Category Archives: Blog

Autumn – The Season of Transition

If last months blog was the post of optimism, then this months blog is the post of ‘cold hard reality,’ and, if Autumn is the season of transition, then I’d say it mirrors my life pretty well right now. But, first off, some honesty, and for good reason. You wouldn’t have known it from reading last months blog, but I was aware I was going to be made redundant, and indeed it was confirmed a couple of days before finishing up my post, so, right now, as things stand, I have a wife, two children, a mortgage and all the bills that come with life, but one vital thing missing – an income! I wanted to to be honest about this because I’ve no doubt that some  were reading my blog and feeling quite different about the pandemic, seeing no hope or good in it at all. The reality is that the situation is hard, the stress of not having a job, but a steady stream of bills, is not easy. However, I still stand by what I put. I think this could still be a fantastic opportunity for me in the long run, and I do still see covid as a time to be grateful. I have enjoyed the time furlough has given me, and there is no doubt that I would not have had anywhere near the amount of photo opportunities I’ve had. Time of course, as well as lots of planning and patience, is king to wildlife photography. Sometimes I dumb down what I do, popping it down to luck, but the truth is, with nature, you earn your luck, or as NottMWild on instagram says, “You have to be there to take it.” This may not seem like some great inspirational message, but it is true! You do! Still, that’s enough of that, you all want to know what I’ve been up to and what I’ve seen, so let’s move on shall we?

In terms of where I’ve been, not much has changed. Visits to two of my favourites, Thursley Common being my absolute favourite right now, and Edenbrook, in Church Crookham, have been fairly frequent, (though nowhere near as much as I would like) whilst another visit to Farnham Heath brought some lovely deer shots. I was particularly pleased with these as they are skittish round people, and not anything like as easy to photograph as those found at Richmond, or Bushy Park. 

So far, I have to say I’ve not been that impressed with Farnham Heath. I will give it more time, but I haven’t seen anywhere near as much wildlife as I thought I might. That being said, if you’re a frequenter there, then please do let me know what your sightings are in the comments below, because more often than not, it’s the time taken to build up knowledge that ensures the best sightings.

I visited a place called Moor Green Lake. Views over the water are not easy, so maybe not the best place for a photographer, where light direction and angles of view are critical to making a photo interesting, but, and this is interesting to me, there are a couple of disused quarry pits being worked on, to turn into wetlands, and to my amazement, it was down this end, with great big dumper trucks, diggers and all other manner of machinery, that I got my best sightings of wildlife. First off, a red kite, almost begging to be photographed, right above me. Of course, my lens couldn’t see it, a problem I often find, and most of that opportunity was wasted as my lens hunted backwards and forwards against infinity. I wouldn’t mind, but the red kite has a six foot wingspan, so it shouldn’t be difficult. Thankfully, I did manage to get some shots, but no sooner had I got some, than a new issue presented itself, and another that happens far too frequently for my liking. The red kite moved over to some trees and immediately focus was lost. Ridiculous really, especially when it had lock of it till that point. Straight after that, I caught sight of a buzzard, a bird I see far less than a red kite (how things have changed in fortune for the red kite) and I had a great opportunity to capture one, more side on, (when I’ve seen them they have always been in their typical circling above pose, only showing their underside) but yet again, my camera focused on the electrical cables overhead. I was furious with this, as there was definitely enough of a distance for the bird to be focused on. I don’t know if it’s the Nikon 200-500mm, or the Nikon D500, but I’m losing so many shots to the background it’s not even funny. One thing that did amaze me, which always takes some pre-planning to increase your incredibly low odds of getting one, was how sharp some dragonfly in flight shots came out. With issues of background focusing, plus the erratic nature of the hyperactive dragonfly as a whole, I decided that my best bet was to attempt some pre-focusing against a clear background. The last time I tried this I would spot the dragonfly, hit AF and expect it to grab on to a more or less pre-focused subject. The reality is that the subject was so small in the view finder/sensor, that the AF would go right through the dragonfly and on to the water. Once this happens you can’t AF for the dragonfly, so you have to restart the laborious process of pre-focusing, Etc. It’s a lot like fishing really, casting out and reeling back in, but I digress. Still, I thought I’d try again, and this time it paid off, with some lovely shots at almost every angle I could want! 

Highlights for me this month were lizards at Thursley Common, the deer at Farnham Heath, dragonflies, and photographing what I thought were two kestrels. The photo is not good enough to share, but I was amazed to find it was not a couple of ketrels, but a sparrowhawk chasing a kestrel, taken at another local for me – Tices Meadow.

