Nigel's  Wildlife  Photography Blog: 2019
 
 
Thursday 13th June
 
Do Not Look Down
 
 

I have always liked images looking down, perhaps I should purchase myself a drone.

Whilst in the Arctic last year, I used my widest lens to take some images from the crow's nest of the Havsel, and this year whilst sailing on Tonic, I took the opportunity to ascend the mast to help with some maintenance when a bulb needed changing.  The image was taken whilst we were in Fair Isle, and obviously, I also had in mind that this may be my only opportunity to photograph this particular boat from above using an 11mm lens which was my widest lens that I took on this trip.

 
 
 
 
 

 
Monday 12th June
 
 
Tonic
 

The yacht in which I sailed around Britain is named "Tonic" and is owned by Elite Sailing based at Chatham Maritime Marina. it is their largest yacht which they use for their "adventure sailing" program.  The boat is 46 feet in length and was manufactured by Bavaria Yachts. She had plenty of room for the professional skipper/instructor from Elite and crew, which ranged from 5 to 7 additional people.

In general, terms, the longer the yacht is at her waterline, the faster she will sail.  Tonic was certainly fairly nippy, and it was fairly easy to average over 7 nautical miles per hour almost all of the time, indeed it was not uncommon for this to rise to over 10 nautical miles per hour on occasions. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Length: 14.48 meters

Beam: 4.48 meters

Draft 2.1meterss

Displacement: 13,000 kg

Engine: Volvo MD22P 59HP Diesel

Diesel Fuel Tank: 230 Litres (51 gallons)

Water Tanks: two

230 litres and 360 litres

Anchor: 45 lb with 60 metres of 10mm chain

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
Friday 9th June
 
Around Britain In "Tonic"
 
 

It is always nice when you have a purpose for any journey, and earlier this year, I set off on a 47-day journey to sail all around the British coast in a single journey in a 46-foot sailing yacht named Tonic.

The journey started (and finished) at Chatham Maritime Marina and was on an "adventure sailing" trip with Elite Sailing who are based in Chatham. 

The trip was split into six legs, each had an instructor from Elite sailing and various customers who joined the yacht as crew.  Each member of the crew would take part in all of the daily day activities which included:  planning, sailing, navigation, cooking, cleaning, and many other associated tasks.

Although there was the instructor onboard, the crew had the opportunity to skipper the yacht, during which time they planned the route for the journey along with organisation of the watches, and all sailing and organisational duties.  Not everyone decided to take up this role, but I did so on about a dozen passages which totaled over 500 miles and included some quite long sections including Lowestoft to Whitby, Stromness to the Summer Isles, Islay to Bangor (Northern Ireland), etc.  This was worthwhile and I am pleased that I volunteered for these.

Tonic was reasonably sized at 46 feet in length, The number of crew varied from 5 to 7, and people joined for various legs ranging from a single leg through to the complete 7 week trip around Britain.

 
 
The blue line on the chart below shows the route which was over 2500 miles in total
 
 
 
 
Back in the mid-1990s, I did a few weeks sailing with a friend who had his own boat.  This was mostly a few trips around the Thames estuary as his boat was based at Walton on the Naize.  We also chartered a boat in Scotland and a small group of us had a very pleasant week around Mull.  This was many years ago, and although I have spent many days at sea during the past few years, I have long since lost touch and had not been on a sailing yacht until earlier this year.
 
 
During the seven weeks, I took around 6400 photographs, and now have the task of sorting these out.  As time allows, many of these will be added to my website, but in the meantime, I have added a couple of images below.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Tuesday 16th April
 
Sailing Around Britain
 

I am pleased to have added another new talk to my collection of talks for photographic societies, wildlife groups, and other interested groups:

This is the story of my single journey of over 2500 miles in a 46 foot Bavaria yacht that sailed around the circumference of Britain in a single seven-week journey.  The trip visited many small harbors and anchorages that are not accessible to larger boats, thus seeing some wonderful coastline and a great variety of wildlife including many seabirds and marine mammals.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Thursday 14th March
 
Success At Royal Photographic Society Nature group 2019 Exhibition 
 
 

One of the things that I had decided to do in 2019 was to enter a few more photographic competitions and exhibitions.  So far this has not resulted in many entries, indeed my only entry of the year to date has been in the annual exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society Nature group.

