Ptarmigan are a demanding species to find, being confined within Britain to high mountains of northern Scotland. A trek through deep snow on the flanks of Cairngorm mountain was eventually successful. Using overcast light, I made a high key photograph in which the ptarmigan's white plumage blends with its snowy habitat to make an almost abstract image.
By Day 3 of my Cairngorms Birds and Mammals tour, fallen snow carpeted the Findhorn Valley. This mountain hare had already moulted most of its white winter coat, making it easy to spot on a steep hillside. We were able to approach closely to make portraits of the animal resting, alert and grooming.
Snow was falling on the first two mornings of my Cairngorms Birds and Mammals tour, creating excellent settings for photographing red squirrels.
A tranquil loch bounded by Caledonian pine forest and ringed by snow-capped mountains, Glen Affric is a vision of what Scotland must have looked like before most of its native trees were felled. On Easter Sunday morning, the mighty peak of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan is reflected in Loch Affric, surrounded by a foreground of ice.
Starting two hours before sunrise, we ascended The Storr to capture golden light on the Old Man and his neighbouring rock pinnacles. Overnight hail was scattered over the ground which, together with a hard frost, brought the foreground to life. I like the way that the first few minutes of sunlight play on the contours of frosted ground.
The second morning of my Glencoe and Skye tour encountered superb conditions at Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. A perfect reflection, mist descending and the rising sun behind us casting golden light on the hill beyond the castle. Mounting my camera low to the ground, I framed the castle's reflection with two shoreside boulders.
A flooded moat, ice and snow are a rare combination at Silbury Hill; in fact this is the first time I have seen all three at the same time. I liked the texture in the wind-blown snow and made that my foreground, with the boundary between icy moat and snow sweeping in a curve from bottom right through the image towards the main subject. I waited until there was good amount of cloud in the sky, predominantly to the right of the hill so as to balance the bright snow at bottom left.
I went to Snowdonia to photograph the effects of the cold weather gripping the country. After several days of sub-zero temperatures, Llyn Cwmffynnon, a glacial lake between Glyder Fawr and Moel Berfedd, is under ice. Intriguing patterns in the ice suggest that the lake froze while wind was rippling the water surface. Although Glyder Fawr was hidden in cloud, I was able to include Moel Berfedd in the background. I spent a while fine-tuning my position to make the most of the foreground rocks so when lovely pink tones spread across the sky at sunset, my composition was ready to go.
Harsh weather brings fieldfares into gardens in search of food. I welcome these handsome, fiesty thrushes and put out some apples for them to eat. After a second day of snow, the apples have almost disappeared from view. However, the fieldfares are hungrier and there have been up to four in my front garden, sometimes fighting with each other over apple rights. This one made a well-balanced composition with just enough of the apples showing and the bird almost entirely within the plane of focus. I like the patch of snow on the fieldfare's forehead and used fill-in flash to put a catchlight in its eye.
The ruins of Knowlton church in Dorset are an evocative place. On a clear, cold night, I made 105 exposures of 30 seconds each at F/2.8 and combined them as layers in Photoshop to show the effect of the earth's rotation over nearly an hour. The church and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the waxing gibbous moon.
Claerwen Dam is the largest of four dams in the Elan Valley of mid Wales, impounding 48 billion litres of water. I asked two passers by to stand on the bridge to show the scale of the spillway, 56m in height. My four stop neutral density filter gave a 0.6 second shutter speed to pleasingly blur the flow in this artificial waterfall.
First light revealed a light dusting of overnight snow, so I went to Devil's Den, a Neolithic dolmen in the heart of the Marlborough Downs. The entrance to this ancient burial mound, of which just these standing stones remain, may well have been deliberately oriented towards the direction of winter sunrise. I waited for the sun to reach the exact corner of the aperture, giving a starburst but no unwanted flare.
Dawn at Llyn Cwmffynnon in Snowdonia, reached by a steep climb from Pen-y-pass. Perfectly still conditions reflect the snow-capped peak of Crib Goch and a subtly toned overcast sky. My four stop neutral density filter increased the shutter speed to 10 seconds, bringing out the reflection even more strongly than I saw it.
Ogwen Valley, Tryfan and Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia, viewed from Pinnacle Crag. My photograph captures the glacial hanging valley of Llyn Idwal, 64 metres above Llyn Ogwen in the larger glacial valley below. Both are overlooked by the serrated, snow-capped peak of Tryfan.
