These do seem to offer a great compromise between cost and affordability.

Gittos Tripod

So if you are looking for a lower cost good all round tripod I would advise you take a look at the Gittos range. In fact I own a couple of their MTL8261B tripods. These are used by the training delegates who don't yet own their own tripod, or who have purchased a less reliable brand which seems to fall apart at regular intervals. The Gittos tripods will not hold the long lenses like the 600mm, but for most general work they are a really great product.

If you do decide to take my advice and look at the Gitzo range of tripods. I would advise you pay a visit to one of the best suppliers I have ever come across Bob Rigby they keep a great range in stock and will offer you good honest advise.

Another great supplier I would advise you consider is Warehouse Express they stock both the Gitzo and Gittos range and have been one of my regular suppliers for over 12 years now, suberb service and good prices. As always if your in the North West my local supplier Wilkinson Cameras will be able to help as they stock both the Gitzo and Gittos range

So the end of my first technical article, Not a review but just some good advice which I hope will help you enjoy your photography and produce better images.

Finally, Here I have covered tripods, but to use a tripod you need a tripod head and these I will cover in the next posting.

More Whoopers!!

Despite heavy mist all day on my last trip to Martin Mere, a few more images has come out of post production.

Every once in a while I get an image that Im just not sure about. Cant decide if I like or not. The first image here is on such example.

Part of me likes the feeling the picture gives of these birds in flight on the long cold trip to their winter feeding grounds. Please let me know what you think. As always your comments are very welcome.

Whooper Swans In Flight

The second image is a simple flight shot of a pair of whoopers. I must say given the poor conditions I was amazed how well the Nikon D3s coped and its ability to track white birds in thick mist was superb.


Both Images Nikon D3s Nikkor 600mm F4vr

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

Only managed a short session out in the field today.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Both Images Nikon D3s 600mm F4vr Nikkor