Saturday, 31 May 2014

Long Eared Owl

Long Eared Owl, Asio ottis

I appreciate I am throwing images at you at the moment, and will continue to finish the British owls every other day for the next week, but I am just keen for there to be a few posts back-logged before I officially launch this blog. Bare with me, and then I will reduce the postings to just two or three a week as I do with the main blog once all is go...

But, to continue the owls, here are a few long eared owl photos for you. We have three long eared owls at the Centre. A pair which we hope to breed from in the future, and our flying team member "Archimedes".

Archimedes will be the one in all these photos...

Oh, while I remember... If you click on one of the photos, it brings up all the photos in this post in a kind of lightbox slide show with black background, and at a larger size. You can then use the arrow keys to flick through them. I have been doing the main blog for quite a few years now, and only discovered this yesterday!  It helps show the detail in the tawnies facial disc photo in my last post.

Anyway, on to Archimedes.

Long Eared Owl

One of the things about all owls are the facial discs, and in particular the incredible eyes they have. This was one of my first photos of Archimedes, sat in an oak tree, with the leaves nicely framing his face. It was short-listed for the B.W.P.A a couple of years ago.

Wizards Owl

Archimedes in the evening light, I don't know why, but this always reminds me of a wizards staff with a withered old owl on top... Silly I know.

Long Eared Owl Silhouette 

I am not a huge fan of silhouettes, but with something as uniquely identifiable as a long eared owl it can look quite nice. I don't think it would have the same impact with a barn owl for example.

Forest Owl

One of my favourites of Archimedes. Once again, pulling back to show him in an environment. The blur in the m idle was unintentional, but I don't think detracts too much... and if you look closely you can see his anklets, but hey ho.


A peek from Archie... Not sure if I like this one or not to be honest, but it has been one of my more popular ones from internet sharing.

Fire Owl

Now this is perhaps my favourite... Taken in the extreme late evening light, which had a red glow. Back lit on a fence post and just illuminating the outline of him. The barbed wire fence catches some of the light too which I like.

Sunset Owl

And finally, one of Archimedes watching the sun set. Taken two summers ago... watch this space (well, the main blog space), as I will be doing a couple of evening owl shoots this summer, photographing right until the sun sets to offer the chance of silhouettes and evening light etc. First come first serve when announced.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl, Strix aluco

Following on form the barn owl, here are some of my older tawny owl photos. I probably have more tawny photos than any other owl... but have kept it to just the eight for now, so as not to owl you out. Again, I am keeping the flying and perhaps more unusual ones for later posts.

The tawny owl is Britain's most common native owl, and the one that has the classic "Tu-wit, Tu-woo" call. We have three and a half tawny owls at the Centre (work that out) some as beautiful as "Aluco" above.

Scruffy Florence

... and some not so.

No, of course I jest. This is "Florence on one of her scruffy days, it was also quite windy and so she was rather ruffled. Shows off her heart shaped face well though.

Tawny Owl on Reserve

Good close ups are great, but I find a lot of people focus too much on this... sometimes it is just as nice to zoom out and give the animal some space and room to breath in the frame.

Back lit Tawny Owl

This one shows of Florence at her best. Back lit late one evening while trying to find new posts for our owl days. She is actually on a post we now use for our Eagle owl. This is quite possibly my favourite tawny owl portrait I have taken.

The Ivy Owls

This is Strix and Aluco, named after the latin name for the tawny owl. Some of you may remember Strix... brother of Aluco, but who unfortunately died young. We collected these two from Wild Wood Trust at only a couple of days old. They were great together, above photographed in the ivy. They are sometimes called the Ivy owl due to sometimes being found in tress covered in ivy.

Peeking Tawny Owl

I quite like peeking shots, and this is an extreme "peek" from Florence. Taken in the evening light, and she is actually behind a huge Oak. I'll post a different composition at some point so you can see how huge the tee is! The light direction and metering settings allowed me to get the black background.

Tawny Owl Facial Disc

A close up of a tawny owls face. Not sure how this will display on the blog, but I am always amazed at the detail and composition of feathers which make up the facial disc... evolution and adaptations at its best!

Tawny Owl Talon

With adaptations in mind, here is a tawny owls talon. Check out that killing machine, and again the incredible detail in the composition of the foot. All the dimples and raised edges to give better grip. Incredible.

Of all the birds of prey and raptors, it is the owls which are believed to have the strongest pound per square inch of pressure within their talons.

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Barn Owl

Barn Owl, Tyto alba

I have a lot of photos, old and new, that I would like to share with you all. A lot of visitors to the Centre have particularly asked for more photos from the "Dance of the Adders" (which I am particularly pleased with!) and also from the bluebell shoot I did. I will get to sharing these, promise.