But I am pleased that I entered and I am delighted to report that when I got my results back today, I was awarded the gold medal for this image of a Waxwing.

I entered four digital images into the "all creatures" section and all four were accepted, but really pleased to have won the gold medal this year, especially as i have not entered this competition before. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Wednesday 6th March
 
First Voyage On The Open Seas In 2019
 

Later on this year, I will be back in the Hebrides, and I am obviously really looking forward to getting back on the sea again.  It can be a long time between the end of the wildlife guiding each October before the new season arrives.  Therefore, I decided to do some personal sailing this year, and this is something that will be added to this blog in a few months time.

But in the meantime, I spent 9 days in Chatham last week doing some theory and sailing.  The boat seemed small compared to the boats I have traveled on in recent years, but it was very enjoyable.   We left Chatham maritime marina, passing through two lock gates and into the Medway.  Next was an overnight visit to Queenborough before continuing into the Thames Estuary before venturing north along the east coast to the busy ports of Harwich and Felixstowe.  From here we continued up the river Orwell towards Ipswich.  Our destination was the village of Wolverstone.  The return trip was quite windy and a bit more rough than the initial crossing, but really enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to some more sailing in a few weeks time.

From a wildlife perspective, it was fairly quiet, but it was good to see lots of seals, a few gannets, and my highlight was Common Porpoise that was seen on three separate occasions.

Took my camera along for the ride, and managed a few images including these below.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was not just sailing, as well as trying to increase my sailing skills, I am also trying to increase my theory, planning, chartwork, and navigation.  Some of this is in indoors, whilst others are on the water.  Two images also added to show this part of my learning is shown below.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Overall this was a good way to spend a few days, and I certainly learned a lot.  But it is very different from the powered boats I have traveled on during recent years in both the Arctic and the Hebrides, and without any doubt, I have much more to learn before I could be classed as a yachtsman !!!.

Everyone continues to learn and learning only leads to more knowledge which in turn leads to confidence and enjoyment.  In my case when it comes to yachts, there is still a huge amount more to learn.  But, I have booked some more sailing trips, so really hoping the next few months will lead to learning both more theory and practical sailing.  This will come with more learning and practice along with more miles, experience, and nights in a yacht.

During the next few months and I am looking forward to getting some photos during the journey and updating the blog.  My plans include over 50 - 60 days on a yacht in 2019, with over 2000 nautical miles planned.  Certainly looking forward to a new aspect of being on the seas.  Indeed, I even have a new talk with a sailing theme which will be ready towards the end of the year.

 
 
 

 
 
 
Wednesday 13th February
 
The Image "That I Had In Mind"
 
 

Sometimes, I hear a lot of photographers discussing "the shot they had in mind", and it is fair to say, that there are lots and lots of shots of many subjects that I would like to get.  Indeed sometimes far too many to have certain shots in mind!!

On many occasions, the opportunity to get the exact image that you had in mind before the visit does not materialise, and as a result, you have to try and get the best from the situation.  On some of these occasions, this gives you an opportunity to either try something else or if the sightings as not as good as you had hoped, you just have to make do with whatever you can get.
This is not always bad because you get something completely different to what you had intended and it is always good to keep an open mind and consequently try something new.  Indeed, if you don't get the shot that you wanted, you can sometimes return and have another attempt.  This is obviously easier and cheaper with some species than it is with others.

 

I definitely had quite a few images in my thoughts that I wanted to achieve when I visited Bandhavgarh in India.  Some of the days were very slow for wildlife encounters, but you would expect that when your subject is as elusive as a tiger.

Overall, I am very pleased with many of the images, some of my results, are quite different to those that I had in mind before we went to India, and without any doubt, I want to have another attempt at photographing wild tigers. 

 
 
 
 

When reviewing my tiger images on my computers hard drive, I know that I can get better tiger images (but I totally understand that there is a huge element of luck involved, and a return visit would not guarantee that I would achieve better images)

Before my visit, I had two images in mind, that I would like to achieve, the first image was of a tiger walking directly towards me, showing eye contact towards the camera, and the second image was a portrait of a tigers head that was reasonably big in the frame.

Yep, I can do better, but, I am pleased with these two images and feel they are not that far away from the two images that I had in mind.

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Thursday 7th Feb
 
Showcase Images
 
 

One of the things that I have been considering is where is a good place to showcase a few of my images?

