Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Update ... yes I am still alive :)

Things have been nothing short of 'manic' lately.
These past few months have been very busy and I've found it difficult to find time to dedicate to the next assignment. However this being said, I do already have a whole range of images I need to sort into some kind of order and get moving which should progress me at least halfway through, so there is light at the end of tunnel … I just need to prioritize my work load!

That being said, I have been quite busy with my photography is another capacity, of which I am quite proud of.
I’ve been working with and supplying the ‘Snow Leopard Trust’ some of my photographs for their advertising and merchandise, working towards greater awareness for these endangered cats and helping their conservation.
Using imagery to spark awareness is one of the most effective ways at appealing to the public and spreading the word, by helping make people aware of the issues that are so often overlooked.
This has, from what I am told, gone down extremely well and the response to their cause has increased which is fantastic for all concerned, epically the snow leopard. Within the next 2 weeks we will also hear if they have won and/or come in the top 3 of the BBC World Challenge, which again my photographs have been used to aid the cause.

Other projects keeping me busy have been on a similar track, offering my photographs for advertising and commercial use to my local wildlife park, Marwell and Cotswolds Wildlife Park, both of which carryout fantastic conservation work.

I’ve have also taken it upon myself to create and publicize my own ‘coffee table’ style wildlife book, which can be seen here:

So, over the past few months, having a cause, a reason has greatly increased my appreciation for both photography and wildlife. I’m disappointed I haven’t been able to progress my course, but I will, that’s the beauty of it being part-time.  

Last of all, I’d just like to say this final statement:

“Sit back and imagine a world without the diverse wildlife we have, imagine waking up on a spring morning without the beautiful sound of birds singing in the trees. Not being able to take your child to a zoo to see their first tiger in the flesh, to hear its roar and witness the sheer power and presence of these magnificent animals. They are not there on show, but are part of a greater conservation effort. It’s now when you realise that we must act, to do what we can do to help.
With the obvious conclusion that we as a species could not survive without animals and insects, they have a right to be here and to be protected from us, who are their main source of distinction.”

Thank you

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Snow Leopard Cubs

Ok, so most people that know me, know I am sort of animal mad, wildlife photography is where I’d love to specialise in. I thought I would get that out of the way, as to pre-warn everybody that as the heading suggests, it’s been a very exciting time for me and at my local wildlife park, Marwell.

Firstly I must say a HUGE thank you to my fiancée for putting up with my photography madness so far this year and my daughter for dragging her everywhere and to some extent, constantly going on about this.

So ..... several month ago Marwell Wildlife Park announced their snow leopards had finally mated and that their litter was due around the beginning of June 2011.  Subsequent to this the new cubs were reared by their mother and kept inside for 12 weeks, until they had their jabs and were deemed safe.

August 25th was their first release date into their new environment.

As soon as I’d heard I knew I/we had to get over there to see them. Rather excitedly we planned a day out for the Saturday and rushed to their enclosure to see them. We met up with several fellow photographers from the Marwell Photographic Group who had been there since 8.30am (before general public were let in) and they’d said there had been no sighting! Neither had there been a sighting throughout the entire Friday.  We waited for a while and decided it best to walk around the park, see the other animals and come back every now and then for an update. We did this until about 4pm where I was quite happy I’d seen everything and wanted to spend the next few hours waiting by the snow leopard enclosure. Luckily as time passed, there was a buzz of excitement on one side of the enclosure where they could see a small white face appearing from within the dark black entrance. Then several moments later, a head appeared, then a body, white and fluffy, with an expression of pure innocence and wonder. It was amazing sight to see, all that waiting was more than worth it.

Below here is the first photograph I captured on that Saturday the 27th August 2011

Is it safe?
Now, me being me, at first I was over the moon, and couldn’t believe our luck that one cub had decided to venture out without his mothers approval. Then it started to niggle at me, that really, one isn’t enough, I want more, I wanted to see them all ... and not just at the door but outside playing (I don’t ask much). I made a point that day that I wasn’t happy getting a photograph of them, from such a distance you couldn’t see detail (unless you have a huge zoom) or photographing them through the wires so again the images were distracted and unclear.

