Photo Blog

I love observing nature and the changing seasons during my Norfolk countryside dog walks accompanied by my ever-faithful canine companion Starrydog. I especially enjoy taking photos of Norfolk butterflies, wildflowers and other flora and fauna that I happen across while exploring local nature reserves. Visit my Norfolk nature photo blog to keep up to date with my photographic adventures and enjoy my butterfly photos.

Rainbows and Ripples

On a boat trip in Tenerife I was fortunate to have my closest ever short-finned pilot whale (globicephala macrorynchus)  and bottlenose dolphin encounter on a gloriously sunny December's day. They are so giant and yet so graceful in their element that it is always magical experience for me to gain a fleeting glimpse into their mysterious life that is so very very different from our own.

I had taken a trip once many years ago for only a distant fleeting sighting and that was what I was expecting again this time, so I was quick to grab a backlit fairly distant shot at the first sight of a pilot whale dorsal fin. The notches and marks on a cetacean's dorsal fin are unique to every individual and are used as key identifying marks for scientists researching the pilot whale pods in Tenerife

But I was in luck, the pilot whale pod ventured much closer. As I watched them spout water from their blowholes I saw that the droplets were being refracted into a beautiful rainbow through the sunlight.

At one point one mature pilot whale swam right across the bow of the boat enabling a top down shot through dappled water and light into the sea.

After a last look at the pilot whales we moved on in search of the bottlenose dolphins. Once again we were in luck and watched a small family exhibiting fascinating behaviour. It seemed like the pod was working as an organised team in herding a shoal of fish, much in the way a collie might herd a flock of sheep, curving round in arcs and keeping them tightly packed together in a group. Except of course individual dolphins would then occasionally take it in turns to nip in for a quick snack. There were several calves in the group which may perhaps have been observing this complex team hunting and feeding technique in preparation for adulthood.

Bottlenose dolphin herding a shoal of fish accompanied by a juvenile bottlenose dolphin (above) and baby calf (bottom right).

The group worked closely as a co-ordinated team to keep the shoal of fish close together.

Its not all smiles for the fish, this bottlenose dolphin was putting its razor sharp teeth to good use.

Starry Starry Night

Though we have long nights, its a tad chilly right now to be outside doing star trail shots, so I confess this long exposure night scene was taken from the balcony in a rather warmer Tenerife. Many star trail shots are composite images made up of multiple photos of exactly the same scene blended together in post processing using software in the same kind of way that HDR images are, however it is possible to take a long exposure to create shorter star trails in-camera in just a single image.

It was a blustery evening and not really ideal conditions for taking razor sharp long exposures, but Tenerife is renowned for its clear skies, even being home to a well regarded observatory,  so I simply couldn't resist the opportunity.  I was particularly fortunate to have the pole star so visible and placed above the cliffs. It was amazing how many more stars became visible even in the 4 second photograph than could be seen with the naked eye.

In the first image you can see the starry sky as we humans see it, taken using a shockingly high ISO of 6400 and a 4 second exposure and then as the camera captured it over a period of 20 minutes (1236 seconds). Both shots used an aperture of f 4.0 and had long exposure noise reduction switched on. One other thing to remember is that it will take as long to store the image on completing the shot as it did to expose it in the first place, so this definitely isn't something to try in a rush.

 High ISO
 Los Gigantes star trail

Lest We Forget...

Coming up to 100 years since the start of World War One, sadly renamed after losing its uniqueness as "The Great War" to end all Wars. So here is one more poppy image, offered humbly to commemorate and with a little prayer that someday we may start to see fewer conflicts in the world...

Poppyfield At Dusk

Hailstorm at Wells

On my dog walk this week I enjoyed a beautiful rainbow, forgetting to check the wind direction, I got caught out by the hail squall it was caused by!

The rainbow colours came out beautifully against the dark inky sky.

The hail was hard and heavy and flocks of seabirds fled across Wells beach to seek shelter from the squall.

The hail was so dense and heavy it's created a mosaic effect in this shot of the beach huts.

October Red Deer Rut

This year's red deer rut photography was limited to a jeep safari at RSPB Minsmere and we kept our distance, but a few contextual black and white shots came out quite nicely. The first two tell the story of the less dominant stags and young bucks, who tend to avoid risking conflict during the rutting season. The third image is of the dominant stag interacting with a romantically minded hind in his harem.