My absolute best moment by far though, had to be seeing four red kites, a buzzard and a kestrel, all flying together at Thursley Common. I would have been proud to of captured this event, but I charged my battery up the night before, took out the camera and forgot to put the replacement in! Have I learned anything? I hope so!

One thing I will say, which is a great credit to Nikon’s 200-500mm lens, is that when you can get a clear two meters of view, the detail it can capture, even on a resting dragonfly, is astonishing! This last month has brought some fabulous shots of dragonflies` and it has whetted my appetite for selling prints, so I will look at that very soon, as I need to stop procrastinating. Let’s face it, procrastination and job searching do not go well, but what better time to start things than in the future? Sorry, I mean NOW!!

Another thing I really need to get on with is doing some paid photography. I have a great passion for pets and I love candid, children playing photos and think any parent would love to have some treasured moments of their kids playing, but I fear I may be over complicating things in this area and inadvertently stopping myself from starting. I think I get so obsessed with the big picture and making everything great, that maybe I don’t always do the obvious and easy, which is to just start. It’s difficult though, because whilst I see the merit in just starting, I also can’t stand mediocrity and substandard work. So, naturally, the website I’m working on is slowing things down because it’s not ready. Well, at least not to my standards!

Well, it’s a bit all over the show this time, but it is what it is. Hopefully next month I’ll have a job to speak of, but, more important to this website, photos of four red kites, a buzzard and a kestrel, because of course, I wouldn’t forget my battery again. Would I?

 

See you next time 🙂

July/August – Dragonflies & Birds at Edenbrook & Thursley Nature Reserve

July/August has been a good month for me, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife photography, particularly dragonflies and birds, of which herons have been a major feature. Covid 19 has quite obviously been an ever-present threat, with all of our forays being taken with very considerable thought. It’s depressing to talk about it, but it is nethertheless important, as I cannot stress enough how careful we are in our trips out, especially as my wife and I are both furloughed, to which we feel immense responsibility to our employers, who will be trusting we remain safe, otherwise, what’s the point in not being at work? With that in mind, trips are only for an hour or two, at quieter times, with our adventures only taking us to fairly open, visible places. There’s no point in doing all we can to protect our family from this dreaded disease if we’re simply going to let our guard down by being out.

Anyway, Covid talk over and the two places I’ve found myself the most the last month has been Edenbrook in Fleet, Hampshire, or Thursley Common, in Surrey. Other trips have included Naishes woods, (Church Crookham, Hampshire) and Bourley Lake, which is also in Church Crookham. Weather-wise, it has been extremely dry and very hot, at least for the UK! We’ve had a couple of small thunderstorms this week, but prior to this it has been dry, dry, dry, with temperatures up to 37 degrees celsius. On a more sobering and sad note (again), it has been hot enough to see fires break out at Thursley Common and Chobham Common, two of the finest examples of heathland in the UK, and some would even say Europe, with the fire at Thursley Common proving to be an absolute ecological disaster, with 25% (20 hectares) being destroyed over a period of 3 days, while the board walk used to guide visitors through the bog area being almost completely destroyed. As I write this there are tree cutting contractors on site, removing completely burnt out trees to make it safe again. I will put a link down at the end if you would like to give anything to the appeal. This was very sad news, as I actually planned to go earlier that morning, of what would have been a first ever visit for me. Why did I want to go? I bought an excellent book by the RSPB, (Where To Go Wild In Britain) with Thursley being included for its excellent heathland, with it being noted as being one of the very best places for dragonfly/damsel fly species, as well as reptiles (very rare here in the UK) and heathland birds.

During the early part of lockdown I daren’t have gone anywhere, with a visit to a farm shop once a week being my limit, which meant that my only photography came from the back garden, of which I felt immeasurably blessed to have given the times we were in, but it did mean I was restricted to what happened to be in the garden. Fortunately, I have a love of plants and wildlife, so though it’s a typical, long, narrow terrace garden, I do at least have reasons for wildlife to visit. However, I did wonder if I would ever get anything other than feral pigeons, or house sparrow ever again! With lockdown beginning to be eased, we decided it would be good to discover some new wildlife places and get the kids out for some much needed air and adventure. This part of Covid has been an absolute joy. I know for some it has been devastating, but I will look back on this time with real fondness, being grateful for not only the time apart from work, but also for the time with family, camera and nature. I realise that for some this could be deemed as very insensitive, but I also think I needn’t apologise for being able to make the most of this time. For example, this month alone has seen me get first sightings of a peregrine falcon, great white egret, reed bunting, a number of different dragonfly, more encounters with lizards than I’d ever had in my life, but perhaps most importantly, a real excitement in both my boys to see nature. The oldest boy, aged 6, has been lifting logs for sightings of his new favourite animal, the toad, as well as newts, lizards and slow worms. In fact, he has found so many toads and reptiles recently that I find myself having to temper his enthusiasm, reminding him that he won’t find them every time he goes out.