On the Sunday we had a family hike planned, which didn’t turn out quite as planned so I mentioned perhaps we should go back to Marwell and try again. We arrived at 2pm and went straight up to the enclosure, again it was reported that there had been no sighting of the cubs. I told my fiancée and daughter to go enjoy the rest of the zoo while I waited and I’d text them if anything happened.

What you’ll now see is exactly what happened several hours later, after most people had given up and gone home, a few of us remained and I can only express my joy in sharing the wonders that Marwell do as a conservation park. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Protective Mother
Cub on the loose!
I'm ready for my Cute shot
I'm still a little unsure about this
Where'd everybody go!
Easy does it ... easy
err which way was it?
Up to mischief
One brave little cub
I'm not always cute, I'm a big fierce snow leopard
Did YOU Know!
Snow leopards have small ears and a thick dense coat with a soft woolly undercoat to help keep their body temperature regulated in the extreme cold. They have large feet to aid at distributing their weight when walking on snow. Their tail can be up to 1m in length which helps for balance and is used as a draught excluder when wrapped around their body to protect from the harsh winters.

Snow leopards are not white! Their coats range from white, yellow, grey, mottled with black spots and rosettes which act as perfect camouflage against the mountain terrain.

They are an endangered species, despite all the charity work and conservation work that we do. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Day trip to Lundy Island

While taking a short break between assignments I still make sure I have time to get out and about and most of take my camera. Last weekend I managed to get away to Lundy Island (of the north west coast of Devon) a remote island which became England's first Marine Conservation Zone.

Word of warning, check the weather first! and for those of you who are pure land lovers ..... there's plenty of sick bags on board, as I found out on my trip over. Needless to say the captain of the boat that took us over warned everyone that the seas were slight to moderate .... Moderate ... heed this warning ... Moderate basically means 10ft high waves and you'll probably spend the next 2 hours trying to sit still, stand (without falling over) and trying to avoid becoming another statistic ... holding a sick bag!

Although in saying that, the trip is well worth it, the island is peaceful and beautiful and must for all those hikers, campers and photographers. They even ban mobile phones from the local pub, and if you don't like you can always try the next one ... ah, no wait, there is only 1 pub on Lundy.
All though on our trip we didn't see any Puffin's (my main reason for going) we did enjoy a lovely hike around the island, some great history and landscapes.

Weather was dry, but overcast which is the topic of the next set of photos I'd like to share .... I title these
"The darker side of Lundy"

All alone

Storm coming

Sit and wonder

Angry clouds

Battered Wall 

Time to think

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

My Photography Website

With my photography unit progressing nicely, I have created and made several changes to my website recently, some of which are still under construction. However I thought I would share what I've been up to, photography wise, outside of my 'normal' day to day job.

Please take a look, any feedback is always greatly appreciated. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tutor Feedback for Assignment 2

Following on from my first assignment I had several reservations over whether or not I was going about this assignment correctly, through the photos I was taking, the written explanations and my blog/record of my progress and learning.

Having now received my second set of feedback from my tutor I am very pleased with the outcome.
Annoyingly I had forgotten to write the camera settings on my hard copy prints I sent in, although they were on my blog (my fault).

Some criticisms were valid; most I had noted in my self-appraisal, some I understand and know I should be doing, but at times I forget. It would also appear I have the right attitude as I progress, which is something I am definitely working on. The perfectionist in me keeps me on my toes.

