Last week I retuned form leading a wonderful workshop to The Golden City or The City of a Hundred Spires or….just plain old Prague! But plain it most definitely isn’t! A, virtually, untouched city for hundreds of years and with architectural styles ranging from Baroque to Art Nouveau and Romanesque to Gothic, there are picture opportunities around, quite literally, every corner.
I have been visiting Prague for many, MANY years but it’s always a good idea to reacquaint yourself with those familiar places and to, generally, get a feel for the city prior to the workshop so I arrived 3 days before. I had met all, bar one, before and, indeed, 5 had accompanied me on other photo-tours to Lapland and Poland so strangers they were not and, if those trips were anything to go by, I knew we were going to have a lot of laughs. I wasn’t to be disappointed!
Here’s a few images I took before everyone arrived.
Prague Castle during the day is, unsurprisingly, teeming with tourists. Go there at night and there’s hardly a soul to be seen! I really had no option, here, but make do with the converging verticals as the widest lens I had with me was a 12-24mm and my back was up against a wall! Sure, I could correct it, to a degree, in CS or LR but then in doing so you crop quite a lot of the image and I like the curve of the building on the right and the inclusion of the Czech flag. A 6 stop ND filter was used to give added interest to the clouds by accentuating movement.
Once the group arrived, I hardly took a picture as my focus was to assist with their photography, keep a handle on catching the metro and trams and doing a head count! I did, however, manage to sneak the camera out for the following images.
With a clear sky forecast and everyone eager to “bag” a sunrise, I arranged for us all to meet 45 minutes before sunrise, being 4.45! Everyone was there, albeit a little bleary eyed, and so we made our way onto the bridge and waited for the inevitable.
Thank you to Elaine, Bea and Mike, Chris, Denise, Sarah and James for making my job an absolute breeze (apart from when one or two decided to wander! ), for allowing me to “show off” a city I have grown to consider my second home and for, generally, being jolly good sports!
If, by reading this, you are tempted to join me next year to this magical city and you rather like the idea of hopping on and off trams, venturing into “secret” gardens and exploring Prague by day (and night), then please register your interest with me at email@example.com
I am very pleased that my image of a bluebell wood at sunrise was chosen for the current issue of Nikon’s N-Photo magazine. As well as this, it is also displayed (almost) double page in the same issue as well as featuring in Country Living and Wild Britain.
And, as Nikon N-Photo’s cover photo on their Facebook page.
In the past 14 days I have been contacted, by email, by 2 groups checking that I was still available to give a talk (just 2 days from the email) when I hadn’t so much as received a letter of confirmation. Fortunately, I was not booked to speak elsewhere so was able to give the talk. They were lucky, as I give in the region of 2 lectures a week at this time of the year. I’ll keep this simple, if I do not receive confirmation by way of a posted letter (with a section for me to complete, sign and return) or email (backed up by a reply from me) I will not turn up!
Over the last 20 years I have given in the region of 20-25 talks per year (that adds up to well over 400 talks) to a wide range of groups and societies, from the RSPB, WWT and Wildlife Trust to Photographic Societies, WI’s, National Trust and The Royal Photographic Society. I therefore feel I am in a strong position to give advice on how to book and treat a speaker and so, below, have listed a do’s and don’t's when doing so.
- Make an initial phone call or send an email to see if the speaker is available, in the first instance prior to booking. Confirm fee and format of the evening and whether the speaker requires any equipment other than the digital projector that the speaker would, in most cases, supply themselves. Offer to supply a back-up projector.
- Immediately (not 3 weeks later!) follow up with a letter of confirmation with a reply slip attached or email requesting the speaker to reply to the email to confirm it has reached them. If you do not hear from the speaker, ring them. Do not assume the email has been received and that, therefore, the speaker has been booked. It doesn’t!
- Along with confirmation, enclose a detailed map and directions to the venue. If the venue is in the middle of nowhere, then supply a map with, preferably, Lat/Long and not just a postcode as this is too vague when it’s pitch black and pouring with rain! Do not ring the speaker and expect them to jot down directions through a phone call. I cannot tell you how many times someone has attempted this with me only for me to stop them in their tracks and ask that they send me a map.
- If an AGM is to be held that same evening, explain this to the speaker before the day and ask if they would like to speak before or after. If you would prefer the speaker to start after the AGM, suggest they arrive towards the end of the meeting where they can then set up which, for most of us, takes less than 15 minutes. Few things irk a speaker more than to turn up and, while setting up, be informed that there will be an AGM beforehand!
