f4 Photographic Group – Holland

We continue our travels from Keukenhof via an unnecessary ferry crossing, to Zaanse Schans, arriving a good 30 minutes after everyone else. SatNav also had a hand in our being late in arriving at the hotel for the evening in Apeldoorn, but that was down to user error. I apparently put in the co-ordinates for Apenheul Primate Park rather than the hotel. Before that, we had also taken a long detour because of very slow traffic on the road to Apeldoorn and satnav calculated that we would take a minor road which would circumnavigate the problem and get us there with a minimum of delay. It doesn’t work quite like that when you get onto the minor road  and find it’s closed halfway down and Satnav didn’t know. The end result was that we ended up going back onto the original road because there wasn’t another way out and sat in the traffic just 30 minutes behind again.

The next morning at Apenheul we had a brilliant time and went into Apeldoorn for a lovely meal afterwards, followed by beer!

The final day was spent at Kinderdijk in the morning and early afternoon to see the restored windmills. I’d been there before but the weather was kinder this time and we had a great walk around. We finished up in Brielle where I bought chocolates for Sue from a lovely little chocolate shop I’ve been to a few times before – then we sat in the sun having a beer before we returned to the ship. This was a great trip!

Picos de Europa

Last year I was looking on the web for somewhere different to photograph. I also wanted a variety of subject matter. A friend in my photography club had been to northern Spain and I decided to give it a look. The terrain on a map looks quite mountainous and there are good walks, lush vegetation and some wildlife. I trawled the net for a short photographic break and came across Imber Court Photo Training, run by Ashley Gardner. I asked for details and got a speedy response and enrolled on a break with him.

In total there were 5 plus Ashley in a large comfortable VW plus all the gear. We were based at the Hotel del Oso in Cosgaya – what a super choice of base camp that was. The place was just brilliant and I had a large room with a view of the mountains from my window. All meals were just fab, especially breakfast – the largest buffet I’ve ever seen.

The days were planned between landscapes and birds and on the final day, a trip up a cable car to snow covered peaks on top of Fuente De (1823mtrs) – it was cold up there. The cable car took just under 4 minutes to get up there and we managed to get in the first car of the day, despite the efforts of a German tour leader, keen to get his people in first. Cheerful banter like “Oi – stop queuejumping” and “don’t mention the war” were taken in good spirit and all 20 of us got to the top to be amazed by the sight.

I can recommend this trip – Ashley was extremely thorough in his approach, also knowledgeable and helpful so take a look – he doesn’t do many trips as far as I can see, but they’re worth it. Here’s some images – thanks to my fellow travellers Alan, Colin, Mark and Valerie for making the trip enjoyable as well.

Horn Mill Trout Farm

I’ve not done a lot of bird photography so I was reading a report about Horn Mill Trout Farm from Greg Coyne and thought I’d like to give it a try. I knew there’d be an early start but getting up at 3am for a 4am stroll down to the hide was rather alien to me – probably also some of the other guys with me – although it has to be said that they sounded as though they’d done a lot more bird photography than I have. Anyway, we set up in a well kitted out hide, comfy chairs, clean and well positioned almost at water level and waited for the action. Reports from Greg suggested that the first action could be as early as 5am because there are hungry mouths to feed in the Mr & Mrs Osprey nest. At 5.20 the osprey came to see us and sat in a tree nearby. It sat a while more then sat a while more and all of a sudden decided it was fishing time. It only came down the once whilst we were there despite all the praying and my technique needs some work so there’s only one image posted here.

We then got a visit from 3 kingfishers who didn’t fish at all. They just sat admiring the size of the trout but methinks they were possibly too large for them. Either that or they were already full. Then we had a visit from a red kite which came down a few times. It had possibly seen a dead fish at the far end of the lake but couldn’t quite get down as safely as it would have liked so in the end it gave it a miss. This gave me the greatest pleasure as I’d not even seen one this close up before so a really good experience. The final visit was from a kestrel who decided to sit on a pole a long way away.

I felt really sorry for one lad sat next to me – his lens was exhibiting some intermittent focussing problems whilst the osprey came down so he never got a shot off. He changed lenses and got the rest of the birds though. Thanks to Greg for refreshments and advice – thoroughly recommended experience.

