1. Testimonial

    I feel very privileged to do the job that I do. Although the admin side of running any business can be incredibly time-consuming I would not change what I do for anything. There can be few other jobs where you get to travel and photograph remarkable places and subjects while in the company of such a broad mixture of folk with wide-ranging backgrounds and careers. Ultimately, everyone has the same interests – the outdoors and photography – and so no matter where you come from you all have similar passions and always something to talk about. It’s what makes the tour and within hours of meeting one another, you can guarantee light-hearted joshing and banter. Everyone, of course, is there is take photographs but also to have fun and participate in experiences that they will always remember. I am truly grateful to those that entrust their time and hard-earned money in me and I never stop tweaking and aiming to improve the workshop/tour’s quality and so when I receive an email such as the one below I am, truly, bowled over. It makes all the planning worthwhile and I cannot wait for the next adventure!

    “It’s almost a week since we returned from Iceland. Each time I process some of my images I am reminded of the great time we had in one of my favourite places. We were very fortunate to see the landscape still in the grip of winter and this certainly emphasised the dramatic landscape of the peninsula.

    As always, thank you for everything you did to ensure we could get the best out of our visit. Your quiet and calm approach towards supporting our photographic needs inspires confidence and is greatly appreciated. The daily planning of the trip ensured that we could visit a series of sites that had huge photographic potential. As always, your planning was exemplary and the choice of accommodation was ideal for our needs. You always adopted a flexible approach to each day’s plans which ensured that we could take advantage of weather conditions or natural phenomena. The awesome experience of photographing the Aurora Borealis on the last night exemplified your ability to steer us to record such a spectacular display. For all this and so much more, many thanks, Robert”.
    Nick (Iceland 2018)

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  2. Lapland in Autumn

    Each year, for the last 6 years, I have taken groups to Finnish and Norwegian Lapland. It’s a time of the year that I particularly enjoy with trees and understory bursting into autumnal colour. And, with the prospect of witnessing the northern lights, it makes for a very enjoyable tour with anticipation aplenty! My plan this year was upon conclusion of the trip, rather than go home with everyone else, I was to stay on a further 9 days and explore Norway’s second largest island, Senja. I have long wanted to go here and upon hearing how quiet it is and how relatively unexplored (photographically, anyway) compared to its more famous neighbour, Lofoten, it made the place all the more appealing. This post will be devoted, however, to the week-long Lapland in Autumn tour I held with Senja being ‘dealt with’ within the next week or two.

    Our week in Lapland, weather-wise, was mixed. This is to be expected and we had one ‘wash-out’ day which, as it happened, went in our favour. It was towards the end of the trip and with everyone having taken lots of photographs it gave us all the opportunity to look through one another’s images and for me to cast my eye and appraise a number from each. The night previous was a very late return and everyone was still buzzing with excitement having seen a most incredible display of the aurora borealis.

    Here’s a selection taken from those seven days.

    The group’s first impression of Finnish Lapland

    As with any place, once you’ve been there often you are more selective. Lapland in autumn is a wonderful place for those seeking out details, of which there are many strewn upon the forest floor.

    I took one zoom lens with me, the others were all primes. As you will have read in the previous post I use primes far more than I do zooms. I like how they ‘restrict’ what you can photograph (fewer decisions to make), their wide maximum aperture and their close-focusing capabilities. They are significantly lighter and In general, much sharper too.

     I took the following which are all Nikkors – of varying ages – except for the 14mm which is produced by Samyang.

    • 14mm f/2.8
    • 20mm f/2.8
    • 28mm f/2.8
    • 50mm f/1.4
    • 70-200mm f/2.8
    • 1.4x tele-converter
    • Canon 500D supplementary close-up lens

    Of all these, it was the 50mm that I used more than any other.

    On separate days the group were taken to two of my favourite locations where at each we spent close on an entire day. With few vistas, the forest itself provided more than enough subject matter. I guarantee you will learn more about composition in such an environment than you ever will shooting sweeping views. Images don’t at first leap out and it takes a while to get your eye in. My way of working has always been to concentrate on small areas for a long period as opposed to walking from one spot to the next.

     

    We stay at 2 locations, 3 nights apiece to give the group a real flavour of the region. The first is situated in the lowlands of Lapland where tall spruces dominate while at the second, being that we are at a higher altitude, the landscape is more rocky with stunted, twisted birch being the  only species. To me, the latter is true Lapland.

    The first 4 nights were cloudy, not just in the immediate vicinity of where we were staying but the entire region. There’s not an awful lot you can do when it’s thick cloud for hundreds of kilometers around! However, on our fourth night and with clear skies forecast to the west, we drove an hour into Norway. No sooner had we parked up at a sufficiently ‘dark’ place and with the merest hint of twilight in the sky, one of nature’s greatest spectacles began.