There are a few areas I don’t agree with, whether this down to personal judgement I’m not sure, although I take onboard all comments and use them to move forward and I’m happy to do so, and in some instances I can see why the image would be improved or viewed differently.
As an example, my final image “Pattern” was an abstract view of a zebra, where I wanted to focus on the stripes and pattern, without drawing any unnecessary attention to other areas of the image. My tutor commented that it would have been nice to have something to hold on to visually, like an eye etc, including part of the head. Whether this would have created a different ‘feel’ to the image I don’t think I know enough to answer. Would it make it better, and is the answer to this subjective? I would say yes, but I don’t know enough to back that up confidently. I do however agree it would bring something more to the image, but in this instance I wanted it to remain more abstract.

Overall the comments and feedback I received have been great and has given me a huge confidence boost. “Very Striking”, “excellent shot”, “good selective focussing”, “beautiful”, “great rhythm” and “finding your own voice” are some of the highlights I am very pleased with.

All that’s left to say is .... On to Assignment 3!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Assignment 2

For my second Assignment I have to incorporate all that I have learnt so far within 'Elements of Design' into a set of photographs directed towards one subject.

We are given a list of subjects to choose from or we can provide our own. I have decided to base this assignment on my own choice of ANIMALS and INSECTS.

The following effects must be illustrated;

Single point dominating the composition
Two points
Several points in a deliberate shape
A combination of vertical and horizontal lines
Distinct, even if irregular shapes
Two kinds of implied triangle

One of the main reasons behind my decision to improve my photography is my love for nature and wildlife, in all its forms. Animals aren't the easiest of subjects to work with and so far I have found that patience and planning is key, although on occasion the planning goes out the window and improvising pays off.

As I progress as a photographer, I'd like to be able to improve my understanding of the local wildlife in my area and in zoos, and to perhaps venture to Africa and India to capture these beautiful animals in their natural habitats.

Learning to understand their behavioural patterns will give me a better opportunity to use my photographic skill and capture them at their best.

Assignment 2 - Elements of Design

Single Point dominating the composition

The photo above was taken during a visit to Marwell Wildlife near Winchester in Hampshire. Marwell is a conservation wildlife park that not only allows people to see a vast range of animals, some of which are endangered, but it also helps at addressing the conservation problems in the UK and aboard.

I took this photo of a ‘Red Ruffed Lemur’ paying particular attention to focus in on the eye and frame the image in such a way that the lemurs black fur dominates the colour of the image; the orange ruffle around the side of its head and ears adds contrast and balance. However the eye, despite being composed in the centre of the image, is bright, alert and wide open, which strongly draws the viewer’s attention to it. I find myself wondering what the lemur is thinking as I gaze into his eye.

I’ve seen many fashion portraits in this style where focusing on the eye helps draw you into the image. I particularly like the work of Nick Knight and Jill Greenberg: their use of subject and colour mixed with varying expressions are inspirational. It is my aim to use this approach throughout this assignment. 

On further reflection of the image, perhaps if I were to zoom closer in or crop the image slightly, the eye would appear more dominant, or possibly offsetting the eye more in line with ‘rules of thirds’ principal would result in a more appealing finish. However, the use of colours, composition and thought provoking subject I feel come together and demonstrate this element of design very well.

Two points

Again whilst visiting Marwell Wildlife, one of the ostriches was parading very close to the viewing fence, so I decided to get up close and personal with it. Slightly hanging over the fence I was able to capture this shot of the ostrich walking towards me with the boy looking on in the background. I wanted to ensure I kept the ostrich as the main focus while blurring out the remanding surroundings. The boy in background acts as a second point of focus; the diagonal line (fence) draws the eyes attention towards him. This, combined with the shirt he is wearing, adds a slight contrast in colour which helps the overall composition of the photograph.

I’m fairly happy with the composition and use of lines and subjects within this photograph. If I could have changed the angle at which the shot was taken and perhaps aligned the ostrich off centre, while keeping the boy to the left of the image, this may have improved the composition. Shots such as these are and can be somewhat difficult to obtain due to health and safety reasons in a wildlife park!
 In the animals’ natural environment, the scope of image increases but alongside this so does the risk, and the likelihood of getting such a shot are greatly decreased, making any wildlife shot challenging. 


