About me

My two great loves have joined together to create this blog – photography and natural history with the earliest memories of the latter, growing up in Canada and family camping holidays in Ontario and I’ve been lucky that since then, despite moving around as a child, I always had some kind of regular contact with nature and the outdoors.

Before I started photography I was very keen on painting and drawing so it was a natural progression to move on imagery taken with a camera and so, when I was 16 I went to college to study graphic design and photography.  Whilst there, after seeing images appear miraculously in a development tray in the darkroom, I was hooked.  I loved the way I could go out with a camera and come back a few hours later and have images of a moment in time, captured, as a print.

The first camera I used was my parents old 1960s Zeiss Ikon (left), not an SLR and I had to work out the exposures and guess the distance for the lens so had to learn about depth of field, f-stops and shutter speeds and how they all fitted together.  There was no built in light meter so had to use an external one and so also learnt how to guess exposures. I also had to guess the distance.  Despite this being a very old camera, evenolympus-om10 then, I loved using it.

Eventually I moved onto an SLR camera, first a Chinon before settling on Olympus film gear.  My photographic interests then  were more sport related partly because this was more accessible, taking photographs of wildlife was more difficult with the technology of the time and costs of the bigger lenses as well as the day to day running.  The ‘longest’ lens I had was a 300 mirror lens, which was extremely limiting to use.  Looking back, I could only dream of what would be available to me now with all the technology of today. 

Despite the costs, I particularly loved to photograph the local ice hockey team, Whitley Warriors which, due to the poor lighting conditions and the limitations of film, made it difficult and of course no autofocus.

Image below taken on film at 1600 ISO, pushed a further stop to 3200 ISO.  Taken with an OM-40 & 135mm f2.8 lens.
Whitley Warriors B-and-W

After a while, life got in the way (as well as the expense of buying and developing film) and I had a break as other things took priority.   Eventually I realised I missed it, being creative, getting me out and about, etc., so started looking a the latest in photography.   At the time, digital SLRs were still quite expensive but when the Canon EOS 350D came out, I decided to go for it.  Initially it felt I had to relearn my photography but this was part of the fun and it felt like just as it did when I first started and has continued especially while mixing it with my enjoyment of the outdoors and natural history.

Image below showing the Tyne Bridges – One of my very earliest taken with a Canon 350D and kit lens.
I have no particular preference in what I photograph, I’m equally at home photographing a sunset in midwinter as I am a Roe Deer in a wood at dawn.  I enjoy the sights and sounds of being out in the wild, the peace and quiet, being able to be able to stop and enjoy the moment, without the harshness, noise and aggression of the city.

Although I like to photograph almost anything when I’m out, I have a particular fondness for Foxes, Roe Deer and Red Squirrels.  There is something about the interaction with these animals when in close contact.  With birds it’s Kingfishers and birds of prey which are just great to watch.

With landscapes I particularly like early mornings and no more so than watching the sun rising over the sea when no one else is about.  A simple moment everyone should experience at least once in their life.  I never tire of photographing this subject as every time I do, it is different and so is the image.

The Gear

The photography equipment has pretty much remained the same now for the last three years.  The main camera is a Canon 1D Mk III which, despite its age now, serves me well enough for my needs as I believe any limitations I have are due to my own ability and not the camera. I also have a Mk IIn which the  Mk III replaced, a 30D which I originally used and a 5D which takes beautiful landscapes though lacking the bells and whistles of the later versions.

I have three telephoto lenses which each have their own unique use.  The one that gets the most use is the Sigma 500mm f4.5 which I couldn’t do without now.  The Canon 400mm f5.6 was my first tele prime and has been superseded by the Sigma for most of the time though makes a regular appearance when photographing birds in flight such as my trips to the Farne Islands.  The final telephoto is the Canon 300mm f4 which I got specifically for photographing deer in woodlands.  It’s quite a fast lens, light quick to use and the quality is up there with the other Canon white lenses.  All three of these take converters very well of which I use a kenko 1.4x.  Other lenses include the Canon 17-40mm for most of my landscapes, a Sigma 105mm for macro and a Canon EF 28-105mm as a general walk around lens.

I use a tripod for my low light landscapes and a monopod for the Sigma lens otherwise I prefer to carry ‘light’ as I often travel long distances on foot.  Filters play a big part in my landscapes where I use a ND graduate to help balance the skies exposure a 3 and 10 stop ND filter for longer exposures and an infrared filter.  I used to have UV filters on my lenses to protect them from damage but found, even the best were reducing the image quality.  All my lenses have hard lens hoods to help with this.

All this kit is carried out in one of two camera bags depending on the lens and situation.  A Lowpro AW which is a good day bag and carries a camera and the 400mm lens and the Tamrac Expedition 7x to carry the Sigma 500mm lens and is particularly comfortable.

My Patch

Most of the images I take and that covered in this blog are from the North East of England – Tyneside, Northumberland and Wearside with most of these taken at half a dozen selected favourite places I like to go.  Despite being quite built up, the area hold quite a diverse amount of wildlife.  Along the Tyne and its contributories there are Kingfishers and Otters, various waders on the coasts around Whitley Bay and South Shields, Red Kites are now common since being re-introduced around Rowlands Gill, Foxes are found in the city areas as well as the rural areas and Roe Deer are also surprisingly common.  Grey Squirrels have all but replaced the Red though they are still clinging on in some areas of Northumberland.
Map picture