    For the most part I would employ the services of the 14mm but would, on occasion, use the 70-200mm.

    The spectacle lasted a full 2 hours and I have to say, hand on heart, it was one of the finest I have ever witnessed.

    It’s always nice when they last more than just a few minutes. The first 20 minutes or so is always a frantic affair with any group. Wonky horizons, incorrect exposures, slightly out of focus….. But, with time to spare, one can relax, think more about the shot and more importantly, stand away from the camera and enjoy it with your own eyes.

    As I said at the beginning, we did have a wet day (it was continuous, actually) and this was spent looking over our own images and peeking at each others. The following day (our last full), on the other hand, was much brighter and so we took the group to a canyon with amazing views of Norway’s towering peaks.

     And later in the day to an ancient Norwegian birch forest. I absolutely love it here! Too rocky and in places too boggy for man to ‘interfere’ with. With visible footprints of elk one can imagine that this is how its always been.

    As with the other locations, I’ve been here many times before and so simply took the time to wander and record the colourful vegetation and lichen-encrusted birch with my mobile phone camera.

    We stayed close-by until darkness fell and under partially clear skies while cooking sausages and marshmallows over an open fire, we were treated to one last display.

    And, if that wasn’t enough, as we drove back to our cabins in Finland, an elk posed for our mobile-phone cameras! A delightful way to finish the tour.

    A huge thanks to the group for making the tour what it was and an absolute pleasure to lead. There is a ‘pull’ to this region that I am sure everyone felt at one time or another while on this trip. Finns speak of the “Lapland fever” because of the many that have lost their heart to this land.

    If some of these images appealed to you and you’d like to learn more about photographing the northern lights, then you might be interested in my ebook: Ruska – Revontulet. Autumn in Finnish Lapland

    Ebook details and purchase

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  3. Brown bears of Finland

    Three weeks ago I returned from leading a group to north-eastern Finland to photograph the King of the Forest – the brown bear. In professional 2-person hides we spent up to 14 hours each night observing and photographing these magnificent beasts. We would enter at 5 and then be ‘released’ at 7, have breakfast, get some rest and then be up and ready for our ‘evening’ meal at 3 before heading back to the hides at 4. It does mess, a little, with your sleep/wake pattern but everyone of us agreed that it was more than worth it.

    This chap was huge who, to the group, was affectionately known as Tyson! He looked mean! But he had wonderful fur and B&W brings out texture far more effectively than colour. He was clearly an alpha male since every bear within a 400m radius would clear out rather quickly as soon as he arrived.

    The cubs, however, were the real stars – for obvious reasons.

    We had exclusive use of two 2-person pro-hides in each of the 3 locations – forest, swamp and lake. Each gave very different perspectives and offered a range of different images from bears amongst trees, to them walking across the swamp or reflected in the lake. We all had our own personal favourite location and mine was the swamp.

    Sub-adults play fighting. If this was just play fighting, goodness only knows what it must be like to watch two full grown adults really going at it!

    They continued for quite some time, ending up at the far end of the marsh which gave a nice opportunity to place them in context with their surroundings. I waited for them to be framed by the two dead pines.

    For the most part I used the 200-400mm f/4 on the Nikon D810 which I found to be the perfect combination. I also, on occasion, used the 70-200mm and 28-105mm for the holes on the side of the hide for those extra-close encounters. I would often use Auto ISO which, for wildlife work, I find a most versatile setting. With just a few spins of the thumb and forefinger wheels I can keep the shutter speed up (1/500th sec.) incase of action and slow it right down (1/4 sec.) to create motion-blur. Once you’re familiar with this you’ll wonder why you hadn’t discovered it years ago!

    I spent a night in the hide beside the lake where we were blessed both in terms of conditions and encounters. We all had lots of opportunities (regardless of which hide or environment we were in) to capture the cubs climbing up and down trees. Surely, there’s no more adorable creature on this planet?!

    Our neighbour’s hide at sunrise.

    We were both shooting landscapes willing a bear to appear but we knew, given that activity usually tailed off at around midnight, that it was unlikely but then to my right, I saw one skirting the water’s edge and instinctively (as you do) in hushed tones said “bear”! We could not believe our luck.

    Captured late at night in the rain, I rather liked the muted, sombre tones. You can just make out the bear shaking the rain off its coat.

    The forecast for the following morning was for clear skies. We waited. Surely, not again? And then, at 5.30….

    It was a wonderful trip helped in no small part by a fantastic group with plenty of laughs and good humoured banter.

    Needless to say I’ll be doing the same tour next year, so if you’d like to join me in a photographic experience like no other then do get in touch as spaces are limited. Anyone with a love for nature will, simply, drink this up!

    Tour details here

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