A pre-dawn hike up the Miner's Track to Llyn Llydaw by our group of 18 photographers was rewarded when the clouds parted at sunrise to reveal Snowdon suffused in pink, orange and gold, along with the waning gibbous moon. Unfortunately it was too windy for a perfect reflection, so instead I balanced the mountain in the composition with a large glacial erratic boulder in the foreground.
A "super moon" is when full moon coincides with lunar perigee, making it 14% bigger and 30% brighter than an apogee full moon. A "blue moon" is the second full moon in a calendar month. On the last day of January we had both, though unfortunately today's total lunar eclipse was finished before the moon rose in Wiltshire. Standing in a cold, muddy cabbage field, I captured moonrise behind a solitary tree on Salthrop Hill.
Viewed from Golden Ball Hill on the Pewsey Downs, the distinctive landmark of Woodborough Hill is balanced in this composition by a small group of farm buildings adjacent to a copse of trees. Mist lying in the southern Vale separates Woodborough Hill from Salisbury Plain in the distance. Winter sunrise creates raking shadows across the frosty fields and an interplay of light and shade around the contours of the hill.
Last year I built a reflection pool in my garden. Raised up on timber uprights to just below the level of the viewing slots of my garden bird hide, it enables me to sit in comfort with an eye-level view of the birds as they come to drink. I placed a log as background and dead leaves to cover the liner. Today's low winter sun shows the plumage of this blue tit to good effect.
Around midwinter, sunset can be photographed through the arch of Durdle Door in Dorset. I made this image during my Jurassic Coast Photography Tour
. The group lined up on the beach and waited for the sun to fall on each of us in turn, so we could each make a picture of the sun clipping the side of the arch. I made my image with a fish-eye lens at 15mm focal length. I like the curved perspective the fish-eye gives to the bay and the wave. By keeping the horizon straight across the middle of the image, I was able to avoid that becoming curved too.
These abandoned millstones lie at the foot of Stanage Edge in the Peak District. I had noticed during a previous visit last year that the face of the millstone in the centre of the image is oriented towards winter sunrise. Returning, I captured this image 35 minutes before sunrise on a snowy December morning, as the lightning sky in the south-east starts to catch the spiral of snow on the millstone. The resulting picture looks almost as cold as I felt. Unfortunately, by the time the sun actually rose at 0802, clouds had covered the whole sky.
I photographed this male kestrel from a hide in Worcestershire. I nailed the dead mice to the fence so the kestrel and his mate would spend some time ripping them out while I filled my memory card with images.
I photographed Wembury Point in south-west Devon about half an hour after sunset. In December, the sun sets just to the right of the Great Mewstone, leaving the sky suffused pink, yellow and orange. High tide had just turned, leaving the rocks wet enough to be reflective, whilst an 8 second exposure has smoothed out the motion of the sea. I like the way that the west-east dip of the foreground rocks echoes that of the distant Mewstone, suggesting that the Mewstone is a scaled-up version of its cousins on the beach.
During a lecture tour in South Devon, I made a trip to Ladram Bay to photograph one of the sea stacks illuminated by the gibbous moon. Red sandstone looks fantastic by moonlight, which provided a good balance with the stars. Orion is towards the top right, whilst adjacent to the stack is Sirius on the right and Procyon on the left. To capture all the stars I wanted, I made three overlapping images with my 24mm lens and stitched them together using PTGui. Exposure of each image was F/2.8 for 20 seconds at ISO 1600.
In southern England, Autumn 2017 is lasting well into the middle of November. I discovered this lane in Rockley for myself and have visited many times but on this particular morning, as I made my way home for breakfast after a 4am start, everything came together perfectly. Heavy rain a couple of days previously had flooded the track, still air made a reflection and great light fulfilled the scene's potential. I composed with the dominant arching branch and its reflection framing the scene and the track leading the eye to ... where?
Situated in the northern Lake District, Skiddaw is the sixth highest mountain in England. On a still, frosty morning at the end of October I made my way up a hillside to Tewet Tarn, planning to photograph a reflection of the mountain. I needed wellington boots to wade into the edge of the tarn in order to use this trio of rocks as foreground. My reward was not only a perfect reflection but also a fantastic interplay of subtle light as dawn approached, turning the mountain first pink and then gold. For more images see my Lake District in Autumn Gallery
I arrived at this solitary silver birch tree on the north shore of Buttermere before first light. It was overcast but the clouds were forecast to break around sunrise, giving the possibility of good colour in the sky. I composed with the tree close to the lowest point of the mountains on the horizon, which corresponds with the location of sunrise. The clouds were propelled by a brisk wind, so I waited for them to form a pleasing configuration around the tree. Although the surface of the lake was rippled, an 8 second exposure brought out a partial reflection of the mountains. The whole image is dominated by the restful pastel tones of a Lake District autumn.
