George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography: Blog https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog en-us (C) George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography (George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) Mon, 18 Oct 2021 09:35:00 GMT Mon, 18 Oct 2021 09:35:00 GMT https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/img/s/v-12/u71228637-o70295702-50.jpg George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography: Blog https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog 120 120 Abstract Nature Photography https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/10/abstract-nature-photography Abstract nature photography is an enduring genre, which continues to fascinate me. I don't shoot that much of it, as I tend to be quite literal in my subjects. But over the years, as I've travelled, hiked, and waited for the light, I've found lots of little abstract scenes to point my camera at. Often I don't share them with the other photos I took at the time, because they just don't fit - they stand apart. So I thought it would be nice to share a collection of abstract photos all together, and see how they combine as a collection. I'll start with a favourite of mine, taken in Greenland, in 2019...

Ice Berg AbstractIce Berg AbstractLight & shade of a large ice berg. Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

Taken on the same trip, is this square of glacial ice berg...

Ice AbstractIce AbstractPattern and detail in the wall of a massive ice berg. Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

This is the snow-capped Eyjafjallajökull, in Southern Iceland.

Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #5Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #5Abstract close-up of the glacier covering the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, in Southern Iceland. Photographed from Thorsmork.

 

Another Icelandic glacier here. And it's very clear what this one is, but I think it's still quite an abstract image to me. It's dominated by the tones and lines, without a wider scene for context.

Dark IceDark IceIce hundreds of years old, combine with volcanic ash which fell as the glacier was formed. It shifts and crumples to make waves, peaks, and cravasses.
In Southern Iceland.

 

Similarly, it might be obvious what we're looking at here, but with no wider context, I enjoy the abstract nature of this image.

Blue Ice AbstractBlue Ice AbstractBright sunlit ice meets dark blue ice at the corner of a large ice berg, in Disko Bay, Greenland.
I very much enjoyed creating an abstract image from this colourful but stark view of a colossal ice berg.

 

I don't think abstract images have to be indecipherable, but it's fun when they are. This one gives away no scale or definitive clue as to what it is.

Arctic BeachArctic BeachSand, sculpted by the tide and the wind, on a beach in Norway's Lofoten Islands.

It's actually as section of beach in Norway's Lofoten Islands.


I think most people who have walked along a beach with a camera will have tried to capture these patterns in the sand at some point. This is the best I've managed so far. This was from Barafundle Bay, in Pembrokeshire.

Beach AbstractBeach AbstractLines in the sand. Barafundle Bay, Wales.

 

This is from a popular black sand beach in Southern Iceland. The drainage patterns looking like a twisted tree.

Beach TreeBeach TreeIcelandic black beach, sculpted by time and tide.

 

Below is a slow-exposure coastal landscape on a misty day in Pembrokeshire.

Welsh Coast AbstractWelsh Coast AbstractTenby Beach, on a misty day.

 

I found this zebra landscape in the Icelandic Highlands.

Icelandic ZebraIcelandic ZebraBlack and white stripes of the Icelandic Highlands.

 

A bit of abstract minimalism here, with another square from the Highlands of Iceland...

Iceland Highlands SquareIceland Highlands SquareA square of the Icelandic Highlands. Summer 2020.

 

Below is a close-up of a large mound of ash and rock, covered in the iconic Icelandic moss. To me, this looks like a classic Icelandic jumper; the 'Lopapeysa'. Icelanders are well connected to their surrounding landscape, and the fact that nature somehow seems to reflect that culture back in this way, is one of the great charms of their society.

LopapeysaLopapeysaRemnants of an Icelandic volcano, adorned with moss, and resembling the classic Icelandic jumper; the Lopapeysa.

 

This photo is called 'Slice of Iceland', and it's the edge of the same mound in the photo above.

A Slice of IcelandA Slice of IcelandThe edge of a volcanic mound,. on which moss has made an existence.

More photos from the Icelandic Highlands here..

This one is a considerably older rock than above. Welsh coastal cliffs, shimmering in the overcast light. I really like this one.

Welsh CliffsWelsh CliffsCliffs of a Welsh beach. Taken in 2017.

 

Here, a rockface is reflected in the dark water below.

Dark ReflectionsDark ReflectionsDark water reflects the rockface above.


As we transition into living things, I photographed this slow exposure to blur the motion of the leaves, as this tree swayed in the autumn breeze.

Leaf BlurLeaf BlurBranches, blowing in the breeze.

 

A splash of colour...

PoppyPoppyWho says abstracts can't be colourful? It may be obvious what this is, but it's still an abstracted slice of the more recognisable whole.

 

This is another of my more recent favourites, from 2019. It's probably obvious it's an African Elephant, but I love the abstract textures and patterns in this image...

Texture OverlapTexture OverlapTextures, wrinkles, and patterns of an elephant's ear resting on it's shoulder.
I could stare at this for some time - and have done, such is the ease with which I can get lost in the detail of it. Photographed low key, to make the most of the lines and texture.
Fine art nature photography. Captive subject, UK.

 

This is the last one, and it's very much open to interpretation. I think it looks like painterly clouds above a dark mountainside, and a foreground lake. But however literal or abstract the image you see, I love the subtle colour combinations.

Infinite PossibilitiesInfinite PossibilitiesIce of Jökulsárlón, in Southern Iceland.

 

I really enjoy abstract nature photography. There are endless mini scenes and apparently random textures in nature, which all tell a story, or leave themselves open to interpretation. It's a style I'll always come back to.

 

Next month I'm hoping to share some new deer photos. I've been busy photographing the deer rut over the last few weeks, and I've got a whole range of portraits and wider scenes to share. If you're not familiar with my deer photography, you can check that out here, and keep an eye out for new images coming soon :-)

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) abstract ice minimalist nature photography rock https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/10/abstract-nature-photography Mon, 18 Oct 2021 10:00:00 GMT
Australian Nature Photography : New South Wales & The Blue Mountains https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/9/landscapes-new-south-wales-blue-mountains We had been hoping to go back to Australia this year, but that obviously hasn't been possible. However, it did get me thinking about our last trip there, to New South Wales and the Blue Mountains, in 2017. As a result I took a look through my photos from our previous visit, and thought they'd make a nice blog post as a collection together. I've reprocessed most of them since I originally shared them, and I also found a few uncut gems that I'd overlooked the first time around - so there's some new ones in here too. I've put the landscapes at the top, followed by some classic Australian wildlife.

I'm going to keep the text to a minimum as I'd rather this post was just a collection of images. I want them to form a kind of flowing mural, portraying the feel of the vast landscapes and characterful wildlife we encountered in NSW. For more detail on the photos, locations, logistics, etc, check out my original blog posts. Anyway, I think there are some really nice shots in here. Hope you enjoy them too.

 

"Lookout" View Points

We were based in the Blue Mountains, which is a beautiful region of mountains and eucalyptus rainforest. It's very tourist-friendly, and there are loads of "Look-Outs", as they call them, which offer breath-taking views out across the canyons and forest. I made a map of my favourites here. This first set of landscapes are all grand views from these tourist view points.

Grose Valley Light RaysGrose Valley Light RaysFirst Rays of light, illuminating the misty Grose Valley. From Govett's Leap, Blackheath.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

View Through the EucalyptusView Through the EucalyptusFrom Govetts Leap.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Grose Valley SunriseGrose Valley SunriseView of the sunrise, over Grose Valley, from Govett's Leap lookout, Blackheath.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

Govett's Leap CliffsGovett's Leap CliffsThe canyon walls of Grose Valley, from Govett's Leap.
Landscape photography, New South Wales, Australia.

 

Grose Valley DawnGrose Valley DawnEarly light at Govett's Leap, Blackheath.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Grose Valley - First LightGrose Valley - First LightThe first soft light of dawn, over the Grose Valley, from Govett's Leap, Blackheath.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Sunrise from Govett's LeapSunrise from Govett's LeapLooking down the Grose Valley.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Lincolns Rock PanoramaLincolns Rock PanoramaA wide-aspect panorama image from Lincoln's Rock, at sunset.
Fine Art Nature Photography, New South Wales, Australia.

Three Sisters and Jamison Valley, from Eagle Hawk LookoutThree Sisters and Jamison Valley, from Eagle Hawk LookoutShowing why they call it the Blue Mountains.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Grose Valley PortraitGrose Valley PortraitFrom Govett's Leap, Blackheath.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

Blue Mountain LayersBlue Mountain LayersLayers of blue, from Lincolns Rock.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Trees & Rainforest

The vast majority of the trees in NSW are eucalyptus, or "gum trees", as they're known colloquially. It's the evaporation of the eucalyptus oil from these trees, which mixes with the morning sunlight and humid air to create the "Blue Mountains" effect, that gives the area its name and is illustrated in the two landscape photos above. Gum trees are a family consisting of several hundred sub-species, many of which are only subtly different from the next. They have an appealing grey-green leaf colour, and are so dense in places, that I was able to create whole texture boards of treescapes.

Glenbrook GumGlenbrook GumOne gum tree gets the light, down on the floor of Glenbrook Gorge.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Gum Tree PortraitGum Tree PortraitClose-up of a very large gum tree, which has lived for many many years, and still stands strong today. I love the endurance of mighty trees, and the idea that they'd seen many things come and go in their time, outlasting them with quiet serenity.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Canyon Forest TreesCanyon Forest TreesThese trees inhabit the forest floor of the so-called 'Grand Canyon'.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

Eucalyptus TreesEucalyptus TreesThe texture and colour of a eucalyptus forest.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.


Eucalyptus TreescapeEucalyptus TreescapeOne tile in a jigsaw puzzle of gum trees that make up the subtropical rainforest.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Misty Blue Mountains TreesMisty Blue Mountains TreesEarly morning mist hangs over the subtropical rainforest near Leura, in the Blue Mountains.
Nature Photography, New South Wales, Australia.

 

Waratah BloomWaratah BloomA red waratah flower, the state flower of New South Wales, blooming in the October spring.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, Australia.

 

Twisted GumsTwisted GumsGum trees in the mist. Govett's Leap.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Green and GreyGreen and GreyThe green leaves of this tree have recently sprouted, in the New South Wales springtime.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

 

Misty Blue Mountains Rain Forest #1Misty Blue Mountains Rain Forest #1A misty morning near Evans Lookout, in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia.

 

Misty Blue Mountains Rain Forest #2Misty Blue Mountains Rain Forest #2Eucalyptus rain forest from the Grand Canyon hiking trail, near Govetts Leap, NSW, Australia.

 

Wildlife

Australia has some truly iconic wildlife, and it was a fantastic experience to be able to get so close to much of it. As usual I was playing around with different lighting effects, to get something a little different from the standard portraits whenever possible. All of these were taken in the wild, and I'd love a chance to go back to try more like this.

Kangaroo OutlineKangaroo OutlineThe iconic shape of a kangaroo is instantly recognisable,.
Fine art nature photography, New South Wales, Australia.

 

Side-Lit KangarooSide-Lit KangarooGrey Kangaroo, photographed in low light. Wild in New South Wales, Australia.

 

Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) in high-keyHello RooPortrait of an Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) in high-key.
Taken in Jervis Bay National Park, New South Wales.

 

Sulphur-Crested CockatooSulphur-Crested CockatooA wild Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo.
Fine art nature photography. Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia.

 

Kookaburra SquareKookaburra SquareKookaburra, wild in New South Wales, Australia.

 

Wombat on Green & GoldWombat on Green & GoldPortrait of a wombat, against the iconic green and gold of the Australian bush at sunset.
Nature photography, Bendeela, Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia.

Wombat in PortraitWombat in PortraitPortrait-orientated photo of a wombat.
Nature photography, Bendeela, Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia.

 

Scratching Wombat (B&W)Scratching Wombat (B&W)A wombat stops to scratch, shortly after emerging from its burrow for the evening.
Black & white nature photography, Bendeela, Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia.

 

Wandering WombatWandering WombatA wombat, out for a walk for the evening, shortly after emerging from it's burrow for the evening.
Nature photography, Bendeela, Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia.

 

I think there's a good handful there that I hadn't shared before, which is nice. Plus many others which I think look better now than when I first shared them. I have a tendency to go back and tinker with old photos when I have some down time, as my style and taste evolves over time. It's also very easy to overlook a good photo initially, in preference for one which resonates with the recent emotion of being there. Years on, I judge them with with fresh eyes, on a more graphical basis, and so my preferences often change as a result. So it's always worth revisiting photos from previous years.

If you'd like to see more photos from this trip, you can find my original four-part Australia-trip series here, which also contains more information about the subjects and locations I photographed.

And of course, most of these photos are available in print as wall art. If there's one you're after which isn't in one of my main print galleries, just get in touch.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) Australia australia-2017 Blackheath Blue Mountains cockatoo eucalytus Evans Lookout Govett's Leap gum tree kangaroo Katoomba kookaburra landscape Landscape Photography Leura lookout National Park New South Wales Olympian Rock sunrise Three Sisters wombat https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/9/landscapes-new-south-wales-blue-mountains Mon, 06 Sep 2021 07:00:00 GMT
Summertime Deer https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/8/summertime-deer I've often shared photos of deer taken in the autumn, or in the winter snow, but I have rarely been out to photograph them in the summer months. This year, as I continue to explore nature photography closer to home, I thought it would be nice to represent the aesthetic of the warm summer evenings, as well as capturing the red deer during a different period of their annual cycle.

Red Deer - Summer LightRed Deer - Summer LightA red deer, on a warm summer's evening.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Velvet Antlers

During spring, red deer shed their antlers, and they spend the summer re-growing a brand new set - each year's antlers slightly larger than the previous. The antlers are made of bone, and as they grow they're covered in a soft, furry skin, known as 'velvet'. This velvet is packed full of blood vessels, and delivers everything the new antlers need to develop. They're the fastest growing bones in the animal kingdom, extending by up to two inches a day at their peak.
Summer DeerSummer DeerA red deer, in summertime, during the annual antler-growth season. The light from behind catches on the velvet covering of the antlers, and illuminates the silhouette of the deer.

 

A weighty set of antlers demonstrate the health of the deer - since they represent an enormous investment of minerals and nutrients each year. And if it comes to it, they will use them in combat with their rivals, during the autumn rut.
Red Deer Antler Close-UpRed Deer Antler Close-UpA red deer during the spring antler-growing season. The antlers are covered in a layer of velvet during their annual growth.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

By late summer, the deer will lose their velvet, and the pale bone underneath will be revealed. So I wanted to capture them in their current 'velvet' stage which is so indicative of the summer months.

Red Deer SpringRed Deer SpringA red deer during the spring antler-growing season.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

At this time of year, the summer sunshine catches the long grass and the insects, for a view unlike the damp or misty conditions of autumn.

Red Deer AntlersRed Deer AntlersA red deer grazes during the antler-growing season, which occurs in late spring / early summer each year.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Rim-Lit

As you can probably tell, my favourite way to photograph deer at this time of year, is with the sun behind them - catching the light through the edges of their fur and antler velvet, whilst leaving the body in shadow. Depending on the strength of sunlight and the angle used, it's possible to achieve anything from a back-lit portrait, to a complete silhouette with only the illuminated outline shining in front of the relative darkness of the trees behind.

Back-Lit Red Deer VelvetBack-Lit Red Deer VelvetThe silhouette of a grazing red deer, as the low evening sun illuminates the velvet antler covering.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Summertime Red DeerSummertime Red DeerA red deer, in the summer evening light. The sun from behind lights the edges of the deer as it catches the fur and the velvet antler covering.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.


Deer in Velvet (Low-Key)Deer in Velvet (Low-Key)Low-key portrait of a red deer in antler velvet.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Black and White

I've reduced the colour saturation in all the images above, as they can get a bit OTT in such strong evening light. But sometimes it's nice to remove the colour altogether, and enjoy these images purely as combinations of shape and tone. The brightness of the back-lit antler velvet really leaps out in black and white, and provides a slightly more graphic aesthetic.

Lone Red Deer in the LightLone Red Deer in the LightA lone red deer stands in the late evening sun. His velvet antlers in mid-growth.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

Grazing Red DeerGrazing Red DeerA red deer, photographed in early summer, as this year's antlers are becoming well formed. Red deer shed their antlers in the spring, and regrow a new set over the subsequent weeks.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Red Deer Antler GrowthRed Deer Antler GrowthA red deer grazes in the evening light. His antlers are covered in a fine-velvet during the summer, as they grow rapidly.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Low-Key / On-Black

Any time the light is low and highly directional, I try to capture something for my On Black portrait project, and this summer was no different. I took this with a telephoto lens, but this stag still came surprisingly close as he walked past, and I managed to frame him against a dark background to achieve this result. This posture sums up red deer perfectly for me. They always look so regal.

Red Deer Velvet - On BlackRed Deer Velvet - On BlackA red deer portrait in the low-key, on-black style.
Red deer shed their antlers annually, in the spring, and as they regrow they're covered in this soft 'velvet', which delivers blood and nutrients to the antlers growing within.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This last one is an extreme rim-lit, with the shadows taken right down to black. It wouldn't be possible at any other time of year, as the antlers need the velvet coating in order to catch the light like this. To capture a silhouette like this the sun has to be almost directly behind the animal, just out of shot. With enough tree-cover behind to create a back-drop in shadow. Since the camera can't cope with such a harsh range of brightness in one shot, I set the exposure to capture the highlights - allowing the shadows to fall out of range.

Rim-Lit Red DeerRim-Lit Red DeerThe silhouette of a red deer stag, as the evening sun catches the antler's velvet covering, during growing season.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

It's been great to have this project on the go this summer. Although the weather didn't often play ball, it was great to see the deer in a different season for me, and to capture something different for my portfolio.

I'm sure most people are looking forward to more summer to come yet, but I'm already looking forward to the autumn now, when the red deer transform once again. I'll be out in the cold and damp, hoping for more portraits of these very photogenic animals. If you like the sound of that, check out my Deer gallery, which features a whole host of deer photos, available to order in print.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) animal antlers art Bedfordshire British deer nature photography portrait summer UK velvet wildlife Woburn https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/8/summertime-deer Mon, 02 Aug 2021 07:00:00 GMT
Ethical Banking: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/7/ethical-banking This month's post is a brief departure from the usual photo-sharing format, to look at the bigger picture, and something we can all do to make a genuine difference. I often bleat about environmentalism, which is a core driver for me, both as a nature photographer and also as someone who wants to be part of a society that is forward-thinking, responsible, and sustainable. It's easy to feel powerless in the face of such a monumental problem, combined with governmental corruption and inaction. But here's something easy, that we can all do; Keep your money in a bank that uses it for good.

 

What's an "Ethical Bank"?

Here's how I interpret it...

Misty Disko BayMisty Disko BayDisko Bay is often misty first thing in the morning, as it was here. A large ice berg sits in the middle of the bay, with the peaks of Disko Island behind.
Landscape Photography, West Greenland.
If I have a few hundred or a few thousand pounds in an account, what is the bank using that money for? Is it funding new renewable energy research? Cancer treatments? Sustainable housing projects? Or is it being invested in Shell Oil, polluting industries, companies with tax avoidance strategies and human rights abuses? I don't want my money invested in or lent to businesses which are putting profit over ethics. It's not right. And it's incredible how many people go to the trouble of making green shopping choices, driving less, thinking environmentally, yet their money is funding the continued destruction of everything they believe in.

Once you realise this, the choice is obvious. Keep your money somewhere where it will be used for positive projects, which make the world a better place. While you're not spending it, it might as well do some good.

 

Give Me Some Examples

There are a few new banks springing up which brand themselves as 'ethical'.

These are all for the UK, but I'm sure there are a wealth of other choices for overseas readers...

  • Triodos Bank - Very big on transparency, and tops most charts for ethical investments and lending.
  • Charity Bank - They use money to lend to charities and social enterprises.
  • Co-Operative Bank - They consider themselves the first ethical bank in the UK, and although they have since been taken over by a large network of hedge-funds, which damaged their reputation and eco-credentials, they still seem a credible option.
  • Nationwide - Technically a building society, but they do everything from current accounts to loans, savings and mortgages.
  • Starling Bank - App-based banking, modern approach, with good features for overseas use.
  • Monzo - Also app-based, with a similar feature-set to Starling.

To check your bank, and read more about environmentally friendly banks, check out Bank.Green.

You don't have to compromise on quality or service either. Many of the ethical banks are start-ups that don't have the historical weight of data or dated methodologies which slow or prevent them from adapting to change. They have great banking apps, security baked in, and they're nimble enough to adopt new features relatively easily. But they're also all fully legitimate banks, complying with all the banking regulations and authorities you would expect of any high street bank.

Switching is really easy. At least in the UK, we have the Current Account Switch Service, which migrates all your bills, direct debits, and salary payments to your new account for free.

 

Be The Change You Want To See In The World

Gum Tree PortraitGum Tree PortraitClose-up of a very large gum tree, which has lived for many many years, and still stands strong today. I love the endurance of mighty trees, and the idea that they'd seen many things come and go in their time, outlasting them with quiet serenity.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.
Remember that environmentalism isn't all about climate change, rainbows, and fluffy creatures. It's about the sustainability of life on this planet. It's about equality, clean air, clean water, productive soils, cheap renewable energy. It's about leaving things in a better condition than how you found them.

Moving your money is the most effective action you can take to influence the structures that run our modern economy.

The great thing about it is that the more people switch, the more the old-school banks will have to adapt their practices to keep up with the market, and retain customers. So this isn't only about putting your money to good use. It's also about voting with your money, and divesting from traditional banks - forcing them to clean up their act, and start behaving as their customer base would like.

Once I'd switched my current account over, I also opened a business account too, so that my photography turnover is also working for good. In time I'd like to move my pension to an ethical investment model too, but that is currently proving considerably more complex. But I think in terms of bang for your buck, it doesn't get more easy and effective than switching your bank account to an ethical bank.

Misty Forest LayersMisty Forest LayersThe overlapping layers of pine forest, which is so characteristic of this part of Europe.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Click here for more about my ethical stance, and my Buy One Get One Tree offer.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) action activism bank banking climate environmentalism ethical https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/7/ethical-banking Mon, 05 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT
Bluebell Woods https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/6/bluebell-woods I discovered this nearby woodland during lockdown last spring, but I didn't get any photos of the bluebells at the time. So I decided to give it a go this year; making several visits during May. It's fair to say it was a pretty cold and wet month - especially during the 10 days or so of bluebell season. But I kept going back, and I managed to find a couple of occasions where the sun broke through.

Local Bluebells (Widescreen)Local Bluebells (Widescreen)Bluebells woods, in springtime, Bedfordshire, UK.

This is a local woodland, which doesn't have the grandeur of some of the well-known bluebell woods in the UK, but it has a good amount of bluebells in this small area, which is just enough to work some different angles on it. I really like woodland paths, so I was glad to find a way to capture this one.

Local Bluebells (Pathway)Local Bluebells (Pathway)I'm fond of woodland paths in photos, and this one meanders through this local Bedfordshire bluebell woodland.
Fine art nature photography, Flitwick, UK.

When sunrise is 05:15am, it really pays to have somewhere close to home you can visit. The early start is well worth it though. It's a great feeling to be surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of a bluebell wood well before anyone else is up and about.

Local Bluebells (Dawn)Local Bluebells (Dawn)Dawn in a local bluebell wood.
Fine art landscape photography, Flitwick, Bedfordshire.

I also visited this woodland in the autumn last year, so some of these trees might well be familiar from those photos. I'm starting to feel like I'm getting to know them.

Local Bluebells (Sunlight)Local Bluebells (Sunlight)Early evening sunlight breaks through the woodland canopy to illuminate the rain-dampened bluebells.
Fine art landscape photography, Flitwick, UK.

I hope those photos have added a splash of colour to your day. If you're ever of the mind to try it, I'd really recommend a sunrise alarm and a visit to your own local woodland to really set you up for the day.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) bluebells landscape nature photography spring woodland woods https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/6/bluebell-woods Mon, 07 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT
Iceland 2020: Fjallabak Nature Reserve https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/5/iceland-2020-fjallabak-nature-reserve These are landscape photos from part 2 of a difficult trip to Iceland in August 2020. After a few days on the south coast (part 1 here), hampered by rain, we tried everything to get into somewhere mountainous - even looking into ditching the 4x4 and getting a bus into Thorsmork - only to be advised by the warden there that the camp site was "basically a swamp". In the end, once we gave up on getting into any areas of the Highlands that we wanted to, we left the south coast and drove to Landmannalaugar - a place I'd sworn I wouldn't go back to, having suffered storms there in the past. It might have been our 4th or 5th choice location but it's still pretty spectacular. It's just not quiet, and remote, like we wanted. But this time around we were much more lucky with the weather than in the past. Although it rarely matched the forecast, we did get plenty of good conditions. In addition to the immediate valley, there are plenty of equally unique landscapes accessible from the base camp and we did our best to cover lots of ground exploring the wider area too.

 

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is an area of geothermal activity in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, known for it's hot springs, colourful rhyolite mountains, and hiking trails. It's also the starting point of the Laugavegur Trail; a multi-day hike we did in 2018. In two previous visits there I hadn't experienced more than an hour without rain, eventually giving way to full blown storms, so I'd never really managed to get any worthwhile photos. This time I saw a different side to the place, and we took the opportunity to explore as much as we could.

This first photo features the pink and orange volcano Brennisteinsalda in the distance, with it's steaming sulphur vents. Tumbling down the side and into the meadow is the Laugahraun lava field, which was formed during an eruption 600 years ago. It's been amazing to watch the recent creation of a new lava field in Iceland this spring, which has really given an insight into how this geological phenomena came to be. In the foreground here, the surface of Mount Bláhnjúkur is covered in volcanic ash.

A Volcanic LandscapeA Volcanic LandscapeLandmannalaugar, in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve.

 

As the sun breaks through, this is Brennisteinsalda again. The Icelandic name translates to "Sulphur Wave", which is a nice way to describe the gentle rolling folds of a lot of these mountains. Behind are the mossy rhyolite mountains, most characteristic of the area.

The Hills Are AliveThe Hills Are Alive...with the smell of sulphur.
These are the mountains and volcanoes of Landmannalaugar, in the Icelandic Highlands.

 

It's these layers, swirls, and variation of colour which makes the mountains of Landmannalaugar so unique.

Folds of ColourFolds of ColourHáalda, Landmannalaugar, Iceland.

 

This is the folding peaks of Sudurnámur, with the green meadow and lava field below.

Landmannalaugar DawnLandmannalaugar DawnSudurnámur mountain range, with the green meadow and Laugahraun lava field. In Landmannalaugar, Iceland.

 

A closer view of the convergence of those three subjects again. Shortly after dawn, light first reaches these areas well before most campers wake up.

Light on LandLight on LandFirst light on the Laugahraun, and the foot of the mountain Sudurnámur. In Landmannalaugar, Iceland.

 

This is a three-shot panorama looking down on the main Landmannalaugar valley. On the left you see the Laugahraun lava field; a maze of hardened lava through which various hiking trails snake, including the start of the Laugavegur Trail. Then there's a precious spot of lush green provided by a small meadow heated by a geothermal hot spring. Further round we see the sandy valley floor and the rivers of snow melt.

Landmannalaugar PanoramaLandmannalaugar PanoramaThe valley, hot springs, mountains, camp site, and lava flow, which make up the main area of Landmannalaugar in Iceland's Fjallabak Nature Reserve.

 

These hikers were leaving Landmannalaugar and following the Laugavegur Trail south to Hrafntinnusker.

Laugavegur trailLaugavegur trailHikers on the Laugavegur trail. Landmannalaugar, Iceland.

 

Just seeing this brought back great memories of hiking the trail two years previously, and the photos and views we missed out on it that first leg, due to stormy weather. The temptation was just too great, so we decided to walk the 24km round trip to Hrafntinnusker and back as a day hike. Including a sunrise and sunset shoot, we ended up walking over 30km that day, which honestly was a little OTT. But I'd probably do it again given the circumstances!

 

Hrafntinnusker

Hrafntinnusker is the high-point of the Laugavegur Trail, so it's basically uphill on the way, and downhill on the way back. You cross boiling geothermal vents, ice fields, and hillsides of sharp obsidian volcanic rock. It's pretty epic. There's a lot to take in if you're lucky enough to be there on a near cloud-free day. This two-shot panorama shows the classic Hrafntinnusker landscape in the foreground, with a tantalising glimpse of the vast glacier and green valley beyond.

What Lies BeyondWhat Lies BeyondThe allure of the green mountains, volcanoes, and ice-caps, in the central highlands of Iceland. They side on the edge of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, with it's characteristic brown hillsides and frozen valleys.

 

In some light, the mountains appear almost black, with white snowdrifts filling the pockets of land least accessible to the sun. Great fun to play with though a camera lens.

Mountain AbstractsMountain AbstractsNear Hrafntinnusker, Icelandic Highlands.

 

Time for a complete abstract.

Icelandic MountainsideIcelandic MountainsideSnow and mountain ridges. Hrafntinnusker, Iceland.

 

Looking back towards the Fjallabak Nature Reserve you see the green and brown mountains, also still harbouring snow in August at this height.

Snow-Melt in Fjallabak.Snow-Melt in Fjallabak.Receding snow reveals the characteristic brown mountainsides of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, in Sothern Iceland.

 

You just don't get views like this anywhere else.

Fjallabak Nature ReserveFjallabak Nature ReserveColours, shapes, and tones, of the iconic Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Southern Iceland.

 

I'm really glad we did this hike, as all of these views of Hrafntinnusker were hidden by low cloud on our previous visit.

 

The Wider Fjallabak Nature Reserve Area

Landmannalaugar is the headline act of this nature reserve, as that's where the camp site is, but it's worth exploring as wide an area as possible, for quieter fells and less photographed views. Our trip coincided with the cotton grass, so we tried to feature that in the landscape too.

Icelandic CottongrassIcelandic CottongrassCottongrass meadow, in the highlands of Iceland.

 

After the horses, sheep would be the next most famous Icelandic livestock. They must be hard as nails to thrive here, and they're full of character. This is almost a postcard shot, featuring sheep, a mossy mountain, a waterlogged meadow, dark skies and impending rain. That's all the classics in one :-)

Icelandic PostcardIcelandic PostcardWelcome to Iceland. Land of slate grey skies, lakes, mountains, and sheep.

 

Having lost most of our plans to the weather on this trip, we came up with a cunning plan to 'make lemonade', and utilise our fancy Jeep. We would beat the system by driving out in the rain - keeping nice and dry in our 4x4, and pulling over to shoot out the windows; capturing the drama of the dark skies and the rugged Icelandic landscapes. This is a large mound of ash and volcanic detritus, which the wind has sculpted into shape, and bright green moss has taken root where it can.

Mossy MoundMossy MoundHuge collections of volcanic ash are formed into hills by the wind, and once they settle this way, the iconic Icelandic moss takes root.

 

It's that time. My favourite photo from the trip...

A Slice of IcelandA Slice of IcelandThe edge of a volcanic mound,. on which moss has made an existence.

 

Well, shortly after this we got a puncture. Honestly, I've really tried to keep the moaning to a minimum, but we genuinely were thwarted at almost every attempt to salvage something from this trip. Once we'd put the spare tyre on, we were essentially 'on our last life', so we couldn't risk any more needless driving, and we had to put this plan to one side too. I'd try it again in future though. It was pretty successful. It just didn't go our way.

 

Reflecting On The Trip

Intrepid ExplorerIntrepid ExplorerWhat a man. You'd never even know I was posing. I do like the miserable expression on my face though, despite the epic surroundings.
Below lies the iconic Landmannalaugar valley.

Who's this intrepid fellow? Rugged, handsome, and totally not posing either.

If you know Landmannalaugar, you'll see that two thirds of the camp site is waterlogged. Fortunately we did OK on that front, but as such a popular place to visit, it was impossible to find a quiet corner to ourselves and we were surrounded by tour groups and wannabe-influencers. Fair play, they were only having a nice time, but it wasn't the quiet highland escape we'd planned. Still, the landscapes made it worthwhile.

It was a difficult trip logistically, having to constantly reassess the situation and change our plans on the fly, but then that was why we didn't book any accommodation before we went. We had planned to drive between camp sites and last-minute accommodations in order to keep our schedule flexible - and work around whatever weather we got. And in that respect, the plan was a real success. I think we used our time pretty well, and made the best of the weather we had. I'm gutted we never did manage to get to the destinations we'd planned to, but maybe that will work out some other time. As it was, I quite like these photos. I'm sure lots of people have taken picturess from the same places, but these feel like mine. Integrity is an important quality for my photography, so I wouldn't be happy if I didn't feel like I was photographing the landscape as I saw it, and representing the conditions and emotions I experienced. These all fulfil that criteria, and I think there are a few gems in there too.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) 2020 coronavirus covid glacier hrafntinnusker ice iceland iceland-2020 landmannalaugar landscape nature photography skogafoss travel https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/5/iceland-2020-fjallabak-nature-reserve Mon, 10 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT
Iceland 2020: The South Coast https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/4/iceland-2020-south-coast I've been enjoying the footage of the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, and it prompted me to sort out and share the photos from my trip there last summer. It was a trip full of problems, and we never did manage to get to the areas we'd planned/researched, but we still had over a week in Iceland when many people didn't get to travel at all. And I think I got some nice photos from it, even if they weren't what I had in mind.

I've split the trip into 2 blog posts. This one feature photos from the first half of our trip, which we spent along the popular south coast of Iceland. After we gave up on reaching our planned targets we drove to Landmannalaugar, and part two will feature landscape photos from there and the surrounding Fjallabak Nature Reserve.

 

VatnajökullVatnajökullLandscape photograph of the roack and weather systems surrounding an accessible glacier in Vatnajökull National Park.

I went back to Iceland with fellow photographer Elliot Hook, and we had some pretty grand plans. We rented a rugged 4x4 Jeep, and intended to drive into the highlands to camp, hike, and photograph the country's spectacular volcanic interior. In reality the trip became a test of our ability to adapt, and make the most of the trip whilst everything around us went wrong. I don't want to write too much in this post, as I'd like it to be more photo-focussed than trip-report. But since it seems like most blogs only tend to write up their successes, I thought it would at least be interesting to highlight the kind of problems and failures which actually occur pretty often with nature photography.

Let's put Covid to one side early. Sure, this trip had an on-again, off-again feeling, from booking it in January 2020 to actually making it there in August. Fortunately Iceland is a well run country, with Covid under control, so once we were in it felt like a much safer place than the UK.

Our real problem was the rain. It rained solidly for a week or so before we arrived, meaning that the mountain rivers - which we would be crossing in our 4x4 were now deep, fast-flowing, and very dangerous. Another thing Iceland does well is provide information about the status of it's roads and hiking routes, and we could see on our arrival day that the highlands wouldn't be accessible for at least another couple of days - until the rivers died down. So we figured we'd spend a couple of days on the south coast (an area I know reasonably well from previous trips), and then make it to the highlands once the rivers died down. We had one fine, dry day on our first day, and then the rain was back in full force. It became clear that not only was the rain ruining our days as it was, but it was also writing off our chances of getting into the mountain areas we had planned to visit. So with plans A & B out, we ended up going through plans C, D, & E, just to make something of our time in Iceland. I don't want to make this a hugely negative post, but I have to say that things went wrong on this trip every day, and it felt like we were constantly working around the various issues that cropped up; from days of solid rain, and leaking 'waterproofs', to noisy neighbours, lost gloves, and even a flat tyre. But at the end of the day, it was a trip away, and a much-needed change of scene. And I think our spirits remained remarkably high as we watched our plans slip away from us. After the initial disappointment of not achieving what I had in mind, 8 months on these photos aren't so bad. They're not the subjects or areas I was hoping to photograph, and their accessibility means that they've been hugely popular with other photographers and tourists over the last decade, but as a set of photos they're still a decent collection to come back with. And the highlands will still be there to conquer another time.

From here on in, I'll try to keep the text to a minimum, otherwise I'll just keep whinging about what else went wrong!

 

The Coast

I'd never seen such beautifully pink waves as this first morning. It was a lovely sunrise.

South Coast SunriseSouth Coast SunrisePink waves and black sand; Sunrise on the Icelandic south coast.

 

Later on the wind picked up, and the waves intensified.

South Coast SeaSouth Coast SeaThe rough seas of Southern Iceland, as waves come bounding to the shoreline.

 

Ice

I like playing with patterns in ice. This is a huge glacier, tumbling down a mountainside. The ridges and scores have a pleasing random-not-random quality to them.

Glacial Patterns #2Glacial Patterns #2The soft-serve galato-like surface of a glacier, in Iceand's Skaftafell National Park.

Glacial Patterns #1Glacial Patterns #1A birds-eye-view of a glacier, in Skaftafell National Park, Iceland.

 

This is a viewpoint I've visited before under very similar weather conditions. We managed to get slightly higher up the mountain this time, before the cloud came down, but I still found it difficult to get the best angle on this glacier.

Glacial GeographyGlacial GeographyA glacier lies in a valley of it's own making, as it eventually breaks up, and flows the short distance out to sea.
Skaftafell National Park, Iceland.

 

This is Fjallsjökull (another place I'd visited in 2015) but it was looking good in the mixture of cloud and sun.

Wall of IceWall of IceGlacier wall, at Fjallsárlón, on the South Coast of Iceland.

 

The good thing with ice and glaciers is that they look best under cloud and rain. That's when you get the rich blues. Fortunately we had plenty of that, so we spent a rainy morning with this one. These are my two favourite glacier abstracts of the trip.

Crumpled IceCrumpled IceA glacier tongue, at the end of a large ice flow, complete with crumpled and distorted shapes, and frozen waves.

Dark IceDark IceIce hundreds of years old, combine with volcanic ash which fell as the glacier was formed. It shifts and crumples to make waves, peaks, and cravasses.
In Southern Iceland.

The glaciers in Iceland pick up layers of volcanic ash from the eruptions which occurred during their centuries in the making. That gives them a characteristic depth of patten and colour weaving through them.

 

Skógafoss Waterfall

The chances are you've seen photos of Skógafoss before. And if you've been to Iceland before, then you've probably been to Skógafoss. Although we hadn't planned to stop there again this time around, we actually had the best conditions I could have hoped for. First of all, this waterfall is usually so crammed with visitors, it's almost impossible to capture a photo of it without people in the way. But with Covid keeping the tourist numbers down, we had the view almost to ourselves at times. We also got this fabulous low cloud, which combined with the mist from the falls to create something genuinely interesting.

Foggy FallsFoggy FallsSkogafoss waterfall, in Southern Iceland, on a foggy afternoon. I decided to make the most of the atmospheric conditions, and include the white sky, hugged by fog to reduce the contrast of this gloomy image.

 

The temptation to blur the waterfall for a calmer, simpler visual is huge, but I do wonder if freezing the action and enjoying the patterns is equally enjoyable.

Moss and FossMoss and FossThe mossy cliff-face beside the wall of water known as Skogafoss, on the Icelandic Soth Coast.

 

Back to black and white now, which again helps simplify the visual of this high-contrast scene.

Tumbling FallsTumbling FallsA dark representation of the thunderous Skogafoss, in Southern Iceland.

 

It's definitely a popular photo spot on Iceland's south coast, but I haven't seen many photos of it like this, amongst all this cloud, so I'm particularly pleased with this shot. There's dew all over the grass in the foreground too, which catches the light nicely.

Skogafoss MistSkogafoss MistThe mighty Skogafoss waterfall, in Southern Iceland. On a misty afternoon, the cliffs almost fade into the sky, and the grass is covered in a damp layer of dew.

 

Icelandic Horses

You can find horses almost anywhere in Iceland. This one has a real unicorn look going on...

Landmannalaugar UniconLandmannalaugar UniconNow and again I catch this photo and it briefly looks like a unicorn, trotting along the shingle in the Landmannalaugar region of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, in Southern Iceland.

 

Icelandic horses (don't call them ponies - they take offence!) are a hardy breed, with a unique running gate, and a lineage dating back to the time when the island was first colonised. They're an iconic part of Icelandic culture, and I've failed to get photos of them in the past.

Icelandic HorsesIcelandic HorsesThey're an iconic, hardy breed, that can be found in the Icelandic Highlands. Horse ProfileHorse ProfileIcelandic horse, in Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Iceland. Icelandic Horse ManeIcelandic Horse ManeLandmannalaugar, Iceland. Icelandic HorseIcelandic HorseLandmannalaugar, Iceland.

 

OK, so next time out we'll be in Landmannalaugar and the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. There'll be mountains, volcanoes, ice, moss, sheep. Bring your Iceland bingo cards and tick them off as we go :-)

In the meantime, for more Icelandic landscapes you can check out my posts from previous Iceland trips.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) 2020 coronavirus covid glacier horse ice iceland iceland-2020 landscape nature photography skogafoss travel waterfall https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/4/iceland-2020-south-coast Mon, 12 Apr 2021 07:00:00 GMT
Cow Photos https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/3/cow-photography I think anyone who follows this blog would be aware that I like to photograph cows, and since I have a new photo here, I thought it might be nice to share a themed set from my portfolio alongside the new one, with a little bit of an explanation about each, and the ideas behind them.

First of all here's my latest "Highland Cow On Black". I took this one in the autumn, while I was in the Outer Hebrides. We chanced upon a trio of free-roaming cattle as we explored a remote stretch of road in the west of Lewis, and I particularly liked the play of light on the amber fur.

Low-key portrait of a highland cow with horns and characteristic orange fur.Highland Cow - On BlackA glorious free-roaming highland cow, photographed on the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
I have a particular affinity for cow portraits, and especially highland cattle, with their calm temperament, and iconic shaggy appearance. They're a great subject for photography, and especially this low-key look, which allows light to settle only on the highlights, with all unnecessary detail fading to shadow.
Fine Art Nature Photography, UK.
I'm pretty thrilled with this one actually. I've already shared a blog post purely for photos from this trip, and I didn't include this one as I just wasn't very happy with it at the time. I couldn't get the contrast right in post-processing and I wasn't happy with the light drop-off or the colours either, so I put it to one side, not expecting to go back to it. But you know what lockdown is like - it forces you to look back through your library and find something to tinker with. And second time around I think I've got exactly what I had in mind when I clicked the shutter. Over the last few years, I've been slowly going less and less contrasty with my photos - preferring a more subtle aesthetic. Well this is the absolute antithesis of that. I really wanted that iconic shaggy hair to glow in the warm light, and for those highlights to really leap out. There's still a degree of subtlety about it; with much of the detail lost to the shadow of the low-key light, but overall it's a pretty punchy image, and I think it'll make a great canvas print, in particular. You can find it in my main gallery here.

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So that's the new one, but what is it about our bovine friends that makes me want to point a camera at them?

Just look at the character you get from these guys. They convey so much personality. Usually with animal portraits it's all about eye contact, but I love the challenge of working with an animal where that's not even possible - yet they still convey charisma even without it. This highland cow was also in the Hebrides, looking majestic against the steely grey sky. You've got to wonder how they see the world, through that curtain of hair.

Highland Cattle - Hebridean B&WHighland Cattle - Hebridean B&WWhat a handsome cow. Beautifully symmetrical horns, and a proud stance. She engages with the viewer for this intimate and characterful portrait.
Fine art nature photography, in high-key black and white. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

I think this was my first proper cow portrait. From back in 2014. It was the familiarity of the subject that drew me to it. As a nature photographer it's tempting to chase rare or spectacular species around the world, but I felt like it was nice to showcase something more relatable. Sometimes the more familiar we are with something, the less we really pay attention. And cows seemed like an overlooked subject. We all learn about them from toddler age, but as adults they're just something that's there in the background. I think it's nice to reignite that spark.

