I had one of the most incredible weeks travelling in style (for once) around some beautiful Greek Islands. I was lucky enough to be invited on as a guest of one of my closest friends to spend a week with her on the cruise ship that she is currently working on. I’m going to be completely honest and say that while I was excited in the lead up, I had never really fancied a cruise holiday and I had expectations in my head that I can happily say, were not met! I thought cruise holidays were for wealthy people, people who like to splash the cash, say they have been travelling when in fact they never got off the ship. I was so wrong! Cruising is for everyone, but because I happen to love travel and the natural world, I embraced every moment and explored everywhere I could, it worked for me! I LOVE being in the field, wearing camo clothing, sitting hours in bad weather waiting for that perfect wildlife shot, that is me. But I must admit, it was nice being able to take relaxed images of my friends with stunning backdrops in a really chilled environment. I am NOT a people photographer, and I’m sure everyone who is can tell by these images. But I like to try new things and being able to step onto deck in the middle of the ocean surrounded by millions of stars, with my camera in one hand, make up on and high heels, well it was something that I really enjoyed!
So without further ado, here are my images and the places I travelled!
35.8989° N, 14.5146° E
Valletta is Malta's lilliputian capital, built by the Knights of St John on a peninsula that's only 1km by 600m. Its founder decreed that it should be 'a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen', and it retains its 16th-century elegance. It may be small, but it's packed full of sights; when Unesco named Valletta a World Heritage Site, it described it as 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world'.
Now, meet Jenny, you're going to be seeing her a lot in my images so I thought it only right to tell you a little bit about her. Jenny is 23 and her current place of residence is Oceana. Talk about the ship of wonders! Jenny is working on the ship for 9 weeks in total, running all sorts of fun entertainment for children on the ship.
More to come on Jenny as the images progress...
I love this little shot of one street in Malta, it's generic I know, but I wanted to photograph it for myself.
37.4467° N, 25.3289° E
Mykonos was my favourite Island that we visited on my travels! The streets were beautiful, the ocean crystal clear, the beautiful trees! But, no spoilers for what the town looks like yet, i'll just keep you guessing for now!
According to mythology, Mykonos was formed from the petrified bodies of giants killed by Hercules. And did you know that the island took its name from the grandson of Apollo, “Mykonos”?
Now, meet Chloe. I met Chloe on the ship, she works along side Jenny and you have to admit she's pretty damn amazing to photograph. Chloe is 19 and continues to work on the ship today for just a couple of more weeks before returning home. I found Chloe really easy to photograph, but I found the best images of her came from when she wasn't paying attention. Like here for example, I got some great images of Chloe stood on the wall, but when she went to step off she didn't know I was still photographing her, and I ended up with this shot! I just love how happy and natural it is!
Somewhere in the middle if the Mediterranean Ocean
I decided to go against putting my images in order, so i'll just be posting images from all over and jumping back to different places, so read carefully where the image was taken! :D
Now then, the stars that I saw in the middle of the ocean sailing between the different locations, were unreal, they really were completely out of this world! What I have found with star photography however is that what is seen on camera doesn't truly replicate what we see with our eyes, this is also what I found when I saw the aurora borealis in Iceland and the coral reefs of Egypt. Editing happens, it's a fact of most photographs. With the aurora borealis (northern lights) the colour is often enhanced, the contrast upped so that it is really clear in the images. with the coral reefs, colour is pumped up to replicate what gets lost the deeper into the blue you go. And the same goes for stars. While we spent a lot of nights up on the crew deck just gazing at the stars as we sailed silently on, we saw the milky way and the millions of other stars, but the image here is where I have heightened all of that so that it is visible to everyone that little but more.
This shoot was originally a sunset shoot. We had literally just missed the sun drop below the horizon so it got dark pretty quickly, however when the stars came out, they didn't look exactly like this to the naked eye. I want to stress that I have edited the image so everyone can see what we were seeing.
And can you believe, a beautiful girl in a stunning red dress just happened to get in my way! Only joking! Jenny look unbelievable on this evening - it was formal evening on the ship where we dressed in ball gowns for our evening meal. I have to say this night was so magical and beyond anything I had ever experienced, and what better way to end it than standing at the stern of the ship and watching the stars as they began to appear in their millions!
36.4341° N, 28.2176° E
Another location now. Rhodes is yet another beautiful island where the old town truly is the character of the place.
Rhodes Greece is the largest and most popular island of Dodecanese. With 300 days of sunshine per year, Rhodes island is mostly famous for the romantic Old Town and the amazing beach resorts. The Old Town is among the best-preserved Medieval Towns of Europe, with strong walls, an impressive castle, paved paths and elegant stone mansions.