I positioned myself behind a high sea wall to capture this image of another photographer at Milton on Sea in Hampshire, as Storm Brian sent a huge wave over the promenade. The solitary figure, lifebelt and seats give scale to this image. Minutes later, an even bigger wave overtopped the wall and soaked me from head to toe.
The results of the national Landscape Photographer of the Year competition were announced today and I am pleased to have been awarded a Commendation in the Classic View category for the first photograph I made in 2017. Deep in the Dorset countryside, ruined Knowlton Church is situated within a Neolithic henge. I chose to make this image a few minutes after sunrise on a heavily frosted January morning. I like the way the low sunlight embraces the earthworks, emphasising their subtle contours. Frosted grass brings the scene to life. My image conveys a sense of the many layers and millennia of history at this sacred site, from prehistoric pagans to medieval Christians.
October is the rutting season for Britain's largest indigenous land mammal, red deer. At sunrise on this Sunday morning, a little mist swathed the hollows of Richmond Park. I approached a herd of deer with the sun directly in front of me and as I did so, this stag proclaimed his ownership of a harem of hinds with a full-throated roar at potential intruders. By focusing on the deer and exposing for the background, I captured a silhouette of the stag with a diffuse backdrop of golden mist. I like the way sunlight glints off his antlers.
I made this image while leading my Dartmoor Tors and Hidden Valleys Photography Tour. After an early meal, we ascended Great Staple Tor before sunset on a fine evening and waited for the sky to become fully dark. The rock pillars make excellent silhouettes and the familiar constellation of Ursa Major lies low in the evening sky in September. I composed so that the "handle" of The Plough wrapped around one rock pillar and Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern sky, is positioned to the left of another rock pillar. A 20 second exposure has rendered the stars sharp without motion blur from the earth's rotation. ISO 3200 has recorded many background stars and post-processing with Starspikes enhanced the first and second magnitude stars. My next Dartmoor tour
will run from 18 to 21 October 2018.
Pounded by Pacific storms, the Oregon coast has fragmented into countless sea stacks. I like the simplicity of this composition made after sunset, with rock silhouettes forming an asymmetric balance. Made on a falling tide, the wet beach reflects both rock stacks and sunset. More sea stacks feature in my Oregon Coast Gallery
I travelled to Oregon to photograph the total solar eclipse of 21 August 2017 under perfect viewing conditions. This composite image shows the different stages of the eclipse captured over two and a half hours. Totality at my observing location lasted just 1 minute 18 seconds, during which time I worked fast to photograph the diamond ring, solar corona, prominences and Baily's beads using a wide variety of different exposures. The resulting images can be seen in my Total Solar Eclipse gallery
Alpine wild flower meadows are a glorious, though fleeting, spectacle of nature. Above the tree line, the growing season is just a few weeks betwen snow melt in July and snow fall in September. I found these broadleaved lupins on the slopes of Mount Rainier and thought they made the perfect foreground to the glacier-clad mountain. The contrast between fragile flowers and harsh ice is offset by the lupins complementing the colour of the sky. In order to balance the flowers and the mountain in the frame, I had to work very close to the lupins with my 16-35mm wide angle lens. Even stopped down to F/22, there was insufficient depth of field to get the whole image sharp. I therefore made three frames with identical compositions and exposures but different points of focus, which I combined using Helicon Focus software to produce a finished image with both lupins and mountain in sharp focus. For more alpine flowers see my Mount Rainier Gallery
Hoh rainforest on the Olympic peninsula of Washington State is drenched by more than 3 metres of annual rainfall. Even in the relatively dry month of August, these bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) are draped in moss and surrounded by luxuriant ferns. In order to make this picture, I returned when clouds briefly covered the sun giving diffuse light. This creates more saturated colours and avoids bright highlights where shafts of direct sunlight penetrate the canopy. Please visit my Olympic National Park Gallery
To photograph these juvenile buzzards in their nest, I used a hide mounted on a scaffolding tower 5m above the ground. During the middle of the day, the light was too harsh and contrasty, creating many highlights in the background, but by early evening it was softened by light cloud which enabled this more pleasing image. Despite waiting nearly all day, the parent birds did not return to feed their adolescent young. It was tempting to think that the adults had their fill of parenting and were encouraging their offspring to take flight and find their own food.