 Nervous young bucks
 Stag and young buck
 Romantic Stag

A Fungi Photography Foray

Many people think of October and November as fungi season but various species "flower" all year, and September is a particularly good month to catch fresh early specimens. 

This sort of photography is made for smaller bridge and micro four thirds cameras which can offer benefits over DSLRs in positioning, close focusing and depth of field. Remember to take a tripod as it is a real challenge to keep your shutter speed up and ISO acceptable when shooting in dark woodland and shady corners.

 Rosy brittlegill
 Bracket fungus
Fungi photography
 Toadstool with blue tendrils
 Sulphur cup fungi on mossy tree

Photography in the dog days of summer

One of the things I chatted about on my recent BBC Norfolk radio appearance was the difficult light and the challenges it presents to photographers in high summer. But there is always something to shoot for....

By the time we reach August., though its still very hot and to us the height of summer, in the natural world the days are already drawing in and autumn is just around the corner. Its already getting a little easier to capture soft light in mornings and evenings and if you rise early after a clear night you might even find dew on the ground.

August is a great time to to visit our lowland heaths where the beautiful pink carpet of flowers is just coming into its own and can make a wonderful backdrop for close up photography.

August is a good month to spot late dragonflies as well as second brood and migrant butterflies. Most first generation butterflies are getting very tatty by now and make poor photographic subjects but some species have second broods that metamorphose around now.

The late summer harvest means that hares, who have enjoyed the cover of the growing crops since spring become easier to spot hunkered down in the stubble of harvested fields.

Many birds are already preparing for their Autumn migrations and this month I've immensely enjoyed watching the fledgeling swallows and house martins practice their flight and feeding up around my wildlife pond.

Feeling Summery

Its high summer the bees are buzzing and the butterflies fluttering. Our newly planted wildflower meadow has undergone a  transformation into a thing of beauty, enabling me to have a spot of just-for-fun macro photography in my back garden...

 Hoverfly on cornflower



Red Kite Soaring

One of my favourite birds is the beautiful and graceful native red kite. I used to love watching one above my garden back in Oxfordshire but I now see them very rarely in Norfolk, so I recently took a short break to Wales to enjoy seeing them in flight at a feeding station. Sometimes known as a pirate of the sky, they are generally carrion scavengers with an important role in the ecosystem and take live prey far less frequently than is often thought.

They are agile flyers and will happily snatch other bird’s pickings and feed in mid air. Not all that long ago they were a species wrongly persecuted by farmers and estates to the brink of extinction but populations in Wales and the Chilterns have recovered thanks to a massive conservation and education effort. While they are far from common and poisoning remains a problem, their numbers appear to be rising in Norfolk as the recovery area population disperses and I hope soon to see these elegant birds of prey gracing our skies more frequently.

Sun mist and rain

January has been an odd mixture of golden sunrises and vivid sunsets with heavy overnight rainstorms, though here in East Anglia we’ve escaped lightly compared to the western half of England that faces the onslaught of the sou’westerly Atlantic storms. Here are three of my photos taken in the month attempting to capture these contrasting elements of winter in Norfolk.

Norfolk Storm Tidal Surge

10-Black and white dunes.jpg

December 2013 brought unusally mild winter weather to the UK in terms of temperature, but instead of snow the jet stream lashed us with a dangerous and violently destructive combination of high tides, and strong storm force winds that caused a sea surge on the North Norfolk Coast that was more severe than the infamous North Sea Flood of 1953. Thankfully in the intervening years sea defences were improved and held well. This time though the flood water was higher we had good warning that saved many lives despite wreaking havoc at many of the beaches and coastal reserves. The storm event has dramatically re-shaped the coastal environment, permanently changing the profile of the East Anglian coastline.

A visit to Wells beach about a week after the incident brought home to me the full force and elemental power of nature that had been unleashed. The sheer strength of the  sea surge breached the two landmark giant dunes as well as sections of the previously dune-sheltered tidal lagoon channel towards Holkham beach, ripping out the wind smoothed sand hills, and the dune grasses that held their forms in place and ploughing thousands of tonnes of sand across the beach plain towards the beach huts and smashing a new vertical sand cliff when it reached the edge of the Corsican pine plantation.

Here is a small gallery showing the scale of the changes to the beach profile. The first shot is pre-storm.