Whilst out walking along Odiham canal I came across a field with a herd of cows grazing. The nearby fence was partly broken and several cows started gathering nearby once I had been detected.

This shot was captured while I was shooting different angles and perspectives of the cows. When I looked closer I noticed I’d captured a fly, flying towards the cow’s eye. Whilst processing, I decided to crop the image so that the main focus was between the eye of the cow and the fly, and luckily enough the section of triangular light helps display this.

I sense some emotion within the photo, which to me appears sad, the eyebrow slightly drooped gives the appearance of the eye looking down which helps with this expression. When looking at the image I find myself constantly looking between the fly and the cow’s eye which I feel works very for this element of design. The depth of field could have been improved, perhaps from 2.8 to a smaller 5.6, making sure the background didn’t become too detailed so that the attention was taken away from the subjects. This would have helped more of the image come into focus. 

Several points in a deliberate shape

The Amur Leopard is an endangered species due to the extensive habitat loss around the world, due to, deforestation, and mankind’s on-going search for natural resources regardless of what stands in our way. When you look at a leopard or ask the majority of people to describe one, the most popular answer will be ‘its spots’. The spots on a leopard are its natural form of camouflage which helps them blend into their surroundings, to avoid detection by its enemies or its prey.

This photo was taken at Marwell Wildlife and I have chosen this subject and photo to illustrate this element of design. The points represent the spots on the leopard and the shape is the distinguishing facial features of the leopard. Slightly hidden behind the wooden log and fast asleep, I had to be patient and wait for the opportune moment when it would life its head, reposition and open its eyes.

I like the arrangement and colour contrast in this image, with the leopards paw in the foreground being lighter than the rest. The green and browns that fill the remaining space help add balance.
The aperture is just about right to ensure the leopard stands out within the photograph and details of its hairs and whiskers draw the eye around the image.

Although perhaps not the easiest of elements to demonstrate and most likely open to peoples interpolation of several point in a defined shape, when applying these rules to wildlife I find I have to broaden my approach and look at different ways in how we see the world. 

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines

On a visit to Longleat Safari Park this year I took this photo of a giraffe at the water hole while driving around the park on a visit to see Ann, the Indian elephant that was previously headline news due to the horrific treatment and beating she received whilst part of a circus.

The photograph here has captured the giraffe as it drinks, which demonstrates how a giraffe with its long neck is able to lower itself to the ground and drink without crouching down on its knees, and putting abnormal pressure through its limbs. The reflection in the water helps give the illusion of length and creates a single dominant vertical line. The use of the water holes edge supplies us with the horizontal element.

Vertical and horizontal line was a difficult element to express here. I could have settled for flocks of birds, and composed the image so that the horizontal lines were noticeable with the use of vertical line in some form of architecture. However patient I was, I never came across such an opportunity or location this time around. Given time would expand my search and look for such an opportunity. 


The photograph here was taken whilst out hiking one afternoon. The image is a close up shot of a crane fly, or commonly known as daddy long-legs, part of the Tipulidae insect family. I noticed it resting within the bush, and slowly and carefully managed to get close enough for this shot, using my 100mm macro lens.

I managed to take a few shots of this without disturbing the insect and finally decided to include this one because of the aperture setting and focal point. The image itself blends well in shape and symmetry so I have chosen to centre the subject post-capture, which I feel greatly enhances the diagonal features of the legs and wings. The colours are rich and subject fascinating - paying particular attention the crane-fly’s head gives us a real opportunity to see these almost ‘alien’ features which many miss.
The light on the twig towards the top of the frame is over exposed and perhaps on reflection I could have stopped down a little, or even tweaked the image further in Photoshop or used a HDR technique and stacked the image to compensate for this. While I was taking the shots I noticed how the crane fly did not move, meaning I could have tried to use a tripod to capture the images, and by manually adjusting the focal point I could have stacked and created a complete focused insect or at very least to include its wings, which I feel may have given a more integrated shot.