- Once the speaker has arrived introduce him/her to both the chairman and whoever is responsible for the setting up of the presentation.
- If there is very limited parking space at the venue, reserve a space for him/her with a traffic cone or two. Or, since committee members often arrive very early, arrange for one to park as near to the entrance of the venue as possible and when the speaker arrives, allow the speaker to park in it. Speakers are always very grateful if they do not have to walk too far with all their equipment. Notify the speaker beforehand of the plan.
It is very important at this stage that the speaker be treated as a welcomed guest and is offered help in any way possible.
- If the speaker has travelled some distance (let us say 50 miles plus) offer to make them a hot drink.
- Prepare a glass of water and ask the speaker where they would like it placed.
- Pay the speaker before the talk or during the interval. This reassures him/her that he/she won’t have to chase up the treasurer afterwards!
- Make sure you know the speakers name, how to pronounce it and also the title of the talk. We do not like (in my case) being called Robin or for the chairman not quite remembering the title of the talk. This shows a complete lack of respect towards the speaker and, in the eyes of the speaker, makes your group look rather bumbling!
- Make sure someone is assigned to switch the lights off and on again. It’s very off-putting for the speaker to have an introduction to the talk, request the lights be switched off and then for the audience to look at one another wondering who’s going to do it! It’s all about the smooth running of the evening.
- Prior to the interval, arrange with the speaker what he/she would like to drink and bring it to them, preferably with bikkies! Do not expect the speaker to queue up! I have to say, this is very rare but on the rare occasion it has, I didn’t mince my words!
- During the interval, assign someone to stand and chat with the speaker.
- After the talk, give a note of thanks and, at the speakers discretion, ask if anyone has any questions. Most of us welcome this. I certainly do!
- Offer to assist the speaker with taking his/her equipment back to the car.
- Do not leave the speaker on his/her own in an empty room, packing away. This is incredibly rude and the one group that has done this to me has been black-listed!
- Finally, make sure the chairman stays with the speaker while he/she packs up and says a formal goodbye. The speaker should not be expected to hunt around the room looking for the chairman!
Please, this is not a rant! My experience with groups booking me and of the evening itself has, for the vast majority of the time, been very positive without any problems whatsoever and where I have been made to feel very welcome. I have put this together so that groups have a much clearer understanding of what the speaker would like and, indeed, should expect and, perhaps, include some of those points which the group are not, already, addressing. After all, many of us travel a considerable distance to speak for the evening and so being welcomed and said goodbye to without a hitch only makes us want to return. Don’t be the group that ends up in my, or any other speaker’s, black-book!
I am very happy for this to be duplicated and used by your group.
I have, for some time, been looking at purchasing a trail-cam in order for me to get a clearer understanding of the movements of my local badgers when, a short while ago, I was contacted by someone asking if I had experience in using them and was told of a model they were looking at purchasing which I then looked into. I didn’t want an expensive unit but, on the other hand, needed one giving good resolution and to have some useful features including time lapse and a sleeper mode enabling it to be left in position for extended periods without recharging.
And so, with spring upon us, I delayed no further and purchased the Acorn LTL After a little “playing” and getting acquainted with the various settings, I positioned it next to a badger path, 3 days ago, that leads to a badger gate. The local wildlife, however, prefers to use the hole in the fence next to it, instead! Who wouldn’t?! The cam has a very useful tripod attachment screw so I used a small clamp attaching it to a branch approximately 3 feet away from the gate which I then left for 2 days. As it’s weatherproof, I didn’t have any concerns regarding the weather. Upon inspecting the footage on the unit’s screen, I could see that, aside from rabbits, a blackbird, squirrel and dunnock, a fox was also captured. However, this beats the lot! A badger collecting bedding which is, exactly, the kind of footage I was hoping for. Please watch to the end as you’ll see it return for the rest of the bedding and, also, ignore the date.
And, of the fox
I’m sure I’ll have lots of fun with this over the coming months and, of course, the results will be shown here.
Footage from last night. I’ve been watching over this same sett, here in North Kent, for 25 years and have always wondered what time they arrive back from their nightly wanderings. With 22 triggers (night of 1st and morning of 2nd April), I now know! First emergence 20.30 and return 06.00….approximately! Of course, this varies on the season, but at least it gives me a better idea.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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