A cow stands staring at the viewer, in a dark studio-lit portrait.Low Key CattleLow-key studio-style portrait of a horned cow.

These cows make for fascinating portrait subjects, because of the way they will stand and stare. They're inquisitive animals, and that long stare is inviting and engaging.

Taken in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK.

 

Cows have lived alongside us since domestication around 8,000-10,500 years ago. That's twice as long ago as the invention of the wheel, and a time of woolly mammoths, when Britain was still connected to Europe by land. With a relationship that ancient, they're deeply embedded in our culture, and I think images of them really resonate with us. Well they do for me anyway.

This is an English Longhorn. She doesn't yet have the characteristic curved horns, but it's a really distinctive breed with an appealing texture from the combination of dark and light hair.

Close-up photo of a cow, from Cambridgeshire farmlandCOWCow portrait, photographed in traditional high-key portrait style.
I really like cows. I think they're very photogenic. I like the eye-contact here, and the graphic quality of the horn, which helps direct the the viewer to and from the eye.

 

Another thing I like about cows is that they're not particularly cool; they're the antithesis of a passing fad. You've got your pangolins, your quokkas, your slow loris', and they're all great fun, but there's something about these cumbersome ruminants that stands the test of time. To me, this old girl seems to have a slightly quizzical posture. Her head is at a very slight angle, like she's questioning something.

Highland Cattle PortraitHighland Cattle PortraitThis large-horned highland cattle was very obliging, and seemed keen to photographed for this portrait. This high-key exposure looks amazing in print, when accompanied by a white frame.
Fine art nature photography, in high-key portrait style. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

I've always enjoyed a style of paintings which rose to popularity in the 1800s, of these strangely boxy-looking cows. They're hard to explain, but you'll know what I mean if you've seen them. If not, try here or here. They're just a curious combination of realism and curiosity, presumably made to accentuate preferable characteristics for breeding. But they captured my imagination decades ago, and I think they've influenced my desire to photograph cows too. Especially for any livestock portraits which are side-on, like the one below. At some point I'd like to capture a full body profile, with a rustic background, like those old paintings.

The Black BullThe Black BullTaken in my home town of Flitwick, in Bedfordshire, this bull had been left to graze in a local woodland, where I like to walk.
This is an aesthetic I use a lot; low-key lighting, and it's also a subject and style influenced by the boxy-looking cow paintings of the late 1800s, which I've always enjoyed.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This highland cattle bull had an outrageous set of horns on him, and this front-on composition seemed to show them at their best. Here I liked the shape, as he gets wider as he gets higher. I also like the transition of light 'fringe' hair to the darker hair on his face.

Highland Cattle Bull - On WhiteHighland Cattle Bull - On WhiteThis bull had the most incredible set of horns. The farmer referred to him as "The Mammoth".
I used another high-key exposure again here, making the most of the sun and the bright sky.
High-key nature photography, Wiltshire, UK.

 

This was another very early addition to my On Black project, and it's been popular over the years, with prints shipped as far away as Australia. The beauty of this one is the strong side-lighting, which enables the shadows to easily fade to black. It also has a colour version here.

Lowlight Highland Cattle - B&WLowlight Highland Cattle - B&WHighland cattle, photographed in a strong low sunset light.
Processed in black and white, and presented in low-key portrait style.

 

This one is a classic highland cow behaviour; licking the nostril after having a drink. Most of my photos are intentionally fairly static, even stoic poses, but it was nice to capture this more dynamic moment, which celebrates another aspect of the character of this breed.

Highland Cattle LickHighland Cattle LickHighland cow going for a characteristic nose-lick.
Fine art nature photography. Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

This is the second bull in this collection, and I hope it conveys the intimidating size and power of this animal. He was absolutely enormous - like I imagine a large male bison to be, and he towered over me as I crouched to take this photo through the rails of a steel gate. This photo also acknowledges the reality of the existence for cattle in the UK today. The ring through the nose is an explicit indication of human management of livestock, as is the maximisation of muscle and form in the body. For many of us, our appreciation for cows belies the uncomfortable truth that in the majority of cases cattle exist today purely as a commodity to provide us with foods of one kind or another. It's a dichotomy which society currently continues to live with.

Large bull photographed in dark, low-key lightThe BullThis was the biggest bull I've ever seen. I swear it was the size of a bison! I took this photo from behind a gate, and was glad to have something between us. Photographed in low-key portrait style, on black.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Derbyshire, UK.

The last photo is another favourite of mine, and features the widest set of horns I've ever photographed. So much so that I chose to include only half of the cow itself, in order to afford the space to take in the full length of the horn. I like the texture on the underside of the horn here, and how the long waterfall-style hair hangs down over the ears, mirroring the fringe covering the face beside it.

Half a Highland CattleHalf a Highland CattleThis highland cattle cow was a joy to work with. I don't think I've ever seen such wide horns, and they're a very photogenic element.
I chose a classic half-on composition here, to make the most of that horn as a feature.
High-key nature photography, Wiltshire, UK.

 

So there we go. I've been meaning to share a collection of cow photos together for a while, as they're one of my favourite subjects, and they always seem to resonate well with others too. So it was nice to have the excuse of a new one to add to the collection. And if this is your bag, you can browse my full gallery of livestock photos here, featuring portraits of cows, sheep, and chickens.

 

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) animal art bovine bull cattle cow high-key highland cattle highland cow horned horns livestock low-key nature photography portrait UK https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/3/cow-photography Mon, 15 Mar 2021 08:00:00 GMT
Autumn Nature https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/2/autumn-nature I feel like we're probably in the point of the year when nature appears at its least colourful, so it might be a nice time to indulge in the visuals from another season. Back in the autumn I shared some photos from an autumn leaf project I was working on at the time, but I didn't share any wider autumn views. I figured I'd wait until the new year, when we most want that injection of colour; when it's not on our doorstep, or out our windows, or on our daily walks.

 

Woodland Scenes

We had a good autumn, colour-wise. My first successful photo comes from a silver birch plantation, which creates these densely-packed walls of foliage. On this occasion the ferns were also a great combination of colours, which complements the trees nicely.

Birch Forest in AutumnBirch Forest in AutumnThis dense birch woodland is a plantation, in Cambridgeshire, and makes for a wonderful location for walking or landscape photography.
Fine art nature photography, UK.

 

This is a photo I kept thinking I should remove from this batch, as it doesn't really have the classic ingredients of a popular image. But when did that ever stop me before? Every time I hovered over the relegate button I wasn't able to do it, because I really like it. And I don't even know why. I just do. It's understated, but it really conveys the feeling of autumn. There shouldn't be a bright dividing line down the middle of a photo. One side shouldn't be much more colourful than the other. There are no leading lines, no clever tricks of composition, except breaking the rules. I guess sometimes that just works. Well it does to me anyway. It has that tapestry quality I like in a woodland image. I quite like to see a borderline-abstract mix of colour and texture; organised chaos. That's the woodland environment.

Woodland TexturesWoodland TexturesDetails and textures of an English woodland in autumn.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This is from a local woodland I started exploring during the spring (AKA #Lockdown1). With a low sun, the light pours in from one side, softly lighting the tree trunks and the uneven leaf-lined walking trails.

Bedfordshire WoodlandBedfordshire WoodlandA wide-aspect panorama image of a local woodland not far from my home. It looked beautiful in autumn, so I made a couple of visits for photos.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This group of silver birches have had to be fenced in, after a spate of attacks on ramblers.

Spinning GoldSpinning GoldThe most golden of gold leaves, on these silver birches. A tapestry of autumn color.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

OK, really not sure about this one. I nearly didn't include it here. It's just too showy. A bit Instagrammy. I've tried to tone it down, but it always looks wrong. There's just a lot to deal with, technically, shooting into the sun and in a scene that's so shifted colour-wise to the warm spectrum. Well, I guess it's nice to have a range of aesthetics in a collection sometimes, so it made it in.

Autumn SunAutumn SunLight pours in through the canopy, to cast a golden glow on the seasonal foliage.
Fine art nature photography, Buckinghamshire, UK.

 

Keeping the sun out of shot makes for a less dramatic result, but that's generally what I want in a woodland scene. I'd rather think of trees as geography teachers than rock stars. Clad in browns and oranges; sedate, ponderous, steady.

Autumn PanoramaAutumn PanoramaPanorama of a beech woodland, in autumn colour.
Fine art nature photography, Buckinghamshire, UK.

 

Throwing another experiment in there now. I quite like it.

Autumn AbstractAutumn AbstractReflecting on an autumn beech tree.
Fine art nature photography, Buckinghamshire, UK.

If you're interested in the science behind autumn leaves, take a look at this article for BBC Springwatch, which examines the biology and chemistry involved.

 

Foggy Mornings

In November we had a number of very foggy mornings. Sometimes lasting all day. Mist and fog are the perfect partner for woodland photography, and the combination has pretty much spawned a sub-genre of nature photography in recent years. The reason fog is so effective in these types of images is that it softens the background textures, and creates depth. It's also hugely atmospheric. Fog dampens sound, and is only possible when there's no wind. And I think we innately detect that quiet tranquillity in the images we see too; matching what we see before us with our past experiences of the environment.

Quiet Autumn WoodlandQuiet Autumn WoodlandA still, misty morning, in my favourite local woodland.
The sun was up at this point, but unable to loft the fog, it painted it in warm light.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Bedfordshire isn't amazing for scenery but there are a few pockets of appealing woodland, and I'm lucky to have a few options within walking/cycling distance.

Autumn Woodland PortraitAutumn Woodland PortraitAutumnal scene from a small local woodland near home.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I think this one's a nice welcoming scene. Maybe because I know it's taken from one end of a woodland walkway, but I find the distribution of the trees to be very welcoming. I want to wander through.

A Way ThroughA Way ThroughPathway through a woodland on a misty autumn morning.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

There's a mixture of tree-types in this local woodland. That's what provides the combination of colours and textures.

Bedfordshire Autumn WoodlandBedfordshire Autumn WoodlandAutumn in a local woodland, close to home.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This was an appealing view; as the arching branch of this foreground tree wraps around to frame the monochromatic birch trees behind. I don't think it has quite the delicacy I was trying to capture at the time, but it's an interesting visual all the same.

Autumnal ArchwayAutumnal ArchwayThis arching branch nicely framed the silver birch trees behind.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

OK, well I started off talking about the colours of autumn, and I concede that this one is hardly colourful. But believe it or not this is a colour image. I was stumbling around in a fir tree plantation on an exceptionally foggy morning when I found this particular set of pines which all had this bright white, silvery bark. The perfect compliment for the dense foggy atmosphere. I don't know what's left them like this; fungus, lichen, or something else, but I like the result.

Silver PinesSilver PinesI wandered around this fir tree plantation in the fog, and stumbled upon this set of pines which all had silver bark on one side. I liked it, so I took this high-key image to really emphasise the silvery tone of them.
Fine art nature photography, Buckinghamshire, UK.

 

Deer

I usually dedicate an entire post to autumn deer photography, but things didn't work out that well this time around. The weather was a bit odd, and the deer never stood in the right place at the right time. I can't blame them for that - they don't realise they're supposed to stand majestically on a misty hillside at sunrise. But I've got three autumnal deer photos to share at the end of this post.

This one's a white fallow deer, who did kindly stop to pose in a shaft of sunrise light. But I prefer this black and white version of it, which takes full advantage of the white deer against the shaded background, to create a nice graphic result without the complication of colour.

The White HartThe White HartA white fallow deer, caught in the morning sunlight.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

A similar situation here, but in this case, the warm light really compliments the reddish hue of this sika deer. This is pretty much my favourite light to photograph wildlife, but it only lasts a few minutes a day - and that's if it's not cloudy. So it's not wonder I only manage a couple a year.

Side-Lit Sika DeerSide-Lit Sika DeerSika deer can make for a nice alternative to red deer at times. They're slightly smaller, but this year they seemed bolder, and often approached more closely than the red deer.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Last one. A straight up portrait of a gnarly red deer. The deer do have differing patience with people. Some will skittishly trot away as you appear on the horizon, and others like this stag will stare you down and maintain their dominance. It's a welcome opportunity to capture a close-up, which can be very hard to come by.

Red Deer Close-UpRed Deer Close-UpThis gnarly old red deer stag stood his ground as I walked passed, so I had to stop and try to take the opportunity for a portrait.
There's a lot of detail in the antlers and forehead here, which I like, and even some bristly whiskers visible on the nose.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Well all this talk of autumn has me in nostalgic mood. It's a great time to be out and pushing my boots through the leaves. But as I write this, spring is just around the corner, and as the days get longer, so nature will burst back into action again. When you're out for a walk over the coming weeks, take a close look at the tree branches. They'll be starting to bud; packing their twigs with all the ingredients to kick-start the next season, and a whole new swatch of colours.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) autumn deer landscape photography trees UK woodland https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/2/autumn-nature Mon, 15 Feb 2021 08:00:00 GMT
A Discussion of Photography Competitions https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/1/photography-competitions An email drops into my inbox, from a company that used to run a photography competition, to tell me about the exciting new competition they're now launching! To be honest, my heart sinks. It just feels cynical at this point. The addition of each new competition slowly degrades the prestige of those already in existence, in a race to the bottom. And lets face it, half the photographers on social media now feature the words "award winning" in their bio. So what are all these competitions for, and who should be entering them?

 

This post is intended more for other photographers than most of my posts, so if you're just here for the photos, you might want to skip this one and tune in next month when I'll have some new photos to share.

 

Still interested? OK, well I realise I'm opinionated, but you don't need to agree with anything I say here. The key point is that I think a wider conversation about photography competitions would be a good thing. And for people who enter these comps, to do so with their eyes open.

 

Full Disclosure

Let's start with a brief summary of where I sit in the photography competition hall of fame - just so we're all on the same page when it comes to the inevitable hypocrisy later on. I also want to make it clear that I'm not against photo competitions in principle. I've entered a few comps over the years, and likely will continue to, on and off, in the future. The most prestigious competition I've been 'awarded' in was Landscape Photographer of the Year, where I had an image commended in 2015. I went to the posh awards night, and saw my photo in the book. I've also had photos in the awards book for Bird Photographer of the Year, and been shortlisted in the British Photography Awards, British Wildlife Photography Awards, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I've also won a couple of competitions from UK wildlife centres; The British Wildlife Centre and Marwell Wildlife Photographer of the Year. None of this is a brag, and I'm sure no one's impressed, so let's move on...

 

Why Enter a Photography Competition?

We know that the idea of judging something as subjective as art or imagery is somewhat futile. Do people really believe that winning a competition means that their photo was the best? I doubt that. So what are our motives? In no particular order, I've tried to summarise the main reasons that we as photographers and artists, enter competitions...

1. Perceived Credibility*

For many, the main benefit of a competition win is the boost to their status via approval from a respected authority, such as a prestigious competition. The fact of the matter is that competition success can look good on a website or CV, and it can imply a certain standing or reputation to newcomers, so it has it's place. If I had a marketing budget, that's where I'd source my entry fees from.
There's also the coveted crown of XYZ 'Photographer of the Year'. I doubt many nature photographers rank this very highly, but I'm sure it must be important to some.
* Note: Actual credibility remains unaffected.

2. Peer Recognition

A pat on the back from your fellows in the industry. There's no doubt that a good result can put a spring in your step, and encourage you to believe you're on the right path. And that has value to it. I think we all want a bit of appreciation from people we respect.

3. To Find Our Level

Where do I sit compared to other photographers?
Another spin-off of this is To Reach A Certain Level.

4. The Spotlight

We all want a little more attention on our work from the wider world. As an introvert myself, I struggle to put eyeballs on my photos, so competitions can offer an opportunity for exposure.

5. Prizes

High-profile competitions offer cash prizes to the value of thousands of pounds, and even the smaller ones sometimes offer some fantastic prizes. I never would have been able to experience the week photographing bears in Finland without my Marwell success.

 

Did I miss anything? Have a quick think about what your motives are for entering competitions, and how you rank those as priorities. Then with these in mind, we'll be better able to consider the points raised below.

 

Who Are Competitions For?

I think there's a greater need for photographers to consider why competitions exist. And the answer is generally not for their benefit. We can benefit from them, but that's more of a side-effect. It's also a statistical anomaly, considering the number of entrants who enter and get nothing back.

In it's simplest form, a competition is like any other transaction:
One party offering something to others, in exchange for something back.

When Amazon sells stuff to people for money, they will emphasise the value that customers get from the exchange, but their motive is clearly profit. To them, the fact that people get stuff is merely a by-product. We're all familiar with this, but when it comes to competitions people seem to willingly turn a blind eye, choosing to believe there's something more to it.

Typically competitions offer the five benefits listed above, in exchange for a profit. Sometimes the competitions are 'not-for-profit'. In these cases, the motive is generally publicity (for the company or cause) or occasionally to raise money for charity. The one thing all competition models have in common is that the photographers are essentially there just as a mechanism for the company to achieve it's aims. Again, it's not immoral or anything, but photographers should be aware of this.

And with so many available now, competitions are transitioning into essentially an open marketplace. There are competitions of all shapes and sizes, for every type of photographer to find the one that suits them. But the one thing competitions have over a standard Amazon transaction? They're able to offer extremely tempting prizes for relatively little investment. And they do that with the oldest trick in the book. By dangling big prizes which are only given to very few participants. It's gambling.

 

Poker Theory

Most people would say that photography competitions aren't gambling, because the entries are judged, and considered, rather than flipping a coin to decide. I would argue there's a substantial amount of luck involved. Whatever the pros and cons of judging visual arts, success ultimately comes down to what resonates with the judges, what appeals to them aesthetically, what feels fresh, along with many other factors - any of which might vary from one day to the next. It's all very subjective and importantly; impossible to predict. People enter the same photos into different competitions, with differing results. There are even examples of people who've entered the same photo into the same competition in different years, and achieved a result second time around.

I'm fascinated by game theory, and I particularly like the game of poker. I love the blend of skill and luck, which combine in perfect balance. But poker can become 'more random' or 'less random', depending on who's playing. One poker pro playing with me and my mates is going to clean up almost every time. That's not luck, that's someone with such a level of skill compared to their opposition, that they overcome the element of chance. But when professional poker players meet, their edge is diminished, and it becomes more and more random who comes out on top. So the more diverse the skill level of the entrants, the less random the results of the poker tournament. And the more similarly-skilled the entrants, the more random the results. I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.

Once the judges of a photography competition have weeded out the weaker entries, what they're left with is a lot of very good photos. At that point it really could be any of those that the judges take a particular shine to. This is not to say it's down to luck in the conventional sense. A judge will hopefully know why they choose one photo over another. But from the outside, it's a decision that's unpredictable and inconsistent, and liable to vary from judge to judge, and even mood by mood.

I think it's impossible to deny that luck plays a significant role in photography competitions, certainly in the latter stages when all the remaining entries are of a high standard. But it's something to which people seem willing to turn a blind eye. After all, it diminishes the achievement of winning, and discourages the idea that success is in your own hands. Unfortunately like so many things in life, denial isn't a replacement for disproof, and the reality is what it is, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. I think it's healthier to acknowledge it.

 

Judging Photography Competitions

I certainly don't envy the competition judges. It's an impossible task. Organisers rarely want to address the elephant in the room; To what extent can you judge art anyway? And to be honest, I don't really want to get into that here either, as it's a whole topic on its own. But I certainly recognise the problem, and I accept that it comes down to a whole combination of factors, many of which can't easily be expressed or quantified.

Lets start by agreeing that all photography competitions should be judged anonymously; meaning that there's no way for the judge to know who took any given photo. Of course there will be occasions where a judge recognises a photo they've seen before, or sometimes the distinctive style of a photographer they know. I think this is fairly unavoidable, and at that point you're reliant on the professionalism of the judge. As far as I know, the major competitions are strict about anonymity, and that's a good thing. I think any competition which isn't judged anonymously has a massive problem with credibility, and leaves itself open to accusations of corruption; where judges vote for friends or for photographers whose profile will help the competition.

The first stage of judging is typically 'shortlisting', or filtering out the weaker entries. This is generally performed by a wider team than will judge the final selection of images. And that comes down to the volume of entries, the time required, and the lower 'expertise' involved. However this stage is fraught with pitfalls, and plenty of photographers have experience of photos they love not getting through, in favour of those which they considered 'also-rans'. To some extent this comes down to our emotional ties to our favourite photos, which sometimes don't translate to a stranger, with no context. But the way in which this shortlisting is executed (which will vary from competition to competition) can sometimes seem to produce baffling results to an outsider. It all adds to the feeling that it's quite a random process. Friend and fellow nature photographer Elliot Hook wrote a good blog post about competitions a few years a go, and it's one I've re-read several times since as it communicates well the frustrations and shortcomings of this stage of the judging, and the practicalities of judging so many photos in a limited amount of time. Judges opinion of a particular photo will inevitably be skewed by the quality and subject matter of the photos around it at this stage, as well as the progress of any quotas the judge needs to hit in terms of entries to filter out/in. I'm sure I've also heard a judge of a major photography competition refer to reviewing multiple photos on-screen at the same time in the shortlisting stage, such is the volume of entries to get through. At this stage it just has to be accepted that some good photos (potential-winners, even) will get overlooked, due to the quantity of images to assess and the flaws in the process. That doesn't really matter to the competition, as they'll still get their winner either way, and the competition itself will succeed. But to the entrants involved it can be pretty demoralising.

One way to outsource the judging is a public vote, where people outside of the photography in-crowd are invited to pick a winner. Despite my sometimes snobbishness, I think public votes have their place. Personally I do want my photos to appeal to a range of people, so I have nothing against the principle. But I think public votes are best used in addition to more 'qualified judging', as is the case in WPOTY and BPA, rather than as a replacement for judges. I think without any judges, a competition lacks that peer recognition/approval factor, which is part of the attraction for many photographers. One thing I'm not keen on is when I feel like the public vote is really just an attempt to get more exposure for the competition, in order to attract more entries next time around. Last year I was shortlisted in the BPA, and was encouraged to share this with friends and family for the public vote. I did share it, and I just felt cheap; like I'd been manipulated into publicising their competition. I think in future I'd just keep quiet and let the chips fall where they may. Then there's the obvious flaw in these votes - Some of the photographers shortlisted have a social media following in the tens of thousands. It can easily become a case of who can shout the loudest, and that's a real issue for the credibility of the competition.

Lastly, let's consider the choice of overall winner. Of course it's not the best photo entered. There is no such thing. It's the most popular photo amongst a particular set of people on a particular day. We take the credit as winners when we have the opportunity, as we should do, but lets not get carried away. The construct of the 'clear winner' is purely a narrative to support the legitimacy and prestige of the competition. Try taking the top 10 images of a competition and pick a winner amongst friends. You're unlikely to get a clear winner, let alone the same one as the judges. And for most of the big competitions, the same would go for the top 100. There can't be much difference between them at that point; it must be a fairly arbitrary choice.
One trait of 'overall winner' images comes up more regularly than you'd think, and it kind of bugs me. Competitions will often seem to intentionally pick winning shots that are controversial in some way, in a pretty transparent attempt to maximise publicity for the competition. I think that ultimately comes at the expense of quality, and erodes the integrity of the competition. The issue is it's always just the one winner that fits this type. None of the other category winners or runners-up are in this vein. If they wanted controversial images, then all the runners-up would be too. It's like they primarily want to reward great photos, and then choose one very different image that will get people's attention and split opinion. One high profile example of that was when Wildlife Photographer of the Year, generally considered the most respected competition around, chose an awkward rendition of blue elephants as winner in 2013, but there are plenty more examples around too.

More than anything, competitions need a more transparent judging process. How many rounds of judging are there? Who is performing each round, and how are they conducted? What's the criteria on which the images are judged? I think if I was putting together a judging panel, I'd be looking to graphic designers and conventional artists as much as photographers, as I think they'd bring a fresh approach, and would help encourage diversity of thinking amongst the photography community.

 

Do Competitions Fulfil Our Goals?

Based on the list of motivations for entering above, are competitions giving us what we want?

1. Perceived Credibility

I think the winners of the major competitions receive a boost to their reputation. It's essentially one authority vouching for an individual (or a handful of individuals, in the case of category winners). And the more prestige the competition holds, the more valuable its endorsement. The caveat is that the more competitions that spring up, the less prestigious they and those around them become. We also have to consider the number of entries a competition receives, and the chance of our entry actually achieving a premium result.

2. Peer Recognition

I've definitely felt encouragement from competition results in the past, and the idea that others in the same field are enjoying what you do is definitely a confidence-booster. But similarly, if you're not getting results (and I have more experience of this than of success) it can easily feel like rejection. Trying to appeal to a certain crowd, and getting nothing back is a difficult mentality to live with over time. If you think you're in this situation, it's worth taking stock and re-evaluating the importance you place on this factor. Are you putting too much importance on the approval of others?

3. To Find our Level

This is a slippery slope. To me, this is a more concerning version of number 2, and it suggests we're placing too much credence in the somewhat arbitrary results of competitions. Looking to external factors such as competitions for acceptance or validation is a shortcut to anxiety. The feedback is either too brief or non-existent, so it's hard (and problematic) to read much into any result (or lack there-of). It's then easy to get dragged into the mentality of 'shooting for the comps'. Down that road you're no longer following your own intuition, your own preferences, and it's easy to lose sight of why you took up photography in the first place.

4. The Spotlight

I think this one is generally oversold as a benefit. I think that you really have to achieve a very significant result in a very prominent competition in order to achieve any worthwhile attention. Think about it; when was the last time you looked through the results of a competition and then went and looked at the website or social media accounts of some of the winners. It happens, sure, and I've done it myself occasionally. But really, it's pretty rare. And for people outside of photography - who might see the results in the news or the paper - what is their reaction? "Oh, nice" at best, I would imagine. Just don't expect to start getting recognised in the street any time soon :-)
 

5. Prizes

Sure, buy a ticket, but be aware that it's essentially a high-class raffle with variable odds.

 

How to Choose a Competition to Enter

I think the competitions to enter are the ones which have either:

- A good prize which you think is achievable.

- The credibility and integrity to deliver an endorsement you value.

- The authority to boost your reputation.

It's up to us to asses the credibility and reputation of each competition, and I'm just suggesting that maybe we give it a little more thought. It's not that hard to get a handle on how reputable a competition is, and how legitimate a result would feel to us or appear to others. 

Amongst nature photographers, I think WPOTY is universally considered the top honour. I'd rate the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year close behind that as it carries its own weight of credibility, and I think GDT favour a particularly artful aesthetic, which I like. And I can't be alone in that, as the two often share the same entries amongst their winners. It's fair to say that the standard of those competitions can seem prohibitively high for many hobbyist photographers, but there are plenty more credible options that can feel more achievable. One thing to consider though, when assessing prospective competitions, is what kind of level you should be targeting. This is something that only you can decide for yourself, however I personally think it's better to enter a competition in which you'd be thrilled to achieve a result, rather than pitching yourself too low and collecting a series of so-so results that don't really mean much to you.

If you're not sure about a competition, take a look at the judges. Are they people whose opinion you respect, or whose affirmation is valuable to you? When Bird POTY launched, it had no reputation or standing, but I entered on the basis that Chris Packham (someone I respect enormously) was a judge. That has meaning to me, so a result was of some value.

This post has pretty much entirely been with 'large' competitions in mind. But there are plenty of minor competitions around too. Enough to enter something every day if you want to. There are even websites such as PhotoCrowd which exist purely for people who want to play competitions regularly. They seem a bit 'gambley' to me, but maybe there's no harm in it for most people. Some of the themed ones might encourage people try new genres and subjects they haven't tried before. Then you have things like 'the weeklies' on social media, which seem popular, and appear to sustain a community of regulars. But even those can create a feeling of isolation to those who feel overlooked by their lack of results. Personally I find the smaller comps a bit pointless. They carry no clout at all, and can encourage a competitive streak which I definitely don't want in my photography. But to each his own.

The main take-home message of this post is that competitions don't generally exist for the benefit of photographers. So before you enter, just make sure you're likely to get something out of the experience, and you won't put too much stock in things if you don't. Here are some other aspects to consider...

 

Entry Fee

Most of the well-renowned photography competitions require an entry fee. Managing the process and judging (with qualified, respected judges) costs time and money, and personally I'm happy to pay for this. The fee also generates the profits for the competition, if it makes a profit. A credible competition must be hard work to run, so it's only fair that whoever operates it is appropriately remunerated, like any other transaction. Most of the major high-profile competitions only cost around £1 - £2 per photo, when you pay for a batch of entries.

Some comps are free to enter, with costs absorbed by a company that is using the competition for press/publicity. That's equally valid, but don't think that's any more credible than competitions set up for profit. It still exists principally for the benefit of the host. The Sony World Photography Awards is an example of this model, and is able to claim it's the world's most popular competition due to the number of entries it receives. Last year they had 345,000 entries, but it's safe to assume its popularity is largely due to its free entry.

At the other end of the scale you have International Landscape Photographer of the Year, which costs $25 per photo, but that higher barrier meant only 3800 entries last year, and 15% of all entries were 'winners'. Enter a handful of photos there and you're close to buying yourself a result.

 

Books

If someone said they were going to take a whole bunch of people's photos, put them into a book, and sell that book back to the photographers, as well as the general public, you'd say they were taking the p***. Why is it tolerated in photography competitions? It's a surprisingly common practice amongst the high-profile competitions. They compile a book from the 'winning' images (most of which win nothing except the privilege of seeing their photo used in a book), and make a tidy profit in the process. In fact it's worse than that as the photographers already paid just to have their photos considered. I don't mind the book sales helping to subsidise the running costs of the competition, but they could at least send the 'winners' a copy of the book so it feels like they have won something. The book should be a celebration and a reward, not an opportunity for up-selling. Amongst photographers generally, the common feeling seems to be that these books are beautiful artefacts, and it's a proud achievement to be included. To me it just feels like a cynical attempt to bleed more money out of people by telling them it means they're special or fortunate to feature. Perhaps the reality is somewhere in the middle, but I think it's something we should be talking about.

 

Feedback

This is hard for competitions to achieve, as it costs time and money. But in effect, most of the entrants to a competition will win nothing, so some feedback is the one thing that they could offer to every entrant. Some competitions have experimented with crude forms of feedback, but we need  more and better. It's a source of anguish to many photographers that they don't even know why their photo was/wasn't shortlisted.

 

Exposure

Look for a competition that will provide genuine exposure for your featured images. I'm not just talking about a press release and a feature in a paper. I mean  making a sincere effort to get photos out there in front of the right people in the long term. Photographers really want their work to be seen, and competitions have the platform to achieve that for them - if they recognise it as a driver for entries. LPOTY has started improving on this front, with featured blog posts, email newsletters, and social media posts showcasing one photo or photographer, to share a bit of their prominence.

 

Terms & Conditions Apply

Always check the T's & C's. All the most reputable, high-profile competitions state that they will only use your photo in relation to publicity of the competition (plus any book, exhibition, etc, planned for the end of the competition). Some companies run competitions which are "free to enter", but in doing so you're giving them the rights to use your image(s) for whatever they like. This is called a 'Rights-Grab', and it occurs when an organisation uses a photography competition as a way of generating an image library for free (well, the cost of a small prize). And they'll use them for anything from marketing, to products, and even sub-licensing. I wouldn't go as far as saying never enter a competition like this, as there can be time and place for it - sometimes the organisation is a charity or 'good cause' that you're happy to support. But you should always check before entering, and always be sure you're happy to give away the photos you enter to that particular organisation. The saddest part of this is that the better photographers will swerve these competitions, so they're generally left with a pretty poor set of entries. This leaves the competition looking a bit sad, and the business is left with a pretty shoddy set of photos for their marketing, when they could have just paid for a good set from a competent photographer. It doesn't really work for anyone.

 

And The Winner Is

OK, this is a bit out there, but do we need an overall winner? We know it's kind of an arbitrary choice, so why maintain the conceit? I think the competition would argue that it needs an overall winner to hang its hat on. It also allows them to attract more entries by offering a massive prize (I'm sure one prize of £10,000 attracts more entrants than 10 prizes of £1000 each). Personally I'm warming to the idea of a competition that is a proper celebration of fantastic imagery, and doesn't feel the need to single out one image to rule them all. Maybe one of these top comps could drop the big title, and instead reward a pool of images that make it to a certain level. 10 winners, 25 winners, whatever. If the competition has quality, authenticity, and credibility, it doesn't need the crutch of the traditional prize structure.

Well, to be fair, you deserve a prize if you've read this whole post. I hope I haven't been too outspoken and/or cynical. The point certainly wasn't to push my opinions on to you, or to scoff at the idea of competition in the arts, so I hope it hasn't come across that way. What led me to write this was the huge proliferation of competitions vying for attention, and the observation of so many photographers seemingly caught up with the whole competition mentality, which I don't think is very helpful. The rewards on offer, from titles and prizes to attention and dopamine, can be quite a potent lure, and I'm sure there will be photographers experiencing symptoms of addiction; spinning the wheel of more and more competitions in the hope of getting lucky. I think we all need to be a little more mindful about what we put our creative attention in to, and why. It's easy to lose perspective on what competitions actually are, and I think a more open discussion is probably helpful in that. Whatever you think, maybe raise it with a fellow photographer, and just have the conversation.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art Bird POTY competitions comps enter GDT nature Photographer of the Year photography POTY weeklies win WPOTY https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2021/1/photography-competitions Mon, 25 Jan 2021 08:00:00 GMT
Wintry Arctic Norway https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/12/arctic-norway-lofoten A set of photos from early 2020, from Tromsø and the Lofoten Islands, in Northern Norway.

If I'm honest, I'm slightly sheepish about sharing photos from Lofoten, as I think it's a landscape already covered by 80% of landscape photographers, and 90% of Instagram users. But after our first visit to Norway's fjords in 2016, we wanted to get back and see some more of this spectacular and culture-rich country. In particular on this occasion, we were keen to see the mountains in their winter garb. So Lofoten became the front runner as a destination, with the opportunity to combine it with a Tromsø 'city break'. This was primarily a holiday, and I decided if I was going to take photos, I was keen not to repeat the classic shots you see everywhere. I didn't do much location research as I wanted to see as many of the places as possible with fresh eyes, and to pick out some scenes and subjects that appealed to me at the time, without being influenced by other people's photos of the same places.

I'm hoping this post will appeal to anyone who like images of the Arctic and it's varied landscapes, and to anyone else who's considering a trip to Loften, who might be looking for reassurance that it's still a worthwhile destination. I'm not going to go mad on location details, as you can find that elsewhere, and part of the point of this post is that there are spectacular and anonymous views everywhere you look. But I'll include some little bits of advice on logistics at the end, based on our experience.

 

Lofoten Scenes

Lofoten is a rugged set of Islands, sitting at 68° North, and jutting out into the Norwegian Sea. It's known for it's steep-sided mountains with angled peaks, that rise straight out of the sea or fjord edge, as shown here. Dotted around the Island chain are characteristic colourful houses and fishing huts ("Rorbu").

Fjord-Side ResidenceFjord-Side ResidenceA lone yellow house sits on the shore of a fjord, in Lofoten, Norway.

 

Landscape photography can be tough on a blue sky day, but it would take more than a little sunshine to wash out the colour of these wonderful little houses. These two photos were from a community consisting of around twenty permanent residents. My kind of town.
A Yellow HouseA Yellow HouseLike many places in Scandinavia, Lofoten features some beautiful brightly coloured buildings.

 

It must be a tough place to live though. This serene looking landscape hides the reality of the situation, with only the sculpted foreground snow offering a hint at just how strong the wind was as it ripped its way down the fjord and over this hill. I think the wind was about as strong and cold as anywhere I've ever been. I didn't need a tripod to shoot in this daylight, but I had to brace myself and lean into the wind to stay even remotely steady. Lofoten LightLofoten LightA bright and sunny day, looking down the fjord to Reine, in the Lofoten Islands.

 

 

Mountains

Those familiar with Lofoten might know this mountain. I wasn't familiar with it before we went, but I've recognised it in photos I've seen since. But I haven't looked it up, as it will forever be know to me as "Pointy Boy", which it was dubbed at the time. We could see this mountain from our accommodation, and I took this photo on a morning walk. I love the steel-grey sky, with the hint of warmth trying to burn through.

Pointy BoyPointy BoyThe charismatic mountain we came to call "Pointy Boy". This is a straight-up, unapologetic portrait. Nowhere to hide; just a mountain against the sky.

 

The same almighty mountain here, a few minutes later. Perhaps I should have picked just one of these, but I like long-focal-length mountain photos, and these are quite different in character and tone.

Lofoten SunLofoten SunThe sun starts to burn through the cloud shortly after sunrise. In Fredvang, Lofoten, Norway.

 

This is a fairy tale mountain which sits alongside Trollfjorden - an inlet with a rich history and dramatic surroundings. This has to be the kind of scene that inspired the geography of Disney's Frozen.

Rocky PeaksRocky PeaksRocky coastal cliffs of Trollfjorden, near Svolvær in Lofoten, Norway.

 

Another view from that area. I preferred both of these two in black and white, which really emphasises the contrast and ensures that the mountains are the main focus of the image, rather than the blue of the sky.
Lofoten Ice SculpturesLofoten Ice SculpturesMountain peaks under ice and snow.
Trollfjorden, Svolvær, Norway, 2020.

 

 

Abstracts

In truth, you don't need to go to somewhere as spectacular as the Lofoten Islands in order to take abstract photos. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take any while you're there. These are three wind-sculpted snow scenes that caught my eye.

Abstract Wind FormsAbstract Wind FormsFredvang, Lofoten Islands, Norway, 2020.
Arctic AbstractArctic AbstractThe wind rips over the frozen snow layer in near Kvalvika Beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Wind-Sculpted Snow LinesWind-Sculpted Snow LinesSnow shaped and formed by the strong winds rushing in from the North Sea.
Lofoten 2020.

 

 

Beaches & Coastlines

Lofoten is best known for it's coastal scenery, and this was a very popular beach near to where we were staying. There were photography groups here both times we visited, but I didn't realise how popular it was until I got home, as I've seen photos of it almost every day since!

Skagsanden BeachSkagsanden BeachVast and popular Skagsanden Beach, in Flakstad, Lofoten. In classic blue-hour, post-sunset light.

 

Ah here's Pointy Boy again. It took a few days for me to realise that the best time to shoot wider landscapes in Lofoten was either before sunrise or after sunset. When the sun is up on these cloudless days, the camera renders everything in a very harsh and contrasty light. Compared to during "blue hour", when the sky becomes darker than the snow-covered mountains, which remain lit in a very even reflected light. Up until this dawned on me, I wasted a lot of shots on daylight scenes which looked amazing to the eye, but which simply don't translate through the mechanics of a camera. This one was post-sunset.

Frozen LofotenFrozen LofotenA small inlet of this fjord has partially frozen over. We look down the inlet and out towards the handsome mountain at the end.

 

OK, I caved here, and took one of the prescribed photos that everyone takes. One of three classic compositions I swore I wouldn't replicate. But you know what, when you're there and you see this scene in front of you, it really cries out to be photographed. This is the small fishing community of Hamnøy, and there are versions of this photo everywhere, so I'd be surprised if anyone hasn't seen it before. It's taken from a bridge which can sometimes be packed with 50+ photographers, all taking this shot. Fortunately I had the spot more or less to myself, so I figured what the hey. Mine is neither one of the best or one of the worst, but it is mine, and I'm glad I recorded the scene as it was when I visited, despite the lack of originality.

The Hamnoy Bridge ShotThe Hamnoy Bridge ShotThe small fishing village of Hamnoy, in south-west Lofoten, Norway.

 

The biggest problem I had in Lofoten was the constant struggle to capture landscapes with a wide-angle lens, which is not really my intuitive style. I prefer the more natural proportions you get from a medium focal length, as well as longer telephoto scenes. But there's something about the geography of Lofoten that really lends itself to a wide angle, and I think therein lies the key to it's recent boom in popularity. Unlike a lot of grand landscapes and national parks around the world, Lofoten is on a relatively small scale, and wide angle lenses are great for capturing the sea, the cliffs, and the mountains all in one shot. It means that these scenes are perfect for a smartphone camera, which is also very wide-angle. Wide-angle landscape photography is also very popular on social media as it can create very dramatic images with dynamic compositions that pull the eye in, so people want to take those shots.

After a few days I realised I was wasting time trying to get good wide-angle photos. I needed to play to my strengths and also align more with my personal taste, to capture the landscape in the way that comes naturally to me, rather than trying to do what the scene seemed to dictate. Is that giving up? I don't know. My struggle with wide-angle landscape photography is a long one, and I didn't want to spend my holiday fighting with it yet again. And what do you know, I captured my favourite photo from Lofoten at the medium/long focal length of 70mm. Finally on our last day, we had some dramatic cloud, I'd cracked the focal length, and I took this shot of the rain coming in from the North.

Lofoten Coastal SceneLofoten Coastal SceneBands of rain showers move in from the horizon.
Haukland Beach, Lofoten, Norway.

 

I was gutted we only has this characteristic arctic sky on our last morning, but at least we did get some in the end.

Arctic CoastArctic CoastHaukland Beach, Lofoten, Norway.

 

 

Tromsø Arctic Cathedral

I thought I'd end this post with something a little different, from back in Tromsø. I don't tend to get involved in much architectural photography, but this building is a real jewel in the crown of arctic Norway. Those crafty Norwegians have a habit of putting real thought and originality into the design of their modern buildings, in a way I wish more countries would. They rightly place value in the aesthetics of a structure, as well as the function. I remember from our trip to the fjords how many of the public toilets are architectural masterpieces! When you see even a toilet as an opportunity to inspire culture, you have the kind of mindset that builds a more positive society.

Let There Be LightLet There Be LightArctic Cathedral, Tromso, Norway.

 

Officially known as Tromsdalen Church (or "Ishavskatedralen" in Norwegian), it's generally referred to as "The Arctic Cathedral" for the benefit of simple tourists like me. It's not something I was all that excited about before we went, but like all great design it reeled me in like a siren. It's a fantastic triangular concertina-like atrium, which is tallest at each end, and lower between. It's a joy to behold, and even more fun to photograph.

Arctic Cathedral (B&W)Arctic Cathedral (B&W)Tromso's fabulous arctic cathedral, in black and white.

 

This is probably my favourite photo of the entire trip, and it's hard to explain why. It's just one of those photos that rewards you the more you look. And I've sat and stared at it several times. We're looking at the middle of the front of the cathedral, from a slight angle. So you can see the various layers of the building, each casting a triangular shadow but letting light in between which shines through at regular angles. There are lots of angled structural supports visible within, which break up the regular lines, and they're at odds with the strong black grid of the front windows. At the bottom of the image you can see a hint of the organ pipes, of which there are almost 3,000 inside.
Arctic Cathedral AbstractArctic Cathedral AbstractArchitecture of the Arctic. The more you look here, the more you see, as the layers of this cathedral subtly reveal themselves.
The Arctic Cathedral, Tromso, Norway.

 

Lastly, here's a view of it with some context; hinting at the the arctic landscape which surrounds it.

Arctic Cathedral - On BlueArctic Cathedral - On BlueIf you're going to build a place of worship, you might as well build a mighty fine piece of modern architecture.
The Arctic Cathedral, Tromso, Norway.

And if you like the look of this building, check out the Tromsø aquarium, which looks like it's tumbling over.