First however, while this sister blog is building momentum, I thought I would share some photos of our owls in timing with our new aviaries having been built. (Also I promised one of our keepers some photos of our short eared owl).

I will start off with a few of each of the seven species we have, I am thinking of possibly doing just a few flying ones on there own at the end, and also a series to show an owl growing. Then once this blog is officially launched I will post some adders and bluebells.

Barn Owl on a fence post

The above was taken out the back of our nature reserve on a fence line boarding the local bridal path. I liked the composition of the twisting fence line and the tree limbs over the top, so placed the owl (Tutoke I believe) of the largest of the posts and waited until she looked in to the frame.

Worms eye view

It won't take you long to realise I love my fisheye lens!.. There is a time and a place for it, even for wildlife, and sometimes that can just be a quirky image. Makes me think I will have to do a post just on fisheye animal portraits at some point. This is Big Pete investigating the lens.

Morning Barn owl

A recurring theme through this blog may will be me saying I love colour and I love light! Above is Big Pete again, taken in the early morning light on a fence post. Backlit and in the frost to emphasise these beautiful colours.

Barn owl plumage

A close up of a barn owls feathers. This is the back of Kevin.

Big Pete and Tom

Most photography I can do on  my own, but sometimes I need the help of a keeper. If I have a particular shot in mind, or something such as flying an owl. Above is Tom in the very low evening light with Big Pete.

Thanks for looking.

Friday, 23 May 2014

What to expect...

Grinning Fox

Welcome all to my new blog, "Matt's Photos". I am looking at this blog as a sister blog to the BWC Keepers Blog, and as a place to share some more of my photos. For more about this blog click the link above. There are also links above to find out more about me, the camera gear I use and links to the BWC blog and my photo sharing sites etc.

For this first post I thought I would just show you ten photos from over the years. These will give you and idea of what to expect on this sister blog. Hope you enjoy.

Above is a photo of Flo our friendly fox, taken with a wide angle lens which gives it an almost comical feel. This was the first photo I took which I was REALLY pleased with. It took a while to grow on me, but is now one of my favourites. It is a lovely portrait, but a little different. Not taken with a remote trigger as many think, I was actually behind it at the time.

Winged Assassin of Bluebell Wood

Above is Florence flying over the bluebells. I have been lucky enough to have many photographs in the papers over the years, but this is possibly the most famous.

Day Old Badger Cubs

Working at the BWC I am lucky to see many unusual or very rare sights. Above is not a great photo, but it is something I like showing people. It is of two, one day old badger cubs. Even from day one you can see that they have the classic black and white striped face!

Lucy Flying a Barn Owl

I have a very hard working and dedicated team of keepers, that work hard to maintain the high standards of welfare and presentation we have at the Centre. It is like photographing them in action, and if possible unaware, to get more natural poses. It is good for the records and as souvenirs. It is a shame the barn owl was moulting above and so had half a tail, but you can only work with what you have got.

Dance of the Adders

Different behaviours are always fascinating to me, and arguably my most anticipated every year is the "Dance of the Adders". This is one I took in the first year I had a camera, and still possibly my favourite. Taken from outside the enclosure, and so shows the great opportunities you can get here even with out the exclusive access of our photo days.

Fox Smelling Daffodil

My favourite fox, Pickles, sadly non longer with us. Sniffing the daffodils. This is the first photograph I took that got noticed and encouraged people who have never been to the Centre to follow my photography.

Autumn Hedgehog

 I love using the light, and backlight in particular. I also love colour, and the above shows both nicely.

Fisheye Otter on Ice

I was once told that a fisheye lens is good, but you can't use it for wildlife. After this I was determined to prove them wrong. I love my fisheye lens. It takes great quirky portraits, but can also be used well in other ways. The above is my most highly awarded photo, being Highly Commended in 2012's British Wildlife Photographer of the Year. It was amazing to see it in the gallery alongside other great amateur, and many amazing professional photographers work.

Beautiful Bonnie

One of my first, and still one of my favourite, of all photos. Showing Bonnie, the pine marten, off to her beautiful best. It is not the best technically, but still I love it and that is all that matters.

Vole's Eye View

The editing I do is minimal, and tends to only be slight tweaks in levels and cropping. Apart from the obvious photoshopped images for fun, I could probably count on one hand the number of images I have actually "manipulated". The above is one of the ones I did manipulate, it is also a little soft and not of high quality. But it is unusual, different, and so one of my favourites.

Thanks for looking.