'The last leaves'

I was really pleased how this image came out, the simplicity of it and the story it tells appeal to me. This tranquil scene was taken on a cold, damp winter afternoon at Loch Maree in the Scottish Highlands of Wester Ross.

I love how in the loch shallows this tree was growing and, despite being at the start of winter, there were still a handful of yellowing leaves on its branches. I had a polariser attached to my lens but, after taking a few shots with the polarising effect cutting through the surface reflection to reveal what lay beneath, I turned it to almost off which reflected the grey skies above making the tree and its reflection much more visible while darkening its branches, making an almost black and white image save for the leaves.

A shutter speed of a few seconds to help smooth out the water (there was a light breeze) was achieved by using a 3-stop ND filter. The image was taken using Sony's a7R4 and Canon's 16-35mm f4 lens with a 4 second exposure at f11 and iso 100 at 35mm.

Take care, Andy


'Sky dance'

The Red Kite is one of the UK's conservation success stories, brought back from the brink of a dozen or so pairs in a couple of secluded valleys in Wales. Just over 30 years ago a reintroduction programme began, with birds from Wales and Spain  released on the Chiltern Hills. Fast forward 15 years and birds from southern England were being used to populate areas in the north of England with a sister project running from the Black Isle in Scotland.

Wales' red kites now number around 3,000 breeding pairs with strongholds in the mid and southern parts of the country and a slowly growing population in the north. In mid Wales there are a couple of feeding stations that operate all year round, sometimes visited by in excess of 500 birds and affording great views and photographic opportunities.

This image was taken at Natural Resources Wales' Bwlch Nant Yr Arian feeding station near Aberystwyth and shows a bird just starting to dive (stoop) towards the ground. For such a big bird (wingspan up to 180cm/6ft) they are amazingly agile on the wing and fantastic to watch as they literally dance across the sky. Shot with Sony a1, Sony 600mm F4 lens  and 1.4x teleconverter at 1/3200, f6.3 and iso 1600.

Take care, Andy


'Fighting to fish from a favourite spot'

Kingfishers. They make a great subject to photograph, a splash of blue, green and orange that can't sit still like they have ants in their pants. Get two or more of them together and the real fun begins and you're more or less guaranteed some action, especially around favourite fishing spots.

I spend a lot of time photographing these birds and while they all seem to be quite individual with their habits and quirks, there are behavioural traits they share, one being a general hatred for their own kind, moreso when a rival is on a bird's territory or young from an earlier brood are still hanging around.

The focal point for the action here was this post out in the water, if one bird was in situ it wouldn't be long before another would fly by and have a nibble or perch in the trees to watch before launching an attack. In the case of this image, the young bird on the right was quietly watching the fish in the water before, from out of nowhere, the adult male bird flew around in a wide arc, watched by the youngster, before launching itself towards the post causing the younger bird to jump up before it flew off.

I took a short burst of images  and was lucky enough to capture the moment just as the male was about the land with the youngster in mid air. I think what makes this image is not just the landing and jumping action, but both birds having eye contact and looking like they are shouting at each other (they were!). Shot with a Sony a1, Sony 600mm F4 lens and 2x teleconverter at 1/2500, f8 and iso 1600.

Take care, Andy


'Danger in the dunes'

I'll be honest, there isn't another bird which brings me as much joy to watch and photograph than the hen harrier. I'm sticking to a few paragraphs here but I could write all day about these fascinating and beautiful birds and how much they captivate me.

As much as they're a joy to see it's one of those affairs which is over as quickly as it started and the bird has ghosted away. It could be five minutes before it returns but then again it could be five hours.

They can be frustratingly difficult to photograph and majestically adept at avoiding a waiting photographer, yet I've been fortunate enough to have them fly by me mere feet away and even flying alongside the car as I was driving - both situations where I had no camera to hand and it would have been no use to me even if I had. All you can do is enjoy and treasure those moments. 

This photograph was the result of watching and waiting, learning the foraging habits of an overwintering bird before, after many hours of fieldwork over the course of a number of weeks, going for some photos. I couldn't use a pop-up hide as it was a well walked area so had to tuck myself away in the sand dunes, stay still, quiet and wait. Of the set I took I chose this image as it's a typical harrier pose, flying into the wind a few feet above ground as it hunts small birds and rodents. Image taken with Sony a9,  Sony 600mm F4 lens and 1.4x teleconverter at 1/3200, f6.3 and iso 800.

Take care, Andy


'The business end'

This is one of those images that speaks for itself, the eagle's beak and chin bloodied, but it also offers a glimpse into the life of these birds. Of all the sea eagle photos I've been lucky enough to take, it's one of my favourites.

At the time this picture was taken this sea eagle was, along with its partner, raising a brood, with a pair of hungry, noisy chicks back at the nest. Has this bird eaten or merely dropped off prey having ripped it open and fed the chicks first? But there's no time for the adult to rest, the chicks will want feeding again as will, at some point, the adult and so it's back on the wing hunting again.

The image was taken from a boat using the Sony a9 and Sony's 100-400mm lens, at 400mm, with a shutter speed of 1/2500 at f5.6, iso 1600. I hadn't had the Sony gear that long when this was taken and it was my first trip out on the boat using that combo but was really pleased with the results.

Take care, Andy


'Tranquility'

On the west shore of Llyn Padarn, near to the car park, is a lone tree, full of character, sitting in the middle of a gorgeous view down the llyn towards Pen y Pass and the surrounding mountains. I'd picked this morning to travel there as the forecast was for calm conditions.

The high cloud you'd want for such a scene didn't materialise, but thankfully the mist hung around and this is one of the scenes I captured as the blue hour transitioned to sunrise.

Shot on the Sony a7R4 this was a 25 second exposure at f11, iso 320, and 35mm focal length using Sony's 24-105mm f4 lens. I was very happy with the final image, the longer exposure enhancing what were already flat calm conditions.

If you'd like to buy a print of this photograph, click the image and hit the 'buy photo' button in the right corner after which you can select print or wall art and the size of print you'd like - for this image I'd recommend a larger size as it's such a big scene to enjoy.

Take care, Andy

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