Tuesday, 19 May 2015


McTavish, the Scottish Wildcat

While I was testing the Samsung NX1, I was also playing around with another camera... My iPhone!

Earlier this year I treated myself to my first smart phone ever, boy... it takes some getting used to, and I still haven't fully set it up, but I am having great fun with it. The reason I wanted a smart phone was for the camera. I have missed on so many occasions over the past few years little things that happen around the Centre, and found myself saying... "I wish I had my camera with me". So I thought it would be nice to always have a camera in my pocket, but didn't want to carry an extra thing around all the time.

The other keepers all have iPhones, and I saw the photos they were taking, and thought they were plenty good enough for simple record shots of things, so took the plunge. I decided on an iPhone 5s, simply because I already use macs for my photography work, so thought it would be easier to set up and use etc. Expensive, but I have not been disappointed... In fact I have been amazed at the quality of photos it is capable of, keeping in mind it i still only a phone with a little lens and sensor in it!

Above is McTavish, and the first animal photo I took with the phone. 

As mentioned above, the main reason for the camera on the phone was for simple record shots like above. Plenty good enough for the files, and saves carrying my DSLR around and all the editing involved with all that. 

But I really have been amazed at the quality it is capable of, for a phone. Of course it can't compete with a DSLR or even a pocket camera... but for a phone!... Come on, it's pretty good :-)

Above is one of a harvest mouse on a daffodil I took little while back, and is one of my favourites so far with the phone.

This is Dale, the red squirrel... you have to get pretty close to the animals to get anything , but luckily most of our animals allow me to get that close.

And another animal one here. This time one of our water voles on the feeding island.

I imagine most of you will already know this, but I was surprised to see the phone could also take panoramas. It takes a while to get used to panning the phone smoothly, but I am looking forward to playing around with this in the future.

Of course the main thing about a camera phone (so Daisy and Meg keep telling me) is to take selfies! So here is one of me with Clyde. The front facing camera is nowhere near as good as the main one on the back, but still passable for things like this and web use.

After I got my phone, I bought a pack of three lenses for it through Amazon. A wide angle, fisheye and macro all for jut over £5 the lot! I thought they would probably be pretty rubbish, but for a fiver if they gave me half an hours fun trying them out then all would be good.

So are they any good?.. Well, the wide angle above, is pretty poor. The quality is not great, and to be honest it doesn't really make thee view that much wider than with out the lens. Not only that but it even captures the edge of the lens within the picture. I can't see me using this at all.

Above is a lego Eskimo, taken through the macro lens. I don't know about you, but I think this is pretty amazing for a phone and a cheap lens! In reality I probably won't use any of the lenses much, if at all. If I have time to find, and clip on on to the camera... I probably have time to get my Nikon, but I was very impressed with the macro lens and may play around with this in the future too.

And finally the fisheye lens. It does exactly what you would expect it too. It shows the lens on the edges, so could only be used for quirky fun things, and the quality is not amazing, but certainly better than the wide angle. And it could be used to create some fun, circular pictures.

Before putting them away I thought... can these lenses also be used not he front facing camera?...

Turns out they can :-)

It is also pretty good at videoing, and I really like the slo motion video capture you can do on it. If you want to see some that I have shot, take a look on my youtube linked in the tabs above, and when I have enough I may do a little compilation slo-mo of the animals the Centre and share it on this blog.

Anyway. I am going to set up an instagram account, and then hope to share the photos I take with my phone there. As soon as it is live, I will put a link in the tabs above, so keep an eye open for that if you wish to follow.

Thanks for looking :-)

Friday, 15 May 2015

Few from Spring, 2015

Bess, the Border Collie

Here are a few photos that I have taken this year but have yet to share. They were taken with my Nikon, hence why you have not seen them yet :-)

I was hanging around one evening at work, and we had the first decent spell of evening light so I took advantage and took a couple of portraits of Bess.