From a personal point of view, I have liked being able to build up a mental map of the wildlife at both Thursley Common and Edenrook Nature Reserve. From a photographic point of view, it’s been great to roughly know what I might find and where. The curious thing is that I now feel I’m going from just ‘taking pictures’ to ‘making pictures.’
What do I mean by this though? Well, early doors, and even at times now (I’ll explain when) I was/am so grateful to see wildlife that I just took a photo of it. Sure, I still thought about composition, direction of the light, Etc. but in terms of behaviour, or pose, I just took the picture. Certainly this was the case early lockdown in my garden where I had little room for fussiness, though I did try a few creative things to capture some different images, however, I’m seeing certain wildlife, such as herons, more than I used to, with Edenbrook proving to be excellent for these large fishing birds and as a result I’m now finding that I’m at a stage where there are only so many photos of the same thing you can take.

So, what to do? Well, in the case of the heron, I find myself thinking about what I might like to get. A certain flight shot, or maybe some fishing, for example. Having more time has obviously been the biggest factor in the images I’m getting now, but so too has knowledge of the nature reserves, planning, and a lot of patience! I can see now, that building up a good knowledge of particular reserves is very important and can get you in the right places to get the shot. That being said, if there is one bit of advice I could give, it would simply be this. If you are out and about and you encounter something new, familiar place or not, for goodness sake, just take the picture! I nearly didn’t take a photo of some red kites because it was a similar pose to what I’d been getting recently, but I thought I could see a ‘kestrel’ near them, as there had been one not far from there earlier. Once again, in the case of the kestrel I nearly didn’t take the photo because even with a 200-500mm lens fully zoomed, on a Nikon D500, which has a crop factor of 1.5, which in effect makes my lens a 350-750, I still thought it was going to be too high up to get anything worthwhile, but I took the shots and thought no more of it. If nothing else, this was going to be remembered as a great wildlife moment. That said, when I got home and loaded the images on to the laptop, I honestly couldn’t believe it, for the ‘kestrel’ was not a kestrel, but a peregrine falcon! Wow!! So, in one day, I got not only my first ever sighting, but photo as well! Was it a spectacular photo? No! I’ve seen much better. The bird was high, needed a good crop and was not in a particularly great pose, but would I rather have the image than not? Yes, massively! Especially as I had assumed it was a kestrel!!


Whilst I appreciate you don’t want to fill your digital files full of the same thing, you should never let photography snobbery rob you of an opportunity. I nearly fell into this trap during the initial part of lockdown, with me finding myself feeling like I had to apologise for the house sparrow/pigeon photos I was putting up on instagram, as if I should have only been sharing something exotic, and whilst I have no doubt that they’ll never get the same likes as a lion, or a koala, they were nonetheless, what I had in my garden, so at that point, I had two options.

One – let snobbery and insecurity take away the chance of honing a skill, or,

Two – use it as a chance to think more about the photos and what I could do to make them different.

That though, is just one scenario, but again, If you know that you’re in a situation where you have never seen a particular species of wildlife/moment before, then rather than worry about the perfect picture, just take the picture and think about the rest afterwards. If you’re fortunate, or clever in your planning, you may get another chance, in which case you can take a better picture then, but, if that was your ‘once in a lifetime’ shot, then guess what, you’ve not got it, and at that point, for me at least, I’d rather have a record of what I’ve seen, than none at all.

Well, what about the trip to Thursley? It was a sad sight for the most part, with only a map giving me a rough idea of what it may have looked like before the fire, but I am still glad I made the effort to go. The carnage is obvious. The air is scented heavily by smoke, whilst the trees are mostly charcoal towers, the heather gone and the board walk an odd patch of decking here and there, as opposed to what would have no doubt been a magnificent walk through the wetland/acidic bog before. There is hope though. For a start, the birch is already beginning to grow, albeit in a multi-stemmed way, which, ironically, might actually be better for some birds, whilst the bracken is coming back (I don’t know if this is to the detriment of the heathland right now) but is at least a sure sign that things can recover. Now, I’m sure a controlled fire probably takes place there anyway, as some birds need both new heather shoots for food, and older plants for breeding/hiding in, but certainly not at the scale it was here. Dragon/damselfly sightings were like nothing I’d ever seen before, with a purchase of a book being needed (Britain’s Dragonflies – Published by Princeton) as I have no idea what species I’m photographing otherwise, while red kites, kestrel, great white egret, green wood peckers, stonechats, another first for me (though this time only a sighting) of a reed warbler, a yet to be identified bird, and, did I mention the PEREGRINE FALCON!!! I’ve also now seen more lizards than my whole life combined till now, and look forward to a first sighting of a shrike, a gruesome bird, otherwise known as a butcher bird, who dismembers and hangs its prey on sharp, spiky plants, which it uses as a larder! These I believe will be visiting anytime from now, though I’m only going by the visitor board on this one. Not at all bad for a place still feeling the effects of a devastating fire!