Should they be put into a "showcase page" on here - perhaps not as this may mean that visitors look at these images only and may not look at my other gallery pages.

So having decided not to put them directly on here, that leaves quite a few other options.

I already have a facebook page which I tend to use for new images, advertising talks, and other items, I don't feel the need to purchase a specific paid for facebook photography profile and then pay for advertising and other associated costs. 

 

I have therefore decided to use Instagram as a platform for showing some of my images.

As a result, I am in the process of adding some of my images are being uploaded onto this platform.  I may be a bit late and some photographers already have uploaded hundreds of images and have thousands of Instagram followers.  Hopefully, I have chosen a reasonable platform and Instagram will remain a popular social media site.

Rather than upload lots of different images, I have started by adding one image per day, and currently have almost 50 uploaded.  Time will tell, how this pans out and if I can keep this up.  But my aim is to certainly try and end up with this a reasonable showcase of my photographic work.

 
 
 
Please take a look at my Instagram pages, and if you like what you see, then please follow me at:
 
www.instagram.com/@nigelspencerphoto
 
 
 

 
 
 
Monday 28th January
 
The Pressure For Results
 
 

When you arrive at a new destination and are looking for a new species there is always pressure to deliver.  This is especially true when you have flown thousands of miles and spent a few thousand pounds traveling to see a species that you have not seen before.

Sometimes the views and the wildlife photographs are easier to achieve than others and provided you visit the correct location at the right time of year, the odds will be in your favor.  For example: if you have traveled to the Falklands in December in search of penguins then you would expect to see them very soon, the same is true for puffins in Skommer or the Farnes in May, or for Bown Bears in Finland in June.  But some species are definitely not as easy as these and require a large element of luck as well as careful planning.  These more tricky species include Dolphins in the Hebrides, Polar Bears in the Arctic, and wild Dogs in Africa.

Without any doubt, another tricky to see species is the Bengal Tiger, and there was no guarantee that we would see them in the wild during our visit to Bandhavgarh.  To try and counteract this we decided to visit for two weeks and do 20+ game drives.  This obviously increases our odds, as the more time spent in the right area usually means more potential tiger sightings, but that element of luck is still required.

Once you arrive, the more days that pass before you see your target, the more the pressure mounts on both you and your guides. (I know this both from my time guiding in the Hebrides and as a paying customer hoping to see my own wildlife). This can mount very quickly on a short trip and the pressure for results is often felt.

The opposite is usually true when your target species is seen early on during the visit, indeed it is always good to "get something in the bag".  This means a lot of the pressure has gone, and whatever happens for the rest of the trip, there is at least the situation where you will return home with nothing has now gone.

Tigers are definitely one of these hard to see species, many people go looking for tigers and do not see any, indeed we came across a few people on our trip that had not seen a tiger.
But as you will hopefully have seen from my previous blog post, we were very lucky and saw tigers on several of our drives in Bandhavgarh.

We saw a tiger on our very first drive which was in the Tala zone of Bandhavgarh, at first we only got a brief glimpse when the tiger walked by, turned, and walked off into the jungle.  There were many people in jeeps nearby and my guess was that nearly everyone got a very quick view and either no photographs or very poor photographs.

But our guide had arranged elephant rides for us into the jungle to see the Tigers on their own away from the crowds.  This gives a much better chance of seeing natural behavior and taking better pictures.  There is the chance that the tiger will be asleep by the time you reach it and you may not get a good sighting, indeed the tiger has moved on, and you won't get any sighting at all.  But generally it is worth paying the extra money for the elephant ride to increase your chances of a good sighting, the ride into the jungle is relaxing, makes a change from riding in the jeep and it is really good to see the jungle interior from a different perspective.

The image below was taken from the back of an elephant on our very first elephant ride.  This was also our first drive of the trip, it was very good to "get something in the bag" especially welcome on this our first drive.  Definitely a very enjoyable sight indeed.

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Sunday 27th January
 
Photographing Bengal Tigers - A Long Awaited Wish
 
 

Over the years, I have been very fortunate to have seen a very wide range of wildlife subjects in many places from distant continents through to those that visit my garden.  Many of these plants, birds, insects, and animals, I have also spent many a pleasurable hour photographing.

But ever since I can remember, I have wanted to see tigers in the wild in India. It is a great country which I have previously visited three times including visits to Delhi, and the Golden Triangle, Goa, and Kerala.  During each of these three trips, we saw some good wildlife, but none of them produced any tigers.

