I love photographing all aspects of nature, whether it’s woodland birds in the local country park or traveling farther afield to places such as Brownsea Island to photograph red squirrels, the deer rut at Richmond Park, red kites in mid-Wales or gorgeous little puffins on Skomer Island just off the Welsh coast.
I’ve always had an interest in photography and following “early” retirement purchased my first “pro” DSLR camera in 2013. Within a couple of years I had gained my Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society and was keen to develop my photography further. It was while browsing through various photographic magazines looking for inspiration I came across some images of Dalmatian Pelicans. I just thought they looked amazing. So full of character with their wild looking hair, striking orange pouch and white eyes surrounded by bright yellow skin.
It was a desire to photograph these charismatic birds that inspired me to take the next step in my photography journey and, after some research, I booked my first overseas photographic trip with NaturesLens.
Lake Kerkini, in northern Greece, is the most important place in Europe for the globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican during the winter months. It’s also a popular time of year for photographers as the birds have their distinctive breeding plumage.
NaturesLens arranged for us to spend time on the lake and also experience shoreline feeding with fresh fish provided by local fishermen. We were there for four days and during this time the weather changed constantly. Sunshine followed by rain and thick mist, blue skies followed by grey skies and on the final day snow—many challenging conditions creating a variety of photographic opportunities. Beautiful serene, ethereal shots as the pelicans floated peacefully in the mist, flight shots with stunning reflections as the birds flew alongside the boat, low-level shots as we hung over the side of the boat in a desire to shoot from water level and dramatic action shots as the birds flew in to catch the fish.
The pelicans can often be seen sweeping their bill underwater for eels, shrimps or fish and with their large, orange pouch catching fish is quite an art form.
With so many birds, photographic opportunities are immense, however, capturing the more dramatic group shots does have its challenges. The birds are anything but polite when there are fish to be had so isolating a single bird, or in this case a small group, can be tricky, and like any fast-moving action shot I probably had more images with heads cut off than without! I’d seen shots in magazines and online that created the “perfect triangle” composition and this was something I really wanted to emulate, but in many ways it was out of my control as the birds did their own thing—all I could do was watch and wait and be ready to catch the moment as they caught the fish.
Equipment & Settings: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, ISO 5000, 1/800 sec., f/4