Butterfly World

Following on from our Birds of Prey experience, Pete and I had organised a trip to Butterfly World at Stockton-on-Tees. I’d not been in one before and had heard all about humidity but wasn’t prepared for it. I misted up, the camera misted up and so did the Fuji 80mm macro lens that I’d hired especially for the day. After about 20 minutes when we were acclimatised, we had a good search around. Search is probably the wrong word, it was wall to wall butterflies of every size and colour. We had both seen an extremely large pale blue butterfly but it eluded us for the whole of the trip, save for one point when it perched on a leaf with wings folded. Here are a few images of the day.

Thorpe Perrow Birds of Prey

My buddy Pete Stockton and I decided to take a Birds of Prey experience at Thorpe Perrow arboretum. It was the first one they’d done specifically for photographers. It was a 4 hour event with lunch provided but Ollie, who was handling the birds, overran the programme to give extra bird time for us all. Some of the displays in the morning were static/short flight, carried out in the aviary area. These were for a variety of species of owl. The next display was out in the woods and we then adjourned for lunch. A hawk walk followed lunch and then a number of different hawk/falcons, finishing off in a large field with a falcon catching bait on the fly. Flying in the open field was a lot better for photography because the aviary background is quite distracting.

We’d do it again – Thorpe Perrow were keen to have feedback on their initial photography day and I’m sure the next one will be even better. An enjoyable day with a good photographer buddy.

Newbridge Lakes wildlife

Sometimes when the fishing goes through a quiet spell, it’s good to look around at the wildlife on the lake. There’s been a heron on the peg opposite to us for the past few weeks now. I think it’s watching for some tips on how to do it. I’ve not seen it pay for a peg yet though and will report it if it doesn’t. There’s also been a lot of activity by the gulls, feeding on duckling chicks. I saw one in action today – not very nice but the mother and father duck were nowhere to be seen and I think the chick must have been lost.

I was pleased with the static shot of the heron though. Taken with Fuji XT-2 and 100-400 lens with 1.4 teleconverter.

Red Squirrels

They don’t stay still very long and they’re very cute – so they make for a great day out. Up in Hawes again with red squirrels. The last time I was here, the weather in Hawes car park started off at -1°C. Fortunately it was very pleasant on Sunday morning, despite having not slept very well. Excellent Dales breakfast at the Cornlee Guest House with my mate Pete Stockton set us up for the day. Superb pies for lunch which Pete brought from Stokesley – yummy!



Bempton Cliffs

I took a day out to go up to Bempton with my friend Pete Stockton – he’d not been before. The weather was strange – a cold breeze meant that I had a few layers on to keep warm, but when I got home I found I’d got a bit burnt as well. Never mind, a good day with Pete – we finished off at North Landing and Flamborough Lighthouse after a good session at Bempton and lunch in a local pub.

Here are a few images from Bempton :-


Red Squirrels

5am on a Sunday morning at -1°C when you haven’t slept isn’t a good way to start the day. Neither is a 2½ hour drive along roads you accept because Satnav “told you so” and can’t get your brain into gear yourself.

Anyway, arrival in Hawes with my friend Rosanna (we belong f4 Photographic Group in Cottingham – a club dedicated to photography and drinking but not necessarily in that order) – we met Simon from WildDales with whom we’d organised a day photographing red squirrels and other wild creatures, from the peace and quiet of one of his hides. We’d chosen the reflection pool, but, because of the temperature and overnight snow, it was frozen. So the couple in the woodland hide kindly agreed that we could share their hide for an hour until Simon assured us the reflection pool would be thawed out. There were running poles, tree stumps and other features to attract the wildlife and we were engrossed in it for what seemed like 5 minutes when Simon came back to take us down to the other hide. Big enough for two people only and still with a light covering of broken slivers of ice we settled down and waited for only a short while before more critters came to join us. Lots of small wild birds and a pair of pheasant.

At 2pm and a few thousand images later we trekked up the hill to the land rover and said our goodbyes. A beautifully peaceful site which has been well thought out and developed by Simon over a number of years – can’t wait to go back.

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