The delightful town of Whitby in Yorkshire is situated on England's east coast. However, the local coastline has a north-east orientation, such that for a few weeks around midsummer when the sun sets far to the north, it can be seen over the sea. I positioned myself in the churchyard of St Mary's Church overlooking Whitby's elegantly curved harbour arms. When the sun briefly appeared from behind clouds I had the shot I wanted - an east coast sunset.
While I was leading a photography tour in Northumberland, my group was particularly keen to capture images of puffins in flight carrying sand eels to their chicks. Northumberland's Farne Islands has 80,000 puffins and is easily the best place in England to photograph them. However, getting sharp images of these fast-flying birds is not straightforward. Key to success is bright overcast conditions to give abundant but not overly contrasty light; a carefully chosen location with a view of puffins as they approach so the autofocus has time to lock on; and manual exposure - in this case F/8 for sufficient depth of field, 1/1,600th second to get the body of the bird absolutely sharp and ISO 640.
Great skuas are aggressive, predatory birds of the subarctic. These two males Shetland were disputing conjugal rights to a nearby female, who appeared to be looking on in dismay as they tried to gouge each other's eyes out with their beaks. I shot well over 100 images in a few minutes and it was only when I looked at them afterwards that I could see the details of what was going on. In this frame, the bird on the left has pincered the bird on the right with its beak and is using the force of its wings to subdue it on the ground.
I captured this view of the most northerly point in the British Isles on the island of Unst in Shetland, at latitude 60.85 degrees. Unst's Hermaness coast is exposed to the full fury of Atlantic storms, evidence of which can be seen in the huge sea stacks carved from the headland. A spectacular rock arch can be seen to the left whilst in the distance, Muckle Flugga lighthouse clings precariously to the northernmost stack.
The Chequered skipper is found only in a few glens in the western highlands of Scotland. It is the 58th and final species of British butterfly I have tracked down and photographed. Images of all 58 and the story of finding them are told in my new illustrated talk Butterfly Summer
I have long wanted to photograph ospreys fishing and travelled to Aviemore in Cairngorms National Park to do so. Two 4am starts and nine hours in a hide produced just a couple of minutes of good photography but I was not disappointed. It is extraordinary to watch these magnificent birds dragging huge trout from the water, straining their wings to get airbourne. By pre-setting my shutter speed to 1/1250th of a second and selecting a single focus point over the bird's head, I was able get the head and fish sharp whilst the osprey's wings are blurred by motion.
An extreme rarity in Britain, the monkey orchid is named for its bizarre flowers, each of which contains a tiny simian figure with flailing arms and legs. I found this one on chalk downland in Kent and with my aperture set to F/8, made several images with identical compositions but different points of focus. I then combined the images using focus stacking software to create this finished result, which has a good depth of field throughout the flower but a diffuse, soft focus background.
Although widespread, tawny owls are our most nocturnal owl, making them difficult to photograph in the wild. I spent all night in a hide in Lincolnshire, my camera trained on a carefully sited perch baited with dead mice and illuminated with a focusing light. To make the photographs, I fired twin flash guns by wireless remote control, giving a pleasing light on the owl that is free of harsh shadows. Of the many images I captured during the night, this one has the most impact as the owl is staring straight at me.
Like it or loathe it, oil seed rape is a striking feature of Wiltshire's spring countryside. I enjoy finding new compositions each year as the crop is rotated through different fields. This one seems partcularly effecive, with tractor lines talking the eye to a vanishing point near a few derelict buildings slightly right of centre, balanced by the clump of trees on Morgan's Hill on the left. I had to raise my camera above eye level to optimise the foreground of rape. I visited three times before I got a suitably interesting sky to complete the scene.
Gopher Wood in Wiltshire is a magical place, packed with characterful trees and a stunning ground flora of bluebells and ramsons. Of the many compositions I made this May Day, I like this one best as it captures the feel of an ancient woodland.
With a wing span exceeding 2 metres,white-tailed sea eagles are Britain's largest bird of prey. Once extinct in the British Isles, they have been reintroduced to the Western Isles of Scotland. I made this photograph from a boat off the west coast of Mull. The eagle swooped to seize a fish thrown into the water, enabling me to track it using predictive auofocus and a shutter speed of 1/1,600th second. Overcast lighting, a common feature on Mull, required a high ISO but suits the subject as it avoids excessive contrast and a difficult to expose shadow on the undeside of the bird's wing.