 

Travel and Logistics

The Loften Islands are surprisingly difficult to get to considering how popular they are. I get the impression most visitors fly to Oslo, then to Bodø, then hire a car in Bodø and take it on the ferry to Moskenes at the South Western tip of Lofoten. A lot of the photo tours meet at Leknes airport, which again requires a connecting flight via Oslo or Tromsø. We wanted to see Tromsø, and with an easy direct flight from nearby Luton airport, it seemed like the obvious option for us. To get between Tromsø and Lofoten, we took the express ferry from Tromsø to Harstad. This is a three-hour boat providing fantastic views of the fjords, which would be worth the money as a sightseeing trip alone. It was a great way to get to Lofoten, and by hiring a car in Harstad (at the north of the island chain) we were able to make our way down at our own pace, and see all the sights along the way. After a week, we dropped the car and flew back to Tromsø from Leknes to have a couple of days in the city.

Lofoten itself was as spectacular and beautiful as I expected, but it felt in real danger of becoming a bit of a Disney Land for photographers more than a natural spectacle and working fishing community. Everywhere we went we saw minibuses of photo tours parked up by the side of the road, or in the town car parks. It was kind of sad, and something I really didn't want to be part of. In the hour before sunset, hoards of people would turn up at the beaches by the minibus-load, to capture their version of it, none of them wandering more than 50 metres from the car park. At least they were easy to keep away from as we walked up the beach to find some space and views of our own, but it does sum up what the honey-pot locations in Lofoten are like now. Thankfully I didn't feel part of the photography crowd, as we were doing holiday stuff too, and seeing the place for ourselves - engaging with the culture, and interacting with the place rather than simply mining it for photos and moving on. But I don't know. Maybe I'm being too critical of others, or too short-sighted about myself by comparison. It was a wonderful place, but I don't think we'll go back anytime soon. As a holiday destination we really enjoyed it, but have seen it now. And as a photographer, I'm more inclined to return to less crowded locations.

 

Reflecting on the Photos

I wouldn't say I'm over the moon with the photos I took in Lofoten, but I guess I was never going to be. What are the odds I'd find something that millions of other visitors missed, or that we'd even have better weather/light than other photographers. But I think they're a nice set, that give a flavour of what the Lofoten Islands are about. Apart from the Hamnøy classic, I resisted taking any other shots I'd seen before, and I can say with a clean conscience that all the other photos, including the Arctic Cathedral were original compositions that caught my eye at the time. That's important to me because I think it's slightly futile to try and take the best version of other people's photos, but I am the best at being me, and if I can take photos following my own instincts and preferences then I can at least end up with an authentic gallery of photos, which express my feelings and the way I see the world.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) blue hour Fredvang Islands landscape Lofoten nature Norge Norway photography Svolvaer Tromso https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/12/arctic-norway-lofoten Mon, 07 Dec 2020 08:00:00 GMT
Autumn Leaf Photos https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/11/autumn-leaf-photos So here we are in autumn. It's Lockdown 2.0, and I'm back to photographing leaves. Only this time I started before lockdown. Back in the spring (AKA Lockdown 1.0) I started a project photographing leaf portraits, and having been really pleased with the results I had to add the companion piece for autumn. Like my animal portraits, I've shot the seasons in opposing styles, using high-key for spring, and low-key for autumn. This seemed like a natural choice; with spring being bright and positive, and autumn reflecting a darker feel both in tone and aesthetic. On a purely graphical basis I think the colour combination of green and white was much more attractive than green and black. So too with red/brown lending itself to the dark background.

I do wonder how many people saw this coming. Am I creative and inventive, or stale and predicable? Well who cares, because I've enjoyed it, and I'm very happy with the photos I've taken. The trouble is I like a project to work on, and a theme to stick to. I also think that the photos themselves are more impactful when they're part of a larger set. Like their seasonal lives on the branch, they're a work of art in themselves, but the real beauty is in the collection of many together to create something more.

Autumn presents a slightly more tricky problem than spring, and this is the reason I didn't try this last year. I didn't really think I'd find leaves in the kind of pristine condition I would want. But on consideration I came around to the idea that part of the character of an aging leaf are the marks, scuffs, and imperfections, that make it unique, and that communicate the transition they undergo. The good news was that the opportunity to find leaves at their colourful best is a much wider window of time. In spring, the leaves begin the degrade after a week or so, as an onslaught of invertebrates feast on the new food source. Compared to autumn when I was able to find leaves in peak colour for at least a month, depending on the species.

So here we are. I hope you like them. And as with a few blog posts recently, there's also some bonus content at the end.

 

Maples

It's hard to think of autumn colour without thinking of maples. We have some native species, such as the field maple, but also some introduced species, and they're some of the most "showy" of all at this time of year. So lets lead with this Norway Maple, featuring a transition from green, through orange, to deep red.

Norway Maple - On BlackNorway Maple - On BlackNorway Maple leaf (Acer Platanoides), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

I've used Picture This to identify some of the more tricky species and sub-species, which seems to do a pretty good job, but do give me a shout if I've misidentified any of these.

This one, I know is London Plane; a handsome import with an interesting backstory which I expanded on in the spring post. This leaf was from the same tree as the one I photographed in spring.
London Plane Leaf - On BlackLondon Plane Leaf - On BlackLondon Plane Leaf (Platanus x hispanica), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

This is a sycamore, which is a member of the maple family introduced to the UK by the Romans. They were a fabulous shade of yellow, but I struggled to find one untarnished. Still, those blots all tell a tale.
Sycamore Leaf - On BlackSycamore Leaf - On BlackSycamore Leaf (Acer pseudoplatanus), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

This is red maple, and the last leaf I photographed this autumn. Red Maple Leaf - On BlackRed Maple Leaf - On BlackRed maple leaf (Acer Rubrum), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

This field maple is another species I was able to photograph back in the spring, and again it's from the same tree, which is just over the road from my house. This was the first leaf I photographed this autumn, one month to the day before the last, above. Field Maple - On BlackField Maple - On BlackField maple leaf (Acer campestre), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

 

Classic Native Species

Oak is about as classic as it gets for UK trees. I found oak difficult as they seemed to go from green to brown in a flash, and once brown they were always brittle and torn. But I managed to find this one leaf in transition, which I took somewhat inadvisably from a busy roadside. This leaf photography is a more dangerous game than you'd think.

Oak Leaf - On BlackOak Leaf - On BlackOak leaf (Quercus robur), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

When I decided to give autumn leaves a go, one species I immediately decided wouldn't work was the horse chestnut. I thought their size and spread would be too delicate at this time, but I walked right past this one a few weeks ago and thought - well it's worth a try. And to my surprise, it held it's shape very well. He's a bit battered, but his knocks and bruises tell a story.
Horse Chestnut Leaf - On BlackHorse Chestnut Leaf - On BlackHorse chestnut leaf (Aesculus hippocastanum), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

This is hornbeam; and a very classy gent, if I may say so.
Hornbeam Leaf - On BlackHornbeam Leaf - On BlackHornbeam leaf (Carpinus betulus), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

Like a butter toffee, this is a beech leaf in the perfect shade of brown.
Beech Leaf - On BlackBeech Leaf - On BlackBeech Leaf (Fagus sylvatica), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

I didn't realise until this spring how many of the trees in our neighbourhood are lime. This is a large-leafed lime, and they're everywhere around here. In fact that has been one of the great joys of this project; learning to identify the trees I see day-in-day-out. These species have surrounded me and the places I've lived for my whole life, and I've never really been able to tell many of them apart. Now I know, I can spot them when I'm out and about, and gain an insight to their characteristics on an individual basis. It's become a source of "mini joys" that top me up on a day-to-day basis.
Large-Leaved Lime Leaf - On BlackLarge-Leaved Lime Leaf - On BlackLarge-leaved Lime leaf (Tilia platyphyllos), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

This is hazel. It was the subject of one of my favourite photos from the spring collection, with a robust shape and graphic outline, and meaningful species for personal reasons too. I think it look great in autumnal yellow. Hazel Leaf - On BlackHazel Leaf - On BlackHazel leaf (Corylus avellana), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

I think as a stand-alone graphical work, this photo is probably my favourite from this low-key autumn collection. The colour, the detail, and the symmetry combine for a striking result. This leaf, being the smallest I photographed, was shot slightly more side-lit than the others, to bring out more surface texture. Not all the leaves looked best like this, but the silver birch shone brilliantly under the spotlight. Silver Birch Leaf - On BlackSilver Birch Leaf - On BlackSilver birch leaf (Betula pendula), photographed low-key on black as part of my leaf photography project.

 

 

Bonus Content: Acorn

Part-way through this leaf project I thought it would be nice to showcase another of nature's miniature miracles in the same style. It was a bumper year for acorns this year, and I spent about 90 minutes combing the woodland floor for the perfect specimen, much to the bemusement of passers-by, I'm sure. They're a classic example of a perfect natural structure; tactile and visually appealing, whilst still so easy to overlook. There's also something beguiling about the potential that an acorn represents. Small and understated, they contain all the genetic material required to create a vast organism which will live for hundreds of years. I wanted to afford it the limelight, to present it as the star it is.

Acorn - On BlackAcorn - On BlackAn acorn photographed low-key, on black as part of a long-running project to photograph nature in this style. There's something beguiling about the potential of an acorn. It's beautiful as a construction in itself, but to think that it has all the genetic material to grow a mighty tree, which could live for hundreds of years, it really represents so much more than what you see here and now.

 

 

Here Comes The Science Bit

I'm no Jenifer Aniston, but I know some readers appreciate a little more technical detail behind my photos. In the spring, although I was shooting against a "white" background, I actually wanted it a little off-white, as it softened the contrast slightly. That was pretty tricky to achieve, and even harder to keep them consistent, as I took them all on different days. For autumn, to achieve the low-key on-black lighting was so much easier. By lighting the subject and placing it in front of a background in shadow (the back of chair, the airing cupboard, a dark towel), the relatively limited dynamic range of the camera sensor compared to the human eye means that by exposing for the subject, the background falls to darkness. I mean, how much more black could this background be?

 

Still Life

I've never considered "still life" to be a genre that would interest me creatively, but here we are as it creeps into my portfolio. There's something that appeals to me about simplifying everything as much as possible - and that's a thread that runs through much of my art. It's also enjoyable to explore an apparently simple subject, and examine what interest it holds once all context and distraction is excluded. In most cases with nature the subject shines, and the more you look, the more you see. I've found these leaves challenging and rewarding to photograph, and I think they make for a great subject for prints and wall art - especially in combination with each other. It's also a project I can top up over time, as I'm sure I'll find more subjects to show in this style in the future.

 

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) arboreal art contemporary leaf leaves low-key nature on black photography project trees UK wall art https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/11/autumn-leaf-photos Sun, 15 Nov 2020 16:26:56 GMT
Highland Cattle of The Outer Hebrides https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/10/highland-cattle-of-the-outer-hebrides Last month we took a 10-day road-trip to the Outer Hebrides, in North-West Scotland. It was somewhere I'd wanted to visit for years, and now felt like the perfect time to seek out somewhere remote. Photographically I was intending to concentrate on the sweeping seascapes which make the islands so popular amongst photographers, but once there I soon found that my head was turned by the highland cattle cows, which are so characteristic of the area. They can be found in fields, farms, or roaming free, and I enjoyed the spontaneity of going for a drive and seeing what we encountered. If you follow my photography, you'll know I love cows and livestock generally, and I love to shoot high-key and low-key portraits to simplify the images graphically, and create something I'd hang on my wall at home. These highland cattle encounters were the perfect opportunity to explore this idea some more. All of these photos were from the Isle of Lewis and Harris, in September 2020.

After the cows, there's some bonus material; Callanish Alpacas and Hebridean Seascapes.

 

Highland Cattle Portraits

Is it wrong to have a favourite cow? Anyhow, this old girl was in tip-top condition, with a lovely blend of light and dark fur, which highlights the contours, and emphasises depth in the image. Her horns were perfectly symmetrical, with a nice angle to them. A fine subject indeed. We had almost the perfect light for these portraits, and I was able to overexpose for this high-key result. A strong start - This one goes straight into my online print gallery.
Highland Cattle - Hebridean B&WHighland Cattle - Hebridean B&WWhat a handsome cow. Beautifully symmetrical horns, and a proud stance. She engages with the viewer for this intimate and characterful portrait.
Fine art nature photography, in high-key black and white. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

I was hoping to capture a cow in this characteristic nose-lick, and managed to bag this on my first encounter of the trip. But it ended up being the only one I got. It works, but I would have liked a better body angle / posture. Still, it's a fun image.
Highland Cattle LickHighland Cattle LickHighland cow going for a characteristic nose-lick.
Fine art nature photography. Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

I call this one "The Interrogation". She means business, but always in a rather non-threatening way. I made the compositional decision to clip the ends of the horns here, which is always a shame, but it does get you a closer, more intimate portrait, and the shape of the horns is still strongly implied.

Highland Cattle InterrogationHighland Cattle InterrogationA playful stare-down from a highland cattle cow.
Fine art nature photography, in high-key black and white. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

A more casual glance this time. Flirtatious? Inquiring? Inscrutable? She's the Bovine Mona Lisa...

Highland Cattle GlanceHighland Cattle GlanceA cheeky side-glance from this playful highland cattle cow.
Fine art nature photography, in high-key black and white. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

Ah, we're back to our first star again. And you can see even better in colour how that range of tones in the fur adds to the depth and character of the image. Her fur is in great condition too; all clean and soft like it's been blow-dried for an 90's shampoo advert. I've desaturated this a little bit, as full colour on white can often look a little over-cooked. This one has also gone straight to the website print gallery, so take a look there for sizes and pricing.

Highland Cattle PortraitHighland Cattle PortraitThis large-horned highland cattle was very obliging, and seemed keen to photographed for this portrait. This high-key exposure looks amazing in print, when accompanied by a white frame.
Fine art nature photography, in high-key portrait style. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

The last portrait is a low-key back-lit shot of this highland cow, which celebrates the iconic outline and colouration of this popular breed. It's another common thread in my photography; exploring how much information you can remove in order to simplify the image, yet still leave enough to portray a subject.
Highland Cattle SilhouetteHighland Cattle SilhouetteRim-lit highland cattle cow, in characteristic amber colouration.
Fine art nature photography, in low-key lighting style. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

 

Picture Postcard Scotland

As well as the close-up portraits, I wanted to get some wider shots of the cows roaming free in their beautiful homeland. I'm pretty pleased with these two. Nothing quite says "Welcome to Scotland" like this highland cattle and her beach-front real-estate.

Visit ScotlandVisit ScotlandThe picture postcard shot, as this highland cattle cow welcomes visitors to the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
Fine art travel photography. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

A more casual posture this time. I guess I should have just picked one of these to share here, but I couldn't choose.
Welcome to the HebridesWelcome to the HebridesYou couldn't ask for a better welcome than from this delightful highland cattle cow, so iconic of the area.
Fine art travel photography, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

 

Callanish Alpacas

While in Lewis, it's well worth a visit to the Callanish Alpacas. They operate on a donation-basis, and they have a whole menagerie of other animals too. I got these two photos of alpaca matriarch "Caskie".

Alpaca SquareAlpaca SquareCaskie the alpaca, who lives in Callanish, on Lewis.
Wall art nature photography. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

I've been looking for an opportunity to photograph alpacas for a while, so this was great, but unfortunately time flies and I only managed to get a few 'keepers' on the day.

Caskie the Callanish AlpacaCaskie the Callanish AlpacaCaskie the alpaca with her head in the clouds.
Wall art nature photography. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.
Alpacas: Definitely a subject to return to.

Besides the alpacas, they have three Hebridean Four-Horned Sheep. This is "Leo", the top ram, who was kind enough to pose nicely for me in front of a dark background.

Leo - Hebridean SheepLeo - Hebridean SheepThis is Leo the Hebridean sheep, who looks amazing in this low-key style. This close-up celebrates the quiet appeal of the relaxed and engaging subject combined with the visuals of the dark fleece and curved features.
Fine art nature photography, in low-key portrait style. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

This is "Raleigh", whose top horns are curling downwards, like the handlebars of a racing bike.

Raleigh - Hebridean Four-Horned SheepRaleigh - Hebridean Four-Horned SheepThis photo celebrates the unusual horns of this rare-breed Hebridean Four-Horned Sheep.
Fine art nature photography, in low-key portrait style. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

One more picture of Leo. The sun was low in the sky at this point, and you'd never know it, but I managed to make use of my car as a dark backdrop to this one. His enormous top horns rise up and out of shot, before curling back down into the foreground and background of this side-on profile shot.

Leo - Hebridean Four-Horned SheepLeo - Hebridean Four-Horned SheepLeo's horns rise up and out of shot here, before dropping back down to frame his face. Taken at the end of the day, looking towards a low sun.
Fine art nature photography, in low-key portrait style. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

 

Hebridean Seascapes

Lastly, I've included three seascapes here, as they're not enough to justify a blog post on their own.

Hebridean SunsetHebridean SunsetSunset on the West coast of the Isle of Lewis and Harris. Wellies required.
Wall art landscape photography. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

All three are from North West Lewis, looking out to sea at sunset.

Hebridean BeachHebridean BeachIt's true what they say; the Outer Hebrides beaches do have white sands and blue seas.
Wall art landscape photography. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

It's when I try to capture photos like these, I remember how difficult seascape photography is. There's so much that needs to come together all at the same time, as well as trial-and-error with the timing of the waves. In hindsight I like these more than I did at the time. They sum up the calm and peacefulness of the beaches, which were quiet and empty by sunset.

Hebridean SkiesHebridean SkiesPink skies at sunset, on the west coast of Lewis.
Wall art landscape photography. Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, UK.

 

I like the soft waves and pastel colours to these landscapes, and I think they're pleasing to the eye. Despite being only three and very similar, it's nice to come away with some landscapes from the trip.

But yes, more photos of livestock in this post, which seems to be what I'm into of late. Their large eyes and engaging poses make for great portraits I think. Even in the case of those highland cattle, whose eyes are sometimes obscured entirely. But then, that's part of the fun for those shots. I also think cows make a nice subject for wall art, as they're so familiar to us. Personally I'm more inclined to furnish interiors with these relatable subjects than with more exotic species, so those are the subjects I'm increasingly drawn to. The cows, alpacas, and Hebridean sheep were great fun to photograph, as well as challenging and rewarding. I might have gone for the landscapes, but the lure of the animal portraits soon reeled me in, and I think I got some really nice photos. I hope you agree. Let me know which was your favourite!

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) alpacas cattle cows high-key highland horns low-key photography sheep https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/10/highland-cattle-of-the-outer-hebrides Mon, 19 Oct 2020 10:00:00 GMT
Autumn Nature Photography https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/9/autumn-nature-photography I woke up the other day, and it felt chilly for the first time since winter. Instinctively I felt quite excited. When I processed why that would be, I realised it was because I could feel autumn creeping in. To most people the end of summer is something they never look forward to. The end of those sunny days & warm evenings, and the loss of greenery to the gardens and natural spaces around us. I don't mourn the loss. Bring it on! Autumn is without doubt the most spectacular season of the year, and the colours and light combine in a way that connects with me, and feeds my joy and wonder. I associate the season with fresh dewy sunrises, the call of red deer, and the colourful canopy of a deciduous woodland. It's also time for getting back into three of my favourite things; cosy jumpers, brown boots, and warming up with a hot chocolate. Not to mention nature photography. After a summer in photographic hibernation I can't wait to get started again this autumn, so I thought as the season is still yet to unfold, I would share some of my favourite autumnal photos from the last few years.

 

Deer

Before the trees turn fully autumnal, the action is all at the deer rut. The cold mornings and shorter daylight hours prompt a hormonal response in the deer, which kick-starts their most active time of year. Stags are emboldened, and easier to find, while the females find themselves in high demand. I don't often get many photos of the more shy females, but this doe was kind enough to oblige.

Morning DeerMorning DeerA female sika deer shows interest at first light.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Beneath the same tree the following year, I caught this female in some of the best light & mist I've ever been out in.

Misty Deer PortraitMisty Deer PortraitPortrait version of the previous photo, of a female red deer standing beneath the rising sun, on a misty autumn morning.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

And a few days later, this Sika stag stopped in the perfect spot. On this occasion, the sun was a little higher in the sky, and most of the 'mist' here was actually dew evaporating in the warm sun, having been in shade for the first hour of the day. If you can catch that effect back-lit, you get this spectacular result.
Silhouette of a sika deer, lit by the amber light of an autumn sunrise.Sika Deer - Orange SunriseSilhouette of a sika deer, lit by the amber light of an autumn sunrise.

 

Well it turns out 2018 was a good year for me, as it was also the year I caught this massive red deer stag illuminated by the low sun.

Red DawnRed DawnA large red deer stag, lit by the rising sun.
I used low-key portrait style for image, showing just the highlights, and letting the shadows fade to black.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Last year I spent a few minutes with this brute, who wasn't phased by my presence at all. This was a shot I'd wanted for some time, so very satisfying to get.
A large red deer stag 'bellowing' during the autumn rut, in black and whiteBellowing RedA large red deer stag 'bellowing' during the autumn rut, in black and white.
It's an intimidating sight to be this close to a large mammal, who is effectively boasting about his aggression, fitness and condition. Of course I was using a long lens, for both our sake, but it's still a privilege to meet his gaze at this point in time.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Low-key Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

For more deer images, check out my full deer photography gallery.

 

Landscapes

Once the deer rut mellows, calm returns to the season, and my photography becomes much less hectic. It's now time to soak up the best of the colours, and spend time with my most relaxing friends; the trees. This is a view over my home county of Bedfordshire. I don't do an awful lot of landscape photography close to home, but in the right conditions it looks pretty nice.
Bedfordshire CountrysideBedfordshire CountrysideA misty autumn morning in the countryside of central Bedfordshire.
One of my favourite places to be, and my favourite time of year to be there. This was a particularly magical morning, with perfect conditions to separate the layers fading into the distance.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

Tarn Hows, in the Lake District, where it's sometimes possible to achieve a perfect reflection. This was a few days before the leaves really started to turn, but I like the transition of colours from yellow and orange in the middle, to the darker greens further out.
Rorschach TreesRorschach TreesAutumn tree reflections, resembling a Rorschach ink-blot test.
Taken at Tarn Hows, in the Lake District.

 

Another woodland in transition, and this is one of my favourites. This dense birch woodland provides a frame-filling abstract, and an attractive natural mural-effect.
Silver Birch WallSilver Birch WallA wall of silver birch trees in early autumn, filling the frame to create an abstract wash of texture and colour. I took this on a damp morning, which really brings out the colours from the scene.
Part of
an ongoing treescape project within my wider landscape photography gallery.
Fine art nature photography, UK.

On a similar theme here, but lit by the morning sun on this occasion. This was from the Bavaria National Forest, in Germany. I would really recommend a visit in autumn if you're into that sort of thing. I've never seen New England or Colorado in 'the fall' but Bavaria would be hard to beat.
Autumn's ArrivalAutumn's ArrivalAs autumn takes hold of the forest, this beech tree resists the change of colour longer than those around it, which have already turned golden.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

Bavaria again, and it's the combination of different tree species that make up this mosaic of autumnal colour, with the main tree in the middle catching a lovely side-lighting effect. I'm really jealous of people who get to spend years of their lives in places like this. The possibilities for nature photography feel almost endless.
Forest Trees at AutumnForest Trees at AutumnTall trees reaching up, branches regaled in autumn gold.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

Here, as well as the orange and yellow birch leaves, I liked the combination of black and white in the tree trunks and branches. The side facing the sun shows the clean birch bark, while the side in the shadow of the hillside gets little sun, and creates a cold, damp environment for black lichen to thrive. Sideways on, it creates a bit of a barcode / zebra stripe effect.
Zebra BirchesZebra BirchesThe birch trees reside in a damp area of hillside in the Lake District, leaving one side of their bark white and sunlit, while the other is damp and black with lichen. This combination, along with the autumnal leaf colour creates a dizzying combination of abstract lines and tones.
Fine art nature photography, Lake District, UK.

 

This woodland is just 20 minutes from home, and it's a place I've known for as long as I can remember. And this misty morning was probably one of my most memorable visits here. The colours were perfect, and the whole woodland felt alive with one last show of colour before winter.

A Splash of ColourA Splash of ColourAutumn colour, on a misty morning at my local woods.
Fine art landscape photography, Aspley Woods, Bedfordshire.

 

A wider view here, of the Lake District as the trees start to turn amber, aided by the evening light.

Loughrigg Fell SunsetLoughrigg Fell SunsetThe sun sets over the Lake District hills, brushing the valley with golden light.
Taken from Loughrigg Fell, during an autumn visit to the Lake District.
Landscape photography, Cumbria, UK.

 

One last photo here, that I don't think I've shared before. I love these sorts of autumn leaf 'still life' shots, and I never think to try them. So Maybe I'll give it a proper go this year. Nothing really sums up a season like autumn leaves.

Autumn LeafAutumn LeafNothing represents autumn like a carpet of leaves. This was a small snipped of the spectacular display on show in the Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

Make sure you get out this autumn, and make the most of it. Enjoy the rustling of the leaves under foot, the colours in the trees, and the crispness of the morning air. And perhaps most importantly, the hot chocolate.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art autumn Bedfordshire British deer fall landscape nature photography season trees UK wildlife https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/9/autumn-nature-photography Mon, 07 Sep 2020 06:00:00 GMT
Farmyard Photography https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/8/farmyard-photography I really enjoy photographing farmyard animals and livestock, which tend to be overlooked by most nature photographers, as they're not wild. You don't get the 'thrill of the chase' feeling that you get when out looking for some scarce or timid creature, but on the flip side you do get to work with an animal which is used to humans, and that will allow you in closer, for a more intimate and expressive portrait. And increasingly these days, that's what interests me.

I took these photos at Animal Edge - a small open farm, just outside Flitwick, in Bedfordshire. They keep a small number of animals, providing enjoyable and educational encounters for children. To my shame, these photos are now over a year old! Although I'm really happy with them, they've been in the queue behind other projects to share, but now is their time to shine!

All these photos were taken in natural light, against a white backdrop. It all sounds very controlled when I put it like that, but it was a lot more chaotic in reality! Some animals were happier to pose than others, so we had to be patient, and not push our luck too much. The exception was with the horses & ponies, which are too large, so I photographed them in their field.

 

Chicken

This is just a simple portrait on white, of a classic farmyard chicken. One thing I like about this style of presentation is that by removing the background context it leaves a lot of room for just the shape and form of the subject. This is a classic posture for a chicken - something that's very familiar to everyone, having been painted and drawn like this for years, so I'm pleased to have photographed it like this, against the white backdrop.

Chicken On WhiteChicken On WhiteA plain and simple chicken, in bright high-key lighting. I think its simplicity, we're able to see this is a creature with dignity and a manner of her own.
Photographed outside, using natural light, and a white backdrop.
Fine art nature photography. Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Lavender Pekin Hen

This is Daisy, the lavender pekin; A really striking breed which I'd wanted to photograph for some time, as the idea of this pale colour palette against the white backdrop really appealed to me. I'm really pleased with this photo. I like the form of the bird, combined with the lack of colour, and the face which offers an enquiring gaze towards the viewer. In a change from the norm, I haven't pushed the background to completely white here. I wanted a subtle colour and vignette, which softens the portrait and provides a slightly more classic feel.

Lavender Pekin ChickenLavender Pekin ChickenDaisy, the Lavender Pekin hen, photographed in high-key, on white. I love the aesthetic of this pale breed, against the white background. In this case the background isn't quite pushed to white, and a little colour & shadow remain to frame the subject.
This was shoot was outside, in the yard, using only natural light and a white backdrop. And a fair amount of herding and patience.
Fine Art Nature Photography.
Taken at Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire.

 

This was the only full-length portrait I managed to get, as they didn't hang around for long. But I really like it, and it shows off the entirely feathered feet, which is another feature of this British breed.

Lavender Pekin Chicken PortraitLavender Pekin Chicken PortraitDaisy, the Lavender Pekin hen, photographed in high-key, on white. Here you can see the feathered feet of this distinguished breed.
This was shoot was outside, in the yard, using only natural light and a white backdrop. And a fair amount of herding and patience.
Fine Art Nature Photography.
Taken at Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire.

 

One last one of Daisy, who's looking more animated here. I really like the tone of these feathers. They're very soft and delicate, and they offer a contrast to the texture of the face. Daisy The Lavender PekinDaisy The Lavender PekinPekin chicken, in profile, on white.
I love the visuals of this hen against the white background.
Fine Art Nature Photography. Photographed at Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire.

 

Indian Runner Ducks

Here they are; the lads. Ernie, Paige, and Jemima. They were full of character, and full of beans. Great fun to photograph.

Indian Runner Ducks #1Indian Runner Ducks #1These characterful ducks were difficult to capture, but when I managed it I really think it shows them in a fun way.
Fine art nature photography, Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I did get some photos of them individually, but I really think they're best captured together, operating in their little gang. To me, these photos represent the fun of hanging out with your mates.

Indian Runner Ducks #2Indian Runner Ducks #2Here they are; the lads. They were good fun, and full of character.
Fine art nature photography, Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

There's something cartoonish about their energetic enthusiasm. Makes me think Pixar could do something fun with the idea.

Indian Runner Ducks #3Indian Runner Ducks #3Finally, I caught them all looking at the camera at the same time!
Fine art nature photography, Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Rooster

Carlos the rooster was a tricky customer to photograph but I persisted because, like the ducks, he was just bursting with character. Strutting around like a total boss, he was a little sceptical of me, and generally kept his distance. He also continuously moved his head at high speed, so capturing a sharp in-focus portrait was tricky. He'd give me a fantastic pose like this, and within a split second, he'd turn his head away.

Carlos The RoosterCarlos The RoosterCarlos was a very tricky customer, but also quite a character, so I persisted, and managed to get a few portraits.
Fine art nature photography. Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I like this side-on profile portrait. He looks like he's bowing his head in contemplation. It shows a more relaxed posture.

Pekin RoosterPekin RoosterThis is Carlos the Pekin rooster. In profile view you really see the distinctive read comb at its best. I also like how he appears to be bowing his head respectfully, and thoughtfully. Maybe I'm reading too much into it!
Fine art nature photography. Animal Edge, Flitwick, Bedfordshire, UK.

I'd love to capture a rooster like this against a black background one day, with just that red head detail standing out from the dark. But on the day, we only really had the opportunity to to shoot in high-key

 

Horses & Ponies

This rather suave horse was very photogenic, with his Taylor Swift wind-swept fringe. I enjoy equine photography. They can be tricky subjects, and their proportions can be tricky to balance at times, but they're engaging subjects, and I like their subtle blend of colours.

Handsome HorseHandsome HorseA very suave looking horse, photographed here against white background.
Fine Art Nature Photography. At Animal Edge, Flitwick Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This is Bobby; a horse-pony cross. He was so easy to photograph. He was very friendly, and kept a great eye-contact, which always makes for an engaging portrait.

BobbyBobbyThis is Bobby, a cross-breed pony, who resides at Animal Edge, in Flitwick Bedfordshire.

 

Lastly, it's Tara, the Shetland pony. I decided to go black and white with this one, as the colour still wasn't as minimal as I wanted. In fact most of my high-key portraits on white are in black and white, so the rest of this set are more unusual in that sense. Tara's looking great here too.

 

Tara the ShetlandTara the ShetlandShetland pony, photographed in high-key, on white.
I preferred the black and white version of this image, which is more stark. To me, whenever I see it, I think of the chess piece.
Fine Art Equine Photography. From Animal Edge, Flitwick Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Thanks so much to Danielle from Animal Edge, for letting me photograph these animals. The farm is open to visitors this summer, so check out their website for availability.

As I said at the start, I really enjoy photographing cattle and domesticated animals, and it's a subject I always aim to return to. I think these animals have a lot to offer in terms of personality and familiarity.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) animal Animal Edge art Bedfordshire chicken duck farm farmyard Fltiwick high-key horse on-white photography pony portrait https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/8/farmyard-photography Mon, 17 Aug 2020 10:30:00 GMT
Artist Reference Photos https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/7/artist-reference-photos One of the fantastic things about putting photos out to the world is seeing other people's interpretations of them. It's always exciting to hear from artists who have drawn or painted one of my photos. As a former pencil artist in my youth, I am blown away by the skill of some of these people, and I'm very envious of their talent. In truth, I'd be drawing now if I was good enough at it. But I did find my medium in photography, and it's rewarding to hear when someone else has felt inspired by my picture. I also like the idea that my image has taken on a new life in it's alternative form. I'm sure I only see a fraction of what people get up to with my work, but it's always a buzz to hear from someone who has recreated or re-imagined it. So I thought it would be fun to show my appreciation and share a selection of these artworks here.

 

The Gallery

Thanks to all of the artists who sent me pictures to share here, and best of luck with your art in the future. Here are some of my favourites...

 

Kaylan Betten

I was stunned when I saw this. Initially I thought it was my photo! But on second glance you can see it's been hand-drawn, to great effect. I love the blending here, and the skill to convey the differing textures of the antlers and the fur. Kaylan has a store on Etsy where she sells some beautiful hand-crafted homeware, and she share's photos of them to Instagram; @kaylanbetten_art

Red Deer Roar - by Kaylan BettenRed Deer Roar - by Kaylan Betten

 

Louise Davies

Louise uses coloured pencils and pastels for her pet & wildlife portraits. This is from a few years ago now, but I always think of it when I see my original photo because she captured the detail in the eye and the beak so well. You can find more of her work at www.louisedaviesart.co.uk.

Bald Eagle - by Louise DaviesBald Eagle - by Louise Davies

 

Kirsten Lauer Karahan

I love this. In truth it doesn't bare much resemblance to my original, but I think that's why I like it. Kirsten has taken the idea and run with it, making her own scene, with this melancholic feel to it. I particularly like the addition of the sparrow in the foreground. Kirsten shares more of her work here: Of Paint And Prose.

Snow Encounter - by Kirsten Lauer KarahanSnow Encounter - by Kirsten Lauer Karahan

 

Tony O'Connor

Tony is an accomplished equine portrait artist, and his paintings of horses are simply awe inspiring. In some cases, just plain inspiring. This is a drawing of one of my oldest photos, and my first 'On Black' portrait. It's incredibly accurate, and again, it's easy to get lost in the texture of the antlers. Check out more of Tony's work at White Tree Studio.

Red Deer On Black - by Tony O'ConnorRed Deer On Black - by Tony O'Connor

 

Sue O'Mara

Sue is an art teacher, and I love what she did with this photo. The range of textures in the different lengths of fur really draws the eye. And speaking of which, she added that brilliant silhouette reflection, which I think provides an extra layer of narrative to the image. Find Sue at SueOMaraArt.co.uk.

Brown Hare Close-Up - by Sue O'MaraBrown Hare Close-Up - by Sue O'Mara

 

Nava Volov

This was another one I mistook for the original photo when I first saw it, as the proportions are so accurate. I love the texture of the face here, and the boldness of the red against black, even more so than mine. And the blue wing feathers genuinely convey that natural iridescence. Nava is on Instagram at @NavaVolov.

Green-Winged Macaw painting by Nava VolovGreen-Winged Macaw - by Nava Volov

 

 

Thanks again to those featured here. And I hope it made a little change from my usual type of blog post, not being all about me! If you do draw or paint one of my photos, do get in touch, I love seeing them. You can find more info about artistic reference here.

Next month we're back to me, and my photos. I have a new set of animal portraits to share, with a farmyard theme. Intriguing....

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art artist drawing nature painting wildlife https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/7/artist-reference-photos Mon, 20 Jul 2020 07:30:00 GMT
Spring Woodland Photography https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/6/spring-woodland-photography What an amazing spring we had this year, and a better opportunity to enjoy it than ever before. At first, photography took a back seat for me. Uninspired and unmotivated, I busied myself with other things. But once the leaves started to come out, I suddenly remembered an idea I had last spring, and didn't get very far with. I noticed for the first time last year, that there's a period of 7-10 days when many of the trees have sprouted leaves, and they're greener than ever. In this brief window, after they're out but before the insects and invertebrates get to work on them, they're hanging on the trees in perfect condition; each one a work of art in its own right. After clocking this last spring, I only managed to photograph two or three species before I ran out of time. So this year, I picked up where I'd left off and built a little collection.

 

Leaf Portraits

Firstly, here's an oak leaf, from 2019...

Oak Leaf - On WhiteOak Leaf - On WhiteThe iconic oak leaf. Probably my favourite of this series. I quite like the random shape of these leaves, which makes you really appreciate that each one is a unique work of art in itself.
Quercus robur.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

High-key portraits seemed like the obvious route, and the best way to tie in with my other nature photography, so I ran with that idea. It took a bit of trial and error, but I eventually found a process I was happy with. They're all the same 5:4 aspect-ratio (shape) too, which is a consistency I like, and something which hasn't always been possible with other projects.

I've photographed so many silver birch trees before. They're a photographer's friend because of those contrasty white trunks, and delicate branches. But the leaves are pretty great too. This was the smallest leaf I photographed. Not as iconic as the oak leaf, but a recognisable and pleasing shape, with tons of surface texture.

Silver Birch Leaf - On WhiteSilver Birch Leaf - On WhiteThe tiny silver birch leaf; the smallest leaf I photographed, but one with probably the most detail of all.
Betula pendula.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Having preached the message of bringing the outside in, and using nature for creative projects a few weeks prior, I was really pleased to remember I had this idea to go back to.

Next is a name everyone's familiar with, but I'd never known what they look look. It's a sycamore...

Sycamore Leaf - On WhiteSycamore Leaf - On WhiteOne of my favourite outlines, and obviously similar to the Canadian maple leaf. I like the large surface area and soft feel.
Acer pseudoplatanus.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This was the perfect lockdown project really. I collected all of these leaves within a few minutes walk of my house, as I took my daily wanderings. No travel or planning required - just a case of getting out and seeing what I would find. And of course, as much as I enjoyed the photos coming together, it was the experience of engaging with nature and the natural processes that really excites me. Having a collection of the process documented in this way is the icing on the cake. I think this is hazel...

Hazel - On WhiteHazel - On WhiteHazel tree leaf, photographed in high key, on a white background.
Corylus avellana
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I found this leaf just over the road from my house, on a tree that's not particularly attractive. The tree itself is a bit shapeless and messy, but when I looked close-up, the leaves were absolute jewels. Like a miniature version of its Canadian cousin, these leaves are smaller than the palm of my hand. It's a field maple...

Field Maple - On WhiteField Maple - On WhiteA beautiful little leaf, smaller than it's Canadian cousin, and found just over the road from my house.
Acer campestre.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Half the fun of this project has been learning to identify tree species, which I've always wanted to be more proficient at. Below is a leaf that really intrigued me. It doesn't look like a native UK species, and it looks kind of like a maple leaf, but warped. When I looked closer at the bark of the tree it was like the gum trees I'd seen in Australia; peeling off in camo-style patterns. A really beautiful effect actually. After a little detective work, I learnt that this was a species called 'London Plane', which was introduced to London, and other urban areas of the UK in the 1800s in order to counteract the effects of the appalling air quality at the time of the industrial revolution. Planting went into overdrive shortly after, as planners were inspired by comparatively leafy streets of Paris. They offer shade and clean the air, and they're apparently now the most populous tree in London - and I'd never heard of them before! But I see them everywhere, now I know them.

London Plane Leaf - On WhiteLondon Plane Leaf - On WhiteA beautiful leaf, with an interesting back-story, as an introduced species to the UK.
Platanus x hispanica.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

So now it's your turn. Does anyone know what this leaf is? The back was furry from lots of little white hairs. It wasn't a tall tree, and I suspect it's an introduced species. I've so far been unable to identify it...
Swedish Whitebeam Leaf - On WhiteSwedish Whitebeam Leaf - On WhiteAn introduced species, but a nice, tidy, street-side tree.
Sorbus intermedia.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This one's a tricky customer. Is this one leaf or eleven? Looking at it now, you'd likely say eleven, but on the tree this looks like one. Well I think it's an ash tree, and I think it looks pretty great.

Ash Leaf - On WhiteAsh Leaf - On WhiteI'm not sure of the exact sub-species, but I think it's an ash tree.
Fraxinus ornus.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

If you like these leaf portraits, you can check out the entire collection here. They're available to order in print from today. I haven't shared them all here, as I wanted to keep this blog post to a tidy size.

As a bit of a test idea, I put my favourite dozen together to make this, which I think looks nice. It's the kind of thing I'd like on my wall, which is generally my benchmark for what I consider successful. It also reminds me of a retro tea-towel design, which should probably be a negative, but I like it!

LeavesLeavesA collection of leaves, from spring 2020.

 

By the way, if you think I've misidentified any of these leaves, please let me know. I'm definitely still learning.

Lastly, an honourable mention for the cow parsley. It didn't qualify for the leaf collage, as it's a whole different thing, but I think it looks nice, so why not share it here.
Cow ParsleyCow ParsleyJust a small piece of this easily overlooked countryside gem.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Woodland

In my lockdown wanderings, I found two fantastic woodlands close to home, that I've never noticed before. One of them in particular, I'm hoping will become the focus of another project/collection over time.

Welcome to the JungleWelcome to the JungleLight in the overgrown woodland.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Ah, here's the sliver birch I'm so keen on. Those white trunks interspersed with tiny flickering green leaves.

Silver Birch WoodlandSilver Birch WoodlandI found this gem of a woodland nearby to my home, beside a road I must have driven down hundreds of times, never noticing the potential.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

But look behind you. If you shoot towards the evening sun, they're back-lit and transformed once again.

Spring EveningSpring EveningA warm evening in the birch woodland, in late spring.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

On this occasion I went out to photograph the foxgloves, which looked fantastic against the dense green woodland. To be honest, like most things I've never photographed before, it was tougher than I expected, but I got this portrait shot, which I quite like.
Woodland ColourWoodland ColourFoxgloves adding some glamour to the green summer woodland.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

Everyone likes a busy bee. Despite intending to capture some wider shots of the foxgloves, I was so distracted by the activity of the many bees visiting the flowers that I had to try and get a close-up. I would have been a nicer shot if I'd had a longer focal length, but it's still nice to capture this bee alongside such colour.

Woodland BeeWoodland BeeFoxgloves are always popular with bees, and since I was there, I spent a few minutes trying to capture one of them paying a visit.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

The last two photos are quite different to my normal style. Instead of celebrating the beauty of the woodland, they're more like studies of the chaotic and overgrown. I'm always looking for order and tidiness in my photos life, so I've always found it tough to photograph ugly or messy scenes. But this natural woodland 'wetland' (swamp) is too interesting and unique not to try to capture. So I think I'll be back here, but this is a start.

Swamp Scene #1Swamp Scene #1The first of what I hope will be an ongoing project, capturing a local swamp/wetland, which I discovered purely by chance, during 2020 lockdown.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

The iron-rich peat creates these orange mineral deposits in the water. The combination of old-growth trees and ferns make this place look like something from Jurassic Park. Either that, or I just watched too many of the franchise's films during lockdown.

Swamp Scene #2Swamp Scene #2Another tightly framed swamp scene, showing the water-logged iron-rich peat bog. Not something considered classically beautiful, but it's there, and I like how untouched it it.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Overall it's been great to discover so much on my own doorstep, and as I come to terms with losing the grand travel plans I have for later in the year, I've been able to find interesting projects within a few minutes walk of home. I hope you've all been out exploring your local patch too.

Once again, you can find the full collection of Leaf Portraits here.