Edenbrook has been great. It’s fairly local to me, and my knowledge of it has grown tremendously. I first came across it in the winter just gone and had seen redwing and song birds in the clear trees at that time, with one or two heron, Egyptian geese, a family of swans, mallard ducks, Canadian geese, and another first at that point, a stone chat, which was pointed out to me when I asked for identification online. The stone chat has since become a frequent sighting for me (it’s like when you want to buy a dog, or a car, you suddenly seem to see them everywhere!) and is a very interesting bird. From a photographer’s point of view, they’re a dream, with them taking up visible perches to warn away other males, whilst at the same time announce themselves to the females. It was on another walk that a local to the area told me why they were called a stone chat. Do you know why? Well, it’s because they sound like they’re bashing two stones together! What’s funny, is that my three year old, and six year old sons, know more about stonechats at their age, as I do now aged 37! Oh well, we never stop learning!

A few months on, and I saw my first (yes, this really has been a year of firsts for me) great egret, while I now regularly see 4/5 herons and know where to look across the 4/5 distinct pools of water. I say 4/5 pools of water because one is a field that temporarily floods in the autumn/winter months. The Canada geese have moved off, as have the redwing, but song birds remain, albeit no longer as easy to photograph among the leaves, red kite can be seen, (my photo of the kite being mobbed by a crow was taken at Edenbrook) as can a kestrel, (No, really, it is a kestrel!) which I hope I can now find more often, a buzzard, (though sadly rarely) acrobatic house martins, as well as starlings, jackdaws, crows, magpies and the occasional pheasant in the fields of a farmer/horse owner, though not peasants, as this is a very affluent area! What I hope to see is a barn owl. The place looks ideal for them, with long clumps of grass no doubt hiding untold numbers of voles, shrews and mice, but it is my most recent find, a couple of fields, that have got me most excited, with one still to be explored! How exciting! On the topic of the two fields, I haven’t seen a barn owl there yet (I’ve only visited twice) but I have seen a kestrel each time, so I suspect it lives/hunts there and that could, I hope, present some amazing opportunities to photograph a bird I’ve rarely ever seen, let alone photograph, with my only good encounter coming at my sole visit to Bushy Park, in Hampton Court, London. With regards to wanting to see a barn owl, this is another bird that I have only seen once before in the wild, so that really would be a ‘Bobby Dazzler!’ of a sight.

On a bizarre, and final note – I managed to get a photo of a buzzard and a peregrine falcon at the same time! I know. Amazing! Especially given I’d only recently just seen my first ever wild sighting. But, and here’s the bizarre part, not in the air, but on the arm of two sons with their dad, out on an evening walk, or flight, depending on who/what we’re talking about. It turns out the dad is a falconer and so, with darkness falling, I put my camera to the test at ISO 12,800, and got a couple of the birds on the boy’s arms. So maybe now, when I refer to seeing a ‘peregrine falcon’ I may have to refer to wild or captive!

Till next time stay safe and do make the most of this time if you have it!

Adam Young

Becoming A Photographer – Accidentally!

Hello, and welcome! I’m Adam Young, and this is how I accidentally became a photographer!
This is not the first time I’ve had a website called ‘A Buzz & A Flutter.’ In fact, the first time round this website was for the selling of wildlife friendly garden plants. My aim was to leave my job by building up a plant business, with a three-year plan in mind. Unfortunately, or fortunately rather? I couldn’t see a way to grow the business beyond the third year. There were many factors in this, many of which I couldn’t control. Covid was probably the final death knell though.
As any business owner will know there are constantly costs to operating a business, with start-up costs possibly the highest. It was at this stage that I began to think of ways to could not only minimise costs, but also how to go on saving costs. With the online plant industry one of the ongoing costs is images, where images of the plants are needed and of a high quality. However, as any plant lover knows, they all have their seasons and for flowering plants, which is what I was selling, this could have been anything from February to October. My first option was to purchase from stock photography websites, but the issue here was the need for very specific varieties. The second option was for a photographer, but at the start of the business this would have been prohibitive as I would have needed to book a photographer maybe 6 times in the first year! So, with plants flowering at different periods throughout the year, with some months after having them, and photographs needed, what did I do?