And of course, what photograph wouldn't be complete without Jenny?! Jenny loves exploring and is an experienced traveller, clocking up some miles around the world with the places she has visited.
‘Why is she telling everyone that her photos are unoriginal?’ You maybe asking. Well because they are. There is no point in trying to say that I planned a shoot for today and spent hours and hours trying to get an imagine that I had in my head… because I didn’t. Today in Leeds we have a decent amount of snowfall. But hey, this doesn’t get me overly excited for a photo shoot, because I SUCK when it comes to photography in the snow. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I just find it difficult to find an interesting composition. Everything is either too empty, or too messy, or too many footprints and so on. So, I decided that I would take some images of what caught my eye, and that was mostly my dog. There are countless numbers of images of dogs on the internet, and another huge amount of those dogs in the snow! And so ladies and gentlemen, that is why my images today are very unoriginal, but were fun to shoot.
Cassie, a very ginger dog looks great in the snow. Yes, I’m probably being biased because she’s my favourite dog in the world. But I think she is a true joy to photograph. She listens, she lets me get in the shot with her (most of the time) and she explores. She is a truly happy dog when it comes to playing in the snow, and a joy to watch, so why not get some cute pics of her while she’s doing it!
To be totally honest, I felt guilty having this much snow given to me on a plate (my day off) and not going out and doing what I do, nature photography. But, it’s a curse in disguise! The more snow, the prettier and more enticing to photograph, however, the more snow, the less accessible it is to get places, so I have to do with the field at the top of my street, which isn’t the most photogenic place in the world. So to tie the two things together, you have my little snow doggy and me.
I truly love being outdoors, finding things that nobody else is looking for, hearing bird songs that no one else recognises, and watching the snow fall elegantly from the sky. I love feeling the fresh air and seeing untouched human areas of pristinely laid snow. And I love standing amongst the trees and looking up to feel the snow on my face. I love the quiet that it brings. I don’t know what sounds are missing but it’s a peaceful moment. I just can’t think of being anywhere better than outside, and the wonder of snow captivates me every time I see it.
This weeks’ adventure meant spud was in his true element. An overnight stay in Cadwell Park was just what was needed for a blog that isn’t wildlife related. Despite the luxuries of the campervan which include two double beds, heating, cooker, fridge and other necessities, mum wasn’t up for it. This, she says wasn’t due to the camping, but because of the nature of the place we were staying. Our reason for staying at Cadwell was to watch Ryan Cooper (Bex’s partner) racing his Yamaha YZF-R6 (Or just a very fast motorbike to you and me) in the Thundersport GB Golden Era Super Sport.
Note: Mum is very supportive of Ryan racing, but as most mothers are she can’t bring herself to watch Ryan in case he gets injured. Although he isn’t her son, he is one of the family, so understandably she doesn’t watch him race. Dad however cheers him on around the bends… It’s a bit of a contrast!
‘Cadwell Park's twisty and undulating nature, winding through open park and woodland, has marked it out as one of the best circuits in the country. Once discovered, it is often a firm favourite amongst many who visit, whether as a spectator or participant.
The circuit is also one of the most popular destinations on the MCE Insurance British Superbike calendar, with the infamous 'Mountain' section, which riders usually tackle airborne, providing a particular challenge.’ http://www.cadwellpark.co.uk/circuit-information.aspx
Ryan is a keen racer, and a very good one at that. Despite a few falls, one of which landed him in hospital with broken ribs and a punctured lung not so long back, he is actually 3rd in his league. Like the supporting family we are, along with the support from Ryan’s own family they make a great team. Coop’s Racing is as I have said a family racing unit. The racers are Ryan, his uncle Gary Cooper, and more recently Ryan’s cousin and Gary’s son Preston Cooper. Together with their blue, white and orange team colours they are the well know family racers.
On Saturday evening, my dad, Bex and I travelled the two hours to the track. Admittedly I was asleep for a good hour and a half of the journey but it went smoothly as far as I am aware. On arrival, we set up the van (Popped the top which is my bed) and put the kettle straight on. We knew where to pull up due to the vibrant orange gazebo and the big ‘Coops Racing’ sign on the fence outside. By the time we had set up it was pretty much time to go to sleep. It was actually probably one of the best night sleeps I’ve ever had. It was warm, comfortable, and silent, but that was down to the lifesaving earplugs I had.