 

Quick Mention For Next Month

I'm always pleased to see artists rendering my photos in their own style, and as I mentioned on social media recently, I'm putting a blog post together to share some of those pictures that other people have made. So if you've ever drawn or painted one of my photos, or would like to do so in the next couple of weeks - please send me a photo of your work, so I can include it in my blog post. It'll be going out in mid-July. Get in touch here, or on all the usual social pipes.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) Bedfordshire Flitwick high-key landscape leaves lockdown nature photography spring trees UK woodland woods https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/6/spring-woodland-photography Mon, 22 Jun 2020 11:44:11 GMT
The Role of Nature Photography and Environmentalism https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/5/nature-photography-environmentalism I listened to an interview a few weeks ago, with one of my personal inspirations, Chris Packham, on the always excellent Matthew Maran Podcast. As an outspoken environmentalist and campaigner, Packham was as enthusiastic and motivating as ever. And one point resonated with me in particular. He was talking about the role of nature photographers, and the responsibilities we have; essentially saying that taking pretty pictures is just not enough anymore.

Raven & Dead TreesRaven & Dead TreesI like a graphically simple photo, and this is about as simple as it gets. A raven sits atop an old dead tree, watching time pass around them. I chose to use the high-key style here in order to maximise the simplicity of the image, and create a more stark contrast between the subject and it's surroundings.
Fine art wildlife photography, from the edge of the Finnish taiga forest.
It's a sentiment that got me thinking, partly because of his articulate and passionate argument, but also because it's been niggling away at the back of my mind for a while now. He has an admirable habit of voicing gentle criticism of the people who respect him, without simply pouring scorn. That's ultimately the kind of character trait that tells me this is a voice I can trust, as opposed to the majority who play it safe and flatter those around them. I often wonder what direction my photography is heading, and what I could do with it. And hearing Chris' rallying cry, as so often before, motivated me to be more active in my environmental approach. But to what extent should I be concerned with this outside influence on my photography?

 

The Case for the Prosecution

I think, to some degree, his point was aimed more at those photographers flying all around the world, taking another photo of a tiger, a polar bear, or a lion - simply to add to their collection, or to share on Instagram and bath in the momentary glory of Likes. Puffin On BlackPuffin On BlackPortrait of an Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), shot low-key on a black background.
I usually choose a relaxed 'pose' for these portraits, but I like the character and tension created by the open mouth here. Although it looks like a rather human 'calling' moment, puffins spend a lot of time opening their mouths, and 'chattering' to one another quite happily.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, UK.

"And what is it achieving?", he asks. Certainly a question I often wonder with Instagram photography. "Making you wish you'd been there is not enough. They've got to make you want to save that environment... to get up and do something".

But in addition to the mass of conventional photographers, he was also talking about the kind of photographer he is, and I aspire to be; those who are looking for art in nature, and sharing that aesthetic in a creative way. But "It's not just about them and their work", he argues. "It's got to come with a message". "It's got to be instigating change". "That pressure is on all of us". A fair point, I think.

 

The Case for the Defence

I take photos because I enjoy the time in nature, and I find the creative process personally fulfilling. So any outside influence, whether commercial or inspirational, will always be a secondary consideration rather than a primary driver. But that said, I am guided by those I respect, and who I see as successful and proactive in the field of art or environmentalism.

Red Squirrel looks up from drinkingRed Squirrel - The LookA red squirrel, pausing mid-drink, to look up at the camera. I couldn't really have asked for more.
I used a low-key portrait style here, to simplify the image, and keep the focus on the subject.
Nature Photography, UK.
I could be deluded, but I don't think I'm one of the people sharing just another set of photos of X. My photos are generally quite considered. When I'm planning a shoot, or looking through the viewfinder, I ask myself the question "To what end?". In other words, what point is this photo making, and how does it add to the roughly 4 billion photos taken each day?

As Packham said himself, "You can still photograph beautiful things, but you've got to use them to generate a real affinity that's going to drive change". And I think that's where I see myself right now. I hope that a photo of mine popping up in a social media timeline will help nurture a fondness for nature. And not just for the sake of wildlife, but also for the benefit to mental health and wellbeing that comes from our exposure to the natural world. But I don't particularly want to ram the environmentalism down people's throats. I'd rather share a photo of an animal or a landscape, and let people realise for themselves that this is a subject they value. I guess the problem in society is that not enough people do make that extra logical leap themselves. Either way, I want to treat people with respect, and not sound like a broken record. And I think there's a place for that.

More specifically, in terms of actions, I have my Footprints commitment; to leave behind more than just a body of photography in my wake. I'm currently planting a tree for every print sale, which is about the most effective positive action I think one can take. My most recent block-donation was for 12 trees, and while that won't solve the climate crisis on its own, it will at least provide a home to potentially thousands of rainforest insects, a handful of amphibians, and a small addition to the habitat range of some endangered birds and mammals.

 

The Verdict

Firstly, Chris Packham is a man who has often been misquoted or taken out of context, in order for some media outlet to feign outrage or stir up trouble. So although these are accurate quotes, it is worth remembering that they're taken from a fairly casual conversation, and one which was second-hand to me. So I don't think it's helpful to be too literal in my interpretation. Moreover, at a certain point you have to realise the difference between taking someone's opinions onboard, verses treating them like the holy scripture. But I think the gist of his point is fair; We do all need to do more to raise awareness and encourage positive changes in society.

Gum Tree PortraitGum Tree PortraitClose-up of a very large gum tree, which has lived for many many years, and still stands strong today. I love the endurance of mighty trees, and the idea that they'd seen many things come and go in their time, outlasting them with quiet serenity.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.
It's very hard to really feel like I can make a genuine difference on the scale that's required. But I think that in order for a movement to be effective you need a broad spectrum of action, from subtle to in-your-face. And I've always been happy to sit at the more subtle end in order to hopefully reach more of a mainstream audience, and act as a bit of a gateway to the more active end. I like to think that my photos encourage a connection to nature, and that my portraits can prompt an empathy with their animal subjects. Potentially, over time, maybe people will begin to foster an interest in nature themselves as a result. I don't know, but that has always been my hope.

Either way, I've thought for some time that I need to come up with more ways in which I can be proactive, raise awareness, and take action directly. I'm pleased with my Buy One Get One Tree scheme, but it was always my intention to add to my Footprints concept over time, so I do need to do that with something else too.

Ideally at this point I'd unveil the concept I've come up with, but that's simply not the case. I'm no further along in my thinking than I was. But it has galvanised my intentions, and I'm actively looking for projects to engage with, or schemes to launch. If you have any suggestions, do get in touch. If you're a photographer, let me know what you do, or what you think about this conundrum. If you're working in conservation, tell me how I can use my photography to help your cause.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) conservation environmentalism Maran nature Packham photography wildlife https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/5/nature-photography-environmentalism Mon, 25 May 2020 07:00:00 GMT
Low-Key Nature Photography: Parrot Portraits https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/4/low-key-nature-photography-parrot-portraits Back in January, I was on the train one morning, wondering where to take my series of On Black nature portraits next. The obvious direction is to go for a dark and moody tone, to mirror the aesthetic, and that's something I've done before (elephants, moose, deer). It works well, and ultimately it's probably the direction in which the project will tend to move. But on this occasion I wondered if I could go the other way, and use the format to portray something light-hearted, with a little charm and whimsy. ...Parrots..? ...A macaw, maybe?

I'm very grateful to Les Rance of the Parrot Society UK, who introduced me to two very characterful parrots. I got a good collection of portraits on the day, but I'm sharing just my favourite five in this blog post.

 

Green-Winged Macaw

This first bird is a green-winged macaw, also called a red-and-green macaw. And this particular individual is known as "Spiderman", as he matches the iconic colour palette of the comic book hero.

Green-Winged Macaw - On BlackGreen-Winged Macaw - On BlackI was looking for a species to photograph that was a contrast to the types of animals I typically have in my portfolio. I wanted something brightly coloured, with a light-hearted character. I think this fabulous macaw fits the brief perfectly. he adds a splash of colour and a touch of glamour to my collection of animal portraits.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

I'm really happy with this photo. It's pretty much exactly what I had in mind. It's bright, colourful, upbeat, and jovial. Quite a change from the portraits I've typically produced in the past.

 

Green-winged macaws originate from the Amazon region of South America, and are, thankfully, not an endangered species. Their large beaks are able to crack open big nuts, enabling them to feed a relatively large brain, and live a long lifespan similar to that of a human. I'm always looking for a personal connection to the subjects of my photos, and I think the character of these birds shines through in great evidence.

Green-Winged Macaw - On Black #2Green-Winged Macaw - On Black #2With a slightly wider angle that the previous portrait, this one emphasises the size of the beak, which is able to crack nuts with ease.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

In this third macaw portrait I was, for some reason, drawn to the idea of processing it in the style of a classic-era Hollywood portrait. I don't know why - maybe it's the apparent glamour of the subject. It's also fun to play with colour saturation, and show a very colourful bird in a more toned-down representation.
Green-Winged Macaw - Classic Hollywood PortraitGreen-Winged Macaw - Classic Hollywood PortraitSomething about this pose and "expression" attracted me to the idea of processing it in the style of a classic Hollywood head-shot portrait.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

My last bit of macaw trivia, which I learnt on the day, is that the feather pattern on the face, around the eye, is unique to each individual, and can act like a fingerprint for identification. There you go; you can tell your friends that one.

 

African Grey Parrot

The African grey originates from the Congo region of central Africa, and is an endangered species. They are particularly known for their intelligence, and their ability to mimic sounds and speech; able to collect a vocabulary of over a hundred words. Birds pack brain cells more densely than mammals, and large parrots are more intelligent than primates of a similar size due to their greater number of forebrain neurons. Grey parrots in particular have shown a cognitive ability on par with a four to six year old child!

I liked this photo because I think it looks like he's caught mid-conversation. Or maybe just about to begin a sentence. That really communicates the character of this species.

African Grey Parrot - On BlackAfrican Grey Parrot - On BlackI like this portrait as it looks like the bird is mid-sentence. This represents the African Grey well in my mind, as they're one of the more intelligent species, that can learn more than 100 words.
Fine Art Nature Photography - Bedfordshire, UK.
I really like capturing moments and expressions that portray animals in a more human way, as I think it helps us relate to them better.

 

The last photo here is slightly more sinister - more in the style of the rest of my On Black project. Not what I intended to capture on this occasion, but when an animal appears to take a genuine interest in what I'm doing, and what's behind the lens, I'd be silly not to make the most of it. It obviously creates an instantly engaging result.
Grey Parrot - Out Of The DarkGrey Parrot - Out Of The DarkThis slightly haunting image was one I was keen to get, and something I'd previously found tough to do with such small animals, but my flash skills are slowly improving - with practice!
Fine Art Nature Photography - Bedfordshire, UK.

These photos of animals appearing to come out of the darkness are very tricky to achieve with a creatures on this scale, using a flash. I've done it with larger animals in the past, but when you're working with a light drop-off of centimetres rather than meters, it gets much harder to execute - especially when the subject is free to move around like this. So for that reason, I'm particularly pleased with this shot - and it would suggest that my flash skills are slowing improving.

 

Working with birds that are able to fly around the room as they please can be very difficult - especially when you need them in front of your pre-positioned backdrop and flash unit. This shoot took some patience, and a lot of care for the birds themselves - letting them decide when to pose, and when they've had enough. I had to wait quite a while for the macaw to settle, but once he did he posed brilliantly for some time. The grey parrot was the opposite; He came straight out, posed like a star for a couple of minutes, and then made it quite clear that we were no longer of any interest.

I think birds really suit this style of photography, so I'm going to have to find some more opportunities to build on this collection with more interesting and characterful subjects in the future. To see more of my photos in this project, take a look here.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) African grey art avian bird dark green-winged macaw low-key macaw nature on black parrot Parrot Society UK photography portrait red-and-green UK https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/4/low-key-nature-photography-parrot-portraits Mon, 27 Apr 2020 06:00:00 GMT
Wall Art: Bringing The Outside In https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/3/wall-art-bringing-the-outside-in This is a subject I started mulling over last summer, and I made some notes at the time. But now feels a more appropriate time than ever to have a go at sharing it in a blog post. With spring upon us, it's usually the most dynamic, energetic, and optimistic season to be out and about, with so much of nature to enjoy - whether it be actively or subliminally. But for obvious reasons we're not going to be able to enjoy the season this year, as we once would. So besides taking the opportunities we have to get outside, how do we bring the outside in, and why would we want to? What is it about nature imagery that we enjoy?

Bluebell woodland on a sunny spring morningSpring Bluebell WoodlandA beautiful woodland scene, on a fresh spring morning. The woods are an enchanting landscape at any time, but especially so with a carpet of bluebells in bloom.
This is a multi-photo panorama, which I like to use in the woods, to emphasise the feeling of being surrounded by trees.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Hertfordshire, UK.


 

Why Bring The Outside In?

For some of us this is an obvious answer; knowing that we value nature in our lives. But for many people it's a far more subconscious effect. The majority of people will go about their lives not noticing the natural scenery around them, like the trees lining a street, or the wall art in their lives such as those large prints hanging in office buildings around the world. Most people pass them in reception without a second look, and in many ways that's how they're designed to be consumed; a subtle reminder of the outside, adding texture to a man-made surface, or softening a wall space which would otherwise feel cold and oppressive. Yet whether they're noticed or not, they still do their job; relaxing us, relieving stress, and offering an opportunity to engage our imagination and escape the hum-drum.

We know that people value a good view. The promise of a view raises the value of hotel rooms, attracting guests seeking 'sea views' or 'herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain'. Hospital patients with window-views to trees and natural spaces recover faster, and require less pain relief (more). At school, children with a view of nature show increased attention and decreased stress (more). And at work employees report a greater sense of job satisfaction and overall health when they are near a window. And the good news is, just looking at photos of nature can help reduce stress levels (more), and aid recovery of stressful events (more).

For more about the benefits of nature in our lives, have a look at these links:

OK, well I would imagine that by now, most people understand that exposure to nature is important on a subconscious level. Next is the question pertaining more specifically to what I do...

Loughrigg Fell SunsetLoughrigg Fell SunsetThe sun sets over the Lake District hills, brushing the valley with golden light.
Taken from Loughrigg Fell, during an autumn visit to the Lake District.
Landscape photography, Cumbria, UK.


 

Why Do We Enjoy Nature Photography?

Why do you enjoy nature photography?

For me, it's largely an escape. From the modern world, and all its artificial trappings. Somehow nature photography seems more 'real'. It has a back-to-basics quality about it. On an aesthetic level I enjoy minimalism, colour combinations, symmetry, balanced compositions, and interesting viewpoints. I consume nature photography as it pops up in my social media feeds (OK, it constitutes 90% of my social media feeds), and also through the photos on my walls. As I enjoy landscape photography on my travels, I also like to see photos that remind me of places I've been - even a quick glimpse of Iceland can bring back fresh memories of my time there. These brief moments of nature break the monotony of everyday life, offering distraction, solace, and escapism. But there's more to it, even than that.

We see more shades of green than any other colour. It's our natural environment, and time in nature is proven to relax us - reducing levels of cortisol; our primary stress hormone (more).

I can heartily recommend Ingrid Fetell Lee's book Joyful, which discusses a range of sources that spark joy in everyday life. And in which she outlines the theory of The Ideal Landscape; a concept originating from a 1993 survey to discover what people like to see in an image (painting, drawing, photo, of any kind). And the results from the ten disparate countries surveyed were surprisingly similar; Grassy areas, trees, and blue skies. When asked what people want to see, it's most often the kinds of views portrayed in classic landscape photography.

This in turn ties in with an idea from geographer Jay Appleton, dubbed "Prospect Refuge Theory". That's the idea that humans seek viewpoints which provide wide vistas and opportunities to explore the landscape (prospect), but that also offer protection and shelter (refuge). Not mentioned in the title is the third element; Hazard - "the proximity of something which threatens, menaces, or disturbs our equilibrium". These three elements regularly form the basis of compositions in popular landscape photography. Prospect will often be manifested by rolling hills, fields, the sea, and other open spaces. Refuge is represented in the form of cabins and huts, trees (which provide cover), boats, or lookouts (wherever the girl in the yellow jacket is standing, on Instagram). Hazard is an enjoyable element to play with, and will often come in the form of incoming storms, imposing clouds, or areas of deep shadow.

Rather than ramble on too much about image theory, I'll just conclude by adding that there are many and varied concepts which explain our predilection for nature imagery, and they each help to add to our understanding of why we like the pictures we do. Maybe I'll write a follow-up post specifically about this subject in the future, as it's something I'm particularly interested in. Skuleskogen ForestSkuleskogen ForestA wide-aspect view of the forests of Skuleskogen National Park, in the High Coast (Höga Kusten) region of Sweden.
The Swedish High Coast is a spectacular area of the country, situated around halfway up the East coast of the country. Skuleskogen offers easy hiking trails with views of green forests, granite mountains, big skies, and the many nearby off-shore islands.
Travel photography, Hoga Kusten, Sweden.


 

How To Bring The Outside In?

Misty Forest Layers - FramedMisty Forest Layers - FramedFramed photo of a misty morning in the Dolomites.
Fine art landscape photography wall art.
Oh gosh, how embarrassing. I seem to have led you straight to my Landscape wall art gallery.
*blush* ...Maybe I'm getting the hang of this marketing thing after all!

Well aside from contemporary, premium-quality prints, with free delivery and a tree planted for every print sold... how else can you bring the outside in?

Here are some more ideas...

A window! Probably the hardest to achieve, certainly in the short-term, but it could be the most beneficial long-term, if you have line-of-sight to a green space.

Paintings & drawings. Maybe I'm biased, but I really enjoy wall art, whether it's a nature scene or something more abstract. I'm also keen to try some sort of 'mural' or large-scale wall print in our house. And alongside photography, paintings and drawings are a great way of giving yourself exposure to a view of nature, in a more traditional medium. If you're feeling particularly inspired you can unleash you inner Bob Ross, and get painting yourself.

Nature-inspired crafts. I really like the idea of using leaves in art. Check out these clay leaf bowls. Framing pressed leaves seems like a nice thing to do too, and creates a really beautiful wall feature. Again, there are lots of other ideas on places like Pinterest. You can quickly find or create mixed media wall art that takes its inspiration from nature, and brings a subtle hint of the outside to your home interior. And you have all the options of sewing, knitting, and textiles, which can equally be applied to wall art. Check out these seasonal crochet wreaths my mum has been making...

Seasonal Crochet WreathsSeasonal Crochet WreathsCrochet (kitted, to you and me) wreaths, for nature-inspired wall-decor.

...Apparently winter is currently in production too.

House plants. I'm not green-fingered - my record with house plants is sketchy at best. But I do love a house plant, and I have a thing about wanting a tree in the living room. And I can vouch for the boost to my demeanour from this and other plants in my living spaces. But don't take my word for it. Here's the RHS's word on the matter. There are loads of different species of plant that do well indoors, and lots of ideas for how to pot, hang, or display them. Try something like Pinterest to get your inspiration going.

Digital wallpaper. Right, this is the easiest one of all. Everyone has a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Just set the wallpaper to a nice landscape scene. You'll absorb that subliminally throughout the day. I didn't used to do this - I wanted to keep my work laptop looking smart and professional. But after making this one small change, it really had an effect. I really recommend it.

Silver Birch PanoramaSilver Birch PanoramaA wide-aspect panorama image of silver birch trees in early autumn. This super-wide image is made by stitching several photos side-by-side. Being a very large file, it's well suited to very large wall prints.
I took this on a damp morning, which really brings out the colours from the scene.
Part of
an ongoing treescape project within my wider landscape photography gallery.
Fine art nature photography, UK.

 

Over To You

If at this point, I haven't inspired you to pick up a paintbrush, a pot plant, or a landscape print, I don't know what else I can do! As a reader of this blog, you probably recognised the value of nature in your life before now, and it's up to us share our understanding, and to use it to decorate the spaces which we share with people who are often less mindful of the benefits. So best of luck! If you found this post helpful or interesting, please give it a share on the socials. And if you do get something up on the wall as a result of reading this post, please share a photo and tag me. I'd love to see how you spruce up your walls, and increase your exposure to the positive, relaxing, and stress-relieving effects of nature.

Grose Valley SunriseGrose Valley SunriseView of the sunrise, over Grose Valley, from Govett's Leap lookout, Blackheath.
Landscape Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art composition home interior landscape leaves nature photography wall art https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/3/wall-art-bringing-the-outside-in Mon, 30 Mar 2020 06:00:00 GMT
Low Key Nature Photography: Fluffy Creatures https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/3/low-key-nature-photography-fluffy Ah, the Fluffy Boys edition of my low-light animal portrait series. I don't think I need to say too much here - I'm sure you get it. I'm into low-key portraits of animals against black backgrounds and I have a long-running "On Black" project featuring all kinds of animals in this style. Over the years I've photographed everything from elephants to cockroaches. Today it's the turn of the cute and the fluffy.

Anyone who knows me would agree I'm not normally into 'cute' animals. But I like these because the images present a series of contradictions; an aesthetic that's serious but light-hearted, and a style that's a combination of classic and contemporary portraiture. I quite like exploring where two opposing notions meet.

 

Bunnies

Fluffy White Bunny (Side)Fluffy White Bunny (Side)I don't do 'cute' photos very often, but this bunny is simply adorable.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

Rabbits are another species new to my portfolio, and presented an enjoyable challenge. Above, he almost looks like some made up creature, such are the adorable proportions of the features.

Below, looking more serious but with that fluff it's hard to really be imposing!

Fluffy White BunnyFluffy White BunnyThe most fluffy of bunnies, looking back at us, from out of the dark.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

I like to think he's channelling his inner-lion. Or maybe the rabbit from Monty Python.

Next, this grey rabbit poses very nicely. He's all business...

Grey RabbitGrey RabbitGrey rabbit, sitting up for a head shot in the classic low-key portrait style.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Nope, he's cute too:

Grey Rabbit (Standing)Grey Rabbit (Standing)This inquisitive rabbit will frequently stand up to observe his immediate surroundings, and it makes for an interesting shot in this posture.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Guinea Pig

Wow, what a gift! - A black animal on a black background. My absolute favourite combo.

Black Guinea PigBlack Guinea PigA very thoughtful-looking black guinea pig on a black background.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Black Guinea Pig (Side)Black Guinea Pig (Side)A black guinea pig, photographed in low-key lighting, for this atmospheric portrait.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Black Guinea Pig (Eating)Black Guinea Pig (Eating)Another slightly comical portrait, as this black guinea pig emerges from the darkness, chowing down on some fresh greens.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Harvest Mouse

It's hard to communicate the size of a harvest mouse if you haven't seen one before. They're so tiny. But they're good fun too, and always inquisitive, which makes for a good photo.

Harvest MouseHarvest MouseSquare crop of a harvest mouse, photographed in low-key portrait style.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Here he uses that tail to balance as he adjusts his footing.

Harvest MouseHarvest MouseA harvest mouse climbing a thin tree branch, photographed in low-key portrait style.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

So nimble, they can clamber around on the end of plants and flowers with relative ease. Here he's at home on the end of a wooden twig.

Harvest MouseHarvest MouseA harvest mouse balances on top of a thin tree branch, photographed in low-key portrait style.
Photo taken under controlled conditions, and under supervision from Teaching Talons, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I'm really pleased with these photos. I'm not sure the rabbits could have gone much better. The guinea pig and harvest mouse were tougher, requiring closer lenses, and presenting more of a lighting-challenge, working at this small scale. So that's something for me to practice and improve on in future. For now, the rabbits have made it into my gallery, and sit well alongside my more exotic species.

Thanks to Teaching Talons for the access to these animals, which I photographed as part of an on-going project to photograph the full range of their species. There's more to come too.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) captive animal photography cute dark fluffy guinea pig harvest mouse low-key mammals mouse nature on-black photography portrait rabbit Teaching Talons UK https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/3/low-key-nature-photography-fluffy Mon, 09 Mar 2020 07:00:00 GMT
Landscape Photography from The Dolomites https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/2/landscape-photography-dolomites Finally, I'm getting around to sharing my images of The Dolomite mountains. Also known as the 'Italian Alps', the Dolomites sit at the North East of Italy, meeting the border with Austria. They've been popular with hikers and climbers for decades, and in recent years the secret reached landscape photographers, who now also flock there from all over Europe. What appealed to me about the Dolomites was the scale of the place; the huge characteristic rock formations rising high up above the valleys below.

Once again I was joined by friend/photographer/enabler Elliot Hook, who was equally keen to try a mountain location new to us. We decided to go in September to avoid the crowds of the summer while still having warm(ish) days, and before the weather makes things logistically prohibitive. We stayed in a combination of 'Rifugio' mountain huts (for access to mountain viewpoints at sunrise & sunset), and valley campsites (for flexibility, and to keep costs down).

I think there's a good mixture of styles and subjects here, so I'm pleased with that. I love dramatic mountain photos, but I also enjoy semi-anonymous mountain layers, and treescapes, and I managed to get a little of everything in this trip.

 

Mountain Vistas

First and foremost, the great thing about the Dolomites is the accessibility of relatively high-altitude viewpoints. I like to photograph mountains from all perspectives, but the opportunity to shoot across or down on summits of 2,000-3,000m+ is rarely as convenient as in the Dolomites.

These first few photos are from the Piz Boe mountain hut, which sits at 3,152m, and serves a good chocolate cake. There was snow at the summit during our visit, and the temperature was below freezing at sunrise. But the views were well worth it.

Piz Boe PanoramaPiz Boe PanoramaA massive 7-shot panorama of the mountains south, from Piz Boe in the Sella Massif.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Dolomite RidgesDolomite RidgesMountain ridges at sunrise.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Looking East, amongst the layers of ridges you can see the popular Lagazuoi mountain hut (2,835m), where we also stayed a night.

Dawn on LagazuoiDawn on LagazuoiThe mountains of the Dolomite region, at dawn. Lagazuoi mountain hut is visible on the left.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Piz Boe was really fantastic as a view point, and we probably had our best light of the week on this sunrise.

Dolomite View from Piz BoeDolomite View from Piz BoeThe mountains of the Southern Dolomite region, as seen from Piz Boe mountain hut.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

I couldn't quite get the angle I wanted on this ridge. The tough pale rock is so characteristic of the Dolomite region. But it really bothered me how the peak was neither comfortably above or below the horizon. As I manoeuvred myself around the small area of plateau available, this was the best angle of found. I took a few photos of this ridge, and this was my favourite because of the way the dawn light provides some separation from the background; alleviating the horizon problem to some degree.

Dolomite RockDolomite RockA pointy ridgeline illustrating the characteristic rock of the Dolomite region.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

This is the Cadini di Misurina mountain range, visible from the Tre Cime area or, more often, Instagram. It's a striking and impressive sight, but we unfortunately didn't get the conditions to achieve the kind of Mordor-inspired shot for which it's famous.

Cadini di MisurinaCadini di MisurinaCadini di Misurina in what can only be described as disappointing conditions.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

I can't quite be sure which mountain this is, but it loomed over our campsite, and was the main background feature from Sella mountain pass.

Misty Dolomite MountainMisty Dolomite MountainMisty mountain view from Sella Pass.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

I like the anonymity of this shot. It could be anywhere, and it's not really of anything in particular - just a mood and an atmosphere only accessible from high in the mountains.

Cloudy Sunset - LagazouiCloudy Sunset - LagazouiThe pastel sky and cloudy layers seen from Lagazoui at sunset.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

At times the Dolomites can look like another planet entirely. I think both this shot, and the one above could easily be CGI backdrops in a Star Wars film.

Dolomites - Another PlanetDolomites - Another PlanetThe Dolomites can look like another planet entirely sometimes.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

In reality, all three are taken from the aforementioned Lagazoui hut. Below is a panorama featuring a few classic landmarks, taken in dramatic dawn light, and yet I think it's a bit of a mess. I don't even know why I'm including it here. I guess because it should be good. But the practicalities of achieving a balanced image when the sky is so interesting yet there's no direct light on the foreground, are so challenging it's very hard to make something of it. Maybe I'll revisit the processing of this one at some stage.

Lagazoui PanoramaLagazoui PanoramaPanorama shot from Lagazoui.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Hmm. Another mess that I couldn't let go. I need to be a better editor. It's Monte Antelao, which is just a perfect mountain, looming over the Cortina valley. Again there's colour in the sky, and nothing on the foreground. Not a great photo. But a great view nonetheless.

Monte Antelao over Cortina d'AmpezzoMonte Antelao over Cortina d'AmpezzoThe impressive pyramid mountain 'Antelao', which looms over the town of Cortina below.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Ah, and this is the the reverse of the photo earlier, looking back at Piz Boe and the Sella Massif, from Lagazoui. A bit of an ugly sister, the view from it is considerably better than the view of it. But the light is interesting here.

Piz Boe and Sella MassifPiz Boe and Sella MassifLooking West to the Sella Massif and Piz Boe hut, from Lagazoui mountain hut.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

This is Marmolada; the highest mountain in the region. It's an interesting shape, but it's not an easy one to get a good angle on. This isn't the most dynamic composition, but the light makes it work - just about, I think.

Marmolada DawnMarmolada DawnMarmolada, the highest mountain in the region. Looking pretty awe-inspiring at sunrise.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Trees

I was pleasantly surprised by how much forest area there was in the Dolomites. It makes a nice contrast to the brutal granite that would dominate without the welcome calm and familiarity of the trees.

Gardena Tree #1Gardena Tree #1A lone tree in Gardena Pass, against the characteristic granite rock of the Dolomite region.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

I took this one from our camp site. You can't get more convenient views than that. I really like it too. It looks simple at first, but I think it offers a lot aesthetically. Again it features the classic granite rock, with the forest unfolding below, offering a hint as to the scale of the mountain behind. As much as I enjoy being on a mountain top, this view feels more like my natural environment; surrounded by trees, with mountains emerging above.

Dolomite Forest #3Dolomite Forest #3A forested mountainside, contrasted with the towering granite wall behind.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

From here on in, we lose any external context, as I took the opportunity to add to my Only Trees collection of frame-filling treescapes.

Dolomite Forest #2Dolomite Forest #2Pine forest of the Dolomites region.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Forest LightForest LightA treescape from a hillside in the Dolomites.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Misty ForestMisty ForestMorning mist rises from the forest, snaking through the valley like a river.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Misty Forest LayersMisty Forest LayersThe overlapping layers of pine forest, which is so characteristic of this part of Europe.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Scenic

No, I don't know what this category means either. But 'Scenic' sounds better than 'Miscellaneous'.

Dolomite PastelsDolomite PastelsPastel skies during sunrise. Looking West from the Sella Massif, towards the Austrian Alps.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

Above, the pastel skies, looking West from Piz Boe. Below, a rare opportunity to look down on the clouds, with some pinky pastels again.

Dawn MountainsDawn MountainsPastel colours and rolling clouds, in the Dolomites.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

More misty layers here. For me, this view doesn't quite work. There's a bit of a gap in the middle of the frame. You might say that's the nature of valleys, but in this case there's plenty going on all around the frame, except in where should be the focal point. Maybe some views are best enjoyed without analysis.

Mountain LayersMountain LayersMisty mountain layers, looking East at dawn, from Tre Cime.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Below, a misty morning in Gardena Pass.

Misty Mountain LightMisty Mountain LightMorning sunlight pours through a valley to illuminate the mountains behind.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Here Sella Pass does it's best impression of Yosemite.

Sella PassSella PassSella Pass, in the Dolomites, doing its best to look like Yosemite.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

This is not the kind of photo I'd normally take; It's daylight, and it contains buildings. But there's a quality about the light that I enjoy, and I keep coming back to it for the retro-postcard feel it has about it. It's lake Misurina, with the peaks of Tre Cime behind.

Lago di MisurinaLago di MisurinaLago di Misurina, with the towers of Tre Cime looming in the background.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Closer up, this is a climber tackling the centre peak of Tre Cime. It's tricky to get a good perspective on these climbers. From this distance, you can't really get much of the rock formation in whilst also keeping the climber recognisably large enough in the frame. But if you move closer, you lose the angle and have to look upward. Anyway, I do kind of like this photo. And good on him for wearing blue trousers and a bright green helmet, to help him stand out from the beige rock.

Climbing Tre CimeClimbing Tre CimeA brave climber tackles the Tre Cime Peaks.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Last photo from the Tre Cime area, and this was the sunrise we were treated to on our first morning. It's a classic (read 'unoriginal') view, from Lago Antorno, as we wanted something easy on our first morning. I sometimes feel like the colours are a bit OTT here, but this is what it was like. A pretty epic welcome to the Dolomites.

Lago Antorno SunriseLago Antorno SunriseLago Antorno and Tre Cime at sunrise, on our first morning in the Dolomites. A classic shot and a great start to the week.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Seceda

If you've used Instagram then you've probably seen Seceda. It's even signposted from the cable car with a little Instagram photo logo. So here's the classic view.

Seceda BluesSeceda BluesSeceda, shortly before the cloud came in to obscure the view.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

And here's something vaguely different, from this very popular landmark.

Seceda GrassesSeceda GrassesSeceda.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

To the right of the crumpled cliffs themselves is a little 'Mini Seceda', which I quite enjoyed. This is a close-up, but it features in some of the wider views I took too.

Mini SecedaMini SecedaThese rocks are probably enormous, but compared to the scale of Seceda, they seemed tiny.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

The next morning, we were treated to a cloud inversion, and pretty much the dream shooting conditions (aside from the cold).

Seceda Twilight #2Seceda Twilight #2Seceda mountian rangue during twilight.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

As it warmed up the cloud would roll over the top of the cliffs, catching the sun on it's way.

Seceda MistSeceda MistCloud blows over the peaks of Seceda, shortly after sunrise.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

Now come the two photos which have single-handedly delayed this blog post by 2-3 months. In these perfect conditions, I took some photos I'm really happy with. But I found all the direct light very hard to handle in post-processing, combined with the other features in this landscape. It's taken me ages to find a balance I'm happy with.

Seceda DawnSeceda DawnThe Seceda mountain range, at dawn.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

 

As the sun finally made it over the horizon, this was my most memorable photo of the trip.

Seceda SunriseSeceda SunriseSeceda mountain range at sunrise.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Dolomites, Italy.

I think I'll be tweaking the processing of this shot for years to come, such is the scope and difficulty of the job. But I do like this one.

 

Reflections on the Dolomites

Looking back I'm reasonably happy with this collection of photos, I think. As usual, I followed the classic mindset:

  • Over-optimistic about the opportunities ahead of time.
  • Reasonably happy with my photos as I was taking them.
  • Disappointed in them when I got home.
  • But happy again a couple of months later, having reduced the set down to just the highlights.

As I mentioned during the post, there are some in there that I'll revisit in Lightroom in the future. There's a lot of scope and dynamic range available in a few of them, and in many ways I find that amount of choice a little paralysing. More than in previous trips, I found these photos influenced by the sometimes-garish aesthetic of Instagram, which is something I'd rather avoid. I've tried to process most of them in a way which is faithful to my memory of the scene, and hopefully more grounded in reality.

Overall, the Dolomites lived up to the hype. It's really something of a playground for landscape photographers. So many locations are just a short drive from each other, with a range of landscapes available from the subtle to the Seceda. There's a good choice of accommodation, from hotels and B&Bs, to campsites and mountain huts. And all very accessible, with great food around every corner. I'd like to visit in winter sometime, I think.

-

Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art Dolomites Dolomiti Italy landscape mountains nature photography Piz Boe Seceda Tre Cime https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/2/landscape-photography-dolomites Sat, 08 Feb 2020 19:00:00 GMT
Low-Key Nature Photography: Exotic Species https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/1/low-key-nature-photography-exotic-species Following on from a previous blog post of low-key owl portraits, here are some more photos shot in low light with Teaching Talons. This time it's a set of more exotic species, comprising reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

 

Chameleon

Chameleon Close-UpChameleon Close-UpA Veiled Chameleon, head-on, photographed in low-key lighting against a black background.
Chameleons are fantastic subjects to work with, and offer some wonderful expressions.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally with Teaching Talons under controlled conditions.

This is Cham, the Veiled Chameleon. What a star she was. Chameleons are great posers. We all read charisma into their seemingly considered postures, and of course, they are able to change colour to convey mood and even more character. With eyes that move independently, the hardest thing about these portraits was waiting for both eyes to face the front at the same time. It almost became a game as she moved one around, before switching to the other, never quite pausing with both forward. But as with a lot of animal photography, it's a matter of patience.

Chameleon PortraitChameleon PortraitA Veiled Chameleon, head-on, photographed in low-key lighting against a black background.
Chameleons are interesting and charismatic subjects, as we can read a lot into their postures and expressions.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally with Teaching Talons under controlled conditions.

Each time I think I have a favourite of these chameleon portraits, I change my mind. I'm pretty happy with both of them.

 

Corn Snake

Corn Snake On BlackCorn Snake On BlackA corn snake, photographed against black.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally under controlled conditions with Teaching Talons.

Again patience was required, as I was trying to catch it with its tongue out. For me that's when a snake is most expressive and characterful, and it was the shot I wanted. 

And as a bonus, I managed to capture a couple of them.

Corn Snake On BlackCorn Snake On BlackA corn snake, photographed against black.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally under controlled conditions with Teaching Talons.

 

African Bull Frog

OK, I keep talking about patience, but when it comes to photography, that's rarely a problem for me. I could wait for ever for the shot I want. What was a genuine challenge for me was to be in the presence of a frog! I am really not happy around frogs. What can I say - they freak me out! Ranidaphobia, if we're being high-brow about it. And this was no ordinary frog. He's an absolute beast; Bigger than my fist, and full of attitude. But I have to say I love this photo, and it's one of my favourites that I've taken with artificial lighting so far.

African Bull FrogAfrican Bull FrogThis is an African Bull Frog, photographed in low-key against black.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally under controlled conditions with Teaching Talons.

Fortunately I'm able to look at these photos without too much unease. My issue is more related to their erratic movements, which isn't a concern in a photo. He was also very well behaved. He hardly moved for the five minutes we had him posing 'on-set'. I guess you can see from these photos that he doesn't exactly look like he's about to spring into action (but that's how they get you!). I love a 'head-on' perspective, but how about a more presidential-style angle?

African Bull FrogAfrican Bull FrogThis is an African Bull Frog, photographed in low-key against black.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally under controlled conditions with Teaching Talons.

 

Bearded Dragon

Another interesting subject, and an opportunity to portray a real life dragon up-close. I like my subjects to be subtly revealed; fading in from the darkness, which is tricky to do with animals of this scale (certainly compared to my experience with large mammals and natural light). But these dragons, and the frog above are getting very close to the look I want to achieve, so that's very pleasing.

Mushu (Close)Mushu (Close)A bearded dragon, photographed against black.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally under controlled conditions with Teaching Talons.

It's great to work with a chilled out subject like this. Staying very still and rewarding me with a quizzical gaze, it leaves me with more time and space to concentrate on lighting and composition. And that eye makes a great focal point.

Mushu (Wide)Mushu (Wide)A bearded dragon, photographed against black.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally under controlled conditions with Teaching Talons.

 

Madagascan Hissing Cockroach

CockroachCockroachA Madagascan hissing cockroach.
Fine Art Nature Photography, photographed locally under controlled conditions with Teaching Talons.

Not something I'd normally photograph, but it's fun to challenge myself to find character and empathy in a cockroach. These guys are pretty big, and by catching it with its head up and antennae out, I think I was able to capture something interesting. Although it's shot with a flash against a black background, this isn't truly low-key lighting. Working on this scale is something I'll have to practice for smaller critters in the future. Nevertheless I like the outcome, and it sheds light on the kind of animal that's easily overlooked.

 

So there we go. Some interesting species to photograph, and I'm pleased with this set of photos. They also add to my On Black collection, which is my main focus for photography beside the sister project; On White. Thanks again to Becky for your assistance with this project. I've got some more animals from Teaching Talons still to come, so I'll share those soon. They feature some more domestic species, but in some fun and charismatic poses.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2020.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) bearded dragon captive animal photography chameleon cockroach dark frog low-key nature on-black photography portrait reptile snake Teaching Talons UK https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2020/1/low-key-nature-photography-exotic-species Mon, 13 Jan 2020 07:00:00 GMT
Grey Seal Pups https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/12/grey-seal-pups A visit to a seal colony is one of the highlights of the British wildlife calendar, and having missed the last couple of years, I wanted to make sure I paid a visit to one this year. Compared to many countries, the UK is pretty tiny, but I still live about as far from the coast as it's possible to get here. So it's not easy to get out and see our coastal wildlife very often, especially for sunrise. But it's well worth doing so, both as a photographer and as a keen observer of nature.

 

Little Pups

Sunrise Seal PupSunrise Seal PupA grey seal pup, at sunrise, on a sandy Norfolk beach, during another record pupping season, in winter 2019. The soft fur and wide eyes are an irresistible combination!
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

Those wide eyes, and pure white fur are an irresistible combination, even for an old cynic like me. Even more irresistible to my eye is the opportunity to use back-lighting like this.

Adorable Seal PupAdorable Seal PupA grey seal pup, sitting up at sunrise, on a sandy Norfolk beach, during pupping season 2019.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

Though the sun had already been up an hour or so, I was really lucky with the amazing light filtering through the cloud and sea mist to keep it softer than it otherwise would have been by this time.

Grey Seal Pup at DawnGrey Seal Pup at DawnA grey seal pup, at sunrise, on a sandy Norfolk beach, during pupping season 2019.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

In reality, the light was not this glorious to the eye, but I knew the camera would emphasise it when shooting towards the sun like this. It's a tricky exposure to get right, and I initially thought I'd blown out the highlights, but I got home to discover I'd been saved by the subtlety of the raw file, compared to the jpeg on the back of the camera.

Turning my back to the sun, this next shot looks like another day altogether, but they were taken minutes apart.

Seal Pup on Blue SkySeal Pup on Blue SkyA grey seal pup, on a sandy Norfolk beach, during pupping season 2019.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

You can still sense that this was a nice pastel-coloured morning, but the atmosphere is a world away from the previous three photos. And intentionally so, as I wanted a variety of styles.

It's a curious thing about cameras though; In 'good' light, such as this morning, they'll make the scene look better than it does to the eye. On other days, you could shoot the same subject and viewpoint, and it would look much flatter and uninspiring than it did to the eye. As a photographer, it's key to recognise what sort of lighting conditions I'm in, and react accordingly. Shoot more, shoot less, change lenses and approach from a different angle, or go home and have a hot chocolate. But hopefully always enjoy what I'm seeing, photo or no photo.

Speaking of enjoying, do you ever get the feeling your subject isn't taking you seriously?

Happy Seal PupHappy Seal PupA grey seal pup, on a sandy Norfolk beach, during pupping season 2019. Though he looks like he's caught in a fit of giggles, he's actually yawning.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

In reality, this pup was yawning as it drifted off to sleep. But I can't help thinking it's a bit of a ROFL situation.

Here's another one of this playful pup, which I kind of like in black and white.

Sleepy Seal PupSleepy Seal PupA grey seal pup, in black and white, on a sandy Norfolk beach, during pupping season 2019.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

 

Lastly, the high-key approach, which I like...