Last year, I booked a trip to the Bandhavgarh National Park in India where we had 21 game drives in the park.  We were obviously keen to see a wide range of Indian wildlife, but our main target by a very long way was the Bengal Tiger.

Luck was on our side, and during this time, we saw tigers on 8 separate occasions which included these pictures below. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Tuesday 8th Jan
 
Looking For An Alternative Viewpoint:
Trying To Create Something Different
 

It is no secret that over the past few years I have been drawn towards sea-based adventures and plans are taking shape for a few more trips afloat over the coming months.  Some of these will be in the same waters as previous years and the thought of returning to the Hebrides is always good.

But I also have a few other plans for 2019, on a completely new boat and am looking forward to sharing stories and pictures later this.  I feel it is important to "tell the story" and want to ensure I manage to end up with some images of the boat and of the trip as well as some of the wildlife and landscapes encountered.  Is this the correct term, should I be saying seascapes?

On my trip last year, to the Arctic last year, we were able to climb up to the crows nest which at 17m above the deck gave a very different perspective to the boat and the surrounding waters.

I also used a much wider lens than normal to also produce images of a different perspective.  I borrowed a 10-24 mm lens and was really impressed by the results.  Sometimes this created distortion, but at other times it produced something different and added a new perspective.

Lastly, but certainly not least, was drone photography.  I have been interested in the use of drones along with the images they produce for quite a while.  On the Svalbard trip, there were three people with drones and it was good fun and excellent learning watching how they went about using them to get pictures.  This is certainly something I wish to explore further.

 
 
 
The above image is looking straight down from the Crows nest at the Havsel below, while the image below is also from the crows nest but is taken at a different angle to show the boat in relation the arctic ice, sea, and glacier.
 
 
 
 
 
Above is a fairly standard shot from the boat using the 10-24mm wide angle, by carefully positioning, I feel the frame has been filled the image nicely without ending up with too much clutter or empty space. The large white of one of the supports to the crows nest has ended up dividing the image in two, but as this is on the diagonal, I feel it has added to the feel of the image rather than distract from it.
whilst below is a very similar image taken from just a few meters away from the above image, but this time the 10-24mm wide angle has ended up being used to create a totally different viewpoint because of my position under the crows nest and cranes rather than at the side of it.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The above image shows Simon Roberts operating the drone from the deck of Havsel, whilst below is one of the images that Simon has kindly allowed me to use as a result of this flight.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Monday 7th Jan
 
A Few Birds And A Few Thoughts
 
 

What is the future of images taken a few months (or years) ago?

In my opinion, the best way to approach photography is to revisit species, locations, and habitats.  Each time I am looking to improve on my previous photographic attempts.  Sometimes you get an image that you are very pleased with and feel it is very hard to improve.  But it is also good to look for something different.  Some people collect species like a "tick list" and that is fine, everyone does what is right for them.  But I like to spend a bit of time getting to know my subjects, watching them as well as photographing them and hopefully learning a bit more about them in the process.

This results (hopefully) in a collection of images on my hard drive that I am pleased with.

So what next?

Sometimes the images have been taken for a specific purpose.  This includes illustrations for my talks or because I feel there is a hole in my photographic files that I want to go and fill.  When I return from my trip, I download the files onto one of my hard drives and then start sorting them.  A few get deleted and a few get processed on the computer for various uses.  Most that get developed will end up as Tiff files as well as 1920px JPG's for potential use in talks.  They will also be converted to a smaller size for web and other online use.

Over recent months and years, many of my images seem to also end up being posted onto Facebook where I try to post on a regular basis.  But I also try and post in an organised manner (such as in an album of images being used to illustrate talks, or in an album on a specific location such as The Hebrides, or about a particular trip such as "Journey To The Arctic - Svalbard".

I try to also add images onto my website here, and try hard to add a blog update at least once per calendar month.  This is sometimes hard if I am away working on the boat or on a longer personal trip.  But I feel its good to at least try to keep using my photos.  I know people who take many months (sometimes years to process their images, and then end up doing nothing with them).
It would be good if my images ended up in the albums on my website here, but that is something that has not happened much recently.  But I realise that I can look back at my blog and my diary and then do a big gallery update when time allows.