Here we have ‘Ann’ the Indian elephant abused within the Bobby Roberts Super Circus, recently brought to the public eye and thankfully re-homed at Longleat Safari Park. Following the news story and events, once I’d heard about Ann being moved to Longleat I knew I had to go and see her. Being the last circus elephant in the country to be removed from captivity, combined with her old age and rumored health problems, I was more determined that she was one magnificent animal I wanted to have the opportunity to see.

When I arrived the queue wasn’t long so I was able to spend some time patiently waiting and watching. It was very emotional watching her slowly plod around the yard, moving ever so carefully with each step. This photo captures Ann giving herself a sand bath. Using her trunk to suck up the sand, and in one swing blow it all over her, creating the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the element of curve in both her truck and the sand.

I would have liked to have had a wider aperture on this so that Ann stood out a little more from the background. However at the time I didn’t have a lens capable of this. Another way to achieve this would have been to zoom in further, compose the image so that I was still able to capture the movement enough while bring Ann more into focus. 

Distinct, even if irregular shapes

Whilst out walking in Farlington marshes, adjacent to Portsea Island (Portsmouth) I noticed in the distance a flock of birds nesting on the local bushes and vegetation. While walking around, watching and photographing other local wildlife, the flock of birds became more active.

I decided to stop and watch, make note of their behavior and look for any patterns emerging. Once they had left the bush, they flew in a regimented style, not particularly following a pattern but closely synced to one another. They would leave the nesting area; fly in randomised route before settling again. It was not apparent if there was a leader for the group that the rest would follow.

The photograph I produced was cropped such that it focused in on a particular group that gives a great illustration of distinct shapes, through the use of their body, wings and tail. The direction and time of movement is not precise thus range of movement and shape within the image are distinct even is slightly irregular.

The image itself tends to be rather bland in colour, and although the dark colour and shape of the bird outline well against the soft cream of the field behind, perhaps by intruding a more prominent horizon would help at giving the photograph depth. 

This photo was taken during a visit to Longleat Safari Park within the Lorikeet enclosure. Visitors are given the chance to walk through the enclosure and experience these magnificent birds up close. I took a number of photographs of these birds ensuring not to include any people within them, as I wanted to focus on the birds themselves.

I chose this photo to represent this element of design because of the detail within the feathers and beautiful contrasting colours. I decided to utilise a shallow depth of field to enhance the bokeh effect, to help the colours blend into each other and draw the eye towards the more detailed section of the Lorikeets feathers. The Lorikeet in the foreground is slightly distracting; however at the same time I feel it deflects the eye towards the main focal point.

On reflection I would have liked to increase the aperture to bring the feathers into focus more and perhaps have waited or looked for several Lorikeets perched on the branches to change the composition. However when I study this photo, I find myself drawn to the details of feathers, scanning the photos different aspects and it is generally pleasing to the eye.

Two kinds of implied triangle
Within Longleat Safari Park there’s a butterfly house which is home to many exotic species from all over the world. They display a vast range of colours and are a perfect example of delicate beauty. Sadly in our ever changing climate today you’ll notice a decline of butterflies within the UK, as we increase to populate more wooded areas and destroy hedges that once used to flourish with them.

The element of design shown here forms a perfect triangle converging in the center of the photograph. The composition and angle at which the photograph was taken enhances this effect by using the butterflies wing to form the implied triangle.

An aperture of f4.5 was used to bring enough of the butterfly in focus while still maintaining good depth of field behind the subject so that it would stand out from background. The pink flowers in the bottom left help add balance and interest to the photo.

This image was captured while out walking one evening as the sun was setting. A group of ducklings and their mother were spotted waddling along the mudflats until eventually coming to a break in the bank and entering the water.