Grey Seal PupGrey Seal PupA young grey seal pup, laying on it's back, relaxing on a sunny morning.
I felt that the high-key, black and white look would be most effective here, and I'm pleased with the result. It highlights the bright white coat of the pup, and the feeling of vulnerability which with which they live. In the background, the sun-lit sand dunes fade into the sky.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

 

Here's the serious bit: If you're going to go and see a seal colony, which I highly recommend you do, please exercise some common sense and respect for the wildlife you're going to see. Don't crowd around an individual, and don't get too close to any seal. Mothers will abandon their pups if they're concerned for their own safety, or if they pick up a human scent on their pup. The adults can also be very bad-tempered and aggressive when they want to be, and they carry a horrible bacteria in their mouth - not to mention a strong and pointy jaw.

Last week a pup drowned after being herded into the sea by some children (whose mother watched on, oblivious), another died after being abandoned by its mother due to proximity to people, and another died after being mauled by not one but two dogs. Who even takes dogs onto a beach inhabited by thousands of baby seals? The reality is that these spectacles and experiences simply won't remain accessible to others in future years if we don't act responsibly. But that's no reason not to go and enjoy them. They're like nothing else we have here. Just keep your distance, and enjoy the experience of sharing time and space with these charismatic creatures. These photos were all taken at a respectful distance with a long lens.

 

Big Daddies

This was the classic 'beach master'; a large bull policing his stretch of beach and removing other males from the area by intimidation or by force. His aim is to maintain as large a territory as possible and in doing so, mate with the females therein. They're big brutes, and you wouldn't want to get caught in their way. They average 2.5 metres long, and around 230kg (which is almost 4 of me!). Laying on the beach taking these photos, I'm constantly looking around to make sure there are no seals heading in my direction. They can move quickly when they want to.

Beach MasterBeach MasterA grey seal bull, asserting his dominance, on a sandy Norfolk beach, during pupping season 2019.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

This last photo is another male, sleeping out the morning, and sheltering his eyes from the sandstorm blowing low over the beach.

Sleeping SealSleeping SealA grey seal resting up, despite the sandstorm, on this busy Norfolk beach.
Fine art nature photography, Norfolk, UK.

 

Enjoy These Sights For Yourself

I would encourage anyone in the UK to try and visit a seal colony at least once. There's nothing else quite like it here, since we persecuted all our other large mammals into extinction several centuries ago. Fortunately seals had other options, location-wise, but they're now flooding back and increasing in number year on year, which is great. Norfolk and Lincolnshire host the most popular seal colonies, but they can also be found elsewhere from Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland, right down to Essex and the Thames estuary. Pupping times vary around the country, but on the east coast, they haul out to pup in late autumn and hang around until the new year. During that time there can be in excess of a thousand pups born, which means similar numbers of adult males and females. They can also be seen in the surf or on the beach in fewer numbers the rest of the year too.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) beach british grey seal Halichoerus grypus nature Norfolk photography Seal sunrise UK wildlife https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/12/grey-seal-pups Mon, 23 Dec 2019 08:00:00 GMT
Low-Key Nature Photography: Owls https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/12/low-key-nature-photography-owls It's time for some new low-key portraits! Here are five photos of a Southern White-Faced Owl...

Southern White Faced Owl - On Black - Lean-InSouthern White Faced Owl - On Black - Lean-InSouthern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background.
Here, this cheeky chap leans into shot, which I thought was a fun insight to his character.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

He's part of the family at Teaching Talons; a local company working with schools and events to bring children in contact with animals. I don't think there's a better way to spark interest among young people, and inspire a wonder and respect for the natural world. I'm working with Teaching Talons to photograph their many and varied animals, so over time I should have lots of new photos like this, of all kinds of unexpected species.

Southern White Faced OwlSouthern White Faced OwlSouthern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background.
A little smaller in the frame, this shot allows more space around the subject.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

So as you can see, this owl is quite a character. Perfect for an interesting portrait. He's called Pigwidegon; named after an owl from pop culture's "Harry Potter".

Southern White Faced OwlSouthern White Faced OwlSouthern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background.
Incorporating the perch into the shot, I was able to capture this photo in portrait-orientation.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

Those eyes are just on fire, and they stand out brilliantly from his black, white, and grey feathers.

I've always used natural light for my low-key portraits in the past, but I've hinted recently that I'm finally learning to use artificial light, in order to create the studio conditions I want. Like most creative skills, it's a steep learning curve, and I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there. I'm really happy with these photos, and my ability to create this look in-camera means that I'm not reliant on external conditions, so am much more able to achieve the photos I want in a repeatable way, with many more animals than I could previously.

Southern White Faced OwlSouthern White Faced OwlSouthern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I've always enjoyed the digital processing aspect of photography, especially so with the creative licence of my low-key images. But I have to say I'm enjoying the way in which these artificially-lit portraits come out of the camera almost ready-to-go, with relatively little work required in post.

Southern White Faced Owl - On BlackSouthern White Faced Owl - On BlackSouthern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background.
I always look for character in a portrait, and this little fella had bundles of it. And that eye stands out amazingly from the greyscale tones of this feathers.
Fine art nature photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Two of these photos have made it to my On-Black gallery. I could have picked more, but I probably should have just chosen one. I'm terrible at picking one photo out of a selection. On the surface these five are all very similar, but in reality they're all quite different; showing different sides to Pigwidgeon's character, and different graphical and aesthetic styles too. So I find it quite a minefield to just pick one. Do you have a favourite?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm photographing all kinds of animals at Teaching Talons, so I have quite a few to share in this vein. I'll be covering all the major animal groups from birds to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects!

If you like what you see, then these and more in this style are available in print from my On-Black gallery now.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) bird captive animal photography dark low-key nature on-black owl photography portrait raptor Teaching Talons UK https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/12/low-key-nature-photography-owls Mon, 09 Dec 2019 07:00:00 GMT
Autumn Woodland Photography 2019 https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/11/autumn-woodland-photography-2019 It's National Tree Week! And autumn is undoubtedly my favourite time of year to be in the forest. I know I have more of a thing for trees than most people, but I think we all enjoy the colour and the textures of an woodland, as the trees prepare to see out another winter. This is a collection of autumn woodland photographs, taken during October and November 2019.

 

Bavaria National Forest, Germany

This autumn I visited the Bavaria National Forest, in southern Germany. I was hoping to time it right for the autumn colour, and it coincided perfectly! I can honestly say it was the most spectacular forest I've ever seen. The scale and the richness of colour were far beyond anything I've seen in the UK or elsewhere. Although I've been fortunate to see the sprawling Boreal Forest of Canada and Scandinavia, the combination and variety of tree species which make up the Bavarian Forest makes it sparkle like nothing else at this time of year.

Autumn's ArrivalAutumn's ArrivalAs autumn takes hold of the forest, this beech tree resists the change of colour longer than those around it, which have already turned golden.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

Green & GoldGreen & GoldA riot of colour, in the Bavarian National Forest.
Fine art landscape photography, Germany.

 

I love a woodland pathway. They're so inviting, and I can't help but wander down them in my imagination. And they're never more enticing than when draped in gold like this.

Autumn Forest FootpathAutumn Forest FootpathAn inviting forest footpath, in the Bavaria National Forest.
Fine art landscape photography, Germany.

 

In a rare opening, I was able to capture a wider set of trees, which again shows the richness of colour and diversity on show in an autumn woodland.

Golden ForestGolden ForestThe splendor of a native European woodland in autumn attire.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

For most of the forest, there is no grand viewpoint. Just overlapping layers of trunks, branches, and leaf colour.

Bavarian AutumnBavarian AutumnAutumn forest and colours.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

Cor, another walkway. And an inviting carpet of amber leaves leading the way.

Forest WalkForest WalkFancy a walk in the woods? This inviting trail leads into the heart of the forest, in Southern Germany.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

I love the way the light plays off the damp tree trunks here.

Forest Trees at AutumnForest Trees at AutumnTall trees reaching up, branches regaled in autumn gold.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

This one's a close-up, exploring the bark of a silver birch tree, framed in the full spectrum of autumn leaf colour.

Silver Birch Close-UpSilver Birch Close-UpClose-Up shot of a Silver Birch tree in autumn colour.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

Stepping out from the forest itself, this looks back at the Bavarian hillside, and the scale and colour of the tree cover. This view was almost endless in some directions. A joy to behold.

Hillside ForestHillside ForestBavarian hillside, in the early evening at autumn.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

The hillside beside 'Rachelsee' (or 'Rachel's Lake'), accessible via a good hike through some pristine Bavarian forest. I like the combination of different types of tree here. Each variety adds a different texture, but they combine in this natural mosaic of shapes and colours.

Mixed Forest, BavariaMixed Forest, BavariaCombination of mixed tree species beside Lake Rachel.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

 

This tree-lined ridge appears straightforward at first, but the more you look, the less it adds up.

Autumn Forest IllusionAutumn Forest IllusionOn reflection, it's clear this ridge line is not as it first seems.
Fine art landscape photography, Bavaria National Forest, Germany.

On reflection, there's a simple solution, sitting as it does beside Rachelsee.

 

Woburn, UK

Aside from Bavaria I was able to get out into the autumn woodland in the UK, and I took a few photos in the woodland around Woburn, in Bedfordshire. This is a wide panorama taken from a woodland clearing. Though it wasn't the first photo I took this autumn, the trees here are still more summery than autumnal. It's not a dynamic composition, but I enjoy these walls of trees, which present themselves more as murals than conventional photos.

A Wall Of WoodlandA Wall Of WoodlandThe woodland edge, as seen from an open clearing. Taken in early autumn, as the colours start to turn.
Fine art landscape photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I have no idea what sort of tree this is, but it was enough to distract me when I was out photographing deer earlier this autumn. Catching the light on a rainy day, it has more than a hint of Tolkien's Ents about it. The photo seemed to just compose itself; framing this apparently frail old timer against the darker greens of his peers. A perfect demonstration of how trees remain unique and charismatic well beyond their prime, and throughout their many decades of age and decay. A role model for us all :-)

Ageing Autumn TreeAgeing Autumn TreeAn old tree, part-collapsed, but sparkling in the damp autumn light. It looks almost magical to me. Very reminiscent of Tolkien's Ents.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

The last two photos here are a slight departure from my usual style. I usually lean towards the cooler end of the colour spectrum, but these two really need the warmth of yellow that is so closely intertwined with our thoughts of autumn.

Early Autumn TreeEarly Autumn TreeA large, thriving tree, in the throws of early autumn, as the leaves begin to turn.
Fine art nature photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I took this last photo in an ornamental garden, and it's a Japanese maple tree; one of the most recognisable icons of autumn outside the classic forests of Europe. The misty morning and eery amber light were the perfect conditions to photograph this scene, providing a soft and even glow to the leaves and branches. In fine tuning the colour palette for this photo I was channelling the classic tones of the 17th & 18th century oil paintings, which would frequently feature countryside foliage. Japanese MapleJapanese MaplePhotographed as autumn peaked, in this ornamental garden, in the UK.

 

So that was my autumn. I've got some fun owl photos to share soon. I can't promise they'll be next, but I'm hoping so.

In the meantime did you know that I've teamed up with the World Land Trust to plant a tree for every print I sell? To join in and have a tree planted, take a look at my online galleries and order via my website. Every photo is Buy One Get One Tree!

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) autumn Bavaria forest Germany landscape leaves nature photography trees woodland https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/11/autumn-woodland-photography-2019 Mon, 25 Nov 2019 07:00:00 GMT
Gift Vouchers Now Available https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/11/gift-vouchers-now-available Gift Voucher: £50Gift Voucher: £50Gift Voucher: £50

Introducing my new range of Gift Vouchers, available now!

Do you know someone who would love a new print on their wall? Now you can treat them to a gift that will make their day!

Or maybe you have your eye on a new piece of feature wall art for your own home, and would like some help from a friend.

Vouchers are redeemable against any Fine Art Print, Canvas Wrap, or Framed Print.

As with all online print orders, prices include:

Gift Voucher: £25Gift Voucher: £25Gift Voucher: £25
Gift Voucher: £100Gift Voucher: £100Gift Voucher: £100

If you'd like a voucher to put towards your new wall art print, give someone a less-than-subtle hint by sending them a link to this page!
 

 

How to buy a Gift Voucher

 

Just get in touch, and let me know the value and currency you would like.

Gift vouchers are available in £GBP, $USD, $CAD, $AUD, and €EUR, and in any value from £1 to £1000!

Gift Vouchers: DollarGift Vouchers: DollarGift Vouchers in USD, CAD, AUD. Gift Voucher: EurosGift Voucher: EurosGift Vouchers in Euros.

 

 

How to use your Gift Voucher

 

Voucher HelpVoucher HelpHow to apply a gift voucher or discount code for money off your order. At the Payment step of the Checkout, look for the "Have a coupon?" box. Enter the unique Redemption Code from your Gift Voucher, and click "Apply".

You will see a confirmation of the gift certificate value at the bottom of the order.

Gift Vouchers are valid for one year, giving you plenty of time to choose your perfect print.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art buy gift photography print redeem voucher wall https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/11/gift-vouchers-now-available Sun, 03 Nov 2019 15:25:53 GMT
Red Deer Photography 2019 https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/10/red-deer-photography-2019 There's no doubt about it; autumn is the best time of year to photograph deer in the UK. The crisp mornings and misty sunrises coincide perfectly with the red deer rut; a time when the deer are more bold, and most active. I missed some of this season; taking the opportunity to see autumn elsewhere in Europe, but I had two very good mornings in particular, when some obliging deer were kind enough to stand in the right place at the right time. As with previous years, I've collected this season's deer photos into a blog post here to share as a set.

 

Silhouettes

I like silhouettes for their graphical simplicity. I think simplicity and removal of distractions are a theme that underpins most of my nature photography, and it's never more apparent or easier to achieve than when working with a silhouette.

A female red deer standing beneath the rising sun, on a misty autumn morningMisty Sunrise DeerA female red deer standing beneath the rising sun, on a misty autumn morning. The sun filters though the mist and the trees to leave a soft silhouette. One of my favourite sunrise photos from a fantastic morning out. It's always worth an early start to witness a good sunrise.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

I love these two photos. It's very hard to get close to the more skittish female deer, so to encounter one so close, in mist and light like this was quite a rarity. I had to swivel the camera quickly, without disturbing her, to get both a landscape and a portrait orientation option before she moved off. These two photos have both made it onto my Deer Gallery, where they're available in print.

Misty Deer PortraitMisty Deer PortraitPortrait version of the previous photo, of a female red deer standing beneath the rising sun, on a misty autumn morning.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

These mornings, for me, sum up the addictive quality of nature photography. You can go out many times, walking for miles on end, and come back with nothing. But then another time, you get the light, the deer, and the photos, and it all feels worth it. It reminds you why you do it, and convinces you that things will come good if you persevere. But that can be a trap. It's really a classic gambler's mentality. So if you're not careful that approach can drag you in as badly as any other gambler. In reality, photos-aside, I love being outdoors on a cold morning, when everyone else is tucked up in bed. It's like a secret world that I get to enjoy. So that's what I focus on. On the days when I don't take any worthwhile images, it's still a win to be out spending time with nature.

 

A young deer standing beneath the trees to leave a soft silhouette against the morning skySunrise SilhouetteA young deer standing beneath the trees to leave a soft silhouette against the morning sky.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

The photo above came about as I stood watching a squirrel on the hillside, busily caching food for the winter. I was there for a few minutes before this young deer fawn appeared over the horizon, and paused perfectly for a photo. More often than not nature rewards you for taking an interest.

 

Below, another of this year's young stops to investigate, as I waited between these two large trees to frame the subject. I couldn't have asked for better cooperation.

Fawn at DawnFawn at DawnA young deer fawn in the trees and ferns, at Woburn Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

OK, let's step back to a more subtle light, just after dawn. I think there are six deer in this photo. A mixture of adult females and their young from this year. How many can you spot?

Red deer in thick fog, early one morning.Deer in the MistRed deer in thick fog, early one morning.
I think there are six deer here. A mix of females and their young.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

And a few minutes before the amber light of sunrise, the light is still very blue...

A large red deer stag shelters under a tree, during the autumn deer rutMisty Blue Hour SilhouetteA large red deer stag shelters under a tree, during the autumn deer rut. Taken shortly before sunrise, on a cold mist morning.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

From a morning without mist, I took an ultra-simple approach; just blue and black as this red deer stag passed by on the ridgeline.

A red deer on a ridge, on a cloudy pre-sunrise morning.Red Deer - Blue Hour SilhouetteA red deer on a ridge, on a cloudy pre-sunrise morning.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

And from that to a wash of colour; pre-sunrise on my first trip out this autumn, what a welcome to the season.

Pre-Sunrise SilhouettePre-Sunrise SilhouetteA red deer, at dawn.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

If I'm being critical, and I usually am, I don't like the back legs on this photo above. That's my top tip for silhouettes and portraits in nature; watch those legs, and make sure they're nicely balanced. Compare the photo above to the previous one on blue. That's an altogether more satisfying stance. But hey; pink sky, so it makes the cut.

 

Portraits

You can't always get close to deer. Each individual has it's own comfort distance, and I'm usually restricted to shooting wider scenes like the silhouettes above. But when you find the right subject - who's a little more bold, it's possible to get some enjoyable close-up opportunities.

Starting further out, this is a younger red deer stag. He's not old enough to compete with the larger stags yet, but he has a fine set of headwear growing.

Stag Portrait (B&W)Stag Portrait (B&W)A stag, posing nicely, stands to investigate me.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

The rest of these portraits are all of the same stag, who patiently allowed me to kneel in the mud beside him for half an hour or so.

Portrait of a large red deer stag (Cervus elaphus), head on.Large Stag PortraitThis how it feels to be crouched down as a large red deer stag approaches you. The size and weight of those antlers are incredible. They have huge neck muscles to support them.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.
What a handsome chap. And a nice curvy set of antlers.

 

But I know what you're thinking: They need some grass dangling from them.

Head-short portrait of a large red deer stag, in black and whiteRed Deer Stag Close-UpHead-short portrait of a large red deer stag, in black and white.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.
Red deer will scrape their antlers into the ground, raking up mud, ferns, and grass to adorn their antlers. I guess it does make them look a little more rugged.

 

But now it's business time, and this stag put a lot of effort into bellowing, in his attempts to woo a lady.

A large red deer stag calling during the autumn rut, in black and whiteRed Deer CallingA large red deer stag calling during the autumn rut, in black and white.
I think this is most effective in black and white as it simplifies the image to it's most graphical elements; form, texture, and light.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Low-key Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.
Red deer calls are clearly recognisable, and carry for some distance. Last month I spent a few nights camping in Italy, and from our tents one night we were surrounded by the calls of red deer in the forest around us. It was really incredible; one of my favourite memories of the trip. Back home I was able to witness the behaviour close-up, thanks to this beast.

 

And last but not least, this turned out to be a rare opportunity to capture a large red deer stag face-to-face, as he roared in my general direction. Reminds me of the New Zealand haka, and it's equally a battle cry; intended to intimidate the competition from nearby red deer stags.

A large red deer stag 'bellowing' during the autumn rut, in black and whiteBellowing RedA large red deer stag 'bellowing' during the autumn rut, in black and white.
It's an intimidating sight to be this close to a large mammal, who is effectively boasting about his aggression, fitness and condition. Of course I was using a long lens, for both our sake, but it's still a privilege to meet his gaze at this point in time.
Woburn Abbey Deer Park.
Low-key Fine Art Nature Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.
These last two have also made it to the hall of fame that is my Deer Gallery, so they're also available in print.

 

I think we can all agree that autumn is the best. The light, the mist, the colours in the trees, the apple crumbles, the cold mornings and cosy evenings. And in recent years I've begun to associate it with deer time too. Despite only a few visits out this year, I really enjoyed the deer rut season, and I'm pleased with this collection of photos from it. To get four portfolio-quality shots in just five or six trips out is very rare, but I think my experience with the deer helps increase my success-rate compared to other species and subjects I photograph. Now as the leaves really begin to turn, I'll be looking for some autumnal landscapes. It's the season that keeps on giving! Until it stops - then it's winter.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) Animal Bedfordshire British Cervus elaphus Deer mammal nature park photography red deer UK wildlife Woburn https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/10/red-deer-photography-2019 Mon, 28 Oct 2019 07:00:00 GMT
Aerial Photography in Greenland https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/9/aerial-photography-greenland I recently published a blog post of photos taken on my trip to Greenland, in June 2019. Greenland is an amazing country, and I was blown away by the spectacular landscapes and friendly people. In this post I'm sharing some aerial landscape photography, taken on a sightseeing flight over the spectacular Ilulissat Icefjord.

Unlike most posts, I'm going to write about it first, and then share the photos at the end. So if you're just here for the photos, you might want to skip to the end.

 

The Flight

I flew with AirZafari, who run sightseeing flights in small (6-seater) planes from Ilulissat and Kangerlussuaq. Flights are expensive, and there's no getting around that. You either do it or you don't. I reasoned that this was an experience I may never be able to do again, in a location which was as spectacular as anywhere in the world, and that it would give the opportunity to photograph it from a more grand, and less common perspective.

Once I'd decided I wanted to do it, I emailed AirZafari, and asked lots of questions about the routes available, and about general flight availability and booking process. I must have been a real nuisance, but I got a very lengthy reply, with lots of useful information. When we got to Ilulissat, we popped into the AirZafari office, to have a chat and book our flight. We met Helmuth there, who couldn't have been more helpful. He listened to what we wanted and suggested a route for us. We were able to choose whatever time of day we wanted - which is great for a photographer as you can plan according to the light you want.

We chose a 60 minute flight, flying clockwise from Ilulissat, to the Northern Glacier ("Sermeq Avangnardleq"), down over the edge of the vast inland ice cap to the Jakobshavn glacier (aka "Isua Glacier"), then along the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord until we reach Disko Bay, and back to Ilulissat.

Aerial Photography Flight RouteAerial Photography Flight RouteOur flight route with AirZafari over Ilulissat.

Incredibly, I have spent as long scrawling that shambolic map as I spent in the air on this flight. Sometimes I really have to question how effectively I'm using my time.

 

Planning and Lens Choice

If we'd have had a cloudy/overcast day in Greenland, I could have flown at any time of day. A nice damp, overcast day would give me an even light, and some deep blues in the ice below. But with our forecast of clear skies all week, I had to avoid daytime, when the light would simply have been too harsh. I chose to fly at 9pm-10pm; wanting the sun to be at a relatively low angle, with softer shadows than bright daylight, but not to be shooting when light levels are too low for fast shutter speeds (which would be required to shoot from a moving aeroplane).

I found it very hard to tell which lens would work best for aerial photography. From the start I was torn between my wide-medium lens (24-70mm) and a longer lens (70-200mm or 100-400mm). I decided I would take my longest lens (100-400mm) to Greenland for the potential wildlife there (whales, musk ox, arctic fox), and as such it wasn't worth taking the 70-200mm. So for the aerial photography it was a choice between the 24-70mm and 100-400mm. The simple fact is that both lenses would get me nice photos - just different types of photos. I don't have two camera bodies, and I didn't want to waste flight time changing lenses (I'd probably be wanting to change every few minutes - and in doing so would miss the shot I wanted to change for anyway). In the end I figured that a minimum of 100mm would be too restrictive, and that 24-70mm covered more options, so I went with the wider option. It also has a much wider aperture; enabling faster shutter speeds, and the wider focal length enables greater depth-of-field.

 

The Experience

The flight was incredible, and I'd encourage anyone to do it, whether you have a camera or not. There's simply no other way to see these sights than from the air, and the perspective you get it is unlike anything I've seen before. The enormity of the inland ice cap is hard to take in, the remoteness and lack of development in the area is awe-inspiring, and the scale of the glaciers and ice bergs is beyond anything I could portray in photographs. It was a real memory of a lifetime, and something I know I'm so lucky to have seen.

Photography-wise, it proved very tricky. For a start, how do I convey a landscape as awe-inspiring as the one I've just described? It can't be done. Then we get on to the practical issues. It was a windy evening (cold air rushing across the land from the inland ice cap), which caused turbulence at low altitude. So we couldn't fly as low as we'd otherwise have been able to do. We'd already postponed by one day due to strong winds, but had to fly the next night as it was our last opportunity. That meant that my choice of wide-angle lens was now less than ideal as from higher up the wide-angle now felt even wider. I was able to capture some nice scenic shots, but I really wanted to be lower over the ice, and the next best thing would have been to shoot with a longer lens. The light during the flight seemed great, and I was happy to have got a good compromise between light levels (bright enough) and angle of the sun (low enough). However, cameras have a tendency to amplify lighting situations, and after-the-fact, I could see that the light was really too harsh - certainly for the first half of the flight; casting hard-edged shadows over the crevasses in the glaciers and ruining a lot of shots which looked nice through the viewfinder at the time. Flying east for the first half of the flight, the sun was more-or-less behind us, and the landscape looked very blue. During the second half of the flight, we were flying more towards the sun, which was a much nicer angle, and enabled me to play with that light a lot more.

 

Hindsight

I picked the wrong flight time. Although the light was nice during the second half of the flight, it would have been nicer if it were softer. During the first half of the flight, it was certainly too harsh. You'll see in the photos below how the light improved as the flight went on. I should have gone an hour later, when the sun was lower, but it was still fairly light out (the sun didn't actually set in June, after all).

I got the lens choice wrong. I should have just taken the 70-200mm specifically for this flight. We were very short of weight/space in our luggage, but I should have prioritised bringing that extra lens. From the altitude we were at, I could have taken 'wider' shots at 70mm, whilst being able to pick out features and abstracts using the longer end too.

The turbulence was a problem. I wanted to fly as low as possible, to capture images that put you in that place, rather than looking down on it so much. That just wasn't possible when having to fly a little higher. When we did fly lower, the turbulence shook the plane so much it was impossible to compose a photo, let alone capture it sharp. I should have prioritised the flight on an occasion earlier in the week when there was little or no wind.

I'd rather it had been cloudy. During the second half of the flight, I was able to get some nice photos using the warmth of the evening sunshine, which was nice, but probably an even light with little or no shadow would have been better photography-wise. Colours would have been truer, and lower contrast would mean less harsh shadows, and a softer feel to the images.

Helmuth was very accommodating, and willing to customise the flight to our requests. Before-hand he asked what I was looking for, in terms of shots and angles, in order to provide that during the flight. Not having tried aerial photography before, I didn't really know what to ask for, so I was prepared to simply react to the opportunities I encountered. In hindsight I realise that I didn't get nearly as many shots looking directly downwards as I'd anticipated. Due to my inexperience, it hadn't really occurred to me that that's what I wanted, but if I flew again I'd ask for those opportunities - where the plane is able to bank over to one side, to look directly down (or nearly so) on the landscape.

 

Tips for shooting from a plane

I struggled to find much advice on this before I tried it, but I came up with a few notes prior to my flight, and I certainly learnt a lot from the experience. Here's a few tips if you're planning some aerial landscape photography yourself.

  1. There is no perfect lens for aerial photography, and I could happily have shot with anything from 24mm to 300mm. Wider than 24mm and you'll struggle not to include bits of the plane (wings, propellers, etc). Longer than 300mm, and you'll struggle to get sharp images due to movement & vibration of the plane. The golden focal length would be 50-150mm. If I had to choose one lens for the next flight I take, it would be the 70-200mm. But that's partly because I've already tried the 24-70mm, and I'd want a different perspective second time around.
  2. In terms of shutter speed, you do need to keep it fast. Small planes (and therefore their windows) vibrate a lot. I was shooting on aperture priority, with a minimum shutter speed of 1/1600th second. Shooting ice on a light evening (i.e. a bright subject) helped me a lot in this regard, and my actual shutter speed varied between 1/1600th and 1/8000th.
  3. You don't need a small aperture when you have no foreground. Unlike 'normal' landscape photography, a large depth of field isn't required. I started at f/5, which was fine, but as there was plenty of light around I was able to stop down to f/8 for the second half of the flight. But if needs be, you could shoot at f/2.8 if you have a relatively wide angle.
  4. If you can go on a slightly misty, cloudy, overcast day, go for it. The nice even light will let you concentrate purely on composition, and ensure your exposure is nice and easy too. If you are shooting in sunlit conditions as I was, look for back-lit opportunities, to make the most of the sun.
  5. Sometimes you'll have an open window available, but you should go prepared to shoot through glass. Wear plain neutral clothing to minimise the effect of reflections, and use a rubber lens cap which moulds to the angle of the glass and cuts out light for reflections.
  6. Every now and again, stop shooting and enjoy the view. You won't see the landscape from the air very often in your life, so take it in when you have the opportunity. It may help your photography, as you might notice something you otherwise wouldn't, but it'll certainly aid your enjoyment and memories of the experience.

 

Photos

The Northern Glacier

We got pretty close up to the Northern Glacier, which enabled me to get these full-screen abstracts.

Glacier AbstractGlacier AbstractBlue ice abstract, looking down on the Northern Glacier.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

The next photo demonstrates the hard-edged shadows I was struggling against during this flight. Flying later (when light is softer) or during overcast weather (which reduces shadows almost entirely) would have eliminated this problem. It also demonstrates the sort of shot which would have been much better if I'd have had a longer focal length available.

Glacial CrevassesGlacial CrevassesThe deep crevasses of the Northern Glacier.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

 

The Inland Ice Cap

The ice sheet that covers all but the coastal areas of Greenland is so vast it's impossible to convey. Looking out across it it's nothing but ice for hundreds of kilometres.

To Infinity and BeyondTo Infinity and BeyondLooking out towards the centre of Greenland, over the vast inland ice cap.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Such is the volume of ice inland, the surface slopes up all the way to the centre of the island, where it reaches over 3000 metres deep.

Greenland Ice CapGreenland Ice CapAerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

 

Blue Lakes

Dotted around on the surface of the ice sheet are lakes of glacial melt water, known as 'blue lakes' for obvious reasons.

Blue Lake AbstractBlue Lake AbstractLakes on the glacier reflect this incredible turquoise blue.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Ice Cap Blue LakeIce Cap Blue LakeThis blue lake was on the edge of the Greenland Ice Cap, near the coastal land.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Blue Lake Close-UpBlue Lake Close-UpBlue lake, formed on the top of the Greenland Ice Cap.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

As we circled the lake and positioned the sun behind it, our pilot Helmuth was disappointed to see us lose the blue colour, but I like this shot below, as all of the water and brightest ice reflects the gold colouration of the low evening sun.

Gold & BlueGold & BlueShooting directly towards the sun, the light reflected off the lake and ice, to paint the highlights gold.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

The photo above demonstrates very well the effect of direction of light, compared to those previous. Similarly the shot below shows the Jakobshavn glacier, as we approach facing the sun. The top half of the image shows the surface reflecting sunlight, where as the bottom half transitions into shadow, which brings out the blues of the ice and the water lodged in the shallow crevasses.

Layers of IceLayers of IceWater fills the shallow fissures in the glacier, which reflects deep blue in shadow, and golden in the sun.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

 

The Jakobshavn Glacier

As the inland ice cap flows down to the coast, it develops into separate glaciers which calve ice at the coast. The Jakobshavn glacier is the most productive glacier in the world, flowing/calving at an average of 40 metres per day. It creates some of the largest ice bergs in the world, which flow from the glacier edge, down the icefjord, and out into the Disko Bay.

Here we're looking West from above the Jakobshavn glacier, and looking down the Ilulissat Icefjord.

Jakobshavn GlacierJakobshavn GlacierLooking West, from over the Jakobshavn Glacier, down the Ilulissat Icefjord, and out to sea.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Jakobshavn Glacier PortraitJakobshavn Glacier PortraitLooking West, from over the Jakobshavn Glacier, down the Ilulissat Icefjord, and out to sea.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Jakobshavn Glacier ViewJakobshavn Glacier ViewLooking West, from over the Jakobshavn Glacier, down the Ilulissat Icefjord, and out to sea.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Closer to the edge we can see the individual peaks and layers in the ice, which almost glow as our angle starts to reach back-lit from the sun.

Across the GlacierAcross the GlacierLooking across the Jakobshavn Glacier, out towards the Icefjord which it created and now fills with ice.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Circling all the way around, and now looking inland, we see the face of the glacier wall, with the inland ice sheet reaching the horizon behind, and the floating ice of the icefjord below.

Glacier WallGlacier WallThe calving edge of the Jakobshavn Glacier, with the inland ice cap above, and the icefjord below.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

 

Glacier Abstracts

I realise I'll probably be alone on this, but this is one of my favourite photos of the flight. It's just a texture abstract looking out across the Jakobshavn glacier.

Glacier AbstractGlacier AbstractAbstract close-up looking across the surface of the Jakobshavn Glacier.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

This is a similar shot, but from closer up, with a better direction of light. This looks like icing on a cake to me. I'm almost hungry just looking at it.

Jakobshavn Glacier Close-UpJakobshavn Glacier Close-UpIce and blue pools on the surface of the Jakobshavn Glacier.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

As we circle the glacier and face the sun once again, the towers of ice now rise back-lit, which tints the highlights gold, and leaves the shadows blue.

Back-Lit Glacier #2Back-Lit Glacier #2Jakobshavn Glacier.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Here we can see the edge of the glacier at the top of the image, as it transitions to icefjord.

Back-Lit Glacier #1Back-Lit Glacier #1Jakobshavn Glacier.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

 

The Icefjord

As ice falls from the front of the Jakobshavn Glacier it makes its way out to sea via the Ilulissat Icefjord.

Ilulissat IcefjordIlulissat IcefjordAt the edge of the fjord, where the flowing ice meets the mountains edges.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Although it's an incredible wonder of geology, I found the icefjord itself quite difficult to photograph. Here, another example of when a longer lens would have come in handy.

Ice FlowIce FlowIce stuck in the Ilulissat Icefjord.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

As we reach the end of the fjord, we get to the largest ice bergs, which have run aground on the raised seabed. These monsters can sit at the end of the icefjord for months or years at a time until they're worn down by the pressure of the ice flow behind, and finally broken up or pushed out to sea.

Ice BergIce BergA colossal ice berg sits at the edge of the Ilulissat Icefjord.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

As spectacular as this scenery is I don't think I came close to doing it justice. These photos are all a but untidy to me, but I want to share them to give people an idea of what this flight was like, and the incredible views we had.

Icefjord SunsetIcefjord SunsetOf course the sun didn't even set, but it was getting low by the end of our flight.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

Below, we're looking north towards the rocky coast around Ilulissat itself. Those dark rocks are on the route of the yellow hiking route I mentioned in my previous post.

Ilulissat IcefjordIlulissat IcefjordA colossal ice berg sits at the edge of the Ilulissat Icefjord.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

This photo is a wide-angle shot showing a large ice berg in the foreground, with the icefjord behind, and the glacier and ice cap in the far distance.

Ilulissat Icefjord PortraitIlulissat Icefjord PortraitLooking East from over Disko Bay, down the Ilulissat Icefjord, and towards the Jakobshavn Glacier and the inland ice cap.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

As we headed back to the airport I took this shot looking north, showing the biggest ice bergs at the edge of the icefjord, and the town of Ilulissat on the rocky coastline behind.

Ilulissat From The AirIlulissat From The AirThe tiny town of Ilulissat, dwarfed by the glaciers at the edge of the icefjord.
Aerial Landscape Photography. Ilulissat, Greenland, 2019.

 

I'm lucky to be able to do this sort of thing, and it was incredible. Photographically, I don't think I really achieved much, but it was still well worth doing, and I'd definitely do it again if I have the opportunity. As is often the case with photography, it's a steep learning curve to try something new, but I'd expect to do better next time around. It's all a learning experience, and in this case a particularly enjoyable one.

-

Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) advice aerial aerial photography AirZafari Greenland ice icefjord Ilulissat Kangerlussuaq landscape lens nature photography tips UNESCO https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/9/aerial-photography-greenland Mon, 02 Sep 2019 06:00:00 GMT
Greenland 2019: The "See It Before It Melts" Tour https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/8/greenland-nature-photography Greenland has been on my radar for a while. I have a real affinity with the north of the planet, and the landscapes & cultures to be found there. Having previously visited Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finnish Lapland, in increasingly extreme environments, I really wanted to see the ice of Greenland. In particular, the enormous ice bergs of the west coast. To begin with it seemed too remote, and too problematic to get to. But I still harbour regrets about not going to Iceland earlier, so as soon as I felt I had the opportunity and the information required to see Greenland, I was keen to get involved and see it before it really opens up to the mainstream. I also felt like the ice there was something I should take the opportunity to see at some point in my lifetime, since it's a spectacle that won't be around for future generations to enjoy.

Ilulissat IceIlulissat IceThis ice berg was the size of a large warehouse, and that's only what's visible above the water. The still water reflects the berg, and smaller chunks of ice slowly float out to sea.
Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

 

Getting to Greenland

Greenland is an 'autonomous territory of Denmark', and at this point in time you can only fly to Greenland from Copenhagen or Reykjavik. So not only do you have that restriction, but with only two airlines (Air Greenland and Icelandair) monopolising flights, it's an expensive flight too. So we had a flight to Copenhagen, a flight to Kangerlussuaq (Greenand's international Airport), and then a flight to Ilulissat (our destination for a week).

Through the sea iceThrough the sea iceA boat charts a course through the many car-sized baby bergs of Disko Bay, West Greenland.

 

 

Kangerlussuaq

Kangerlussuaq is a town of around 500 residents which has developed around an old US Airbase - now the airport. The Airbase was built during WW2 and operated by the US Airforce until it was returned to Greenland/Denmark in 1992. It's used as the international airport as it's the only runway in the country that's long enough for large aircraft. The town itself is a strange place to an outsider. Officially a desert, it's a dry, dusty, windy place, full of mosquitoes, with a kind of ghost town feel. But beneath the surface it does have a certain charm. I'd rather live there than a busy city anyway.

It's worth stopping over in Kangerlussuaq for a night on the way or the way back from Greenland. There are several hiking trails from the town, as well as tours available to the Russell Glacier, and the edge of the massive inland ice sheet that covers the 80% of the country. Standing on the ice cap, surrounded by ice was a surreal experience, and something unlike anything I'll get to see elsewhere. Totally out of this world. Russell Glacier wasn't particularly picturesque, and I wouldn't recommend it for photography. But it was the closest I've ever got to a glacier wall; about as close as could be considered safe. So that was cool. Below is a couple of photos taken from further up the valley, at a view point of the Russell Glacier as it winds its way down from the ice sheet.

Moon over the Glacier (Portrait)Moon over the Glacier (Portrait)Russell Glacier, which flows from the huge inland icecap of Greenland.

 

Moon over the Glacier (Landscape)Moon over the Glacier (Landscape)Landscape view of the Russell Glacier, which flows from the huge inland icecap of Greenland.

 

On the 45 minute flight between Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat, the small plane never really reaches much of an altitude, and the views are incredible the whole way. I took a lot of photos looking East towards the enormous inland ice cap, but they were all lost to an annoying colour-cast from the window tint. However, I did take some photos of the beautiful arctic tundra around Kangerlussuaq.

Greenland TundraGreenland TundraTaken out of the plane window, on the flight between Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat.

 

Arctic TundraArctic TundraTaken out of the plane window, on the flight between Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat.

 

 

Ilulissat

We chose to stay in Ilulissat for three reasons. Firstly, it's situated right next to a huge icefjord, full of massive ice bergs from the nearby Jakobshavn Glacier. Calving an average of 40 meters a day, it's the world most productive glacier. Below, the scale of the ice soon becomes apparent, as the icefjord meets the sea here. Spot the fishing boat.

Ice Bergs of Disko BayIce Bergs of Disko BayThis is what Disko Bay is famous for. Colossal ice bergs sitting in the mouth of the Jakobshavn icefjord, waiting to float out to sea.

Secondly, it's a relatively populous town, that embraces tourism, which makes things much easier as a visitor. Tours, guides, accommodation, supermarkets, and restaurants are available.

And thirdly, it's on the Disko Bay. I mean, who wouldn't want to go to 'Disko Bay'?

Misty Disko BayMisty Disko BayDisko Bay is often misty first thing in the morning, as it was here. A large ice berg sits in the middle of the bay, with the peaks of Disko Island behind.
Landscape Photography, West Greenland.

Unfortunately I must confess it's all downhill from here on in, as this photo above is probably my personal favourite of the trip. If you know me by now, you won't be surprised to find my favourite photo ticks the boxes of high-key, minimalist, telephoto, and misty. What can I say - I like simplicity in images. I took this looking from out the front of our rented house, across the Disko Bay, to a large glacier, with the silhouetted mountains of Disko Island behind. This berg took around 24 hours to slowly drift passed Ilulissat, and I saw it several times that day. Morning was quite a good time to see the bay, as it would often be shrouded in mist first thing, before it burnt off from the relentless sunshine.

 

Light in Greenland

Greenland is a massive country, so I'm having to generalise here. But we were well above the Arctic Circle and visiting in June, so that meant we'd have 24 hour daylight; no sunsets or sunrises. Photographically I'd have preferred to go in May, when you effectively have several hours of 'Golden Hour'. But June has other benefits; logistically it's easier. It's well before peak tourist season, but tours and guides are more available. The snow has gone, so hiking trails are also accessible, and humpback whales are arriving. Plus I'd never seen the midnight sun before.

In landscape photography bright sunshine and blue skies are tough conditions to work with. It can lead to very flat-looking, dull photos. In June it was bright. Almost all the time, and from almost every angle. And after a day or so to get used to that, I started to realise that this should be the style of light that I should seek to represent, especially given that others generally overlook it. I can see why photographers generally stick to darker portrayals of arctic scenery, but I wanted to try and capture the Greenland that I saw, and in a way that represents the bright midday and midnight sunshine we experienced.

Below are a couple of photos taken in the bright sunshine from the coastal path which runs alongside the icefjord.

Arctic CoastArctic CoastThe view from the coastal paths around Ilulissat, West Greenland. Ice bergs the size of city blocks plug the icefjord as it meets the Arctic Ocean.

 

Ice and More IceIce and More IceLooking out at the icefjord, from the yellow hiking route, Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

 

Disko Bay

It can take months or years for the larger bergs to break free from the icefjord, but once they do, they float out into the bay. And to be honest, they're considerably easier to photograph from a boat than they are on land.

In a rare attempt at a wide-angle photo, I was able to use the foreground ice to create this image which leads the eye to my favourite pointy ice berg.

Sea IceSea IceAs the ice bergs melt, and crack, they leave their floating remains scattered for miles around.
Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

When there's no ice in the foreground, the water alone makes a pleasing texture.

Ice Berg PortraitIce Berg PortraitIce berg in the Disko Bay, late at night, in the land of the midnight sun.
 

Here's Pointy again. What a handsome beast.

My favourite pointy ice bergMy favourite pointy ice bergIce bergs can stay on the outskirts of the icefjord for months or even years, before they float out to sea. Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

As night approaches, the sun lowers in the sky, and we start to get some pink light.

Ice HorizonIce HorizonIce bergs little the horizon line, in Disko Bay, outside Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

Last one of the night. Got to sleep some time.

Disko Bay Ice BergDisko Bay Ice BergIce berg in the Disko Bay, late at night, in the land of the midnight sun.

 

 

Land of the Midnight Sun

By many standards the Greenland flag is unconventional, but I love it as a product of graphic design. The circle resembles the sun on the horizon line, reflected below, with a white top half to represent the ice, and red lower half to represent the sunlit ocean. It perfectly sums up the uniqueness of this incredible region, and I wanted to try and capture some midnight sunlight for myself.

Although shooting at 'sunset' was difficult logistically (since the sun doesn't set, it's generally lowest between midnight and 2am), I managed to get a few photos during the golden hours. Below, we're looking out towards Disko Island, as a local fisherman passes by on his way out for the night.