A few weeks a go now our red deer cast their antlers. They do this every year in the Spring, and then over the next 16 weeks grow a brand new set... usually larger than their previous set! Remarkable really that they can grow them that fast.

Above is Albus Dumbledeer on the right, and Olivandeer on the left... Do we have a Harry Potter fan at the Centre you may well ask?.. Well, yes... we do :-)

As you can see, they don't always cast their antlers at the same time leaving them looking a little silly...

... but not as silly as when both have cast. They then just look like a big female until their new antlers begin to show through.

Walking over to work one morning, and came across this little fella on the path in the rain. Took the opportunity to take a quick photo.

Where does the "Badass problem solver" go when he has things on his mind?.. He turns to nature. It has an easy way of simplifying things, putting things in to perspective and making you appreciate everything. I like a place that only I know, and this is mine.

Fawkes is a short eared owl. Not many are on display in Britain, and ours is one of a handful that can be used for photography workshops. He is beautiful!

The short eared is my favourite owl in the world, so when I tagged on to the owl day a couple of weeks ago to get some in the bluebells... I also made sure I was their for when they did Fawkes.

I am very picky with my photographs of Fawkes, and got some strange looks when I placed him on the gravel in the middle of nowhere... but by framing it right and using the right angles, you can really make something out of nothing.

Full facial disc.

And the back of the head... Yes I did mean this... their latin name is Asio flammeus, named due to their feathers looking like fire and you can see why above.

Thanks for looking :-)

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Owls in Bluebells, 2015

Tawny Owl in Bluebells

Last week we had an owl photographic day booked in. Lucky for those that came, it coincided with our woodlands being a wash of violet with the bluebells at their peak!

We made the most of them, and placed a few of the owls in the bluebells throughout the day. I joined in for the tawny, little and long eared owl. Here are a couple of my photos. Above is Florence, one of our tawny owls.

Little owl, Scrappy, in the bluebells.

Archimedes the long eared owl. Decided to fall asleep, so not seeing his eyes I went for an wider angle shot.

Scrappy again, showing how small he really is amongst the bluebells.

And earlier that week, while checking out the bluebells, I took a couple of Bess with the fisheye lens.

Thanks for looking :-)

Friday, 8 May 2015


Adder Neonate

What with the Samsung business, and the dancing adders, I have a lot of catching up of photos to share with you. Today I am posting a few adder pics, non dancing, from the last few weeks. We can then take a break from the adders, and I will share the other photos including some bluebell ones next week.

Above is one of my favourite photographs I have taken so far this year. It is of a young adder neonate resting up next to mum. Nothing maternal here at all... they youngsters are independent from the moment they are born, just resting here to gain some extra warmth, but it really shows off how small they are. The mother is blurred, but you can tell it is an adult adder, and allows the little done to stand out... you can see the size difference of his scales next to mums gigantic scales!

This is a photograph I tried to get last year, and failed miserably! Fisheye of an adder coming right towards the lens. I am pretty pleased with this one... Ideally I would of liked a better background, but had to go on when the snake decided to investigate the lens. The light is at the wrong angle too for this to be a real stand out image, but again I could only go on as and when he decided to check me out.

A few record shots now, nothing special, but shows off some nice things. Above is an adder just starting to shed. You can see the old skin peeled off around the head... After this photo I had to go off and talk about one martens, and expected him to still be shedding when I got back. But he didn't hang about... the skin was gone!

To see the difference before and after, above is one os our sandy males just before shedding, and below one just after!

You can see how much more vibrant and vivid they are when they have shed, and why people always here me saying "I'm waiting for them to shed before taking pictures"

Just before shedding their eyes cloud over, giving an almost blue glow, before clearing up again and then the shed begins. It is just like a sock coming off. Usually the skin is peeled off in one, from head to tail, and comes off inside out.

