1. Think Tank Airport Essentials

    Over the last couple of years I’ve been very fortunate to be sponsored by a couple of companies who have been kind enough to supply me with equipment. My first was Coast torches which I use for light-painting and when carrying out the Into the Blue Hour workshop. Everyone is supplied with one of their small torches which are perfect for this kind of photography. This was followed by Storm Jacket Camera Covers which I firmly believe are the best around and fly really well according to a group member on a recent Iceland trip! It’s probably being washed up as I write – in Greenland! And now, I’m very pleased to announce that Think Tank camera carrying solutions have now, also, come on board. I’ve been using their Airport Accelerator backpack since 2012 exclusively for airline travel and upon seeing mine, many that have attended my tours have purchased the same bag. What makes them so good? Simplicity. Build quality. No frills.

    The Accelerator’s size is perfect for BA, Finnair and easyjet, amongst others, but with increasing restrictions for carry-on I needed a slightly smaller bag. This is where the Airport Essentials came in which is, essentially (pardon the pun), the same as the Accelerator but crucially 20cm instead of 25cm deep. The exterior belies its capaciousness and it constantly surprises me (and others) as to how much gear you can fit inside. For example, on my recent trips to Iceland and Prague I took the following.

    Nikon D810 + Spare
    14mm
    20mm
    28-105mm
    70-200mm
    1.4x tele-converter
    105mm Macro
    Lee filter kit.
    Lens cleaning cloth and brush
    Spare batteries and memory cards.
    Pocket umbrella
    Lenovo 14″ laptop
    Snacks!

    One of the major selling points, for me, of both the Accelerator and Essentials is their removable waist-belt which allows for use of their Thin Skin or Pro Speed Belt. This makes for an even more compact bag and I only ever use waist belts on larger bags, anyway, when carrying a substantial amount of gear. It also has a side carrying handle which I find very useful when lifting into or down from the plane’s overhead locker.

    As with all those in the Airport series there’s a handy passport-sized compartment on the top of the bag and padlockable zips as well as a cable-lock should the need to secure it ever be needed.

    The bag’s zipped compartment comfortably took my 14″ Lenovo and there was sufficient room, also, for a tablet plus a few extras.

    The tripod carrying system’s effective. Positioned on the side of the bag, one might think that it would be unbalanced and if you were to attach a heavy tripod then yes, that would certainly be the case. However, I wouldn’t attach my full-sized Manfrotto 055 to the bag, preferring to carry it myself. When working in cities I use a slightly smaller, more compact tripod which works very well and I hardly notice the tripod at all.

    If there is one negative it would be that the zipped compartment doesn’t have much give and therefore doesn’t allow for quite as much as I’d like. Without the laptop and tablet there was just sufficient room for my Lee filters pouch, pocket umbrella and snacks. That said, it is somewhat of a moot point since the idea behind its design is to keep it compact and within airline regulation.

    Overall, I’m very happy with the Essentials. An extremely thoughtful design and built to the standard I have come to expect from Think Tank. I’m certain, as with the Accelerator, that it will give me many years of good service.

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  2. Fundraising Lecture

    I’ve been giving lectures to all manner of groups in the south (and further field) for over 25 years and in that time would give in the region of 20 talks per year. Returning to these clubs is always an enjoyable experience as many who first saw me all those years ago continue to do so to this day with many becoming firm friends. It’s great going to a club and seeing so many familiar faces. They, more than anyone else, have watched me grow and develop as a photographer. Over the last few years, however, my number of speaking engagements has dropped considerably to less than half a dozen each year due to the sheer number of photography workshops and overseas tours that I now lead. And so, a while ago I came up with an idea. If I can’t go to them, then perhaps they could come to me! Nature has given me so much over the years (much, much more than just a living) and being that I will have a captive audience (pardon the pun!) it seems the perfect opportunity to raise funds for a charitable organisation that do a considerable amount for animal welfare across the globe – the IFAW. The International Fund for Animal Welfare. We are all very much aware of the plight of our planet and animal species that we live alongside need our help, now, more than ever.

    “IFAW’s mission is to rescue and protect animals around the world. We rescue individuals, safeguard populations, and preserve habitat. Founded in 1969 in Canada and in the UK in 1981, the International Fund for Animal Welfare saves individual animals, animal populations and habitats all over the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW provides hands-on assistance to animals in need”.

    This will be a brand new presentation with many never-before-seen images. The talk will be divided into two parts. The first will include my personal favourites of everyday subjects captured on my local patch of north Kent. Badgers, hares, bluebells and the soul-stirring landscape of the marsh will all be featured. The second part will be devoted to my recent winter adventure to Finnish Lapland where I, along with a good friend, skied and snowshoed its wild interior.

    As with all my photography-related talks there’ll be lots of information regarding technique and the thought process that lay behind many of the images.

                  Booking is essential with all net ticket sales being donated to the IFAW

    Purchase tickets

    Please, do come along and support this very worthy cause. However, if you yourself are unable to attend then do inform others about the evening. Fellow camera club members, friends, relatives, colleagues and not forgetting advertising it on facebook, twitter and the like.

    Do drop me a line should you wish to have a PDF copy of the poster to distribute or pin onto the club’s notice-board.

    I know it seems a long way off but it’ll soon come around so please, don’t delay in purchasing tickets. If nothing else it’ll give you a restbite from sitting infront of the TV and being subjected to a continual stream of Christmas adverts!

    Purchase tickets

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  3. Golden eagle in diamond-dust sunbeam

    Just under two weeks ago I returned from leading two back-to-back Finland in Winter tours where our target species was, primarily, golden eagle. Both groups enjoyed eagle activity on, collectively, four days in the comfortable heated hides. Aside from the ‘main attraction’ there were other subjects, too, which included red squirrel, siberian tit, siberian jay and a real surprise – black woodpecker. Dwarfing the great-spotted woodpecker the black is Europe’s largest and what a treat it was too to observe and photograph it so close.

    Since 2014 I’ve spent a total of 11 days photographing golden eagles from these hides. Each visit by them presents me with something new. Flight shots are always high on the agenda and given their relatively short flight distance from tree to carrion, are always very tricky to capture. Ultimately, however, what really makes an image is the light and on our final eagle day we had the most exquisite conditions. The kind that you experience but once in a lifetime and while photographing hope above all else that you don’t screw it up!

    From the moment we stepped into the hides the sky was clear. This is all well and good – especially for the group’s morale – but for pictures it’s less than ideal especially since as the day progresses the sun is directly ahead of us. For much of the day I was cursing this and hoping that clouds (as forecast) would come and block the sun. This never happened. And then, just after 1pm the eagle arrived and duly landed on the branch directly ahead of us. Outside the temperature was around -10 and ice particles flickered like tiny jewels. It hopped around, occasionally spreading its wings and as time progressed the ‘beam’ moved from the left to directly onto the eagle. The conditions were tricky for the camera’s autofocus and so to be sure I switched from AF-C (continuous) to AF-S since the latter is always more precise and only lets you take a picture when it’s locked-on.

    eagle-2Nikon D810, 200-400 f/4, ISO 125, 1/1250 f/5.6,

    I’ll be returning next winter to lead another tour and as much as I’m looking forward to spending more time in the company of these magnificent creatures it’s highly unlikely I’ll witness light quite like that ever again.

    Only those on my mailing list get to see the full range of images taken on such trips by way of a monthly Newsletter. If you’d like to see them then you can do so by subscribing here. Once subscribed please drop me a line here requesting the latest newsletter.

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