Late Night FishermanLate Night FishermanGreenlandic fisherman, amongst the ice bergs of Disko Bay.

 

I took this one at around midnight to show how low the sun does get.
And the answer is not as low as I would have liked.

Disko Bay: Land of the Midnight SunDisko Bay: Land of the Midnight SunI took this photo looking out to across the bay to Disko Island, at around midnight, to demonstrate what the light was like there, even on a cloudy night.

 

Another one from around midnight on a different day, as the cloudless sky turned yellow, looking through the sea mist.

Midnight BergMidnight BergEven at midnight the sun is strong enough to melt these enormous ice bergs.

 

 

Ice Abstracts

How could I not just want to play with the patterns in these colossal walls of ice?

Ice Berg AbstractIce Berg AbstractClose up of the cliff-face of a large glacier.
Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

Here, a fulmar soars effortlessly past, and I took the opportunity to give some scale to the ice behind.

Flight of the FulmarFlight of the FulmarA fulmar, flying past a huge ice berg, in the arctic ocean, off the coast of Greenland.

 

When ice is in direct sunlight it's often very washed out colour-wise, but if you catch it in the shade, the variation of textures is more apparent, and that's when you get the more interesting shades of blue. This berg was notable for it's geometric split lines.

Ice AbstractIce AbstractPattern and detail in the wall of a massive ice berg. Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

I really should have chosen just one of the photos below to share, but I can't.

First off we have my personal favourite (and running the high-key Disko Bay photo close for overall favourite of the trip). Graphically I think it's much superior, but I wonder if it's just too confusing without the context of the next photo, taken shortly after.

Blue Ice AbstractBlue Ice AbstractBright sunlit ice meets dark blue ice at the corner of a large ice berg, in Disko Bay, Greenland.
I very much enjoyed creating an abstract image from this colourful but stark view of a colossal ice berg.

 

I zoomed out a little for the second version, to provide a little context with the sea in view at the bottom.

Blue Ice CornerBlue Ice CornerBright sunlit ice meets dark blue ice at the corner of a large ice berg, in Disko Bay, Greenland.

This corner of the ice berg demonstrates how light and shade effect the colour and texture that ice reflects in those differing lighting conditions. I like them both for the richness of the blue ice, and the simplicity of the visuals, but I prefer the first one. How about you?

 

 

Guided Tours & Hiking Trails

In Ilulissat you have plenty of choice for tour guides and excursions, but I can recommend Ilulissat Tours. I took two tours with them; A Whale Safari with Chris, and an Ice Berg Cruise with Ivan. On both occasions they were extremely flexible in allowing me to book whatever time of day worked best for me (10pm-1am was no problem!), and they were knowledgeable and good fun. All the photos in the Disko Bay and Ice Abstracts sections above were taken on one of those two trips with Chris & Ivan.

I also treated myself to a sight-seeing flight over the glacier, the inland ice sheet, and the icefjord, with AirZafari. I'll share the photos from that 60 minute flight in a separate blog post (coming soon), but for now I'll just say that it's highly recommended!

Lastly, I wanted to mention that not all the sights cost money. Probably the best sights in Ilulissat are available for free, via the marked hiking trails. We hiked the blue trail once, and the yellow trail twice. I wanted to do the yellow one a third time, but we just didn't have the time. Like most coastal paths, both trails are quite up and down, so not trivial, but certainly not difficult. The views from the yellow trail in particular, are out of this world. You're looking out at a city of ice, with bergs ranging from the size of cars, to houses, and even tower blocks. No photo I could take would do it justice. Here's my brother-in-law soaking in the sights and sounds of an active icefjord.

Greenland HikingGreenland HikingMy brother-in-law, taking a rest along the hiking trail, and the opportunity to soak in the sights and sounds of an active icefjord. Ilulissat, Greenland.

 

On our last night the cloud came in, and I took this photo from the yellow coastal hiking trail, at around 11pm. I used a polarising filter to accentuate the dark sky and water, in contrast to the sunlit ice bergs.

Overcast IcefjordOvercast IcefjordThe Ilulissat ice fjord, under overcast skies, intensified by the use of a polarising filter.

 

 

Greenlandic Sled Dogs

The Greenlandic people have a long history of partnership and reliance on their working sled dogs. All the settlements are home to almost as many dogs as people. To prevent cross-breeding, Greenland dogs are the only breed allowed north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland. In the winter they pull sleds on hunting trips and expeditions which can run into the hundreds of kilometres. In the summer they stay on the outskirts of the towns. The puppies run free, while the adults are on chains. I really wanted to capture some attractive portraits of the sled dogs; being such an important part of the Greenlandic culture. As working dogs, they represent more than simply pets would. They're an icon of the hardiness, capability, and enthusiasm for the arctic, which you find there. To be honest I think I got better photos of the dogs than of the landscapes, so here's a selection of those portraits.

Greenland Sled Dog Close-UpGreenland Sled Dog Close-UpGreenlandic sled dogs are the closest domesticated breed to wolves, and they certainly have an edge to them.

Greenland PuppyGreenland PuppyGreenlandic puppy, on the outskirts of Ilulissat.

Puppy in the StreetPuppy in the StreetGreenlandic puppy, on the outskirts of town, Ilulissat, Greenland.

Greenland Puppy PortraitGreenland Puppy PortraitA Greenlandic puppy, poses briefly for this portrait, outside the town of Ilulissat.

Puppy on the MovePuppy on the MoveA Greenlandic puppy, walking towards the camera. Outside the town of Ilulissat, West Greenland.

Greenland Sled Dog PortraitGreenland Sled Dog PortraitThis dog was a great poser, and on a rare occasion when we had the perfect flat light.

 

 

I love Greenland

It's official. Greenland was everything I hoped it would be; spectacular geography, lovely people, and so much to see and do. And since I mentioned the people, I have to say I was really struck by how kind and helpful the Greenlandic people were. I had some concerns about how they would take to the increasing number of tourists in their towns, but they seemed to be very happy about it, and proud to show us their incredible country. They have a rich culture, and a friendly and inclusive attitude. Photography-wise, the light is harsh during the main daylight hours, but the landscape is so incredible, that you can pretty much shoot something interesting any time, day or night. Whether you're into photography or not, I'd highly recommend seeing Greenland sooner rather than later.

I'm sure that before long Greenland will become 'the next Iceland / Faroe Islands / Lofoten'. Of course Greenland is totally distinct from those places (as they are from each other), but what I mean to say is that I'm largely bored of seeing photos from the same spots, which have been deemed trendy landscape photography locations, and subsequently overrun with photo tours and shot to death. So if you're thinking that Greenland sounds like your sort of adventure, I recommend looking into it now. You won't regret it. If you have any questions I might be able to help with, feel free to ask for advice in the comments section below, or find me on social media.

I like to save a photo for the end, and this was one Greenland saved for me too. As we flew home, I took this out of the plane window, of the mountains and glaciers of East Greenland. Here we're looking from the inland icecap, through the coastal mountain range, and out to the misty sea behind. I think if I'm ever able to visit again, I'd like to see the East a little closer...

East Greenland from the AirEast Greenland from the AirA view of the unspoiled East Greenland mountains and glaciers, taken from an Air Greenland flight from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) 2019 arctic bergs dogs glacier Greenland ice Ilulissat Kangerlussuaq landscape nature north photography summer travel https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/8/greenland-nature-photography Mon, 12 Aug 2019 06:00:00 GMT
10 Years of Photography https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/7/10-years-of-photography It occurred to me recently that having bought my first proper camera in the summer of 2009, it had now been ten years since I first got started. So I thought I'd share a retrospective of how my photography has evolved over that time, and how it's affected my style, and my approach to the art. I'm going to go through each year, and share one photo from that year and why it represents that point in time for me.

 

2009

In 2009 we bought our first house, and in contrast to renting, I was looking forward to being able to put pictures up on the wall. I'd always loved trees so I wanted some woodland photos in our new house. We bought what I thought was a lovely canvas photo of a bluebell wood from a high street chain, and that took pride of place. But I wanted something more personal too. Photos of the places I'd been, and the trees I'd seen. I'd always liked drawing and painting, but I simply wasn't good enough at them to create something wall-worthy. So I decided to dip my toe in the water by buying a second-hand Olympus E-410 camera. It was the perfect starter camera really. It had all the controls I would need to learn, whilst being small, lightweight, and low-cost. At the same time, I borrowed a couple of books from the library, most notably Digital Photography Masterclass, by Tom Ang. That was a great book, and it laid the foundations for all my learning to come. It covered shutter speed, aperture, ISO, histograms, compositions, rule of thirds, golden ratio, black & white, colour, as well as RAW format and the technical aspects of digital photography. I was pretty disciplined. I read that book from cover to cover (possibly twice) before I allowed myself to rush out and start taking photos. But once I felt I had a handle on the theory, I was off and away.

It wasn't long before I realised photography was way harder than I thought it would be. Cameras just don't capture scenes like the human eye does. Having thought I was halfway up the learning curve, I realised I'd only just made it to the slope.

We went to France in August that year, and I took this photo of a vineyard at sunset...

sunset in a french vinyardVineyard at sunsetPhotograph of the sunset at a Vineyard.

Landscape Photography. South Coast of France.

Not a great photo, but it's better than I remembered. And it features some classic elements I would return to in future; simple sky, flat-on composition, and back-lighting. I should stress though, that this is not representative of the photos I took that first year. It was a very difficult year, and the vast majority of my photos were complete rubbish.

 

2010

Another difficult year photographically. I would regularly pop down to the woods with my camera, and take some incredibly dull photos of the trees. But increasingly I was getting distracted by the squirrels, birds, and deer that I encountered. I remember stalking a muntjac deer with my wide-angle lens, desperately hoping to get close enough for a good photo. But it wasn't going to happen. I would need a longer lens if I wanted to branch out into wildlife. So I began collecting bigger and bigger lenses, and I started to visit Woburn Abbey Deer Park, to see bigger and bigger deer. In December that year I took the photo below, which became a real springboard for me.

three red deer stags standing together looking at the cameraRed Deer - Family PortraitThree large stags, in the snow, looking right down the lens.
My favourite shot of red deer so far.

British Wildlife Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.
Not only was this photo a great result on it's own, but I was also learning the field craft; how to get close to the deer, and how to get the angles I wanted. This photo got me some attention on social media, such as it was at the time, which was probably the encouragement I needed to believe I might be able to do this. I was just getting into Flickr at the time, so I was learning a lot from others on there, as well as sharing my own photos.

 

2011

high-key fine art nature photo of a red deer stagRed Deer - Head On - Centred - On WhitePortrait of a red deer stag, in high-key lighting style.
Placed centrally, staring down the camera lens.

British Wildlife Fine Art Photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.
One of my favourite ever photos, and certainly my most popular. I took this during a chance encounter, freakishly close-up to a rutting stag. The background was a little bright, and messy, so I just decided I'd over-expose it, and see if I could create this abstract high-key portrait. I'd made a couple of low-key portraits earlier that year, but this was the day my On-Black and On-White projects really began.

I started my website in 2011, with the intention of having somewhere for my portfolio online. And I started to offer prints, as that was the direction I always wanted to go. Since the beginning, although I chopped and changed between landscapes and wildlife, I always saw wall art as the primary goal. Both to spruce up my own walls at home, and for others who liked what I was doing.

I'd also switched to Nikon this year, as I was growing frustrated with the limited lens choices from Olympus, and the four-thirds system. I took this photo with the brand new D7000, and the Nikon 300mm f/4 lens.

 

2012

2012 saw another grand adventure, to Canada, and another camera upgrade, to the 'full-frame' D800.

I was still torn between landscapes and wildlife, and although my landscapes from Canada were better photos, it's this moose encounter which brings back the best memories of that year.

Western Bull Moose in the snow, Alberta, Canada.Canadian Western Bull MooseI took this photo in a chance encounter at Jasper National Park, Vancouver. Moose range over many miles, so I was very fortunate to see some in my short time there.

Wildlife Photography, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

It's not a great photo. I really wish I'd shot the wider scene, rather than zooming as close as I could. I also don't like the background blur. It's kind of ugly and mechanical looking. But for me this photo is really all about the encounter that day, and the fun we had. It represents the unforeseeable adventure that photography has taken me on, and the benefits of enjoying the moment when these opportunities present themselves.

 

2013

By this point photography was becoming something of an obsession for me, which has it's pros and cons. But the good thing about it was that it fuelled our growing interest in travel, and helped direct us to some spectacular destinations around the world. In 2013 big dramatic landscapes were in. Bright colours, and attention-seeking compositions were the order of the day, and this style certainly influenced me. It was also our first trip to Iceland. I'd wanted to go for years, but photography gave me the drive to make it happen. And when I think of that first trip, this photo comes instantly to mind.

Skógafoss waterfall slow exposure, with blurred clouds and water.Skógafoss BlurThis is the mighty Skógafoss waterfall, in Southern Iceland.
It's really a sight to behold, and I'm thrilled to capture it in such green surroundings. We were fortunate to have had a week or so of rain shortly before our visit, and that left the grass & moss in great condition for us to find.

Landscape photography, Skógafoss , Iceland.

It's Skogafoss waterfall; photographed to death both before and since this visit. But we were very lucky to find it surrounded by such lush green; the result of two weeks of rain before we got there. I used a long exposure (another growing trend of the time) to blur the water and the clouds. I now see this photo every day, as it hangs in our living room. It took four and a half years, but I'd finally taken a photo I wanted on my wall! My taste has certainly changed since I took it, but I think it generally holds up, for this style of landscape photography. These days I prefer more modest, muted images, as we'll see in the remaining photos.

 

2014

Wow, a prolific year, it turns out. After shooting a lot of landscapes in 2013, I started to lean back to nature in 2014. This was a year when I made a conscious effort to work on my On Black project, and I took quite a few portraits in this style. This cow in black and white stands out as a favourite. The sun was low in the sky, and I'd found a subject that wasn't too cautious of me, which was a refreshing change from wildlife.

A cow stands staring at the viewer, in a dark studio-lit portrait.Low Key CattleLow-key studio-style portrait of a horned cow.

These cows make for fascinating portrait subjects, because of the way they will stand and stare. They're inquisitive animals, and that long stare is inviting and engaging.

Taken in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK.

This probably marked the time when my interest in wild animals began to wane, in favour of these more intimate portraits of more familiar subjects. I started to realise that I enjoyed the creative aspect of portrait photography more than the chase and the patience required for wildlife photography. I also won a couple of photography competitions this year, both for captive nature photography.
 

2015

It's almost impossible to choose just one photo for this year. I was lucky enough to photograph bears in Finland, as well as puffins in Skomer, a successful autumn deer season, and another trip to Iceland. I also made a concerted effort to visit the bluebell wood several times through the season, and try a little hard to get some decent woodland photos. I've chosen this photo as a favourite of mine from that spring, as it's one which I felt was an improvement on the bluebell wood photo I'd bought back in 2009. So it represents a landmark moment for me, when I started to feel like I was taking photos of equal or better quality than those sold in shops up and down the country.

The low sun is setting behind the trees and bluebells of a Bedfordshire woodlandLow Sun in the Bluebell WoodThe green trees are painted gold by the setting sun, and the bluebells are illuminated from behind. The sun is placed to one side here, so we see the shadows of the trees stretching out at an angle.
Part of a
bluebell landscape project.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

2016

I think this year reignited my love-affair with trees, which had been a big driver in wanting to learn photography in the first place. Woodland photography, it turned out, was a particularly difficult discipline. But I started to get the hang of it, and visiting Skuleskogen National Park in Sweden presented a challenging opportunity to capture the character and scale of the Scandinavian pine forest.

Skuleskogen ForestSkuleskogen ForestA wide-aspect view of the forests of Skuleskogen National Park, in the High Coast (Höga Kusten) region of Sweden.
The Swedish High Coast is a spectacular area of the country, situated around halfway up the East coast of the country. Skuleskogen offers easy hiking trails with views of green forests, granite mountains, big skies, and the many nearby off-shore islands.
Travel photography, Hoga Kusten, Sweden.
By this point, I'd reversed my taste for bright colours, in preference of more muted tones. I was also enjoying the natural look of the 50mm focal length, which I used here for this two-shot panorama.

 

2017

When I think of 2017, I instantly bring to mind my trip to Australia that year. But despite the enjoyment that brought me, I don't think the photos I took there were as progressive as what I was doing back home. So I've chosen this puffin photo for 2017, which is not only a favourite of mine, but it represents the blending of several disciplines together at once. I was able to combine my knowledge of low-key photography, built over the previous few years, with my passion for nature and my experience of Skomer and the puffins which I'd accrued over visits in the years prior. I was really pleased to use all those tools to create a wildlife image with a simple and minimalist aesthetic, which appeals to me. It was a photo very different to anything I'd seen done before.

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) on a cliff top in low light.Low-Light PuffinAn Atlantic Puffin on a cliff top in low light.
Taken in the traditional low-key style, to retain focus on the subject and allow the background to fall into shadow.
Fine art nature photography. Taken on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, off the coast of mainland Wales.

 

2018

For 2018, I can't think beyond Iceland, and the Laugavegur Trail. I probably took better photos that year, but this was a huge achievement for me; to complete this multi-day through-hike, and it opened up opportunities to see and photograph landscapes which would be otherwise inaccessible. I was able to connect with the Icelandic landscape in a more meaningful way than the busier tourist route of previous trips. It has also given me the confidence to book more adventurous trips in the future. This particular photo is where my mind jumps to when I think of this trip. We're in the hills over the Hvanngil valley, looking East towards the volcanoes of Stórasúla and Hattafell. Lurking on the horizon is the infamous Eyjafjallajökull ice cap.

Hvanngil Valley PanoramaHvanngil Valley PanoramaThe stunning Hvanngil valley. A grassy meadow surrounded by volcanos and glaciers. In sight, behind the Hvanngil hut are Stórasúla, Hattafell, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Laugavegur, Iceland.

Again, I've kept the colours and contrast relatively muted; a trend which is evident in my photos of the last three years. Although more saturated colours and clear shapes appeal more to social media, it's less suited to wall art. It's just too much. Softer-toned photos can still create a focal point for a room without shouting about it, and that's the aesthetic I aspire to these days. So as time has gone on, I've evolved my style to work best as wall art - as that's really been my intention from the start.

 

2019

I'm not going to share a photo from 2019, since it's technically my eleventh year. We'll have to wait and see what's to come, but I'm certainly keeping busy. In fact I've got so many photos in the queue to share, I can't write the blog posts quickly enough!

Over the last ten years I’ve bounced around trying lots of different styles and techniques, which is important as you learn a new craft. I would look at the works of inspiring photographers and artists and wonder how it is that their style is so recognisable, and how they came to find that within themselves. Everyone always says just go out and create, and your style will emerge naturally. I think that is proving to be true for me. After several years of playing with different ideas and influences I started to realise what sort of aesthetic I enjoy, and that guides the nature of the work I now create. These days I do have my own style, and I think most of my photos are recognisably mine. At least they feel that way to me. Not that I’m finished learning though. I still have so much more to work on, in an environment which is constantly evolving. Since I bought my first camera, things have changed massively. Camera technology has raced forward. Processing software such as Lightroom and Capture One have arrived and matured, providing incredible control and refinement of the digital image. New techniques such as HDR, auto-stitched panoramas, focus-stacking, have become available to the mainstream. It’s never been easier to take good photos. So as a result, there are now more photographers than ever before. This has destabilised the photography market somewhat, as the value of an image is often considered negligible. Yet the power of imagery has never been higher. In a world dominated by the internet and social media, images are a predominant amongst that media. So I do believe that photography remains a high value product in society. For me personally, I don’t see a time when people won’t want wall art. As trends and styles evolve over time, I think there will continue to be demand for fresh and modern imagery. My hope is for my photography to find a place in modern contemporary art, while remaining accessible to the mainstream. On a personal level, as long as I'm able to have an outlet for my creativity, and the subjects I shoot still bring me inspiration and awe, I'll be happy.

If you enjoy my photography, the best way you can support me is to like and share my photos on social media. It really helps to bring my images to a new audience. If you want to buy a print for your wall, you can do so on my website and you will also get a tree planted in your honour. Thanks for sticking around, and I hope you enjoy my photos over the next ten years too!

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art British camera landscape learning nature photography UK wildlife years https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/7/10-years-of-photography Mon, 22 Jul 2019 05:00:00 GMT
Blackface Sheep Profile https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/6/blackface-sheep-profile I have a new photo to share! This is a profile shot of a Blackface sheep.

Blackface Sheep ProfileBlackface Sheep ProfileThe iconic Blackface breed of sheep, with it's characteristic curled horns. Photographed in low-key style, on black.
This approach, from side-on allowed me to frame the eye within the horn.
I took this photo in Snowdonia, Wales, UK.

Blackface sheep, usually Scottish Blackface, are the most common breed of sheep in the UK, due to their hardy nature. And with a bit of luck it's possible to encounter one with these characterful curled horns. I found this willing individual in Snowdonia, a few weeks ago, and set about getting this side-on 'profile' shot.

This photo is another for my collection of On Black portraits, which I'm working on expanding this year. Like most photos on my website, it's available to order in print right away :-)

Framed Photo of a Scottish Blackface SheepFramed Photo of a Scottish Blackface SheepPhoto in print for wall art. -

In other news, I've just come back from Greenland! So apologies for the brief blog post this month - it's been pretty hectic. Once I've had a bit of time to sift through them all, I'll have photos to share of ice, sea, and more ice!

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) abstract animal art captive elephant low-key nature on black pattern photography portrait texture https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/6/blackface-sheep-profile Mon, 24 Jun 2019 07:00:00 GMT
A Brief Elephant Encounter https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/5/elephant-encounter Elephants are one of my favourite animals. I love the sense of scale and weight which is so evident in the way they move. The fact that they're so slow-moving, thoughtful, and deliberate in their movements are all characteristics which appeal to me. They also demonstrate such sentience that it's impossible not to relate to them on some level. On top of those visual and emotional factors, there's also the background of their plight in the face of decades of ivory poaching, which I think is intertwined so tightly with the narrative of the animal, it's almost impossible to enjoy the majesty of an elephant without considering the sadder plight they face. That darker narrative is the perfect context for my low-key portraits, and this is a composition I had hoped to capture, given the opportunity.

Ivory On BlackIvory On BlackAfrican elephant, photographed and processed in the low-key portrait style.
Over time the darkness in my low-key portraits has become increasingly meaningful to me, and this photo certainly embodies that; representing the dark reality of the issues facing Elephants in the face of a continuing ivory trade.
Fine art nature photography. Captive subject, UK.

 

I took these three photos in captivity, here in the UK. I'd love to see elephants in the wild, and to photograph them too. But that experience is currently out of my reach, so the opportunity to see them in the UK was still one which I found captivating and awe-inspiring. I have conflicting feelings about keeping elephants in captivity. I'm not against zoos in principal, but I think each species should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Some animals have a healthier, happier life in captivity than in the wild. Others inarguably do not. But still, for those in the grey area, a case can be made for the value they serve to help protect their wild cousins. I've written about this before, but personally I think the value of giving people an opportunity to connect with animals they'd otherwise never experience is immeasurably beneficial to wildlife and justifiable, provided they are afforded the space and care they require.

Elephant Eye-ContactElephant Eye-ContactAfrican elephant, close-up.
Fine art nature photography. Captive subject, UK.

 

Like the first photo, this was another idea I had before-hand. But in practice it was so much more effective than I imagined. On the day I was a little underwhelmed with the light, but in hindsight it was perfect. Just enough for a subtle shadow, without too much contrast or hard edges. There's so much texture and detail in this photo, I have literally sat and looked at it for five minutes at a time. I'd like to see it in print. The lines, shapes, light, and shade are easy to get lost in. If you have the time, take it in slowly, and indulge yourself with an exercise in mindfulness...

Texture OverlapTexture OverlapTextures, wrinkles, and patterns of an elephant's ear resting on it's shoulder.
I could stare at this for some time - and have done, such is the ease with which I can get lost in the detail of it. Photographed low key, to make the most of the lines and texture.
Fine art nature photography. Captive subject, UK.

 

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) abstract animal art captive elephant low-key nature on black pattern photography portrait texture https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/5/elephant-encounter Mon, 13 May 2019 07:00:00 GMT
On Black | On White comes to Instagram https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/4/on-black-on-white-instagram I recently rolled out a new stream; OnBlack|OnWhite.

For several years now, I've been shooting dark ('low-key') portraits of animals for my On Black project, and bright ('high-key') portraits for my On White range. I have an Instagram account (@WheelhousePhoto) for all my nature photography, but my new Instagram feed is exclusively for my low-key and high-key animal portraits.

It's a style of photography I really enjoy, and I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would like to see more of these photos. So I figured a fresh stream just for these images would give people the option to follow one style in particular. If you're into these photos, check them out now on Instagram.

For a flavour of these kinds of photos here's a selection of my favourites. I've got exciting plans to build on my portfolio this year, so I should have plenty of fresh new photos as time goes on...

 

A dark and moody photo of a moose in the black.Low Key Moose PortraitI've always like moose, and I think their strange proportions lend themselves very well to photography.
Ever since I encountered moose in the wild, in Canada, I've been keen to try a close-up, which I didn't have the nerve for in the wild. So I took this opportunity to take this low-key portrait photo with the safety of a fence between us.

Fine Art Nature Photography, Captive Subject, UK.
Highland Cattle Bull - On WhiteHighland Cattle Bull - On WhiteThis bull had the most incredible set of horns. The farmer referred to him as "The Mammoth".
I used another high-key exposure again here, making the most of the sun and the bright sky.
High-key nature photography, Wiltshire, UK.
Puffin On BlackPuffin On BlackPortrait of an Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), shot low-key on a black background.
I usually choose a relaxed 'pose' for these portraits, but I like the character and tension created by the open mouth here. Although it looks like a rather human 'calling' moment, puffins spend a lot of time opening their mouths, and 'chattering' to one another quite happily.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, UK.


Close-up photo of a cow, from Cambridgeshire farmlandCOWCow portrait, photographed in traditional high-key portrait style.
I really like cows. I think they're very photogenic. I like the eye-contact here, and the graphic quality of the horn, which helps direct the the viewer to and from the eye.
A highland cattle cow in low light, on black.Lowlight Highland CattleHighland cattle, photographed in a strong low sunset light, and presented in low-key portrait style. Red Deer RoarRed Deer RoarA roaring red deer, in high-key black and white.
Taken during the 2015 red deer rut.
Fine Art nature photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire.

White-Tailed Sea Eagle - On BlackWhite-Tailed Sea Eagle - On BlackA stunning white-tailed sea eagle, photographed side-lit by the low evening sun. A portrait in the classic low-key style, to evoke comparison to historical human portraits.
Fine Art Nature Photography, captive subject, UK.
Reindeer on WhiteReindeer on WhitePhotographed in the snow of Finnish Lapland. He was a handsome beast, and a great subject. I was very happy to catch the eye contact here, which elevates this portrait, in my view. I also like the tension created from the trailing leg; clipped from view, as he walks into shot with apparent complicity.
Photographed in high-key portrait style, to maximise the graphical impact and retain a clean bright aesthetic.
A cow stands staring at the viewer, in a dark studio-lit portrait.Low Key CattleLow-key studio-style portrait of a horned cow.

These cows make for fascinating portrait subjects, because of the way they will stand and stare. They're inquisitive animals, and that long stare is inviting and engaging.

Taken in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK.

 

For more, find me on Instagram @OnBlackOnWhite.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) art dark high-key Instagram light low-key nature on black on white photography social media wildlife https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/4/on-black-on-white-instagram Mon, 15 Apr 2019 07:00:00 GMT
Negative Space in Photography https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/3/negative-space-photography I love to use negative space in my photos. It's a compositional technique from classic art, and I have always embraced it to bring balance and equality to my images.

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) on a cliff top in low light.Low-Light PuffinAn Atlantic Puffin on a cliff top in low light.
Taken in the traditional low-key style, to retain focus on the subject and allow the background to fall into shadow.
Fine art nature photography. Taken on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, off the coast of mainland Wales.

 

What is Negative Space?

 

It's probably easiest to define Positive Space: That's the main subject and focus of the image.

Negative Space is a term used to refer to areas of an image which surround the subject. In my photos that's very often either black or white, but it doesn't have to be. In fact it doesn't even have to be empty space. The photo below uses negative space around the stag to give context to the subject, as well as provide breathing space and balance to the image.

Red Deer Sunrise LandscapeRed Deer Sunrise LandscapeI like wider views of wildlife as well as close-ups, and even though the mist hides much of this landscape, it leaves just enough to illustrate the environment.
Taken during the
2015 red deer rut.
Woburn Deer Park, Bedfordshire.

 

 

The Aesthetic Effect of Negative Space

 

Providing Balance

In the photo above, the subject (the deer) and the larger trees (to the right) hold the majority of the weight. So to balance the image graphically, there needs to be more space on the left. It's like balancing weights in physics lessons...

Weight and BalanceWeight and BalanceThe force of each weight is balanced if (weight*distance from centre) is the same for each side.
It's science.

Above: The weights are balanced when their (weight * distance-from-fulcrum) is equal.

In visual imagery, balance is achieved by equalising the weight of the image's components; positive and negative spaces. Most commonly by placing the visual weight (positive space) on one side, and allowing more room for the negative space (which is visually lightweight). The diagram above translates to a photograph by using the position of the weights as the edges of the photo, and the fulcrum would be where you would place your subject. This is also the basis of the popular Rule Of Thirds.

A pelican in black and white, shot low-key on a black backgroundPelican On BlackThis is a resident pelican, at St James's Park, London, underexposed using dramatic low-key light.

Fine Art Nature Photography, London, England.

Of course the alternative is to place the subject in the centre of the frame, with an equal amount of negative space each side.

An otter swimming head-on at the camera.Otter ApproachingA river otter, swimming head-on at the camera.

This was a shot I really wanted to have in my portfolio, and I'm very pleased with it. The dark background gives a very atmospheric mood to the shot, and the simplicity of the composition leads the eye straight to the subject.

Nature photography, in captive setting, UK.

 

Minimalism

Minimalism comes in many forms, from interior design to philosophical, but as a particularly visual person I especially value minimalism in imagery. To me minimalism is about achieving a satisfying result with as little additional material as possible.

Red squirrel, back-lit in low light.Red Squirrel Low-LightThe low sun illuminates the tail of this red squirrel.
I like to play with low light, and back-lit wildlife portraits, and I was relying on a few things to come together for this shot to happen. By catching the squirrel with the light behind it, and underexposing my shot, I was able to throw the background into shadow, and retain the sunlit highlights.
Taken at
Forest How, in The Lake District.
Fine Art Nature Photography, Cumbria, UK.

 

A Sense of Space

I like to afford a good amount of space around my portrait subjects. This photo needs just a small silhouette to tell it's story, leaving a huge negative space around the subject for an image that is visually clean and spacious.

Calling Deer on HorizonCalling Deer on HorizonA red deer, calling during the rut, as he traverses the ridge of a hill.

Red deer rut photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Leading the Eye

Leading Lines are a classic compositional tool, but that's not an option for my style of portraiture. But with a lack of background, I'm able to use the subject itself to lead the eye. Surrounded by negative space, the curve of this Bengal tiger's profile leads the eye from the top left, over his head, down to his chin, and back up to his ear and eye.

Low-key side angle profile portrait of a Bengal tiger, on a black background.Bengal Tiger - ProfileAsia's greatest predator, the Bengal tiger.
I took this with the low-key processing treatment in mind, and I'm very happy with the result. The abstract quality of the stripes, and the fading amber-to-white are very effective on the dark background. This is a favourite of my recent portraits.

Nature Photography, captive, UK.

 

Lack of Distraction

Using negative space can allow the eye to rest on the subject with no distraction. This is a big one for me, and the main reason why I like plain backgrounds. In the photos above and below, the subject is the only visual interest in the image, and that leads us to explore the aesthetic detail and emotional cues in more detail.
Side-on portrait on a bald eagle in studio-lit conditions.Bald Eagle - Black, White, and YellowI think Bald Eagle's are such fantastic birds. They're so huge, you can really read a lot into their faces. They're particularly effective for this kind of abstract photography, and simplifying the colours here, help really emphasise the key features of the head.

Fine Art Nature Photography, captive, UK.

 

The Emotional Effect of Negative Space

 

It's OK, I'm not expecting to bring you to tears with the brilliance of my work. Nevertheless negative space can often be used to imply, represent, or induce emotion.

This is one of my favourite photos. Visually, it uses space for minimalism and balance. Emotionally, the negative space and the subject matter combine to imply loneliness and isolation. The dead trees tell a pessimistic story on their own, and the raven perched amongst them adds to that with folklore connotations.
Raven & Dead TreesRaven & Dead TreesI like a graphically simple photo, and this is about as simple as it gets. A raven sits atop an old dead tree, watching time pass around them. I chose to use the high-key style here in order to maximise the simplicity of the image, and create a more stark contrast between the subject and it's surroundings.
Fine art wildlife photography, from the edge of the Finnish taiga forest.

 

This reindeer portrait generates it's greatest emotional impact from the eye contact, but the placement of the subject within the space also adds to the effect. Clipping that trailing leg creates a sense of tension within the image, and a sense of implied action as we see that reindeer is in the move - in to the negative space to the right.

Reindeer on WhiteReindeer on WhitePhotographed in the snow of Finnish Lapland. He was a handsome beast, and a great subject. I was very happy to catch the eye contact here, which elevates this portrait, in my view. I also like the tension created from the trailing leg; clipped from view, as he walks into shot with apparent complicity.
Photographed in high-key portrait style, to maximise the graphical impact and retain a clean bright aesthetic.

 

This final photo is one of quiet contemplation and emotional connection. It's a calm and relaxing image, affording space to examine that remarkable horn as well and providing balance to the off-centre subject.

Half a Highland CattleHalf a Highland CattleThis highland cattle cow was a joy to work with. I don't think I've ever seen such wide horns, and they're a very photogenic element.
I chose a classic half-on composition here, to make the most of that horn as a feature.
High-key nature photography, Wiltshire, UK.

 

So negative space can be used in all kinds of ways, for varying effects. My favourite among them are minimalism and a sense of space; two things I value in the décor I choose to surround myself with.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) aesthetic art balance composition contemplation decor emotional isolation loneliness minimalism negative space photography relaxation space subject tension visual wall art weight https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/3/negative-space-photography Mon, 18 Mar 2019 07:00:00 GMT
Trekking and Photography: The Laugavegur Trail https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/2/trekking-photography-laugavegur-trail I previously shared a post containing the best of my photos from my Laugavegur trail trek. This follow-up post is aimed at anyone who's considering this trek themselves, or something similar - Especially if you intend to combine hiking with photography. It's a fairly comprehensive discussion of logistics, locations, problems, and our choices. If you haven't read the previous post, I'd recommend reading that one first. If you follow this blog purely for the photos, then this is probably not the post for you. There are photos in this post, but they're a combination of 'out-takes' and illustrative imagery, rather than 'proper' photos. Otherwise, I hope you find it useful or interesting. It's very much the story of a man out of this depth, but enjoying the challenge.

Warning: This is a long post. In fact I'm reading the Icelandic Sagas at the moment, and this blog post is not far off one itself. Albeit with slightly less violent marauding.

As I mentioned previously, I undertook this hike with fellow landscape photographer Elliot Hook, who's also shared some great posts about our trip. There'll obviously be some cross-over information in both our blogs, but I'm sure Elliot's will contain all the crucial logistical information and practical advice which I've forgotten, and more fantastic photos. So the two perspectives should complement each other for anyone interested in hiking the Laugavegur trail. Between us, Elliot and I had very little experience of this sort of thing. We just wanted to try something a bit 'out-there', and push our landscape photography in a slightly more adventurous direction. Fortunately in that respect, we were joined on this occasion by my dad and my brother, who are less into photography, but have a huge enthusiasm for hiking and climbing. They've so far escaped death everywhere from the Alps & the Dolomites, to Death Valley, Yosemite, and Everest. They helped us a lot, adding some much needed experience to the team.

Of course it's possible to hike the trail as part of a tour group. And there are various options out there for that; both photography tours, and hiking tours. But Elliot and I wanted to do our own thing, plan our own custom schedule, and do things the way we wanted. For some people, that might not appeal, in which case there is every reason to do this with a tour group, who'd take care the logistics and planning. You also benefit from the experience of the tour leaders, which is of great value. Some tours even carry your kit from hut-to-hut, and cook your meals for you! But my philosophy is that I'd generally rather bumble through on my own, struggle, and hopefully learn in the processes, than take a tour which might hamper my freedom or creativity, or dampen my feeling of achievement. I think it would also diminish my feeling of ownership of my photos if I'd been lead to someone else's viewpoints. But, to each his own on that one.

 

 

The Laugavegur Hiking Route

The Laugavegur trail is a multi-day trekking trail in the south-west highlands of Iceland. The route runs between Landmannalaugar and Thórsmörk (Þórsmörk). As a cheeky bonus, you can also add an extension to Skógar, via the Fimmvörðuháls path. As we were planning our trip, I found it hard to visualise the route. Many of the maps I found online were unclear and too small/large, so I've drawn my own for this blog.

 

Map of the Laugavegur Hiking Trail, in IcelandLaugavegur Hiking RouteA map, showing the route of the Laugavegur Hiking Trail, in the highlands of Iceland.

 

The classic way of hiking this trek is over 4 days:

Day 1: Landmannalaugar -> Hrafntinnusker

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker -> Álftavatn (or Hvanngil)

Day 3: Álftavatn (or Hvanngil) -> Emstrur

Day 4: Emstrur -> Thórsmörk

 

However, these distances are pretty short for experienced hikers, and it can comfortably be completed in 2 days for those in good shape:

Day 1: Landmannalaugar -> Álftavatn (or Hvanngil)

Day 3: Álftavatn (or Hvanngil) -> Thórsmörk

 

We decided on a custom itinerary as follows:

Day 1: Landmannalaugar -> Álftavatn

Day 2: Álftavatn -> Hvanngil

Day 3: Hvanngil -> Emstrur

Day 4: Emstrur -> Thórsmörk

The idea there was to maximise time on the trail as much as possible, by staying at each hut - except Hrafntinnusker, which is prone to bad weather (being the high-point of the trail), and is generally regarded as an unpleasant accommodation. By getting half the distance done on the first day, meant that for the remainder of the trip, we'd only have short distances required. And that meant that we could stop for photos along the way as much as we liked. We would also have plenty of time for photo shoots before and after the day's hike. Either side of the trek, we had 2 nights in Landmannalaugar, and 1 night in Thórsmörk at the end.

 

My dad and my brother decided to tack on the Fimmvörðuháls extension at the end, whereas Elliot and I prioritised photography opportunities by spending the last day in Thorsmork. By all accounts the Fimmvörðuháls was totally spectacular, and I'm told we should have done it too. But in hindsight I don't regret our decision at all. In fact if we'd have had another day there I'd have spent that in Thorsmork too, such is the scope for photography in that area. So for others this decision is probably going to depend on whether your priority is photography or hiking/adventure.

 

 

Planning

Boy, did we plan for this trip. The huts sell out well in advance, so we had to book them as early as possible. We booked in late December, and managed to secure only three of the six hut nights we wanted; going onto a cancellation waiting list for the other three nights. This meant that up until a couple of weeks before we went, we didn't know if we would be camping some nights or not. That's not ideal, so I'd suggest avoiding this situation by either booking earlier than 7 months in advance, or being flexible in your dates, to work around availability. In the end we did get into huts for each night, so we knew we'd be warm and dry come the evening. More importantly it lightened our load; not needing to carry tents, cooking equipment, etc.

Speaking of weight, that was a massive factor in our planning (and concern on my mind). The advice is to carry no more than one third of your body weight for this kind of trek. So for me, that maximum weight allowance was 20 kilograms. I was never going to go genuinely ultralight (this is a whole world within the world of hiking), but it seemed like a fair split would be 5kg for photography kit, 5kg for food, and 10kg for everything else. That was always going to be very very tough to achieve, but it was my goal, and I knew that the lighter my rucksack, the easier the hiking would be, and the more I'd enjoy it. And the more I'd be fit to get out with my camera at the end of the day - which was the main point of going in the first place. So like any healthy obsessive, I drew up a spreadsheet of required kit, including the weight of that kit. The initial weight came in around 25kg. I had a few months to get that down to, or under 20kg. Not needing a tent was a big (albeit last minute) help as that saved me 2kg. Every single item of kit I carried was under scrutiny, and I managed to strip the list down to the bare necessities to make a final weigh-in of 19kg.

 

 

Equipment

Below is a list of the kit I took, and my thinking behind it.

Hiking:

  • Rucksack (2,250g)
    • I bought an Osprey Atmos AG 65 backpack. I went to a few shops and tried on different rucksacks, of different brands, and the Osprey AG ("Anti-Gravity") range were a stand-out favourite. The suspension of the weight, and distribution of the load was great. I'd read recommendations of rucksack size for this trek being around the 70 litre mark, but since the Atmos 65 (65 litres) was rated for 20kg of kit, which was all I could carry anyway, I thought I might as well be on the snug side. If nothing else, it would help me stick to that weight limit if there wasn't physically space for more. In hindsight, I'm really pleased with this choice of bag. It was just the right size, and it held up well, keeping the weight off my shoulders. Elliot went for it's big brother; Aether AG 70 litre, and was similarly impressed, so I would suggest this range if you're in the market for a trekking rucksack.
  • Pillow (100g)
    • A cheapo inflatable Quechua pillow from Decathalon. It was fine. I wanted something, as I wanted to be comfortable sleeping, and the inflatable ones were the only ones light enough and packable enough to take. 100g might not seem like much, but I gave serious consideration to everything I took, and I had to really justify the usefulness of a pillow in order to bring it. There are lighter models around, from better brands, but I already had this one, so I decided not to buy another.
  • Sleeping Bag (1,010g)
    • Rab Ascent 400. I splurged a bit on this one, as we weren't sure if we'd be camping when I bought it. So I went for warm, lightweight, down bag, with protection against damp. If you're staying in huts then you won't need one this warm. But it is a good idea to get a down bag, as it packs smaller. In my case, I hope it'll still be handy in the future, to justify the cost.
  • Sleeping bag liner (262g)
    • I got a very warm Reactor Thermolite Liner. Again, planning for camping. If you're in huts a lighter silk liner would be a better option.
  • Trekking poles (480g)
    • Most people suggest taking trekking poles, but I was really keen to avoid it, due to the weight. But I bought some, and in trial runs, they were hugely beneficial. In practice they made a real difference to my knees, and helped my back and posture when carrying the 20kg rucksack. What also helped get this into the packing list was the realisation that the weight didn't count towards my rucksack weight, as they wouldn't be in my rucksack while hiking. I bought a pair of Cnoc Outdoors Vertex Carbon and Cork poles, as recommended by a friendly YouTuber called Darwin on the Trail. They're cheap and cheerful, but they did the job well, and they're very lightweight for the price. I recommend getting cork handles, which are much nicer on your hands than plastic/foam.
  • 1.5L Camelbak (1,675g)
    • I drink a lot of water, and a Camelbak is really helpful while hiking. Water weighs around 1kg per litre, so this 1.5 litre pack was a real drain on my weight allowance, but an essential for me. For the long hiking day ("Day 1"), I also carried a 500ml bottle, to get me up to 2 litres. I doubt many people would carry that much water, but hydration is an issue for me, so I had to ensure I'd have enough water.
  • Spork (10g)
    • A design classic, and Swedish cultural icon.
  • Penknife (100g)
    • Because you never know when you'll need to hack off your leg to get out of a situation.
  • Hiking Boots
    • I debated between my 1056g hiking boots and my 800g trainers, both of which are GoreTex. In the end the higher ankles won out, and that was the right decision I think. If the weather had been better, trainers (proper hiking trainers) would have been fine, but we were trekking through snow, slush, and puddles, so an extra inch in height was reassuring.

