As a wildlife enthusiast, I am constantly looking to the professionals for inspiration. In the November issue of BBC Wildlife magazine were some of the winning images from Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015. One particular image in the Birds category had a lasting impression on me.
This image, named Battling The Storm, was taken by Italian photographer Vincenzo Mazza, who predominantly captures Italian and Icelandic landscapes. The location for this image was a lagoon in Reykjavik, the subjects were Whooper swans (foreground) and Greylag geese (background).
What I love most about this shot is how effective the juxtaposition is. Initially, the image looks tranquil with cool, diluted colours and a simplistic composition. However, when viewed more closely, it becomes apparent that the scene is far from tranquil. The birds are caught in a violent storm and the dreamy mist on the surface seems more like froth from the churning tide.
This image is significant to me because it puts into perspective the struggles that migrating birds face each year. The majority of Whooper swans spend winter in Britain or Ireland, flying up to 1400 km to reach Europe. This journey is the longest sea crossing of any swan species.
This shot was captured in January, so it is unusual that these birds were found so far from their winter home so late in the season. This context brings up questions about why the birds were not where they would usually be. In my opinion, that makes this photograph a great one; it has evoked an active response in me, the viewer. That is the ultimate objective for a photographer, so Vincenzo Mazza has produced what I consider a successful outcome.
Last Friday, the Wildlife Media students (or wildlings as we are now sometimes known) visited Caerlaverock Wetland Centre in Dumfries, Scotland. This was the site that BBC Autumwatch used as their base this year, and although it’s always great to visit a new nature reserve, it would have been incredible to visit while the studio was set up.
We arrived at the site at 6:30am, shivering against the cold but ready to catch the sunrise. Led by our guide Sara, we frog-marched into the mere and set up, hoping to capture the Barnacle and Greylag geese coming in to land. The sunrise was satisfyingly dramatic, but the geese decided to take shifts when landing, so the sky was never really the sea of flapping wings that we’d hoped for.
Today marked my first Whooper Swan sighting, and I was spoilt for choice when it came to photographing them. I loved the way this individual was preening his feathers, so decided to capture the water running off the bird’s bright yellow bill.
I also saw my first Wigeons today. I’ve fallen in love with this delightful little bird. Although tiny and cute, they had no problems in making themselves heard. Sat in the hide, I often saw a feisty male nip birds four times his size on the tail feathers in his haste to get to the grain.
I thought I’d try going a little artsy. Supporting my camera with a tripod, I used a slower shutter speed to blur the movement of both the rippling water and the paddling geese. The result looks dreamlike and serene.
I had a great time at Caerlaverock. Although it was bitterly cold, the wait was rewarding and I got to tick off several water bird species from my list. Here’s to the next field trip with the wildlings!