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June 2016






a bit of reflection and some sea birds


I think I'm going through a sort of photographic mid-life crisis!  The thing is that I increasingly don't seem to want to leave home to go on photography trips!  I want to stay at home and get stuck in to photography projects at my beloved Woodberry Wetlands!  

Let me explain... and if you can't be bothered to read, skip to the pretty pictures a bit further down!

After my 2009 brain infection, I really wasn't able to do much at all except take photographs #understatement.  Eventually, I ventured away from London with a great deal of support from friends and took photographs of wildlife in the UK.  Eventually, I ventured abroad.  As I became more independent, I also refined my photography goals.  I decided that I didn't want to be so scattergorical.  I also didn't want to 'collect' photographs or complete lists of species.  I set myself a 'UK only' goal.  I delighted in spending time with experts in the field (pun intended). My aim was to get better portfolios of fewer species and to know something about the species that I was photographing. 

Then early last year I discovered that London really does has a wealth of wildlife and that it's possible to photograph close to home... and I also started to photograph at my local London Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Woodberry Wetlands.  Each time I go there, I don't want to leave.  I had booked (in early 2015) to go to Great Saltee with Guy Edwardes in June 2016.  Faced with packing, I really didn't want to go!  It meant leaving my local patch again and was frustrating my lukewarm stop/start attempts to get immersed in local projects.

But, that's how I came to arrive in Fishguard with my good friend Ian Haskell where we were to join Guy and set sail to Rosslare and drive to Kilmore Quay.  And, I was in a ferocious grump!  I didn't want to be there.  I didn't want to photograph any more gannets.  But there I was.  But, in good company. The hotel was a different story however.  Fawlty Towers Revisited.  Guy had warned us that it might be bad and he wasn't wrong.  It was atrocious.  Another story.  A long one. 

Then there was the getting up to be on the quayside for a 06:00hrs sea crossing to Great Saltee.  I'm not much of a morning creature.  Can't say that I like being in small boats in big seas much (but Declan is a fantastic skipper). Then there was the 1 1/2mile walk/scramble to the gannet colony be done 4 times each day.  Each of the 3 days ended by getting back to Fawlty Towers II at about 11pm at night.  We walked 15 miles, spent over 30 hours on the island and made 12 sea crossings over those 3 days.  Impossible to do without going on an organised trip.  And did I tell you about the rain or the slippery mud?

Gannets? Amazing, extraordinary, funny, stinky, graceful, affectionate, clumsy, beautiful, enormous sea birds.  I'd photographed gannets before, and in better light, so with my ferocious grump on, I didn't photograph them at all until I got my head round how to do something completely different.  And I stuck to my determination to be different.  So here you have it (or you will have when I've finished the bloody processing!) The seabirds of Great Saltee - but different from anything that I've done previously.  

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I wanted a portfolio of images that conveyed the movement and the chaos and whirl of the colony.  I slowed my shutter speed until I could record painterly brush strokes rather than artistic blur.  I went for black backgrounds, for brilliant gleaming bokeh from the sea, for motion blur, for complete blur!   I tried to photograph bits of gannets, their feet, their eggs, the chicks, the parents feeding their tiny chicks and gannets with mushy foregrounds... and of course, as my creative eye began to see, my hit rate dropped but my satisfaction rate increased!  Game on!

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Oh, and I found a few photogenic puffins to add to my huge puffin portfolio and had fun with guillemots and shags.  

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Will I go back?... maybe but, I need to stay home and invest time in my local projects.

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Ian, Guy, thank you for your company!  Particular thanks for the idea of the Guillemot colony at the bottom of the cliff ... I love this series.

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