Photography:

  • Tripod Legs (1150g)
    • I have a Manfrotto 190CXPRO3. It's my normal everyday tripod. It's carbon fibre and I couldn't find something lighter that was stable enough, without spending a lot of money. Once you're in the £200 to save 200g territory, it's just not worth it. So I decided to get a lightweight head, and stick with the legs I already had.
  • Tripod Head (+ centre column) (382g)
    • I used a Three Legged Thing ('Corey') tripod head, which was very strong for the weight, and will be my tripod head of choice for future hikes & treks.
  • "Internal Camera Unit" aka "ICU" (390g)
    • I needed a case for my photography equipment, that would fit in the bottom ('sleeping bag') section of my rucksack. Keeping the camera kit there would mean it was easily accessible, and also close to my hips - a good way to load the heaviest item in the rucksack. I already had a cheapo ebay ICU, and that did just fine. You can get better quality ones from the likes of Tenba Tools.
  • Nikon D810+battery (1050g)
    • My camera. Must remember to pack that. I decided not to bring a spare camera body. This would be a gamble for some, but I didn't feel that I had the space or the weight.
  • Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (1030g)
    • This was a tough decision. The dream would be to take one lens, in the region of 24-300mm, that's sharp and lightweight. Even f/5.6 aperture would be fine to save weight, if it was sharp. But such a lens doesn't exist. So I think 2 lenses are required for a trip like this.
      This was my wide-angle option, and there are equivalent lenses at half the weight, and less. A couple of well chosen primes would have been around 250-300g. But I decided I'd rather put the effort in to carry this lens, in order to get the sharpness and zoom range it offers. I think that was the right decision for me, but it might well not for you. There are a lot of considerations that go into lens choice, and I spend months deliberating wide angle options.
  • Sigma Contemporary 100-400mm f/5-6.3 (1150g)
    • I was initially going to take my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, plus my 1.7x teleconverter. But The reviews for this Sigma were good, and it seemed sharp. The zoom range was perfect, so that's what temped me. It's not light for a multi-day trek - but it's lighter than the nikon 70-200 + teleconverter, and it would mean less swapping required plus extra reach. I decided to go with it, and I'm really pleased I did. The Sigma lens is indeed very sharp, and I'm now debating whether to keep the Nikon 70-200, since I've chosen the Sigma over it in every decision since I bought it.
  • Spare batteries (5) (440g)
    • There's nowhere to charge batteries along the way, besides solar or USB charging units you want to carry. The lightest option is to carry charged spares, so that's what I did. I took 6 batteries in total. I only used 3, but I would definitely take 5-6 if I did it again, just in case. If the weather had been better, I could easily have used 4 or 5, and I'd rather carry extra batteries than risk running out.
  • Filters, remote release, memory cards (470g)
    • A circular polariser (used a couple of times), two ND filters, an ND grad (which I didn't use, and never use), memory cards, lens wipes, remote release, etc.

Toiletries:

  • Total 290g
    • Lip balm
      • Another essential for me. Hot, cold, windy, wet, dry; all conditions associated with Iceland, and all leave me with chapped lips.
    • Sunglasses
      • I was loathed to make space for these, but I did it at the last minute. Only wore them once, but I guess if the sun had come out, I'd have regretted not having them with me.
    • Sun cream
      • Same as sunglasses.
    • Plasters
    • Ear plugs
      • Totally recommended for sleeping in the huts, or camping. My god there are some snorers.
    • Eye covers
      • I can't sleep without them if there's any light. So essential for me - both during the night (the sun isn't down for long) and for resting during the daytime.
  • Towel (118g)
    • Sea to Summit Pocket Towel (L). Good size, lightweight, packs very small.

Clothes:

  • 8L dry sack (10g)
    • This was to contain all my clothes, within my rucksack.
  • Merino underwear x2 (156g)
    • One for sleeping, one for hiking. Yes that's grim, but needs must. And having wool helps a lot - both for hygiene, smell, warmth, and comfort.
  • Wool socks x2 (192g)
    • Same as above.
  • Merino base layer top x2 (320g)
    • Same as above.
  • Merino base layer legs (144g)
    • The only thing I took which I didn't use! Probably worth having, in case of very cold weather.
  • 'Waffle'-type thin long-sleeve fleecy mid-layer (206g)
  • Warm Fleece with neck and head (316g)
    • I heartily recommend the 66 North 'Vik' hooded fleece sweater. It's warm, light, and versatile.

Travel In

Yes, an extra set of clothes to those above which were packed:

  • Thin socks
  • Merino underwear
  • Zip-off trousers
    • This was a gamble. I only took one pair of trousers, which doubled up as shorts (the zip-off variety). Not an especially trendy look, but in keeping with the environment. They were very lightweight (around 160g), and I'd have been in trouble if they'd have torn or something, but the gamble paid off, and I saved precious grams by sticking to this limitation.
  • Wool jumper
    • Would love an Icelandic one, but Swedish made a very good alternative. This trip really made me fall in love with wool. It's just amazing. It's light, warm, comfortable, comforting, packs down small, and resists smell over days of use. I genuinely love wool now!
  • Merino tee-shirt
  • River-crossing shoes (425g)
    • I probably spent more time researching footwear for crossing rivers than anything else. Essentially, you can't cross barefoot in case of injury (sharp rocks, or something), so you need some footwear. That means carrying footwear the entire trek, to wear for a total of around 10 minutes, through a few rivers. It's mighty annoying. I explored all kinds of options, from Crocs (a popular choice) to tough socks (eg 'Skinners'), or Vibram Five Fingers. I dare say I could have found something lighter and/or cheaper, but I ended up going for the North Face Litewave Flow trainers. They were pretty light, and they were comfortable, and I needed to get some that I'd use another time too. I wasn't going to buy something that would only be of use for this trip. So I was happy enough with the choice, but I still resent having to carry them all that way for the limited time they were required.

Waterproofs etc:

  • 66 North jacket (268g)
    • Must be fully waterproof! I have a 66 North Skalafell jacket which I trust, and it's very lightweight too.
  • Waterproof legs (344g)
    • It will rain in Iceland. You really need proper waterproofs.
  • Hat (72g)
    • I took a warm wool hat, and also a lighter merino hat too. If you have the luxury of a head of hair, then you won't need the latter.
  • Snood (44g)
    • Got to keep that neck warm.
  • Wool gloves (48g)
    • Bought some on a previous visit to Reykjavik. These were great. Those crafty Icelanders know their wool.
  • Waterproof gloves (114g)
    • These were a waste of time. I have a pair of Trekmates GoreTex gloves, but they're just not waterproof over several hours. I generally wore the wool gloves, even in heavy rain. They're warmer and feel better.

Accessories:

  • Passport (36g)
  • Phone (132g)
    • I debated leaving my phone at home, as the battery was never going to last the week without charging, but I decided to take it, to use on the buses (which have USB charging sockets, and wi-fi).
  • Phone USB charging cable
  • Head Torch (86g)
    • I resented having to take this, when Iceland has so few hours of darkness, it was never likely to be needed. But I was assured it was wise to take it, so I did. And I never used it.
  • Cash (50g)
    • I heard that although the huts take card payments (for food, showers, etc), that's only if the card readers have power and signal, so it's a good idea to take cash as a backup. I think I only took about £50.
  • Bank cards (10g)
  • ipod shuffle (26g)
    • The battery lasts ages on this, so it was great to have for the long buses, as well as down time, resting in the huts. Outside of 'quiet time' (10pm-8am), people are constantly cooking, packing, unpacking, chatting. So if you want a quick rest - which we regularly did between hiking and photography time - it's good to have some music to play over the background chatter.
  • map book
    • I took a book with me, which included a map of the route, and some text about each section of the hike. Although I'd read it a couple of times at home, it was handy to re-read each evening, to refresh my mind with what was in store for the following day.
  • Spare water bottle x 2
    • As mentioned before, I drink a lot of water. I carried a lightweight water bottle for when we were around the huts, and a versatile collapsible bottle to add more options to the Camelbak listed above.
  • Printed itinerary, Boarding passes, Bus booking info.
    • Bus tickets were paper print outs, so we needed those with us. I couldn't rely on my phone battery, so I printed my boarding pass for the flights too. Also had a printed copy of our daily itinerary, so I could refer to notes, and double-check hut bookings, etc.

Food:

They say that your food will weigh approx 1kg for each day. I would have struggled to carry that, so again I had to consider every gram, and save as much weight where I could. I ended up with a total food weight of 4kg, for 5 days. I was also targeting a total of 3000kcal per day, but after a couple of days, it was clear that I'd have been fine (better off) with more like 2000-2500kcal per day. I ended up giving food away along the route, as I wasn't able to eat my daily ration, and didn't want to carry what I wasn't eating. Anyway, the following is a list of what I had for each day, which totals 3000kcal:

  • Porridge
    • An easy breakfast. Got some of those little 'just add water' sachets.
  • Belvita
    • Something sweet to have after my porridge, but not too sugary.
  • 2 Tortillas.
    • Versatile and lightweight. Also no risk of going mouldy in the course of the week, which bread / pitta can do.
  • Tuna
    • Filling for the tortillas. I didn't bring enough tuna for every day, but I wish I had.
  • Poppyseed thin x 3
    • Some thin things with poppy seeds on them. An attempt to snack on something savoury, rather than sugar. I didn't like them, but that's because I like sugary things. They did their job, but I didn't eat them all.
  • Rivita Thins x 2
    • Another savoury snack, to have with lunch. Again, not really my thing, but they did a job.
  • Flapjack
    • An easy no-brainer snack.
  • Nut mix (85g)
    • Mixed fruit and nuts. Ticks a lot of boxes, and can be snacked upon while hiking.
  • Salt and pepper cashews
    • I'd read a few reports of craving salt by the end of a week like this, so I took something overtly salty to have along the way. These were really delicious, and I'd recommend them.
  • Bear YoYo
    • This was my wife's stroke of genius. She noted that we've seen our nieces and nephews with these fruit snacks, so I had a look at them. They're tiny, lightweight, sweet, and one of your five-a-day. So ideal for a trip like this.
  • Elk snack
    • Ikea do these elk sausages which don't need to be kept refrigerated. They wouldn't be my first choice - very strong smokey flavour, but they did the job.
  • Snack cheese x 2
    • I bought little individual 20g packets of cheese, and they were another success. You need fat on these hikes, and cheese is a great way to get it. They went in my tortilla wraps and in my dehydrated meals.
  • Expedition Foods dehydrated meal
    • My evening meal. Elliot found these, and they proved a great buy. As a calories-to-weight ratio, they're a real winner. They come in packs of 450kcal, 800kcal, and 1000kcal. I bought the 1000kcal meals, but when it came to eating them, it was clear that 800kcal would have been ample.
  • Herbs, salt, pepper, and chilli flakes
    • What a tip to pack these. And one I ignored. Had to borrow from Elliot, and they made all the difference to the dehydrated meals.
  • Chocolate 60g
    • After the scenery, this was the highlight of my day. I took a 300g bar of my favourite Lindt chocolate, and divided it into 60g over 5 days. I had to split it before I left, otherwise I knew I'd have eaten it all by day 2.

Food ration for LaugavegurFood ration for LaugavegurDaily food ration for the Laugavegur Trail. Each column is one day. Click to enlarge.

One column = one day. First and last days were snacks / breakfast only.

 

 

Landmannalaugar & Getting There

We landed at Keflavik Airport early in the morning, and took the Flybus transfer from the airport to Reykjavik central bus station ("BSI"). The BSI is just (10mins walk) outside Reykjavik city centre, and it's where our bus to Landmannalaugar left from too. We booked the last bus of the day (1pm) to go to Landmannalaugar, so that we'd have 2-3 hours in Reykjavik between buses, to walk into town, pick up any supplies, and eat our last hearty meal for 5 days. The main thing people buy in this downtime is camping gas. If you're staying in huts every night, then you won't need camping gas. But if you are camping, you'll need gas for your stove, and you can find it at the petrol station 100m from the BSI. Note you can't take it on the plane, so you have to buy it locally. If you're in a rush, there's fast food at the petrol station (the hot dogs are good), or there's a decent looking canteen at the bus station itself (featuring boiled sheep's head, for the full tourist treatment). But we had plenty of time, so we walked up to the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, and ate in the little Cafe Loki. This was a tip-off from a local, and if I had my time again, I'd do exactly the same. Gratinated Mashed Fish (Plokkfiskur) with homemade rye bread went down a treat. So much so that I've learned to make it myself since getting home (oh, spoiler alert: we did survive this trip).

We got back to the BSI in plenty of time, and I had a nervous half an hour waiting for the bus, anxious about the days to come, and whether I would cope with the demands. To complicate things further, a storm was forecast the following day, and the Icelandic Search and Rescue (SafeTravel.is) were advising (strongly) against starting the Laugavegur trek that day. Fortunately we'd scheduled to spend that day in Landmannalaugar rather than starting the trail right away. But the storm would write off our plans for hikes and photos that day, and we also had to hope that it passed through enough that we could safely start out on the trek the following day, which was 50/50 at this point. Despite travelling with my experienced dad and brother, Elliot and I were fairly adamant that we would stick to the advice of SafeTravel.is, and only hike the trail if they deemed it safe. So waiting for the bus on a sunny afternoon in Reykjavik, I was pensive about the upcoming 48 hours, and what it would hold for us. Having booked our huts, we had no flexibility on dates, and would have to abandon the trek if the storm didn't pass. Anyway, the bus arrived, and off we set.

The buses are generally very reliable, but unfortunately our bus broke down with around 20km to go. When maneuvering to let another bus pass along a one-track road, in the middle of nowhere, our bus reversed over a road sign and burst a gas pipe. Having lost phone signal, we couldn't call for a replacement bus, which would have been 4 hours away anyway. After stopping to try and repair it, the driver ploughed on at what must have been around walking pace for the rest of the journey. The bus had lost it's suspension, and anyone who's taken this dirt road before will know that it's full of potholes, rocks, drops, and ramps. It was killing me to see the beautiful light on the mountains around us, knowing that this evening was our only chance to get some photos in Landmannalaugar before the storm hit. We eventually crawled into Landmannalaugar at nearly 9pm (scheduled arrival time was 5:15pm). We'd pretty much lost the light by this point, and no longer had time to go up Blahnuker ('Blue Peak') as planned. We rushed out to try and salvage something of the evening, but the rain started, and I got nothing except wet. The storm was coming in, so we went back to the hut.

Oh god, the hut. I feel sick thinking about it. I'm a quiet, polite, anxious, middle-class boy, with a clearly defined sense of personal space. The hut was the antithesis of my idea of holiday accommodation. Our bedroom can best be described as two beds, one on each side of the room, with 9 people in each bed; side-by-side. And because of our bus delay, we were the last ones to arrive. So people had to shuffle up, to make space for us in the middle. It was by far and away the worst aspect of the trip, and Landmannalaugar was the worst of the huts. In fact I can only think of one thing worse than that Landmannalaugar hut, and that would be camping. In spite of everything, at least the hut was warm, and we were out of the storm. I didn't sleep much that night. I laid awake, thoughts racing, and in more doubt than ever that I had it in me to do this.

The following morning it seemed like the rain wasn't as heavy as forecast, so we nipped out while it wasn't too bad. We went up Sudurnamur, which offers a spectacular vantage point over Landmannalaugar and the surrounding area. We couldn't go all the way to the top due to the strong winds and low cloud, but we got high enough for some good views. Below, this handsome man withstands the gale force winds to shoot with that beautiful Sigma 100-400mm lens.

Photography in IcelandPhotography in IcelandMe shooting longer-focal length landscapes in Iceland.

Because of the low cloud and rain, I only used the telephoto lens here. Even though the rain was light, the wide angle lens wouldn't have stayed dry. And the tops of the mountains were lost in the cloud, so I felt the best option was to pick out smaller scenes and abstracts from our vantage point.

After that we decided to try and get up Blahnuker, as it would be our final chance to do so. I'd guess we got around a quarter of the way up before the wind became so strong it was difficult to stay on our feet. The rain had intensified, and it was clearly well beyond the point at which I could get my camera out of my bag. So we had to abandon that, and confine ourselves to the hut for the rest of the day. It was a long afternoon and night. All the time crossing our fingers that the storm would pass, and we'd be able to start the trail the following day. I slept a little better the second night though.

I didn't get any great photos in Landmannalaugar. I shared a few in the previous post, but they're nothing compared to what we could have got if the weather hadn't been so restrictive. It's frustrating, but that's Iceland. It can be spectacular, but you have to respect the forces that make this island so unique in the first place.

 

 

Day One: Landmannalaugar -> Álftavatn

We had a long walk ahead of us, and the morning suffered the tail end of the storm from the previous day. So we took our time with breakfast, and didn't rush off, figuring the later we leave the better the weather would be. This was true, but obviously we couldn't leave it too late as we didn't want to be rushing. We had ideas about sunset photos that night, so wanted to get to Álftavatn by late afternoon. So we left around 10ish I think, in the drizzle.

The start of the trailThe start of the trailI was nominated to carry the flag.

I had been nominated to carry the flag for the duration of the hike.

We stopped at the other end of the lava field (left of the photo above), to take photos of the meadow and the mountains behind, but were confounded by rain and low cloud. I was questioning the point of it all, but also relishing the challenge of the hike in spite of the difficulties. And I knew that the further we got from Landmannalaugar, the better the weather would be. That morning, we passed some of the most unique geology and scenery I've ever witnessed. All the time in gale force winds and rain or hail. It was gutting not to be able to take photos. In the past this missed opportunity would have crushed me, but I'm working to change that mindset, and I was prepared for that sort of disappointment on this trip. I think I took it well, and I enjoyed the views and the experience, photos or not. Those views will live with me, despite having no photos to share of them.

So we pressed on, up, and up, and up some more, to the snowfields of Hrafntinnusker.

Trudging through the snowfieldTrudging through the snowfieldIt was hard work, but the views were worth it.

Until we reached the Hrafntinnusker hut, which was our lunchtime stop, and the high-point (altitude, not morale) of the trek. You can see from the photo below, what sort of scope this place offers for abstract photos, as well as mountain and adventure photography. But it's pretty hard to do much when the cloud covers all the peaks, and you can't keep the lens dry from the rain. I wouldn't have wanted to stay the night in this hut. It's regarded as the most basic of all the huts along the way (yes, worse than Landmannalaugar) and things can get pretty bleak up there.

Hrafntinnusker HutHrafntinnusker HutThe Hrafntinnusker hut area. Beautiful but bleak.
It's the highest point of the trail.

 

From that halfway point of the day, we carried on through more active geothermal areas, until we reached Jokultungur (Glacier Tongue), a lookout over the green Álftavatn valley. This was probably my favourite viewpoint of the entire trek. There's such a wide view, and so many shots and angles available. Yet, still the tops of the mountains were clipped by the low cloud, rendering these wider shots useless in my opinion. Below is a panorama image of the valley in front of us at this point, with Lake Álftavatn in the centre, and the hut just about visible in front of it.

Alftvatn PanoramaAlftvatn PanoramaPanorama of the Alftvatn valley from Jokultungur, on the Laugavegur Trail.

 

There weren't many decisions we made along the way which I regret in hindsight, but moving on from here was one of them. We reasoned that after 10-20 minutes the cloud wasn't lifting, and we had a long way still to walk. So we ought to get on and get to the hut in good time, to give us time for a rest and something to eat before a sunset shoot. In reality we got to the hut, had a shower, and didn't want to go out again, after a long tiring day. We should have scrapped our sunset plans earlier, and stayed at Jokultungur for a couple of hours, watching the cloud and light change (which it did later on). We missed a great opportunity here, and one I'd take if I were to have my time over. We were still a couple of hours walk from the hut, but really we could have stayed quite a while longer than we did.

Other opportunities missed this day include Storihver (a very active geothermal area), Söðull (a cliff accessible via a side-hike shortly before Hrafntinnusker, offering fantastic views when visibility is good), and the former ice caves of Hrafntinnusker. All were axed due to the weather, which was the right decision on the day, but a shame nonetheless.

Just before the home straight to the hut, we had our first river crossing; Grashagakvisl. This was fine. Fun, if I'm honest. We were close to the snow-covered mountains where the water was coming from, so it was clearly going to be very cold. The real annoyance of the river crossings was the time they take, changing footwear, carrying boots & socks, rolling up or zipping off trousers, and then drying and dressing on the other side. I think the water was over knee height here. And the cold hits you like needles around 10 seconds in :-)

The Álftavatn hut was the dampest of the huts we stayed in, since everyone was trying to dry wet clothing from that day. It was humid and cramped. But instead of the Landmannalaugar-style people-smuggler's approach to bedding, we had bunks here. I mean I say 'bunks' as there were multiple beds, but not one bed per person. Obviously not. It was two to a bed, so Elliot and I shared a top bunk mattress somewhere between the size of a single and a small double. I wouldn't say it was romantic, but it was cosy. And at least I only had someone else on one side of me, not both.

 

 

Day Two: Álftavatn -> Hvanngil

The pressure was off today. With only 5km to walk to the next hut we pretty much had the day to do as we wished. We took a walk west, into the next valley on, which was very scenic, but I couldn't really find an interesting photo. There are a few interesting options from Álftavatn, including Bratthals, and Torfahlaup Gorge, so I'm not sure we made the right call. But it was nice to wander off somewhere on our own, without a recognised scene or goal in mind.

We got back to the Álftavatn hut for lunch, planning to make use of the picnic tables there. Just as I opened my food bag, it began to rain. Thirty seconds later it was hailing. So lunch was off, and we decided to make a move and head down the trail to Hvanngil. There was a small river crossing here; Bratthalskvisl. This one was fairly shallow, and not that wide either. Just a nuisance really. Soon after that, we found this stream with it's amazing bright green moss. We stopped to take a few photos initially, then followed it around the corner to find this composition featuring the captivating Stórasúla volcano in the background. Stórasúla is such a stunning feature of this area, it was pulling my attention the whole time. The size, shape, and blend of black & green combine to make it a photographer's dream. I could have spent all day finding different angles and views of it.

Stórasúla PortraitStórasúla PortraitAmazing moss lining the glacial meltwater stream, with the magnificent Stórasúla volcano in the background.

Shortly after this, we got to the hut at Hvanngil, which sits underneath Stórasúla. Hvanngil might have been my favourite hut. The location is amazing, with spectacular views all around it. And it was a nice size; the smallest so far. Best of all, it was under-booked. I guess the majority of people stay at Álftavatn instead. So we had spare beds in our room, and Elliot and I spread out to a bed each. What a luxury! The beds here were bunks again (intended to share 2 people to each mattress). I think everyone in our room had a bed to themselves that night, which was nice, and it meant that the room didn't feel crowded either. I was starting to think I could do this after all.

We had a rest and a meal at the hut, then set out for our sunset shoot. And for once the weather was on our side. It looked as though we'd get some sun. We hiked up Hvanngilshausar, which is a short, steep climb, rewarding you with a fantastic view of the valley.

Hvanngil LookoutHvanngil LookoutA hiker overlooking the Hvanngil valley; A grassy meadow surrounded by volcanos and glaciers. In sight, behind the Hvanngil hut are Stórasúla, Hattafell, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull.

Of note in the photo above;

  • My brother posing very well, but too far away. I should have tried out this composition sooner, and worked out that the wide angle lens would leave him this small in the frame. What can I say? I this is not my usual style of photography.
  • The streams in the foreground look great. I was fearful that once the valley was in shade from the ridge to the right (as the sun goes down), we'd lose the light on the streams. But Elliot pointed out that they would reflect the light from the still light sky, and it's true. One of those things which comes out better in a photo than it looks with the naked eye at the time.
  • There's a small cluster of grey buildings, small in the middle-distance. They're the Hvanngil huts.
  • Looking beyond the huts you can see the large black desert of ash which we'd be crossing tomorrow. It might not look like much now, but there's several miles of trail in this shot alone, with more out of sight beyond.
  • Beautiful Stórasúla, side-lit, and rising high in the middle-distance (right).
  • To the left of is Stórasúla is Hattafell, the next pointy volcano to dominate a section of the trail. More on him to come.
  • In the far distance is the infamous Eyjafjallajökull ice cap.
  • Between Hattafell and Eyjafjallajökull is a patch of mist, covering Emstrur (our destination for the following day) and Thórsmörk valley (our destination for day four). This area also clouded up the following evening, scuppering our chances of any views/scenery.

 

 

Day Three: Hvanngil -> Emstrur

I found this section of the hike a little dull compared to the constantly changing scenery of the previous couple of days. This 11km hike lead us across the black desert of volcanic ash we'd seen from Hvanngilshausar the previous night.

Only a few minutes after setting off on the trail, we reach Blafjallakvisl river, which we have to cross. This was a fairly wide river, and the advice is to look a hundred metres or so up river, for a crossing point which takes in a small island halfway across. This was the coldest river we crossed. Maybe because of the time of day we crossed it, and the time spent in the water, but it really was like an ice bath. Once across you can sit and dry your feet, feeling refreshed, and watch everyone else struggle through the cold! After that, it's a long slog across the ash desert.

Icelandic Highland TrailIcelandic Highland TrailA portion of the Laugavegur Trail, Iceland, covered in a layer of ash.

The photo above shows the hiking trail (left) and an access road (right), the mighty Innri-Emstrura river, which we cross by bridge, and Hattafell looming large behind.

To the left of the view above (out-of-shot here) is the captivating Storkonufell, which looks fantastic from every angle. It was covered by low cloud as we walked past, but it has real potential for great photos, and the flowers surrounding the trail can make a great foreground too. I got one photo of Storkonufell which featured in the previous post. Had the weather been better, we'd have had many more opportunities too, including from the hill which overlooks Emstrur.

There are lots of great photo locations in this area, particularly if you want to hike up some of the fells surrounding the trail route. But we stuck to the trail, and hoped for success at the Emstrur end. Unfortunately for us the cloud came in early, and we weren't able to make the most of the area.

The huts at Emstrur are called Botnar, and they're pretty nice, but they felt busy after Hvanngil. They're spread across three smaller buildings, rather than one large one. Bunk beds again, and it was cramped, but by this point we were starting to acclimatise to the conditions.

Nearby to Emstrur there is a large, deep canyon called Markarfljótsgljúfur, through which the Markarfljót river flows. Maybe it was just he dull light we had, but I didn't find anything photogenic about the canyon. If you have the time spare, it's worth a look, but don't prioritise it for photography.

 

 

Day Four: Emstrur -> Thórsmörk

This hike offered interesting views in the first and last quarters, but dragged in between. It also felt like there were more people around than the previous days. On day one, we walked on for further than most. On day two, we had hardly any distance to walk, and spent our time doing our own thing. On day three we had a head start on most people (who were doing that stretch from Álftavatn). So it was notable to be back amongst other hikers for the final stretch.

The photo below shows the terrain of this day, albeit from Thórsmörk, looking back to Emstrur, with Hattafell in the distance.

Emstrur from ThorsmorkEmstrur from ThorsmorkThis is the valley to cross between Emstrur and Thorsmork on the Laugavegur Trail

The main feature of the hike on this day is the river crossing at the edge of Thórsmörk. The Thronga river (Þronga) flows down a fairly wide plain, splitting into several streams which vary in depth, width, and flow. Take your time to choose a route. Generally the wider streams are more shallow. Try to avoid the faster flowing streams. I think we had to cross about three individual streams to get to the other side, each seemingly wider and colder than the last. But it was fun.

Soon (20 mins?) after crossing Thronga, we got to our hut in Thórsmörk; Langidalur. I'm in this photo somewhere.

The Langidalur hut in ThorsmorkThe Langidalur hut in ThorsmorkThe end of the trail!

The Langidalur hut was relatively large. Probably the largest we stayed in. The sprawling dormitory comprised all sorts of different types of beds, and by getting there earlier than most, we hit the jackpot; single bunk beds! The relative luxury of our own individual bed to sleep in. Imagine that. We found a small 'cabin' off the main throughway of the dorm, with bunks either side, a bit like you might imagine in a sleeper train carriage. Had the Hvanngil hut been as full as all the others, this would have have been our best night's accommodation. But the space in Hvanngil during our stay made that night more pleasant.

 

 

Thórsmörk

From Langidalur you have a few options, each offering spectacular views, according to how much time you have. The hut is right next to Valahnúkur fell, which is a steep 15-20 minute climb, but rewards with fabulous views in all 360 degrees. If you have longer, then alternative options include the Tindfjoll Circuit (11km, 5-6 hours), or Goltur (long hike, 10-12 hours). Both offer some fantastic viewpoints of the main Thórsmörk valley.

We arrived in Thórsmörk for mid-late afternoon, so we had time to unpack our things at the hut, have something to eat, and nip up Valahnúkur for sunset.

The following day, we had to catch the bus back to Reykjavik, but we decided to get up for our only sunrise shoot of the trip, and make the most of our to easy access to Valahnúkur. So we set our alarms for 3:45am, and struggled up the fell one last time. Sunrise wasn't amazing, but I got a few nice shots despite that. This is me looking vaguely south at sunrise on Valahnúkur.

Me at Valahnúkur in ThorsmorkMe at Valahnúkur in ThorsmorkThanks to Elliot for taking this one.

Given the direction of the light, I'd say sunset probably has a little more potential of dramatic photos at this spot, but given the proximity of the fell to the hut, it's about as convenient as it could be for sunrise, without staying on the fell itself.

I took a few of these wide-aspect horizon photos from Valahnúkur. A couple of them are in the previous post, but here's another. I like wide landscape photos, and I also found Hattafell pretty enchanting, even from this distance.

Hattafell Wide-AspectHattafell Wide-AspectWide-aspect view of Hattafell from Thorsmork, and the valleys inbetween.

 

Looking north, the mountains were all kinds of colours...
Thorsmork ColoursThorsmork ColoursJust a small selection of the range of colours in the Icelandinc wilderness.

My knees made it down the fell, and we had our breakfast in what can only be described as relaxing surroundings. This hut was really nice, and I think everyone else there seemed very happy too - presumably buoyed their successful trek. The busses to/from Thorsmork stop at each of the three huts, and there are several each day. The bus journey is another final adventure, crossing deep, fast-flowing rivers on the way back down to the south coast, and the familiarity of the Ring Road. We had one night in Reykjavik, before the flight home the next morning.

 

 

Appendix I: Huts & Campsites

Each hut along the route is comprised of an office, a dormitory-style sleeping block, shower/toilet blocks, and an area for camping. The huts are operated by Ferðafélag Íslands (FI.is). They're not cheap (~£60pp for hut, ~£12pp for camping), but the alternative is wild camping, which I'm not ready for yet. The huts are all cramped and very basic, but they're clean and tidy. As an example Elliot's post has a photo of the bedroom in the Landmannalaugar hut.

The kitchens have gas hobs, pans, plates, cutlery, etc, so if you're in the huts you can use these. If you're camping you need to carry your own.

All the huts have flushing toilets except Hrafntinnusker (which is composting), and loo paper. And they're all separate blocks to the accommodation, about 20 metres apart, so not convenient for night time visits. Showers cost around £4 for 5 minutes, and you need to buy a ticket at the hut office to get them to work. This is money well spent in my opinion. I might be recycling clothes, but a shower at the end of each day was a welcome comfort, and helps those wool layers stay fresh for another wear.

There's a warden at each hut, who'll check you in, and will also have good advice about weather, or any other questions you have.

Although we booked early and still didn't get our huts without relying on the waiting list, you can book later and still secure huts every night. You just need to be flexible about dates. We met other people there who had booked their stay (with huts every night) just two or three months ahead; one solo traveller booked just a fortnight before the trip. So don't be too concerned about having to book early.

As I mentioned earlier, we decided to stay in huts in order to save the weight of tents/stoves/roll-mats. You'd have more personal space in a tent (which I would value), but the opportunity to dry clothes and kit, and stay warm is huge advantage of the huts.

Note, you can't wild camp inside the Fjallabak nature reserve, but the majority of the trail is outside of it.

There are a choice of three huts in Thórsmörk:

  • Langidalur - Which I'd recommend if you're finishing the hike at Thórsmörk.
  • Basar - Which I'd recommend if you're extending the trail via Fimmvörðuháls.
  • Volcano Huts - A private (not operated via FI.is) accommodation, which is a little less basic, and more comfortable. I'd stay here if I was visiting Thórsmörk, without hiking the Laugavegur.

There's a bar at Álftavatn. It's a nice spot for it, with a lovely view. As I recall, it was inexplicably hot in there (over 25°C). The men of the group had a beer, while I had a chocolate muffin.

 

 

Appendix II: Buses & Transport

There are three main bus companies running services to/from LandmannaLaugar and Thorsmork:

We used Reykjavik Excursions, and we booked the Hikers Pass. We also booked FlyBus airport transfers via Reykjavik Excursions.

The buses to/from Landmannalaugar are comfortable enough. They're not cheap by any means, but that's Iceland for you. They have Wi-Fi and USB power sockets, though the Wi-Fi signal is lost around halfway to Landmannalaugar.

You'll want Route 11 from BSI to Landmannalaugar. There's a 20 minute coffee/toilet/supermarket break at Hella around halfway through the 4h15m journey. This is the last town before we head inland to the mountains. 

Returning from Thorsmork, we took the 9A, changing to the 20A at Hvolsvollur halfway through. The changeovers are easy to manage, with nicely timed overlaps, so it's all pretty simple.

 

 

Appendix III: River Crossings

The river crossings regularly come up as one of the more daunting tribulations of this trek, and part of that is probably because it's hard to get a handle on what they'll be like before-hand. I've never waded through any river before, cold or not, but it turned out to be great fun. When all is said and done, it's things such as crossing near-freezing glacial melt-water streams which are the experiences you remember most fondly from these hikes. As I mentioned earlier in the kit list, you need some footwear to cross the rivers, and they need to be lightweight (like everything you take), with a reasonably sturdy sole, and proper fitted ankles (flip-flops will come off in the strong currents). The hiking poles were particularly useful on the crossings, to stay steady against the fast flowing water and uneven river beds. Take the time to choose a crossing point; looking for wider sections (which will be shallower than the narrower sections), and be mindful of the strong currents. In terms of depth, the water varied between shin height and thigh height, but generally under the knee. Get your shorts on, keep your towel accessible, and remember to enjoy it :-)

River Crossing - ThorsmorkRiver Crossing - ThorsmorkI quite enjoyed the river crossings.

 

 

Appendix IV: Preparation

You don't have to be super fit to do this hike. I'd say it's pretty accessible to most people in average shape. You can go at your own pace, and carry as much or as little as you like, and there was a good mix of people on the trail - not just your typical hikers.

Even so, I wanted to make sure I was physically able to handle what I was taking on, and that I wouldn't be let down by tired limbs and lack of energy to see and do all the things I wanted to. My fear was that we'd be so tired by the hiking and the heavy packs that we would lack the enthusiasm to go out again for evening shoots, pre-hike shoots, or side-hikes. For several months ahead of the trip, I was out running regularly to get fit. I had physio for a knee injury in the spring, so got some good leg exercises from that.

What concerned me most was the weight of the rucksack, as that was something I'd never done before. Having a good rucksack helped, but both Elliot and I wanted to have some practice carrying the weight, and also with camping (as our hut places weren't secured until relatively late on). So we have two weekend trials; one in Snowdonia, camping and scrambling up Crib Goch with 10kg rucksacks, and one camping and hiking a 12 mile trail with 20kg rucksacks in the Peak District. I bought my hiking poles in between those trips, and they proved themselves hugely beneficial when carrying the full-weight rucksack. For two inexperienced hikers the opportunity to experiment with kit like that, and get an understanding of the efforts involved in hiking the trail were hugely valuable. Most importantly, hiking 12 miles with 20kg each, and feeling fine afterwards gave us both the confidence that we could not only hike the Laugavegur, but enjoy it too.

If you're in the same position I was in this time last year, and these numbers are all pretty meaningless, just have a go; do a trial run and see how you get on. It'll either settle your mind or focus it on what you need to do to get yourself ready to enjoy your adventure.

 

 

Appendix V: Managing Expectation

Our preparation and planning was all about giving ourselves the best opportunity for photography possible. But I was determined not to let it ruin the experience should any opportunity not work out as imagined. We were going for photography, but equally for a photography experience, and an adventure. So despite the goal being good photos, I was very mindful of the need to deal with setbacks and bad weather - which I've found very frustrating in the past.

I've written about the difficulties of managing expectation in nature photography before, and how it's something I tend to struggle with. This was the first time I'd gone on a planned multi-day trip knowing that good weather and light were unlikely, but that I could work with dark and moody weather - as to me, that's what Iceland is like. That was not only a new outlook for me (not being so reliant / concerned with the light), but also a weight off my mind. And that helped me enjoy the photography experience more than some previous trips. There are plenty of photos around of Iceland under blazing sunsets and whirling aurora, but those events are few and far between. I wouldn't mind seeing them of course, but I'm very happy to have captured what I consider a more realistic Iceland, and one that reflects my experience of the place.

 

 

Appendix VI: Hindsight

In hindsight, I'd recommend our schedule for time on the trail, but I'd swap a day in Landmannalaugar for an extra day in Thórsmörk. Thórsmörk is equally, if not more spectacular than Landmannalaugar, and the weather is considerably more reliable there. In fact I've now spent approximately 48 hours in Landmannalaugar, over a couple of different visits, experiencing storm conditions for around 45 of those hours. It's a beautiful, but brutal place. It's not easy to take photos with rain splattering into the front of the lens, not to mention the safety of going out in high winds.

The biggest thing I regret is rushing the first leg of the trek on the expectation of shooting in Álftavatn that evening. It would be better to take all day, stopping more along the way, and taking lots of photos of the otherworldly landscapes in that stretch. In our case the rain scuppered our chances of photography that morning, but if we had have written off the evening shoot (which we didn't do in the end anyway) from the start, we could have left later, and waited out the worst of the weather.

Ultimately, I think the best way to hike the Laugavegur trail is to be flexible. Go last minute if you can. Obviously you need to plan and prepare well ahead of that. But I think to maximise enjoyment and photo opportunities, you need good weather, and flexibility in plans. Any issues we had with scheduling were caused by our reliance on the pre-booked huts. Ideally, I'd suggest doing prep, making sure you have everything you need, and then keep an eye on the weather forecast as we get into July / August. Once it's clear you're going to get a good (dry) week, go for it last minute. Since I'm not Icelandic this would mean I having to get flights last minute too, which is an extra problem. As for accommodation along the way, I'd camp. If the weather is OK, camping would be more pleasant, more spacious (and when did you ever hear that about camping?), and more flexible. You'd be able to live to the sleeping hours that fit around photography, and to switch up your plans as you go along, rather than to stick to the hut bookings as we did. But - and this is a big but - that banks on having a reliable spell of good weather. If it's going to rain, camping becomes unpractical and unpleasant. If you need to book ahead of a reliable weather forecast, then you should assume and plan for rain at least 50% of the time - that means relying on huts, and working with the schedule structure they require.

 

 

Appendix VII: Experience & Summary

The experience was amazing, and I'm really glad we opted to hike the trail, rather than camp in one place, and day-hike from there. Despite it being actually much easier than I expected (feared), I have a real sense of achievement for having hiked the Laugavegur trail, and I wouldn't have that from most other photography trips. In terms of the photos I got from the trip, I can't say that they justify all the research, prep, hiking, and effort I put in. But nonetheless, I'm still very glad we did it, and I'd do it all again tomorrow. I love the culture and landscapes of Iceland, and you never know what you're going to get in terms of the weather conditions and the light. So coming out perhaps under-par in terms of photos on this occasion would in no way discourage me from doing the same, or similar again, with a realistic expectation to achieve better photos another time.

To our great surprise, we saw very few other photographers on the trail. We were very (pleasantly) surprised by this, as Iceland is so popular with photographers these days, but I guess they're all sticking to the Ring Road. I think I saw only other person carrying a tripod along the trail, and whenever we stopped for photos (even in the better known viewpoints), we had the place to ourselves. It made the hiking, hard work, and long days worth it to be able to be in these beautiful locations on our own. And it backs up the idea that you only have to put in some effort and you can easily get away from the crowds.

Uncharacteristically, I did enjoy meeting other hikers on the route. I think I found it particularly interesting because everyone was from all over the world. In fact, I don't think we met any other Brits on the route, which was nice as there are plenty of them at home, and I enjoy hearing viewpoints from other countries. It was nice to catch up each night; trading stories and experiences of the day.

If you're thinking of hiking the Laugavegur Trail, do it. If you're thinking of trying a combination of photography and trekking, then Laugavegur is ideal. You have just enough help available (huts, other hikers, good support and advice), yet you can very easily be out on your own looking at a view very few people have ever seen. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I'd heartily recommend pushing yourself to the edge of your comfort zone, and further than you have before. You'll enjoy your photography, and treasure the experience.
 

Me at HvanngilMe at HvanngilElliot snapped this one while I was taking in the view.

 

OK that's it, you can go now.

-

Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) adventure Álftavatn backpacking Emstrur Eyjafjallajökull glacier hail Hattafell hiking hilking huts Hvanngil ice Iceland Island Landmannalaugar landscape Laugavegur nature photography rain snow Stórasúla Thorsmork Thórsmörk Trail trek https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/2/trekking-photography-laugavegur-trail Mon, 04 Feb 2019 06:00:00 GMT
Photography on the Laugavegur Trail https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/1/photography-laugavegur-trail In search of ever more adventurous photography experiences, I got talking to fellow landscape photographer Elliot Hook about visiting Iceland together, and we decided it would be a good idea to hike the Laugavegur trail. Despite having no real experience of this sort of thing, we were both keen to expand our horizons, and push ourselves to try something a bit out there. We hiked the trail in July/August 2018, and it was absolutely fantastic. This blog post contains a set of photos taken along the way. There will be a follow-up post containing useful information and advice for anyone wishing to hike the Laugavegur for themself. I had to split them into two posts to avoiding a books-worth of content in one post, when a lot of people are only really interested in one chapter or the other. And if you like these photos, check out Elliot's photos too.

For a little context, here's my sketch of the hiking route....

Map of the Laugavegur Hiking Trail, in IcelandLaugavegur Hiking RouteA map, showing the route of the Laugavegur Hiking Trail, in the highlands of Iceland.

 

I always knew that juggling photography with this sort of trek would be hard, and that it would require compromises. I lost photo opportunities on some occasions, and sleep on other occasions. I was carrying the bare essentials in order to afford 5.5kg of photography kit. And with Iceland's fickle weather, it was always going to be a gamble as to what I could get in terms of photos. But the main attraction was getting some photos from this trek, of places and mountains which most people don't even get to see, let alone photograph. Getting off the commonly-photographed areas of Iceland's South Coast I'd visited before, and finding fresh views, with no preconceived compositions in mind. In fact despite all the research about the trail before-hand, the one thing I didn't do was look for other photos of the area. I wanted to see the landscape for myself, with fresh eyes, and photograph what I thought worked at the time, rather than try to make something work that I'd seen done by someone else before. I've fallen into that trap in the past, and it's all part of learning, but I want to move past it. Similarly, I didn't want to go 'big game hunting'; looking for a handful of dramatic attention-seeking shots, each different from the other. My aim was to come back with a set of photos sharing a common tone, colour palette, and visual style. Each understated on it's own, but which hang together well as a collection.