The next morning, I was woken by the revving of motorbike engines and we got up and ready to watch Ryan’s qualifying race. For those like me who don’t know an awful lot about motorbike racing, the qualifying race determines where on the grid the riders start. Those who qualify the fastest start at the front of the gird for the actual race and the slowest go to the back. Those at the front of course have the advantage.
For his qualifier, Ryan finished 4th which meant he was 4th on the gird. In his first race Ryan finished 2nd, earning himself another trophy to the collection and on his second race he finished 3rd after leading the entire race for over five laps. Despite this, Ryan said he had a great race and its exactly that kind of thrill that he races for. His competitors said the same and are all very supportive of one another, laughing and joking and going into detail about the race.
Of course with racing a lot means the riders often know each other personally. Ryan’s friend Chris Manger is another very talented rider, who pitched his gazebo next to the Coopers’. Chris did very well in his races and finished 5th in his first race on his Yamaha YZFR6 bike and 6th in his second. Chris’ number 68 bike is clear to see with the sky blue and white fairings along with the gold wheels.
Ryan had a great start to his second race which eventually boosted him to first.
The Coops fan's were really holding their breaths as they saw Ryan entering the chicane, go hell for leather up the mountain and electorate through the start/finish line which takes them on a steep curved incline to the next part of the track. Below are some images which show Ryan in the lead as he races up and down and along these parts of the track.
The race weekends are great fun, and despite the often terrible weather, this weekend wasn’t too bad with a cold wind but sunshine in between cloud.
For the weekend, I used my Nikon D810 along with my 24-85mm kit lens for the landscape shots, and my 300mm f/4 lens for the shots of the bikes. Despite this being my first time photographing the bikes, which I might add, are a lot quicker than most wildlife I've ever shot, clocking in at around 140mph, I thought it was quite successful. I was alongside professional sports photographers that cover the images for magazines such as Thundersport GT etc. who, of course had lenses up to 500mm. I am happy with the shots and enjoyed capturing the action on the day.
Thank you for reading this blog. Please feel free to leave any comments, all are welcome! What else would you like to see in my blog? Is there anything missing that you really want to know about, please let me know so that I can improve my future blog posts.
For more information on Coops racing please follow this link to see their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Coops-Racing-539738106131640/?fref=ts
Five small fluff balls sitting on the nest, Mother and father just want some rest! Saturday I returned to the swan family to see how they were getting on. On my arrival, mum was cleaning herself (which I might add, she was doing for two hours!) and dad was out on patrol. Under mums wing I counted five little fluff balls all mirroring their mum’s actions and doing a very good job of it. When mum stood up, I saw that there was one unhatched egg. This could be a very late hatcher, but more than likely this little babe didn't make it. Unfortunately, this is completely natural and despite the efforts from mum and dad to protect their young, they will be lucky to have just one surviving cygnet. This can happen from a number of reasons such as predators (Birds of prey, foxes etc). Natural causes such as the cold, starvation and even weakness, when its siblings are stronger than itself and are the first to feed, they can push others out of the way and so on.) Rather than dwelling on this unfortunately certain topic, the day I spent with the family was far from morbid!
I sat with the family for two hours until my sister Rebecca (or Bex, or Becki or Becki boodle, whatever you like really…) met me down there with her two dogs, Millie a very beautiful and bouncy golden Labrador and Reggie, the springiest springer spaniel I guarantee you will ever meet. Just before they met me, mum swan seemed to be trying to heard her cygnets into the water, which will have been their very first dip. I kept watching and one cygnet actually wandered too close to the edge of the nest, tumbled down the side and stopped just before it reached the water. Panicking it ran as fast as it could back up the side of the nest and once reaching the summit of what must have been a mount Everest equivalent for this little one, it retired into an exhausted pile and snuggled into its brothers and sisters. Just after the ordeal, I went on a walk with Bex and the dogs to the other end of the canal. When we returned about half an hour later, to my delight and also disappointment at missing the big moment, the entire swan family were in the water. Of course they were complete naturals. In fact, they took to it like a duck to water. Or swan to water. The siblings were playing, chasing one another and catching a few of the thousands of flies that were dancing on the water’s surface. Mum and dad couldn't have looked prouder, and although you might think a swan couldn't show any other emotion that anger, hatred or annoyance, it was clear that when the two enclosed their young in-between their bodies they had a slight glimmer in their eyes. Metaphorically…
I managed to capture a few shots of the young in the water, but nowhere near enough than I wanted (due to the fact I was late for horse riding). Despite this I know now that the best images from me will be of the cygnets in the water because of them being closer to me. The nest is just slightly too far to achieve images I am truly happy with.