There are many other social media platforms, some are obviously much more well known and consequently have a bigger following and usage than others.  After Facebook, I guess the next two big platforms are Twitter and Instagram.   I use both and have an active account with both.  I mainly use Twitter to follow a few things, organisations, and people.  But over recent times, I have found more people use Instagram as a platform to upload their images and as a result, I have also started looking at many of the images that others have posted and have started uploading more of my own images.

A quick online search of Instagram showed that it is owned by facebook....   Perhaps that in itself should tell me something.  I seem to be returning to the same brands in many aspects of my life.
I guess this is an area in which we are all guilty, especially as the world seems more and more dominated by big global organisations.

It is easy to stick with what you know, and I find myself being drawn back to Facebook, the BBC, and the websites and social media profiles of the photographers, media personalities, and organisations which I follow.  Then it is back to the same devices, iPhone and apple.  And then the same brands which in my case seems to be Paramo, Thinktank, Superdry, Nike, Rab, and various other outdoor and leisurewear brands.  Over the past year, I am pleased to have found a few more different brands that I like such as Lomo, Oboz, and Acima. 

The purpose of this post was certainly not to shout out big name brands, but I certainly felt it was very interesting to see how these affect the everyday lives of so many millions of people.  Even when I look at my photography which has elements of both my hobby, my business, and my employment, it is interesting to see how it is affected by these big names.

 

But getting back to the start of this blog post, here are a few images that I am pleased with, so I thought it might be nice to give them a very small reuse here on my blog.  When browsing through my hard drive, I found many images that could be used here, so decided to start by limiting it only to birds, and to images that have not been used for greetings cards.

It is interesting that out of the images posted below, I certainly have two favorites, but I am not going to say which they are.  It would be good to revisit these two species and then take different pictures of them and thus create new favorite images.  But in other ways, it would be even better to revisit the other species to take better images so perhaps these could intern become my personal favorites.

That will hopefully lead to the resulting images being used on social media, shown here on my website, and finding their way into my talks.  But I guess it will also lead to the same thoughts  "what will I do with my images once they have been used"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Tuesday 1st January
 
 
Welcome To Another Year
 
 
Over recent years, I have ended up with quite a busy schedule which has consisted of talks to various groups and societies, work as a wildlife guide, along with a good mix of personal photography that has been spread as both local days out and longer trips.  This is the situation that I want, indeed it has taken a few years to organize everything to get myself to this situation.
 
The amount of items in the diary at the beginning of the year has grown each year, and this year I have quite a busy schedule that I have gradually organised during the past few months.  Obviously, this schedule will grow during the weeks and months ahead, but I am certainly going to have a busy 2019.
 
 
 
 
 
The Draw Of The Sea:
 

2018 saw a large increase in the amount of time that I spent on the water.

This was almost exclusively on two boats, one of these was "The Havsel" (pictured above) during my trip to the Arctic in June and July)  This was one of the best wildlife photography experiences that I have ever had, and certainly something that I will never forget.

The other boat that I spent quite a bit of time on was "Elizabeth G" (pictured below left) on which I traveled on for many weeks last year between mid-Aprill and mid-October whilst working as a Wildlife guide for Hebrides Cruises.

I am really pleased that 2019 sees me back on the seas for many weeks during the next 9 months or so, but this time it will be on a wider variety of boats, and I am certainly looking forward to getting back on the water, and getting my camera out whilst looking at new and different scenery.

Hopefully, more information, photos, and news will be added here during the next few months as time allows, but I am pleased to report that my first trip is only a few weeks away.  It might be chilly, so I had better get my hat, gloves, and thermal ready.

 
 
 
 
Out With My Camera Targeting Specific Species
 

But, it is also great to get out on wildlife photography trips targeting various species.  I am pleased to report that preparations are almost complete for a trip that I have wanted to do for a long time.  If successful, this will be a new species for me and as is the case, the anticipation and excitement are growing as the trip gets nearer.

Again, watch this space as hopefully a new species will be added to the pages of my blog and into my gallery in the near future.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

To view my older blog posts - please use the links above left in my "Blog" menu, where I have divided the blog by the calendar year going back to 2012.
 
 
Blog History
 

I used to keep an active blog on my old Website and one of the things I am very keen to do is to get back in that habit and update this blog at least once a month and often more. 

Please revisit and keep an eye on what I have been up to along with my thoughts.
If you wish to comment, please use the Contact Nigel page.