 

Day Zero: Landmannalaugar

How best to describe Landmannalaugar? A beautiful hell hole. Like some trick from the devil that promises one thing, and delivers another. It's the start of the trail, and we had a full day there before setting off on the hike, so I had plenty of ideas for photos there. It's such a varied and unique landscape, there are photos almost everywhere. But we were quite unfortunate with the weather. Heavy rain and dangerously strong winds restricted where we could go and what we could do. So my photos from Landmannalaugar ended up being extremely limited. It was very frustrating, but that's often the case with Iceland, and Landmannalaugar in particular. So we start slowly, with a couple of long-lens abstracts of the colourful (and wet) surroundings.

Landmannalaugar LayersLandmannalaugar LayersColour and texture combine in the Rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar Landmannalaugar GreensLandmannalaugar GreensMoss covered mountainside, in Landmannalaugar, Iceland.

 

This slightly wider shot was the only conventional landscape photo I managed in Landmannalaugar. It feels lazy to blame the weather, but when you can't see the tops of the mountains, the rain is splattering on the camera lens, and the wind is almost strong enough to blow you over, it feels like you're fighting a losing battle. It's a brutal place.

Rhyolite MountainsRhyolite MountainsLandmannalaugar, Iceland.

 

Day One: Landmannalaugar -> Álftavatn

Day 1 was our longest hike: 22km of ups and downs along a winding mountain pass. We chose to skip the traditional overnight stop at Hrafntinnusker hut and covered two days-worth in one. This took us through lava fields, snowfields, mud, ash, shining obsidian, and active volcanic ground where the gravel beneath our feet was simmering in boiling water. That first stretch from Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker was some of the most amazing scenery I've ever witnessed, and I'm so disappointed we had to trudge through it in the rain, hail, and biting cold wind. It was futile trying to take photos. Everything would get wet through, including the front of the camera. So we had to enjoy the views and press on through it, hoping we'd get an opportunity to take photos later in the day. After a long ascent, and traversing the top of the Fjallabak mountain range, we reached Jokultungur (Glacier Tongue). The valley below was a sight to behold.

Green & Grey Of IcelandGreen & Grey Of IcelandGreen moss, green grass, grey skies, and grey ash.

 

Perhaps we should have been more patient in waiting for light here, because we had every other ingredient. But the draw of a warm hut and a nice rest meant that we decided to push on (all too soon, in hindsight).

Distant PeaksDistant PeaksFells and volcanoes in the Alftvatn area of Iceland.

We had intended to finish the day with a sunset shoot in Álftavatn (Swan Lake), but after a long day hiking, we decided to save our energy and turn in early. We had high hopes for the following evening.

 

Day Two: Álftavatn -> Hvanngil

Yesterday's 22km was in order to leave us with just 5km to hike on Day 2. In the morning we had a walk into the next valley, where I didn't get any photos, but I managed to drop my camera and break the lens hood. Fortunately no serious damage done, and off we set to Hvanngil. As we left Álftavatn, I took the opportunity to capture this curious crumpled mountain range behind, which had caught my eye the day before. Obviously it started raining as soon as I took the camera out, but it made a nice change from the hail.

Edge of the FjallabakEdge of the FjallabakLooking back at the Fjallabak mountains from Alftvatn valley.

 

As soon as you near Hvanngil, the captivating Stórasúla volcano begins to reel you in. Fearing this may be the only chance I get before it rains again, I took this shot.

Stórasúla PeakStórasúla PeakThe beautiful Stórasúla volcano

 

Then we got around the corner and found this composition. We saw a few of these glacial melt streams, with almost neon green moss running each side of it. It's like nowhere else on earth. And to find one leading up into a volcano like this is just a gift for a photo.

Stórasúla StreamStórasúla StreamAmazing moss lining the glacial meltwater stream, with the magnificent Stórasúla volcano in the background.

 

After checking into the hut, and taking a hot meal on board, we nipped up the nearby Hvanngilshausar fell, and I took this shot as the light was transitioning to evening light. This is a good example of the kind of shot I'd been hoping for. I don't know the name of these mountains, and I've never seen any photos of them before. They're probably rarely seen or photographed, due to the vantage point required. So I can feel true ownership of shots like this.

Icelandic Highland LightIcelandic Highland LightEarly evening light hits the fells of the Icelandic southern highlands.

 

Soon after, we arrived at our sunset location; one which we had researched before hand, and it was worth it. For once I can't blame the light on this occasion. I could have been better prepared, and we should have arrived there sooner, but the scenery was amazing. Looking back towards Hvanngil, we could see our hut in the distance, with Stórasúla volcano looming over it. In the far distance, Storkonufell, Hattafell, and Eyjafjallajökull.

Hvanngil Valley SunsetHvanngil Valley SunsetThe stunning Hvanngil valley. A grassy meadow surrounded by volcanos and glaciers. In sight, behind the Hvanngil hut are Stórasúla, Hattafell, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull.

Alas, after this last shot of the evening, it was time to say goodbye to the sun. We wouldn't see it again until Reykjavik.

 

Day Three: Hvanngil -> Emstrur

Day 3 was an 11km trek across a black desert of volcanic ash. The only features were volcanoes and huge dunes of ash, which now covered in moss, were indistinguishable from the volcanoes themselves. Below is Storkonufell, which was stunning from every angle. Unfortunately conditions only allowed this one shot, and it was covered in cloud for the rest of the day.

StorkonufellStorkonufellStorkonufell - a volcanic mountain range rising from the desert of ash along the Laugavegur Trail

 

We really persisted this evening, to stay out for some good light, but it just wasn't to be. As it got dark, the cloud came down to cover the tops of all the peaks. There's a lot of potential in the Emstrur area, but we were scuppered by the weather again. Still, persistence did earn me this photo, which I'm quite pleased with. Taken just before the cloud descended. This is Hattafell volcano in the centre. To the right is a dune of rock and ash, formed by past eruptions, and strong winds. In the foreground tufts of grass eek out an existence. Iceland does resemble another planet at times.

Volcano DesertVolcano DesertHattafell volcano rises above the desert of ash and volcanic detritus. A few spots of grass and moss attempt to reclaim the land.

 

Day Four: Emstrur -> Thórsmörk

This stretch of the trek didn't offer much photography, and to be honest, the day dragged a little. But when we reached Thorsmork it was all worth it. The Icelandic spelling of Thórsmörk is Þórsmörk, and it means 'Thor's Forest' (yes, that Thor). (Well not the Chris Hemsworth one. The original one; Norse god of thunder and all that). It's just about the only area of Iceland with a remaining old-growth forest. The rest of the island was rendered treeless by the vikings several centuries ago; wood being a key resource at the time. These days I think the god of thunder spends more time in Landmannalaugar, as Thórsmörk was beautiful. I wish we'd had more time there. This was the view that welcomed us as we arrived.

Jaws of ThorsmorkJaws of ThorsmorkThese craggy mountain layers look like jaws to me. A spectacular welcome to the green of Thorsmork, Iceland.

 

After checking in at our hut, we scampered up the nearby Valahnúkur fell for sunset. The 'sun' part of the sunset was notable by it's absence, but It was up there somewhere. And the scenery was spectacular nonetheless. Below, the cloud blows over the infamous Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, dropping rain on the adjacent valley.

Passing ShowersPassing ShowersShowers would come and go, as we stood on the peak at Valahnúkur in Thorsmork.

 

There are so many views of these mossy peaks and crags in Thórsmörk, it can be hard to know where to point the camera.

Moss LightMoss LightLight of the setting sun hits the craggy peaks in Thorsmork, Iceland.

 

Here a sightseeing plane flies down the valley, adding some much needed scale to the glaciers of Eyjafjallajökull behind. Every now and again we'd hear what sounded like thunder as lumps of ice the size of buildings would tumble from the glaciers in this area.

Flight through ThorsmorkFlight through ThorsmorkSome lucky sightseers take a tour of Thorsmork from the air, flying past Eyjafjallajökull.

 

Day Five: Thórsmörk

Before our mid-morning bus back to Reykjavik, we set a 3:45 alarm clock, and struggled up Valahnúkur for sunrise. By this point my thighs were like jelly, and my knees were audibly creaking. It was definitely further than it was yesterday. We got to the top to find that the weather forecast had duped us, and cloud was obstructing the sun once again. But that wasn't going to stop me making something of the scenery.

I was still captivated by Hattafell, in the distance. We missed the opportunity to get more photos of it earlier in the trek, due to low cloud and poor light, but was still drawing my attention now, even as a smaller feature on the horizon.

Thorsmork LayersThorsmork LayersWe didn't get to see the sun on this 'sunrise', but with a landscape like this it's almost not missed.

 

Looking back in the direction we'd walked from, the green valleys of Thórsmörk and Emstrur make for a fantastic foreground, for these longer focal length views.
Thorsmork to HattafellThorsmork to HattafellThe foreground valleys of Thorsmork and Emstrur, leading to Hattafell and volcano, and the mountains beyond.

 

My final set of photos here is a contrast from the greens of Thorsmork generally. I made the most of my 400mm lens (I'd hauled it all that way, after all), and took some close-up abstracts of the nearby Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, and some of it's glaciers.

Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #1Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #1Abstract close-up of the glacier covering the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, in Southern Iceland.

 

Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #4Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #4Abstract close-up of the glacier covering the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, in Southern Iceland.

 

Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #5Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Abstract #5Abstract close-up of the glacier covering the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, in Southern Iceland. Photographed from Thorsmork.

 

And that was it. It was tough to turn the camera off and admit the adventure was over, but time waits for no man, and neither do the busses out of Thórsmörk. So we had to call it, and get down the fell, to pack up our things and go home.

 

Summary

As far as photography goes, I can't say I came back with the photos I hoped I would. The weather really limited the potential of this trip, particularly on Day 1, in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, and on day 3, around Emstrur. But that's often (always) the case; the weather is really just the luck of the draw. We could have had some spectacular conditions or we could have had a week of rain. You certainly can't go to Iceland and expect good weather, so you take your chance and enjoy what you get.

That said, I think I met my goal of a set of photos which hang together as a cohesive collection. They might not be world beaters, but they're mementos of a fantastic adventure, and they capture the feel and the mood of the landscapes we encountered. So I'm pleased with that. I'd have liked a few more diamonds in there, but overall I can't complain. I certainly enjoyed the experience more than I expected. Despite our inexperience as hikers, we both made it through comfortably, and came away with a nice set of photos to boot.

As I mentioned earlier (seems like a long time ago now), I'll be following up on this blog with a nerdy post about packing lists, photography kit, itineraries, pros, cons, mistakes, and recommendations. If you're considering a trek like this yourself, stay tuned for that.

If you have a favourite of these photos, I'd really like to know which. I can never predict which ones will resonate with other people.

I'll sign out with one last photo from Hvanngil. I like wide-aspect landscape photos, and this was the perfect opportunity for a three-shot panorama...

Hvanngil Valley PanoramaHvanngil Valley PanoramaThe stunning Hvanngil valley. A grassy meadow surrounded by volcanos and glaciers. In sight, behind the Hvanngil hut are Stórasúla, Hattafell, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Laugavegur, Iceland.
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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) adventure Álftavatn backpacking Emstrur Eyjafjallajökull glacier Hattafell hiking hilking huts Hvanngil Iceland Island Landmannalaugar landscape Laugavegur nature photography Stórasúla Thorsmork Thórsmörk Trail trek https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2019/1/photography-laugavegur-trail Mon, 14 Jan 2019 06:00:00 GMT
Flickr Hibernation https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/12/flickr-hibernation Well it's been a long time coming, but after 12 years I've decided to stop sharing photos on Flickr.

Raven & Dead TreesRaven & Dead TreesI like a graphically simple photo, and this is about as simple as it gets. A raven sits atop an old dead tree, watching time pass around them. I chose to use the high-key style here in order to maximise the simplicity of the image, and create a more stark contrast between the subject and it's surroundings.
Fine art wildlife photography, from the edge of the Finnish taiga forest.
Flickr has so much potential, but it's been mismanaged for a few years now, and finds itself a little lost in a world which has moved on around it. During the time I've been an active user on Flickr, Facebook has appeared and defined mainstream social media, Twitter exploded to feed our short-term attention spans, and Instagram is now so ubiquitous it renders Flickr - largely unchanged since the mid-noughties - a little redundant.

It's somewhat of a paradox that an introvert should feel compelled to share their photos with the big wide world at all, but this must be a dichotomy common among photographers. It seems a shame to take photos and never share them anywhere. And if nothing else, my friends and family must wonder what I'm up to with all my time! In addition, I like to think that a little nature and wildlife appearing in our social media streams can only be a good thing. When I share photos online I hope it catches someone's eye and perks them up a little, if only for a short while. That's my reaction to a splash of nature in my day anyway.

What I liked about Flickr is their focus on the photos. There's no room for politics or current affairs; I want an escape from that. It's purely about the images. And there's no reason why Flickr couldn't have been, or couldn't still be more dominant than Instagram, but so far there's little sign of that happening.

 

A platform on the wane

Putting aside a lack of features and updates in that time, for my part at least, interactions have been dwindling for quite a while, and it feels increasingly like sharing to a vacuum. I've been questioning the value of sharing there for some time. Perhaps that's down to me, as I've certainly had my head turned by Instagram, which is much more lively. But I still check Flickr most days to see what contacts are shooting and sharing, and I've been sharing on Flickr a couple of times a week, despite the lack of meaningful engagement I see there. Then came the recent announcements...

 

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) on a cliff top in low light.Low-Light PuffinAn Atlantic Puffin on a cliff top in low light.
Taken in the traditional low-key style, to retain focus on the subject and allow the background to fall into shadow.
Fine art nature photography. Taken on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, off the coast of mainland Wales.
User account changes

This autumn Flickr announced that 'Pro' account membership fees would be doubling in price. And what new features would I get for that? Nothing. They haven't improved the Pro account at all, they've just crippled the free accounts; reducing the number of photos allowed from infinite to 1000, in an attempt to coerce people into paying for Pro. My feeling is that this will deter the majority of users, and further shrink the user base, until what's left is a small band of paying photography enthusiasts. That's fine as a business model for SmugMug (Flickr's latest owners), but the further exclusion of the mainstream takes Flickr in the opposite direction from where I want to be.

I enjoy following other photographers on social media, and I hope (at least, it looks like) there are a few photographers out there who enjoy following my work. But despite the algorithms, there's more to social media than getting bogged down in a feedback loop of like-minded people. By contrast, on Instagram it's possible to share to people who aren't necessarily into photography themselves. My photos might be just one tiny aspect of their interest, but they like seeing the odd landscape or animal photo. I've always wanted to share my photos with a mainstream audience, and I think these changes take Flickr yet another step away from that demographic.

 

Reindeer on WhiteReindeer on WhitePhotographed in the snow of Finnish Lapland. He was a handsome beast, and a great subject. I was very happy to catch the eye contact here, which elevates this portrait, in my view. I also like the tension created from the trailing leg; clipped from view, as he walks into shot with apparent complicity.
Photographed in high-key portrait style, to maximise the graphical impact and retain a clean bright aesthetic.
Time for a rest

So I chose not to renew my Pro membership in December, and on January 8th they'll be deleting over half of my back-catalogue. It gets quite time consuming sharing photos on multiple platforms, so having one less to post to will be a welcome change. I'm certainly not going to delete my account, or close the door permanently. I'll keep an eye on how things go, but I'm not going to be posting new photos there. My Flickr account will be in a state of long-term hibernation. If things turn around, I'll join in again, but for now, there seems little point.

This reads like a particularly self-indulgent post, but I just wanted the space to explain why I'm dropping a platform which I've enjoyed using for over a decade, and to voice my concern for Flickr's future.

I'm really interested to hear what other photographers are doing though. Are you paying for Pro? Using the free version? Or migrating to Instagram? Let me know in the comments below, or elsewhere on social media.

If you follow me on Flickr and want to stay in touch, find me on one of these other platforms and say hello. I'll be pleased to hear from you.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2018.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) account Flickr photography photos Pro https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/12/flickr-hibernation Mon, 31 Dec 2018 08:00:00 GMT
New Photo: Reindeer on White https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/12/reindeer-on-white Announcing a new photo, available to order in print: "Reindeer on White".

Reindeer on WhiteReindeer on WhitePhotographed in the snow of Finnish Lapland. He was a handsome beast, and a great subject. I was very happy to catch the eye contact here, which elevates this portrait, in my view. I also like the tension created from the trailing leg; clipped from view, as he walks into shot with apparent complicity.
Photographed in high-key portrait style, to maximise the graphical impact and retain a clean bright aesthetic.

I photographed this reindeer in the snow-covered landscape of Lapland, Finland. I'm really pleased with the result. It's another high-key portrait, and part of my "On White" project.

What I like most about this shot is the feeling of movement. When I photograph deer, I tend to prefer them stood still, but this photo captures the essence of reindeer and their instinct to stay on the move all the time. I love the tension created by the back leg being clipped from the frame as the subject walks into the scene, acknowledging the viewer, whilst ever on the move. And the icing on the cake is the eye contact. It shows an awareness of me and the camera, and complicity for this portrait, which he appears happy to star in. 

I took this photo on a frozen winter morning, with the temperature around -12°C. Reindeer are an incredible species, that can tolerate much colder temperatures without the layers of fleece, wool, and down feathers I was wrapped in. Their large hooves spread their weight, to prevent them from sinking into the snow with each step. Tendons in their ankles click as they walk, to help the herd stay together during the long hours of darkness in the northern wilderness. Also known as 'caribou' in North America, reindeer migrate in herds of tens or hundreds of thousands, between remote mountains in the summer, and lowland forests in the winter, creating one of the most incredible spectacles in nature. Here in Europe, reindeer are central to the culture of the Sámi people of Lapland, who have relied on them for thousands of years.

I've added this photo to my website, and it's available to order now. For more information about prints, click here.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2018.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) animal art high-key Lapland 2017 nature on white portrait print reindeer wildlife https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/12/reindeer-on-white Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:00:00 GMT
Local Autumn Photography: Ampthill & Aspley Woods https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/11/local-autumn-photography-ampthill In Part 1 of this autumn photography series I was up in the Lake District, struggling with wide-angle lenses, but getting some nice photos with longer focal lengths. Part 2 takes the lessons learnt from Part 1, and features photos from closer to home, using only medium-to-telephoto focal lengths.

 

Staying Local: Ampthill, Bedfordshire

Last weekend I swapped the 5 hour journey to The Lake District for a 5 minute drive to neighbouring Ampthill, to photograph the silver birch there. Which I might add, had more leaves left than those in The Lakes did a fortnight previously.

 

Autumn BirchAutumn BirchBirch trees, surrounded by ferns, on a autumn morning.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

 

I've visited Ampthill Park and Coopers Hill a few times previously, and never really got much I'd been happy with, but this morning I found new areas, and also interesting colour in places which had looked uninspiring in the past.

Autumn Fern WoodsAutumn Fern WoodsFerns and birch trees, on a sunny autumn morning.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

 

Here I used a slow shutter speed, to play with the movement of the branches in the wind.
Birches in the BreezeBirches in the BreezeBirch trees swaying in the autumn breeze.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.
Birch tree, in blustery autumn conditionsBirch BlurBirch tree, in blustery autumn conditions.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

 

One alternative method to picking up the wide-angle lens, is to shoot panoramas; This image is formed of three photos 'stitched' together to create a nice wide-aspect. I like wide-aspect photos anyway, particularly of the woods, and this is often more effective than the distortion created by a wide-angle lens.

Autumn Birch Wood PanoramaAutumn Birch Wood PanoramaA three-shot panorama of a local woodland.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

 

Yes, another wall of trees. This is a recurring theme in my landscape photography. I just love the effect, so I was thrilled to find a woodland edge presenting itself like this.

Birch Wood: Gold and SilverBirch Wood: Gold and SilverA wall of gold and silver, as the last remaining leaves shine in the sun amongst the birch trees.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

 

Autumn can be a great combination of interesting colour, and interesting light. On overcast days like today, you can experience one of my favourite phenomena - when the sky is no brighter than the ground. That's always a great time to shoot - or just look out the window and enjoy the view. I had to look up to use this morning's dark sky, and the composition leaves a little to be desired. But the overall effect is very pleasing, I think.

Green and GoldGreen and GoldAutumn silver birch, against a dark November sky.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

 

Last one from Ampthill, and it's this view down a walkway which I've wanted to photograph for a few years, and it's really laziness which has meant it's taken this long. I always like woodland paths. I've seen this pathway so many times, but never looking as nice as it did this chilly autumnal morning.

Ampthill Woodland WalkAmpthill Woodland WalkA walk in the woods, in Ampthill.
Fine art nature, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

 

 

Local Woodland: Aspley Woods

We had a foggy start this morning, so I nipped over to another local favourite; Aspley Woods. I've shared a few photos from Aspley Woods before, as it's one of my go-to locations, and it never looks better than on a misty morning. This portrait is from a small crop of silver birch trees on the outskirts of the main woodland.

Birch Tree PortraitBirch Tree PortraitBirch trees, in Aspley Woods, Bedfordshire.

 

The next two photos are my favourites from this autumn set, and they might be my favourite landscape photos for a while. At times this year I've questioned the point of persevering with landscape photography, as I often feel I just don't have the knack for it. But I love being out in places like this - especially woodland, and I love woodland photos. So I might as well go out and spend time where I want to be, and if I get some nice photos there, then so much the better.

Autumn WallpaperAutumn WallpaperA curtain of autumn colour from my local Bedfordshire woodland.
Fine Art Landscape Photography, Aspley Woods, Bedfordshire.

 

I like the combination of amber, yellow, and green here. It's gone straight into my Landscapes gallery, so it's available to order in print as of today.

A Splash of ColourA Splash of ColourAutumn colour, on a misty morning at my local woods.
Fine art landscape photography, Aspley Woods, Bedfordshire.

 

This one's more of a closer study, of the same area. I nearly didn't walk up to this little patch, but I remembered seeing a patch of colour there a few years ago, and it didn't let me down today either.

Autumn forestAutumn forestAspley Woods, Bedfordshire.

 

Last one from this morning. and it's really all about this one silver birch tree, which is clinging on to its last few leaves - just enough to add some sparkle to this scene.

Autumn HighlightsAutumn HighlightsYellow highlights, from the last leaves io this silver birch. Aspley Woods, Bedfordshire.

 

 

Bonus Trees!

As a cheeky bonus, I thought I'd share just handful of autumn photos from last year too, since they didn't get an outing at the time. Again, these are taken with the Nikon 70-200mm lens, under an hour from home.

Autumn BirchesAutumn BirchesAutumn birch woodland. Cambridgeshire, UK.

Autumn CurtainAutumn CurtainA curtain of leaves, hanging delicately from the branches of these birch trees.
Autumn birch woodland. Cambridgeshire, UK.

Autumn birch woodland. Cambridgeshire, UK.A Sprinkle of AutumnBirch trees and golden autumn leaves.
Autumn birch woodland. Cambridgeshire, UK.

 

This last one has made it onto my Landscapes gallery. I wouldn't imagine it would be the one most people would pick from this post, but I love it. It's visually busy, but compositionally simple, letting the trees do the work, naturally creating a canvas of dense birch forest.

Barcode BirchBarcode BirchA tapestry of silver birch tree trunks, obscuring golden autumn leaves of the woodland.
I like using this kind of tight composition and crop to create a slightly confusing image, which relies more on shape and texture, than content and context.

 

 

Where to go next time?

The debate about 'destination' vs local photography is a well-trodden one amongst photographers, so I'm not going to go over old ground. Suffice to say, that I love travelling and I enjoy landscape photography from all over the world, but next time I visit the Lakes, it will be to capture the mountains and the lakes, not for tree portraits, which are equally achievable in my local area. Comparing to it similar national parks, I prefer the mountains in Snowdonia, and I prefer the woodland in the Peak District. So the only thing I find the Lake District truly best for is, well, Lakes. OK, and gingerbread. I enjoy spending time in the Lake District, and dedicating time to autumn photography, I don't think it's worth the trip from this far south.

And where to go next year? I think it'll come down to where I'd like to visit, more than what photos I'd like to get. There are photos to be found everywhere during autumn, from 5 minutes down the road, to the whole of the northern hemisphere. So it's really about finding somewhere that takes my interest. Time will tell on that one. In the meantime, I'm pleased with the photos I've taken here.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2018.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) Ampthill aspley aspley woods Bedfordshire birch Cambridgeshire landscape local nature photography silver birch trees treescape https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/11/local-autumn-photography-ampthill Mon, 19 Nov 2018 07:00:00 GMT
Autumn Landscape Photography in the Lake District https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/11/autumn-trees-lake-district I scampered up to The Lake District recently, to try and catch some autumn colour. To be honest I was hoping for some nice wide scenes of rolling fells, golden trees, and a spot of mist in the valleys. Obviously I got none of those. It's been a strange year, weather-wise, and although the long hot summer created some spectacular leaf colour, the dry heat combined with a few early autumn storms conspired to rid most of the trees of their leaves just a few days before we got to the Lakes. Some leaves this year were falling off at the end of august, before they'd even turned colour. And some had still not really turned colour at all. There were still trees in leaf, but only the strongest, or those in more sheltered positions. So we had to work to find some creative compositions.

 

The Lake District

The main barrier to achieving wider scenes, which has been apparent for a while but was amplified this autumn, is that I simply don't know how to use a wide angle lens. I can't get the best from it, no matter how much I try. Looking at the 50 photos I have on my Landscapes gallery, only 11 of them were taken at under 70mm in focal length, and most of those were taken over five years ago. Since 2013 I've taken a handful at 50mm, and the rest have all been 70mm and up. This could be the subject of a blog post in itself, but since it felt most noticeable in The Lakes, I thought I'd raise it here, as I have the photos to illustrate the point too.

I don't really want to share the wider landscape photos I took in The Lakes as they're a shambles, but as soon as I took a longer focal length shot, from the same location, looking in the same direction, I was able to find images that worked. This is Little Langdale Valley, at sunrise.

The hills of the Lake District, at sunriseRolling HillsThe hills of the Lake District, at sunrise. Focal length: 70mm.

 

Of course there are advantages to this situation. It meant that rather than coming back with the kind of 'point-and-shoot scenes' that could have been taken by anyone, at least what I've got feels like mine. And that's definitely a good thing. But it does mean that I still don't really feel that I've captured 'The Lakes' after 3 or 4 visits now. But let's focus on the positive; I came a way with a nice set of interesting 'treescapes', by keeping my lens on the trees which did look nice, the larch particularly so. These three, similar in tone, are all from Blea Tarn; a location very popular with photographers. Without the light on the wider scenes, I followed my instincts with a medium telephoto lens.

Blea Tarn Woodland #2Blea Tarn Woodland #2Woodland colour, on the shore of Blea Tarn, in the Lake District.

Blea Tarn Woodland #1Blea Tarn Woodland #1Woodland colour, on the shore of Blea Tarn, in the Lake District.

Blea Tarn ReflectionsBlea Tarn ReflectionsWoodland colour, on the shore of Blea Tarn, in the Lake District.

 

At another popular location below; Yew Tree Tarn. With harsh light and ripples on the water, I was forced into the woods, where I found some photos I doubt I'll ever see recreated. Not because they're so amazing, but because they're not prescribed views, and I had to work to find them. And that's nice, as I end up feeling an ownership of these compositions. This was my favourite photo from the trip. It reminds me of a stained glass window; back-lit as it is. It also has the feeling of a large mural. It's the sort of thing I'd want at home - bringing the outdoors inside.

Forest MuralForest MuralTexture and shape of the trees.
Tree PortraitTree PortraitA portrait of one tree, using others in the background as extra texture.

 

I've spent years trying wide-angle landscapes, with very little success, but it might be that I start to ditch the wider shots, and concentrate on what I do best. While I do wonder if 'giving-up' is really the right attitude, there are only so many times I want to come home disappointed, and ultimately I do enjoy the perspective of longer focal lengths, and the photos I am able to take with them.

Golden Light on Birch TreesGolden Light on Birch TreesTwo birch trees, lit by glowing sunrise light.
Holme Fell, in the Lake District.

Birch in SpotlightBirch in SpotlightA lone birch tree gets its first light of the day.
Holme Fell, in the Lake District.

 

 

Drawing Conclusions

Learning from my trip to the Lake District, I took two points:

  1. My strengths, and preference of photos is for those taken at medium to telephoto focal lengths.
  2. There's not a lot of point in travelling 200 miles up north to photograph the Lake District if I'm not going to use the fells and open views there. I can get woodland shots much closer to home.

Based on these conclusions, part 2 of this post will follow next week, sharing photos from my local area, when I left the wide angle lens at home...
 

A wide-aspect forest sceneForest Mural - WideA panorama image, combining several photos into one wide-aspect view of the trees and in this woodland outside Ambleside, in Cumbria.
Fine Art Nature Photography, UK.

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Post by George Wheelhouse, 2018.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) Lake District landscape local nature photography trees treescape https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/11/autumn-trees-lake-district Mon, 12 Nov 2018 07:00:00 GMT
Red Deer Rut 2018 https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/10/red-deer-rut-2018 Ah, lovely autumn. Chilly mornings, dew on the grass, golden leaves, and roaring stags. It's my favourite time of year, and I love to get out and follow the deer rut. It's the best time to see and photograph deer as they're not only less afraid of people, but also most active. I missed the rut last year, as I was in Australia photographing kangaroos and wombats instead, so this year I was especially keen to be out and enjoy as much of it as possible.

In photography generally, I enjoy switching my attention to lots of different subjects and locations, but deer are one subject I come back to again and again. Perhaps because they're one of the few subjects I enjoy photographing which are genuinely local - just 10 minutes from home. I live in Bedfordshire, close to Woburn Deer Park, which has a large population of deer spread over a wide area. Access is a little stricter than other deer parks in the UK, as visitors are restricted to public footpaths. But these criss-cross the park, allowing the opportunity to find deer if you have the legs to put in some miles, and the opportunity for repeat visits.

One thing I like about the rut is how it's a micro season in itself; following a familiar pattern of activity and change in the deer. I like to see how they change as the month progresses. And the weather changes too, with gradually less and less sunshine, and shorter daylight hours.

I like to challenge myself to capture a range of images over the season, both in terms of deer behaviour and my visual style. Maybe that's due to a lack of discipline / attention span, but I like to think it's a good thing. It keeps things fresh, and keeps my mind active - working on different ideas. So this blog post contains a bumper set of photos (way over the 6-10 I usually aim for in one post), and they're broken up into the different types of images I achieved this year.

 

 

Colder Mornings

As the temperatures drop, we get dew on the grass at sunrise. The deer aren't especially active yet, but they start to split up from the herd, and graze alone.

Early GrazingEarly GrazingLarge red deer grazing at first light.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This large stag stopped to look at me. They'll often do so as they pass by. I can't imagine what they think of me, but I was pleased to see him.

Red Deer StagRed Deer StagA large red deer stag, staring down the camera, strongly side-lit by the rising sun.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Low Light

Sunrise and sunset are great times to play with back-lighting and side-lighting, to see what effects can be achieved...

Red Deer in Low SunRed Deer in Low SunFine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I liked the antlers on this stag. I would have liked a slightly more straight-on angle, but the light was good, so I can't complain.

Red Deer in Low LightRed Deer in Low LightFine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This encounter came shortly after sunrise, when this stag was scraping at the ground with his antlers, picking up grass.

Red DawnRed DawnA large red deer stag, lit by the rising sun.
I used low-key portrait style for image, showing just the highlights, and letting the shadows fade to black.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Roaring

The cold mornings, and shorter daylight hours trigger a hormonal change in the stags, and they begin to call, or 'roar'. Just a few to begin with, but as time goes on more and more start to compete. Of course, he with the loudest and deepest roar wins.

Red Deer CallingRed Deer CallingRed deer, calling at dawn.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

Red Dawn ChorusRed Dawn ChorusA red deer, calling at dawn.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Deer rut or not, one thing many people love about the autumn is the beautiful misty mornings it can deliver. With sunrise coming in at a relatively comfortable 7-7:40am during the rutting period, it's much easier to be out for, and it's well worth getting up for a misty morning. This sunrise was about as perfect as I've seen for a few years. Pastel pink sky, low-lying mist, and roaring stags...

Red deer (Cervus elaphus) roaring in front of a pink sunrise skyPink DawnOne of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen for some time, with fantastic pastel shades, a low-lying mist, and roaring red deer.

 

The photo above was taken angled away from the rising sun, shortly before it broke the horizon. Below, I positioned myself facing the sun, with the back-lit mist and roaring stag in between us. The difference in results is dramatic. Admittedly these were two different days, but it shows how natural light can be used in different ways for differing effect.

A red deer calling on a misty morningRed Deer Dawn ChorusA red deer calling on a misty morning.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Silhouettes

I love a silhouette, and I'm fortunate to have a couple of favourite locations to catch them - if the deer play ball and walk those ridges at sunrise or sunset.

Sunrise StagSunrise StagA large red deer stag, in front of the rising sun on an autumn morning.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Below, a sika deer at sunset...

Silhouette of a sika deer at sunsetSika SunsetSilhouette of a sika deer at sunset.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

And a shortly after sunset, a red deer stag...

A red deer silhouette, shortly after sunsetSolitary RedA red deer silhouette, shortly after sunset.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I like the silhouette of the leaves in this shot, which help frame the deer.

Red Deer CallRed Deer CallA red deer calling at dawn.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Trees

I've noticed over the last few years, that red deer like to call from under a large tree. I think they realise that the tree gives their roar a deeper sound. It certainly does affect the acoustics, and I don't think it's a coincidence that so many stags do it.

A large red deer roars under an oak treeOak Tree CallerA large red deer roars under an oak tree.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

It's not often I manage to find the larger deer in the woodland areas of the park, but I like the look of those photos when I can do.
Woodland WarriorWoodland WarriorThis guy was very large, and was calling from under the trees.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

Woodland RoarWoodland RoarIt's a strange sound to hear coming from the trees, and it only happens in the autumn.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This occasion was a rare moment of calm away from the noise and chaos of the main rut. It's nice when you get those, in contrast to the more active images.
Deer in TreesDeer in TreesA red deer, walking through a small patch of woodland.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Meanwhile this male is dashing through the trees, chasing a female in an attempt to maintain his harem. From what I see at Woburn, the females are pretty much doing what they want, irrespective of the males posturing and ideas of control. They are prepared to let the males think they're in charge as long as that suits them, but if they want to go elsewhere, they do, regardless.

A red deer stag in motion-blurRed Deer DashA red deer stag chasing a female, during the rutting season.
 

 

Fight!

I guess the box office behaviour of the rut season is when the roaring doesn't settle things, and it comes to a fight. This year I was lucky enough to witness a fight fairly close-up, in a strong sunrise light. I took a few different photos, playing with the light in different ways.

This was the moment the two first tentatively locked antlers. They were very much measuring antler spans at this point.

Red deer stags fighting at sunriseHandbags at DawnTwo red deer stags, locked antlers, fighting at first light of dawn.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

It didn't take long before things escalated, and it's surprising how much a bit of twisting by one deer (on the right below) can leave the other vulnerable, as they're forced to adjust their footing.

Two red deer stags fighting at dawnRed Deer RutTwo red deer stags fighting at dawn.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

But he was able to react, and he retaliated with a drive forwards of his own. It can feel like a rugby scrum at times, as each attempts to drive the other back - antlers engaged.

Fighting red deerRed Deer Rut #2Two red deer fighting in low sunrise light.
Nature photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Below, two tired stags spa in the rain, towards the end of the rut.

Tussling StagsTussling StagsTwo red deer stags, lock antlers to measure strength.
Nature photography, Woburn, Bedfordshire.

 

 

Sika Deer

Sika are native to Asia, but are now wild in some areas of the UK too, due to some cheeky escapees from deer parks around the country. They're sizeable animals, and without a red deer next to them, you'd say they're large deer. Like reds, they also rut during the autumn, letting out a very strange high-pitched call.

Sika DawnSika DawnMale sika deer, at sunrise.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.
Sika SunriseSika SunriseSika deer stag, at sunrise.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Silhouette of a sika deer, lit by the amber light of an autumn sunrise.Sika Deer - Orange SunriseSilhouette of a sika deer, lit by the amber light of an autumn sunrise.

Sika deer don't normally allow people too close to them, but this stag boldly walked right past us, stopping for this curious looking flehmen display. Fortunately he wasn't sensing any female sike pheromones coming from me, so he carried on past.

Sika FlehmenSika FlehmenThis is a flehmen response, from a sika deer at sunrise.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I was caught out by how close this stag came. I'd have been better off with a shorter focal length really, as I struggled to fit his antlers in shot. 

Sika Deer SunriseSika Deer SunrisePortrait of a sika deer silhouette, at first light.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

Of course all the posturing, roaring, and fighting by the stags is to win the favour of the ladies. It's not as easy to get so close to the female deer, as they remain considerably more skittish than the males. But when they do allow me within a reasonable distance, it's always nice to photograph them too. Below is a female sika deer.

Morning DeerMorning DeerA female sika deer shows interest at first light.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Black and White

Sometimes the light and the textures in view are suggesting to me that this would be best shown in black and white. It's hard to explain how I make this decision. Sometimes it's that the colours just don't seem right, and other times, it's that I positively know black and white will simplify the image for a greater impact. Generally speaking, for a good black and white, I like a range of light, from bright highlights to dark shadows, and a subtle framing of the subject. This portrait is one of my favourite deer photos for quite a while. It probably wouldn't stand out to many other people, but I like the framing, the contrast between the subject and background, and the way the sun is lighting the leaves in the trees above. The grass hanging from his antlers are the icing on the cake.

Woodland Deer EncounterWoodland Deer EncounterI don't often get to see deer in the woods, so this encounter was particularly enjoyable.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

I only managed one trip out in the rain this year, which is a shame, as I quite like the aesthetic it offers. Unfortunately the deer weren't helpful on that occasion, but I caught this moment, as this big stag stopped roaring to shake the rain from his fur.

ShakeShakeIn the rain, deer shake the water out of their coats like dogs do!
Nature Photography, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This one is a slightly experimental shot of two deer with antlers locked. Rather than push all the way to white, I thought I'd see how an off-white background worked. I'm not sure it's a success, but it's an idea I might try again in the future.

A Tussle on WhiteA Tussle on WhiteTwo red deer stags wrestle for supremacy.
Processed onto white.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

This last photo is another favourite of mine, along with the portrait in the trees above. The big empty sky, dry grass, and clean horizon reminded me of the kind of imagery coming out of African safari photographers. So I've consciously processed it in a style based on the classic fine art photography of African species, particularly inspired by Nick Brandt, who I've written about before as a huge influence in my creative direction.

A Roar in Black & WhiteA Roar in Black & WhiteRed deer stag, roaring in the early evening, on a ridge. Processed in high-key black and white.
Nature Photography. Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

 

 

Lastly

You've done well if you got this far. If you want more of the same, I've written about the deer rut a few times before, so check those posts out too.

And I'll leave you with this guy, who was keen to be included...

A red deer stag, leaning into shotAnd Me!A red deer stag, keen to be photographed.
Fine art nature photography.
Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK.

-

Post by George Wheelhouse, 2018.

 

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(George Wheelhouse | Fine Art Nature Photography) animal autumn Bedfordshire British Cervus elaphus deer nature rut UK wildlife Woburn https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/10/red-deer-rut-2018 Mon, 29 Oct 2018 07:00:00 GMT
Tree Photography in the Blue Mountains https://www.georgewheelhouse.com/blog/2018/9/tree-photography-blue-mountains This is the final post in my 4-part series sharing the photos from my trip to Australia, in October 2017. I split the wildlife posts between Kangaroos and Wombats, and I've split the landscape photography between classic landscapes, and trees. I think most people who follow this blog would know that I love trees, so I was always going to be giving some attention to the trees in Australia. They're iconic in their forms, and very characteristic of the environments in which they're found.

Glenbrook GumGlenbrook GumOne gum tree gets the light, down on the floor of Glenbrook Gorge.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

I'm not going to quote statistics, as I'm encountering all kinds of contradictory numbers online, but it's safe to say that the vast majority of Australia's native trees are eucalyptus trees, also known colloquially as 'gum trees'. And such is the nature of evolution, they span several hundred distinct species of eucalyptus tree within that umbrella term. Some are obviously different from their neighbours, but many are so subtly different you'd need some expertise to distinguish them.

The most immediately noticeable thing about the trees, compared to Europe, is their colour. They're not the same green as we have here. The leaves are much more of a grey-green. At first I found that quite strange, but in fact that more subtle colour palette lends itself quite well to photography.

My favourite varieties were those with bare white bark, which made them stand out beautifully. This enormous tree must be very old indeed, and posed very nicely for his portrait. I even managed to catch a sulphur-crested cockatoo perched in the branches of this old timer.

Gum Tree PortraitGum Tree PortraitClose-up of a very large gum tree, which has lived for many many years, and still stands strong today. I love the endurance of mighty trees, and the idea that they'd seen many things come and go in their time, outlasting them with quiet serenity.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

The scale of the subtropical rain forests in The Blue Mountains is breathtaking, and the sight of so many trees carpeting the canyon floor is what draws people to the area. The Blue Mountains themselves take their name from the cumulative effect of the oil in the eucalyptus, which rises on humid mornings, blending with dust and water droplets in the air, to give the mountains their blue glow.

I have an ongoing project called Only Trees, which is a collection of frame-filling treescapes, so I took the opportunity to add to that in The Blue Mountains.

Eucalyptus TreesEucalyptus TreesThe texture and colour of a eucalyptus forest.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

The greyer shade of green is evident in these wider shots. But it's the white tree trunks which really make them distinct from forests I've seen elsewhere.

Eucalyptus TreescapeEucalyptus TreescapeOne tile in a jigsaw puzzle of gum trees that make up the subtropical rainforest.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

I took this one from Olympian Rock lookout, in Leura, during a cloud inversion, just as the cloud was lifting.

Misty Blue Mountains TreesMisty Blue Mountains TreesEarly morning mist hangs over the subtropical rainforest near Leura, in the Blue Mountains.
Nature Photography, New South Wales, Australia.

Down in the valleys, the trees are so dense it can be difficult to pick out much of a view. But this photo gives some sense of the rainforest environment. I took this along the way around the Grand Canyon Circular Walk, near Blackheath.

Canyon Forest TreesCanyon Forest TreesThese trees inhabit the forest floor of the so-called 'Grand Canyon'.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

The next photo was taken in an ornamental park in Katoomba, featuring non-native maple trees, which here surround the large native gum, and the forest behind. It also highlights the differing shades of green between the eucalyptus trees and those from the Northern hemisphere.

Gum Tree + MaplesGum Tree + MaplesAn old native gum tree sits between two introduced maple trees, in this ornamental garden in Katoomba.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

Lastly, I have a set of photos taken on a misty morning in the Blackheath / Govett's Leap area. There are some nice hiking trails around GL which vary in difficulty and terrain, and they're well worth exploring.

Twisted GumsTwisted GumsGum trees in the mist. Govett's Leap.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

I love the combination of twisted tree trunks, branches, and thin grey-green leaves in these forests.