I waited until all the ducks were in the water and swimming away, so that you could see the shape of the wake they left behind them. I composed the image so that a single duck was positioned at the top of the frame, the group of ducklings centered around the middle of the frame and a small section of the bank in the bottom of the photograph to add balance. Capturing this at sunset has given a warm orange glow to the water towards the top of the photograph and cast the subject mainly in shadow. The shape of the ducks wake clearly demonstrates the tip of an implied triangle. What I like about this photograph is number of implied triangles that can be seen and that the eye continuously scans the photo as each of these implied triangle has a duck/ducking at the head of it. 
This photograph of a pig was taken while out at Longleat Safari Park within their encounter enclosure. I managed to get the pigs attention and decided to shoot from above the animal so that it would lift its head which has enabled me to get this portrait.

The implied triangle here can be seen between the pig’s ears, eyes and nose, so that it converges towards the bottom of the frame. The shape of the head, composition and angle all assist in illustrating this element of design.

On closure inspection of this photograph and as I learn more about portraits, whether animal or human, the photo here would have been better if the focal point were positioned on the pigs eyes. Perhaps an aperture of f5.6 or smaller would have given more detail in the image so that the eyes and nose were equally in focus.

What makes this photo work for me is the pig’s expression and sense of amusement. His nose covered in sand and wispy hair all adds emotion to the photograph. This together with the implied triangle help draws your attention to his sandy nose.

During a visit to Marwell Wildlife the Nyala (animals shown here) had their attention caught by something happening in the distance. I felt this made quite an amusing photograph as the position of their bodies face one direction yet every single Nyalas’ head faced another.

I decided to crop this photo so that the wires at the front of the enclosure were not noticeable. I wanted to draw the attention towards the Nyalas and remove anything distracting. Each Nyala standing in a different position and being staggered within the group formation makes the viewers eyes pan across the photograph, looking through each animal. The end result is a good illustration of this design element – Rhythm.

It would have been better if the fence in the background could have been removed or blurred out, although this element was out of my control. Photographing these animals in their natural habitat would be produce a far more appealing image, however the design principals and elements that I learn through this process will prove invaluable given the situation where I can put these into practice on the plains of Africa. 

This photograph of a zebra was captured at Marwell Wildlife. Some of the zebras were grazing close by, which enabled me to get this close up of the zebra’s mane.

I decided when composing the image to keep the aperture wide open so that only a small section of the image was in focus. I waited for a second zebra to pass in the back ground so that the photo would have more depth. Once the image was processed from its RAW file I converted it to black to white to add a more powerful and dramatic effect to the image.

The patterns of the stripes on the zebra are what are striking within this photograph. The depth of field and level of greys also help this photograph stand out. Further analysis of this photograph could be seen as misleading, as the shape of the zebra’s neck and back, together with the composition of the photograph, one could argue that this element of design is more rhythm than pattern. However the photograph can still remains static if the viewer wishes.

Perhaps this images best demonstrate BOTH ‘Rhythm’ and Pattern’ at the same time!

Resources and inspiration used for this assignment have been gained from fashion photographers, Nick Knight and Jill Greenberg and Wildlife photographers Geoff Simpson, Andy Rouse, George McCarthy and Chris Gomersall all of whom are exceptional photographers in their field and excel in capturing evocative images of wildlife.

Fashion shoot for Alishas

I recently had another opportunity to photograph some portraits for a local business in Southampton.
I thought this would be another great venture to help develop my artistic potential and work with people, learning to interact, direct and aim to bring the models inner beauty out through various expressions.

Below, I would like to share some of the photographs taken.

All photographs have been slightly edited to enhance the colours and lighting, with the exception of the final image. I decided to edit this final photo so that it portrayed a mix of black/white and colour within it. I'm quite happy with the result here, as the main focus of the image stands out, yet the hands create an interesting feature that doesn't over power the image, but adds balance, contrast and statement. 

The next step is to airbrush some of the models to give them a more 'magazine' feel and look, which is then to be used as advertising. 

My personal preference would be to leave them as they are so that the models are shown in their raw natural beauty.