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.
Well, it’s 7 days now since here in Kent (along with most of the UK) we “enjoyed” hard frosts and quite a bit of snow. It’s so infrequent now that when it does occur I (and I’m sure 1000′s of other photographers) rack our brains to think of where to go in order to capitalise on this short lived event.
For the last month, or so, I have set up a bird feeding station quite near to where I live on the North Kent Marshes to see what I could pull in different to the usual woodland species that I have photographed time and again in subsequent years. With regular visits I could see that I wasn’t getting anything particularly interesting coming in aside from tits and greenfinches. So, I decided to go to Knole Park where they have a large herd of fallow and sika deer. With a wonderful hard frost, I enjoyed a good few hours from dawn, milking the conditions for all it’s worth!
This was the first time I used my 200-400 f4 that I acquired a couple of months ago and it really proved it’s worth with me being able to shoot close-ups and contextual, without moving or adding tele-converters.
For all the sika deer photographs, I used a Manfrotto monopod as continually altering the legs on a tripod can be both tiresome and time consuming which may result in missing a shot. For the fallow deer buck image, I hand-held the camera while laying down, utilising the VR.
I was just sitting down, upwind from this sika and it came closer and closer, sniffing the air every few steps.
The day after, heavy snow was forecast for the Sevenoaks area, predicted for around 12 o clock. I wasn’t going to miss this, so arrived at 9 and just waited. The fallow were very shy and with such a strong wind, understandably, took shelter in the wooded areas.
After the above encounter, it was a full hour before I got anywhere near close enough for a decent size image. I came across 4 bucks and by keeping a respectful distance, they took little notice. And, as if on cue, the snow REALLY started to come down. Perfect!
A few days later and with snow still on the ground I headed to my hide on the marshes where I witnessed the most extraordinary thing! As I walked to my hide to top-up the feeder I noticed a fieldfare in a hawthorn, not 4m away! Amazing. They are generally very wary so what on earth was it doing, just sitting there? I stood and watched as it sat and picked off nearby berries. The camera was in the car so I walked back the 100m or so, fitted the camera to the tripod and returned, only to find it was still there! It remained so for the next minute, allowing me take a few shots before it dropped to the ground, picked up a few berries and flew off to join the rest of the flock. I guess, it’s the hard weather that makes wildlife bolder.
I then got comfortable in my hide, observing greenfiches, blue and great tits come and go and then a bird appeared on a thistle seed-head I had only ever seen a few times before and certainly never photographed. A lesser redpoll. I took a few tentative photographs as it fed frantically on the seed-head. It flew to a nearby hawthorn then immediately returned. I let it feed for a while, took another shot and this time it took no notice. This was a rare opportunity to get close-ups of a bird I hardly see, so didn’t hold back in the amount of images Thankfully, quite afew came out sharp!
All images on this post were taken using a Nikon D300, 200-400 f4 and, more often than not, iso 800. For the redpoll shots, at f5.6 I used a shutter speed of 1/1600 sec.
I’ve never been the sort of photographer to walk great distances (by that I mean over 2 miles!) taking a shot here and another there. Unless I am after a specific subject I much prefer to “work” a small area. I still shoot in the same woods, downlands and marshes that I did when I first got interested in nature (a little later, photography) almost 30 years ago. I’m a firm believer in working your local patch. By visiting a site near to home in all seasons and weathers you uncover nature’s secrets. Where, at certain times of the year, you can, for example, expect to find a bee orchid, fox earth or rare fungi. By getting “under it’s skin” your images, I feel, will have greater feeling and depth. This is something, almost, impossible to do on a short or occasional visit. It also means, that when the weather is exceptional or if you just have a spare hour, there is always some place for you to visit. To remain, photographically, productive.
The images, below, were taken in one of South East England’s largest woodlands but all within an area no bigger than 900 m2. I could have walked and walked, looking for the finest specimens and views in which to capture autumn. Instead, for several days during October and November, I remained in a very compact area, often scrambling around on all fours or laying on damp leaf litter, searching for tiny mushrooms which, ultimately, gave me focus. More often than not I would, simply, just be led by the light.
I was taken by the relationship of the miniature with the gigantic. How the mature beech and minute fungi are as important as one another for their survival. With this in mind, I strove towards illustrating that as best I could.
With my reluctance to leave this wonderful place and with darkness closing in, I turned to using a flash-unit to illuminate spore release from a common puffball.
I must admit, I’m a little reluctant to give all the technical data for each image as I think we, so often, get so bogged down with the technicalities that we lose sight of the image we are trying to take. Yes, it’s important to know your f-stops and shutter speeds, differential focusing and depth of field and, given the time, all these things can be learnt. Spending time in the field and in all kinds of conditions is the best way to become farmiliar with your camera and, most important of all, to develop your “eye.”
But, in order to satisfy your curiosity, I used a nikon D300, 12-24, 28-105, 105 micro and 200mm. Occasionally, I would use extension tubes or a 2-element close-up filter and when working at ground level, a right-angle viewfinder. A Manfrotto carbon fibre 055 tripod was used much of the time with a Markins head and when I needed to get lower still, a small beanbag was employed.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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