I plan to return to the family on Monday morning for sunrise. I would like to capture the swans interacting in the soft warm glow of daybreak, and I may even be lucky enough to get a nice layer of mist.
Watch this space for more! Thank you for reading and all comments are hugely encouraged!
I’m sure that many of you may have had a run in with a swan or two in your life. It’s more than likely that the encounter was annoying to an extent you wanted to strangle the swan. A prime example is when my family and I would go on regular bike rides along the Leeds Liverpool canal (From Rodley to Apply Bridge). There was one straight section that were guarded by what I can only describe as a psycho swan couple. We braced ourselves, and one by one peddled as fast as we could past them. Wings ruffled and paddling as fast as they could they were often right at our heels hissing as they snapped. Unfortunately for my dad, it would always be him that would get the brunt of it (more than likely because he brought up the rear of the bike ride). Anyway, he took a wing to the back of the head that day, and ever since has been a bit wary of the birds.
Despite this, as most things do when they are new-borns, baby swans (cygnets) are extremely cute, fluffy and wobbly. I would like to share with you readers, a family unit so complete and loving that swans may very well be your new favourite bird!
I am lucky enough to live a five-minute walk from the Leeds Liverpool canal, and as you know, I’m based in Rodley which covers a very small stretch of the entire canal. Along this stretch, backing onto some houses is a swan family. They have decided to build their nest on the safety of the far side of the canal, and if anyone was to go close to the nest, it would only be the inhabitants of the house it backs onto. No public are able to reach it unless they have a boat or have a huge desire to swim in the probably toxic water. I have been walking past the nest everyday accompanied by Cassie who seems to wonder what I am doing when I stare out across the water. The mother is always sat on the nest while the father is patrolling the stretch and regularly going to touch heads with his partner. The two have a very close bond, which is enough for anyone and any parent to notice. It was easy to see these swans were going to make a very good mum and dad. I was never able to see how many eggs were in the nest and so I am unsure if all have made it to seeing the outside world.
On my usual afternoon walk with Cassie on the 26th May 2016, I stopped to see the couple both looking in the nest. To my delight and excitement, I saw 6 fluffy grey heads moving around. They had hatched. Naturally I ran home with Cassie, grabbed my camera equipment and headed straight back. Unfortunately, mum was fast asleep on the cygnets and although I was there for well over an hour it must have been nap time as only once showed and very briefly. Dad however was patrolling and looking for danger as the probably exhausted mother and babies had their rest.
I managed to get a few snaps of the swans despite not seeing much of the young.
I will be regularly updating this blog with the swan’s progression. It won’t be long until they are swimming around with mum and dad, and I plan to photograph their developments over the next few weeks.
Please stay tuned! My future blogs will contain more images of the cygnets as well as behaviours from mum and dad.
Thank you for any comments, all are welcome!
Note: I am very respectful of the swans personal space. I do not invade and if dad swims towards me I will back off. I have not experienced any signs of aggression so far and both swans seem to be very relaxed.
I am so excited to share with you my new personal project. This project will hopefully interest and appeal to a lot people, but it is potentially controversial.
When I arrived home recently, my mum and dad had told me they had found a fox den on the flower banking in our garden while they gardening. (There had also been a lot of talk in the dog walking community of Rodley that foxes had been spotted on walks, in gardens, and even on the rug of a living room, looking at the occupier). Admittedly, my dad told me he had filled the hole back up with soil. In his opinion (and I’m sure others’ too) they are a pest. They are digging up his flowers, Cassie’s dog toys are going missing and are potentially dangerous to dogs and other pet as well as a number of other things. When I went to look, the den was clearly back in action and used on a more than regular basis. I took this as an amazing opportunity to photograph a WILD urban fox. This is something I have never done but have wanted to do for a very long time.
‘Red foxes have successfully colonised urban areas throughout the world. They are widespread in many Australian, European, Japanese and North American cities.In Britain, foxes were first established in cities such as Bristol and London during the 1940s. More recently, cities such as Cambridge and Norwich have been colonised. Similar patterns of colonization are found worldwide. Foxes were recorded in Melbourne as early as the 1930s and were widespread in many Australian cities by the 1970s, but in Zurich, Switzerland, urban foxes only appeared during the 1980s.’ http://www.thefoxwebsite.net/urbanfoxes/
I firstly wanted to get a better insight to the routine of the fox. When is it most active, when does it leave and return and so on. While I was thinking about the best way to do this sat in the garden (on an unusually hot day in Yorkshire) I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. To my huge amazement and delight, I saw a fox cub scurrying past the side of the house. I ran inside and grabbed my GoPro and I knew the wide-angle, size and nature (action camera) would be perfect to determine the foxes’ activities. I attempted to use the GoPro for three evenings/nights, however I came across a number of problems.