I decided to go with the first option as I was fortunate enough to find enough of the specific varieties that I could at least get some stock up on the website, but what about those that weren’t? It was at this point that I decided it would be economical in the long run to buy a camera. Okay, so I wouldn’t have photos for all of my plants, but I decided I would leave them off and add them to the website once I had photos for them.
Most men will understand what happened next – I looked for reviews! I wanted to know all I needed to know about what camera to buy. It’s funny, because at this stage I thought that that was all you needed to know, I didn’t know they were so complex to use! So, the YouTube adventure began, with many rabbit hole trips to the illuminati and their plan for world control, and the odd trip to ‘how to cook the perfect poached egg’ (it takes you to some odd combinations!) I finally got focused and came across some helpful channels and I began to learn about camera specs and what I may, or may not need. I decided that I needed a simple camera, that also had good vlogging capabilities, as I could see the value in producing videos that led people to my website and pre-empted any questions that may come up. The answer?

The canon EOS M50 with 15-45mm kit lens, second hand from eBay, along with a 75-300 USM zoom lens, also off of eBay. I decided that seeing as the photos for the website were going to be ongoing, and given the fact that it made more sense to spend up front, as opposed to multiple times, that a camera would be good for the business. The 75-300mm lens was a cheap indulgence (for a lens) at £70 and I brought it to satisfy my wildlife needs outside of having a fulltime job, as well as a business, after all, there’s not much point in helping to save nature if you’re not going to connect with the nature that’s already there! And so, though there is more to becoming a photographer than what I wrote, it at least gives you an idea of how I got into it!
I said earlier, ‘that it was funny because I didn’t know how complex it was (photography)’ and it was true, I had no idea about shutter speeds, ISO, aperture, or anything else technical. Heck, I thought that you bought a camera and pressed the shutter, so that part, and much, much more, was a huge shock to me, but I took to it quickly, gobbling up YouTube videos (this time on photography general, as opposed to gear) and online articles. I was recommended some courses, but the truth is, money has always been hard, with me on almost minimum wage, so I decided to just learn the basics and go from there, so exposure triangle became the most important thing for me to learn. By the way, for what it’s worth, if you’re reading this (is anyone really reading this? Let me know in the comments if you are!) and you want to learn about photography, then I would say focus on learning the aperture triangle and composition. Most things can be corrected in any editing software available now, but get those fundamentals wrong and you might not be able to recover a photo. Still, that aside, I didn’t even know this! Though, to my credit, I naturally seemed to compose good photos. Technically poor, but composition fine. You could say I took to it like a duck to water! So, when did photography become an option?

I have to be careful here, as people have lost their jobs over comments made on line, but I think when answering a question like, ‘When did photography become an option?’ it’s important to put it into the context of someone’s life, and in my situation, I had a business need, become hobby, in photography that was giving me great pleasure, a low wage with family responsibilities, a full time job, a business not really growing and a number of people beginning to tell me to go into photography. I said it with the wildlife friendly plant business, that sometimes you don’t have enough pressure to start something, but when life puts the squeeze on and you find you want something more, especially when thinking about an example to your own children, you begin to act more out of necessity than want, and I guess for me, a procrastinator by nature, I just needed that extra bit of discomfort and squeeze to get me to do something. In terms of the actual knowing, or wanting to though, I think there are a couple of standout moments. The first came when I quickly seemed to outgrow the needs of the Canon EOS M50. I didn’t want to admit it at first, for a couple of reasons. The first maybe a bit of false humility and feeling that it was not right, and maybe arrogant to think that ‘I’ a man who’s only had a camera for a few months, could possibly have outgrown a camera. The second was when my wife said, “Why don’t you do pet photography?” My response was different this time, it took her aback, as I simply said, “Yeah, why not?” So, there you are, and here I am, about to embark on a new adventure, with the potential to do something too many people are afraid to do, which is to pursue something other than work and make my life work for me. This was always my moto with my initial business, to make my work, work for me, and it is still very true to me now.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog, and if you have any comments, suggestions for improvements, (please don’t be brutal) have some photography questions, or simply resonate with what I put, then please, please, DO leave a COMMENT!