Wild Woods

Into the Woods

Into the Woods

I love being in the forest. Being among the trees is instantly calming and I can feel the city-fueled tension lift from my shoulders. I always take a moment to enjoy the lush air, absorb the rich colours, and tune out the distractions that plague me when I’m caught in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

I notice more. The smells: pine, earth, grass, flowers.  The sounds: swishing trees, cracking branches, rustling bushes. The movement: falling leaves, twinkling light, twitching grass.  A cracking twig or a movement caught in my peripheral vision brings the hope that I’m nearing an encounter with wildlife.

Knapdale in the Golden Hour

Knapdale in the Golden Hour

In the past few years though, I’ve really started to treasure the forests themselves. I’ve always appreciated them, but now I look forward to capturing the trees and finding different ways to share them, hopefully inspiring others to see their beauty.

Mystical Mammoth

Mystical Mammoth

Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) is a technique that I’ve come to love. Especially when photographing landscapes with trees. It feels more like painting with light ink and my paintbrush camera.

Paint the Forest

Wild Woods

Wild Woods

Glass spheres or “crystal balls” are also fun to experiment with but they take a little practice to get the shot I’m looking for.

Little Piece of Bavaria

Little Piece of Bavaria

I will continue to spend much needed time in forests and nature, hopefully finding ways to engage people to care for these essential places with images that capture their beauty.

Little Owls

The other day I wrote about my trip to see European Bee-Eaters in Spain. That visit took up my morning. I returned the same evening to capture shots of an animal that has been on my wildlife wishlist for years.

Little Owls.

Like most owls, these beautiful little birds tend to hunt at dusk and dawn. While this is a brilliant time to see them in action, it’s not the easiest time to photograph them. Luckily they are one of the few owl species who are also regularly active during the day. My time in the tiny little hide near their nest site was in the evening golden hour, an hour or so before sunset.  The light was amazing in late May. It was the perfect set up.

I did have one issue though. I was still sneezing. Owls have incredible hearing. My sneezes would not only scare the birds away but possibly make them wary of the the hide itself which would mean years of work spent gaining their trust would be ruined. Now was not the time for hayfever.

Thankfully, after clambering into the hide, it became clear it was so well covered there was very little issue with pollen. All I had to do was wait.  And sit very, very still.

It paid off.

A small owl sits on a wooden tree stump looking over it's shoulder. The background is light green.

Little Owl (Athene noctua)

I was lucky to have about an hour with the male little owl who was nesting nearby. He flew in a number of times and I managed to get a few different shots. There was little planning that I could do for this one. Once I was in the hide I couldn’t move or I’d scare him away for the day. All shots had to be taken from where I was. Other than my initial set up with the branches and tree rootballs, all my shots depended on where he landed.

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Little Owl in Golden Light

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Little Owl

It took me a while to get my eye in. I had to watch for a while to learn the direction he would fly in from and figure out what his preferred landing spots were. There are a lot blurred shots in my recycle bin!  Once I understood his behaviour and patterns, I managed to get a few images in focus.

A small owl standing on a tree root ball.

Watching Little Owl

I’ve seen captive Little Owls before and even held one. But nothing compares to sitting with them in the wild and being part of their world, even just for a couple of hours. Wildlife photography is always a privilege and will never stop making me happy.

Little Owl Looking for Dinner

Little Owl Looking for Dinner

Wonderland – Hot Springs and Geysers

Black and white photo of the famous geyser Old Faithful erupting with a large stream of steam.

Always Faithful

Yellowstone. It truly is a wonderland. I’ve spent a few weeks there now on a couple of occasions. I’ve just barely scratched the surface of this incredible place.  It frequently hits the headlines these days for the wildlife tourism with the large predators such as wolves and bears drawing audiences from all around the world. That’s exactly why I’ve gone each time, visiting once in summer and once in winter.

However, during my summer trip and first visit to the world’s first national park we spent some time exploring the famous hot springs and geysers.

Old Faithful, named so in 1870 because of it’s regular and frequent eruptions, erupts every 35 to 120 minutes. It is the most famous geyser of the park, the USA and quite possibly, the world.

Despite summer being high tourist season and the crowd for Old Faithful at least 4 people deep, I managed, with some clever composition, to get a shot without people in it. It’s an impressive size and the display can last from 1 minute to 5 minutes each time she blows.

For anyone looking to experience this wonder, I’d highly advise an off season trip or at least an early start. I was lucky to get this shot but it took a lot of holding my ground after waiting patiently. To truly experience the size of it, I’d recommend watching an eruption from the distance. It’s not until you compare it to the surrounding buildings of the visitor centre and inn that you get a true idea of the height it can reach. Being up close can be deceptive.

There are lots of other geysers of various shapes and sizes which also deserve your attention. They tend to be much quieter and it’s easier to get a front row seat.

 

An erupting geyser in Yellowstone with a big spray of water drops captured against a blue sky with white clouds

Perfect Timing

Morning Glory Pool

Thermal pools are not to be missed when you’re exploring Yellowstone’s wonderful features. The incredible rich colours are due to bacteria which live in the hot water.

The Morning Glory hot spring is one of the most well known thermal features in the park. It was named in 1880 after the Morning Glory Flower because it looked so similar in it’s colouring. However, because people are leaving rubbish behind and using the spring like a wishing well, it is starting to cool down. This changes the type of bacteria which can survive in the water and since the bacteria cause the amazing colours, the colours are changing. The orange and yellow which were once part of the edge of the pool has now spread across it, taking over the blues and greens in the middle.

If you’re heading this way I’d highly recommend stopping by the Beauty Pool. We had stunning day for our visit in summer but I’d love to go back and capture it in Winter!

Close up of the Beauty Pool sign - a small wooden sign with "beauty pool" engraved on it. The Beauty Pool and a hillside with trees are in the background.

Beauty Pool

An image of the hot spring in Yellowstone called "Beauty Pool".

Beauty Pool

And of course, you can’t miss The Grand Prismatic. It is breathtaking. The size and colours are incredible. We scrambled up the side of a small hill to try and get a better view of it so here you can see it a road level and from above.

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Gazing Across the Grand

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The Grand Prismatic

As I said, I’ve barely scratched the surface of Yellowstone. My second visit was in winter and while access is reduced, I found the park more peaceful and inviting. I plan on visiting in every season to capture the wonder of this place as often as I can.