Abandoning the Gopro, I eventually moved on to my Nikon D810 (which I love). I decided to set my camera to ‘interval shooting’ so that it would take a photograph every 2 seconds for as long as I wanted, in my case I set it to stop shooting after it reached 2 hours. I changed the settings so that I was shooting in aperture priority which deals with the changing light better than any other setting, and heightened my ISO to around 3200. The model of camera is brilliant at dealing with this amount of noise. My settings were as follows: f/4-5 which allowed me to achieve a shutter speed of around 125th of a second (fast enough to freeze any movement).
I placed the camera on my Sirui tripod which allowed me to get very close to the ground and keep as hidden and out of the foxes’ way as possible. Around the camera, I placed a plastic food bag just in case it rained (which, let’s face it, is more than likely in Leeds). Despite knowing that the Nikon D810 is brilliantly weather sealed, an incident involving water with my previous camera scarred me for life, so precautions all the way. I manually focused the lens I was using which was the standard Nikon 24-85mm lens. The focus was located between the lens and the edge of the den as I believed this is the most likely place the fox would be. I left the camera taking images and went inside.
Around 2 hours later I went to check the camera and to my huge delight, there was a baby fox on the back on my LCD screen. Naturally, I ran inside screaming ‘MUM!’ who came running after thinking I had been mauled by the fox. After telling her I had got a picture she sighed with her hand on her heart which I thought was happiness and delight… It turned out to be disappointment as I had disrupted her game of candy crush! Despite this she looked at the image and was very interested!
Excitedly, I quickly uploaded the images from my SD card on to my computer, changed batteries and put the camera straight back outside. Being so excited and eager for more images, I forgot to change the settings and so naturally with the evening progressively getting speedily darker, the camera was making the pictures as bright as it could, meaning the shutter speed had fallen a huge amount. When I looked at my camera this time, there were many images of the fox but all motion blurred. This was however a great learning curve.
I am hoping to get a lot more images and even footage during my stay at home. I can now confidently (sort of) attach my GoPro to my camera as I know it will be light enough to see the footage. This way I will have a supporting film to go with my pictures.
Note: To achieve these image I have changed the image from RAW quality to JPEG in order to get more images onto the SD card. When I am confident that I can photograph the foxes personally and that they trust me enough to be in my presence, I will change the quality back to RAW which will allow me to get some beautiful images and edit them fully.
A Brief Edit
That’s the hope anyway! Please stay tuned if you’re interested in my blog or comment if you have any questions or opinions, I would be so interested to hear anything from you!
Thank you all and watch this space!
Spud is our loveable, family campervan. Spud already had his name when he was bought from the previous owners and we thought it suited the van perfectly!
Earlier this year, my mum and dad invested in a VW Campervan. For years they have wanted one to be able to drive somewhere for the day and have a hot cuppa with a scone while taking in some of Britain’s beautiful views. It also helps in that mum isn't one for staying in a tent, so this way it makes camping seem more like home.
When they aren't visiting me in the camper down in Cornwall, and when I come home from University we try to get out as much as possible, and enjoy the beauty of Yorkshire. With this, I will be documenting the different places along with a family image consisting of myself, mum, dad and Cassie our loveable doggy companion.
Our first documented family trip was to Dalby Forest in Thronten-le-dale, Yorkshire. ‘Dalby Forest is situated on the southern slopes of the North York Moors National Park. The southern part of the forest is divided by a number of valleys creating a 'Rigg and Dale' landscape whilst to the north the forest sits on the upland plateau.’
The weather was beautiful and hot, we started our trip at the far end of the forest situated near a lake where we started with a short 20-minute circular walk. Cassie loved the water and was keeping herself very occupied while I was focused on getting some interesting shots. We returned to the car had a drink and went on our way for an hours walk into the forest. This was a great opportunity to get some nice shots of the trees which lined the paths that wound their way around the forest. I looked closely for wildlife but there was none quite in the reach due to restriction with my lens, so I focused on looking at the mosses which were growing along the bankings which emitted some beautiful vibrant colours. These are things that are often overlooked in forest areas but something that should be noticed.
You will see I have uploaded two of the same image, however this is because I tried out some different crops and was unsure which I preferred. Please feel free to leave a comment on my 'Contact Page' to let me know which you preferred!
Please click on the images above for a bigger view of them!
This will be updated every weekend following the different trips we have been on.
Information found: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/dalbyforest