This is a photo from last year, but you can see the complete adder skin... the markings on the skin, and even the eye caps if you look close enough! Adders, like all snakes, can't close their eyes, but have a scale over the eye to protect it!

So after shedding and dancing, next up is mating. Above is a photo of a male and female. You can see the male is quite a bit smaller than the female.

It is quite easy to tell the difference between the two in colour terms too. Generally, the males show more contrast between their base coat and pattern. So usually, the males are a silvery or sandy colour with a very vivid black zig-zag marking. The females show less contrast, being more of a brown, copper colour with a dark brown zig-zag marking.

This gets a bit trickier when the males are shedding, as you have seen above, they look a little like females. But when you get the hang of it, you can see the marking still looks dark on the shedding male, the overall colouring is much duller because of shedding, and when fully grown they will be smaller than a female.

It is a rare sight to see our adders mating, but we were privileged to see it a lot this year. Females may mate with many males over the course of a few days, and then remarkably can store the sperm for several years. So even though they have mated, we may not have youngsters this year. Likewise, if we have youngsters in a couple of years time it may be from this mating this year, and not one next year or the year after!

Even more remarkable, if mated with more than one male, she can decide on which males sperm is used or a mix. Isn't nature remarkable?!.

On closer look you can see one of the males penises, and it has a barb. This is used to "tie" himself in while copulating, making it harder for them to part. And yes, you heard me right... one of his penises... they have two!

They are called the hemipenes, and both will have this barb. Both are active, although they do tend to favour one over the other. So why have two?..

I'm glad you asked... Males will often mate with more than one female over several days, but between each mating they will need a bit off time to "prepare" for the next one. This is technically called the "refractory" period. Now, if they have had enough time, they would normally use the same penis. If however they haven't, then their second penis can come in to play and allow them to mate twice in quick succession. This works because where as most animals sperm mixes from both testes, the snake hemipenes have one testes for each penis.

Bit heavy I know, but some of you may find that interesting. :-)

What results?.. Baby adders! Aren't they cute?

This was taken this Spring of one of last years neonates. Curled up like this, she is sitting on the ground in an area of approx a milk bottle top. In other words, tiny!

Many snakes lay eggs, but adders are one of a few that give birth to live young... again, this gets complicated... even more so than the mating and two penises, so I will leave it simple and just say they give live birth.

So next up for our adders. Feeding. While dancing the males have no interest in food what so ever. I have fed our females, but the males will be having there first feed this weekend. This photo is from last year.

And to finish up. Another of my favourites of the last few weeks. This is slightly out of focus on the mouth unfortunately, but it is the closest I have got to an image I have been after for years... a Yawning adder right down the lens!

Thanks for looking... Bluebells next :-)

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Dance of the Adders, 2015

Dance of the Adders

I will keep this one brief, my past few posts have been a lot of words. I would like to share with you some of my adder dance photos from the past couple of weeks. If you want to read more about it, then please click on this link... BWC Blog: Dance of the Adders... to hear of my experience in with them a couple of Tuesdays ago.

The first two, one above and one below, are my favourites from this year. Having seen them dance for the last few years now, I have been able to get some lovely photos allowing me to experiment a bit more each year to try and get something a little different. I think these two do that. Above are them dancing in the grass... while taking it I had a feeling it might be quite good, and I am really pleased with how it came out.

Below is with the fisheye. I mentioned last year that I tried to photograph them with the fisheye, and it didn't work out, but I knew how to try differently this year... and this is what I had in mind. Very pleased with this one, but I still think I can get better so next year I may well spend the whole time in there with just the fisheye.

Enjoy the photos, and then at the end are two short videos of our adders dancing this year. At the end of this week I will share a few more adder pics, non dancing, that I took recently and then will give you all a break from adders on this blog and the BWC blog for a while :-)

OK, so here are a couple of videos. The first is a short compilation of a few clips I took, and the second is a couple of slow motion clips.

Thanks for looking :-)