I led a five day tour to photograph the iconic birds and manmmals of the Cairngorms, including mounatin hare, red squirrel, pine marten, ptarmigan and red grouse. We found this ptarmigan in a corrie high on the flank of Cairngorm mountain. Although it was still March, snow had already melted and the ptarmigan had moulted into its summer plumage, giving almost perfect camouflage against the heather of its high moorland habitat. More images from the tour can be seen in my Scottish Wildlife Gallery
The Old Man of Storr is the tallest of three bizarre rock pinnacles, formed by the Trotternish landslip on the Isle of Skye. The mountainside faces east and to get the best light, the ascent must be started in darkness. This classic view is looking down from a rocky knoll to the north as the rising sun bathes the pinnacles in golden light. A small group of photographers at the bottom left of my image shows the scale and grandeur of the scene. For more images of Skye's stunning landscape, see my Skye Gallery
This image of Rannoch Moor was made two days after the spring equinox but fresh snowfall gives the impression of mid-winter. Made in numbing cold close to sunrise, I liked the way that snow and frost etches every twig of the trees and the perfect symmetry cresated by its reflection. There are more images from this shoot in my West Highlands Gallery
The iridescent kingfisher is Britain's most jewel-like bird and one that is highly sought by photographers. Kingfishers are shy and dive so fast there is no chance of following them with a camera. I captured this image of a surfacing female from a hide on a tidal riverbank. A reflection pool was set up in front of the hide with a small tank in the centre into which I placed the fish. This guaranteed the location at which the kingfisher would dive and emerge, hopefully with its catch, enabling me to fix the position of the camera and pre-focus. I was shooting 6 frames per second at a shutter speed of 1/3,200th second to freeze the action. Pressing the remote release shutter as soon as the bird left its perch, its whole dive was over and it was back on its perch in less than the two seconds it took to fill the canera buffer with images. Please visit my Kingfisher Gallery
Spectacular scenery, long hours of winter darkness and proximity to the arctic circle makes Norway's Lofoten Islands an ideal location to photograph the northern lights or aurora borealis. I found this location on the eastern shore of Kjerk Fjord on Moskenesoya Island in the afternoon and returned after dark. With the full moon behind me, I waited four hours wrapped up against the cold for clouds to part and the aurora to appear. The celestial light show started around 11pm with a bright aurora over the southern side of the fjord. I quickly recomposed my intended shot to include this traditional cottage overlooking the fjord. A 3.2 second exposure has recorded the form of the quick-moving aurora, whilst an aperture of F/2.8 and ISO 1600 correctly exposed the moonlit peaks and cottage.
In northern Norway, the sun does not rise for several weeks around midwinter. When later in winter the sun does rise, it does so at a very gentle angle, skimming the highest mountain peaks long before it reaches the frozen fjords between them. I made this image of Bals Fjord as the first rays of sunlight caught a distant peak. Only the softly pink sky (known as the "Belt of Venus") gives colour to a landscape dominated by ice and snow. For more arctic images, see my Arctic Norway Gallery
In winter, sunrise can be viewed through Snowdonia's Llanberis pass, shining down the length of Llyn Padern. I used this distinctive lone tree on the lake shore as the main subject and positioned my camera low down to capture a starburst effect as the sun shone through a small gap formed by the tree's twisted branches, an effect that lasted only a few seconds.
Conwy Castle is a fine example of Medieval military architecture. Knowing that the castle is lit at night, I decided to make an image across the Conwy Estuary at dusk. I chose a fine evening when low tide coincided with sunset to enable a foreground of reflective wet mudflat and positioned myself so that a winding creek leads the eye into the frame. I made my image about 40 minutes after sunset to take advantage of cross-over lighting, when there was a balance between artificial light on the castle and ambient light on the landscape.
The Black Mountain in the west of the Brecon Beacons is an impressive ridge with a steep north-facing cliff carved by glaciers. Llyn y fan fach nestles in the corrie, encircled on three sides by the mountain range. I decided to make an image in snow and knew that overcast conditions would be required, as the winter sun is too low in the sky to reach the cliff face or much of the lake. I ascended the slope west of the lake and looked for suitable foreground when this rock outcrop caught my attention. Its inclusion balances the dark lake on the left and creates a sense of depth, allowing the eye to follow the line of cliffs as they wrap the lake in a frosty winter embrace.