Sunday, 15 September 2013

Wildlife in the Wind and Rain

The change from summer to autumn has not been subtle this year. Over the course of the last week we've gone from warm, sunny summery days to ... well, today! As always, please click on the images to see them properly.

I can't imagine why no-one was sitting on that bench...

Still, bad weather can make for some cool conditions to take photographs in. A lot of wildlife won't come out when the weather is really bad, but one of the nice things about photographing coastal and marine wildlife is that a little bit of wind and rain doesn't tend to faze them very much!

Breaking waves hammering the seawall at Troon.

So despite the forecast, today we headed south of Glasgow to check out the beaches at Troon (one of my regular spots), Irvine and Ardrossan and see what we could spot. The tides shouldn't have been that great for getting close to the birds (it was low water around lunchtime), but the horrible weather had forced plenty of them high up the shore so we had some nice opportunities. Along the shore we had turnstones and redshanks:

Turnstone on the beach at Troon

Redshank on the shore

I was hoping to find eider ducks sheltering from the weather at the harbour, but they were apparently elsewhere today. There were eight grey seals hanging around though:

Grey seals in the fishing harbour

Of course, it was at this point in proceedings that my trusty 7D + 300mm F4L + 1.4x T.C. combination reached the limits of its weather-sealing abilities and stopped working. No screen, no autofocus, no buttons... Oops. Fortunately a towel dry and a few minutes on the car heater seemed to fix it so hopefully there's no lasting damage. At least it was freshwater for a change too! Of course, that wasn't the only thing I did to the camera today...

After Troon we headed further up the coast to Irvine just in time for the sun to break through for a few minutes.

The beach at Irvine

Having spotted a couple of eider ducks, I decided to test my new walking shoes and climb down the seawall to get down to the beach for a closer view. Neither the boots nor the photo worked particularly well unfortunately and I have a couple of rather large new dents in the camera (and my arm). It still works though, so happy days!

Another couple of war wounds to add to the collection. I suspect I'll never, ever be able to sell this camera second hand. Ever. 

The eider duck photos turned out to be pretty boring in the end, but fortunately a curlew came to the rescue and stood in the sea spray and sunshine for a little while:

A curlew in the waves

After this set I decided I'd left enough blood and camera metal on the shore at Irvine for one day and we headed back to Glasgow via Ardrossan and Largs past some more promising looking beaches which I will check out next time I have a free day.

So all in all it was a pretty successful day out really! Nothing broken, nothing (very) flooded and a few decent photos to show for it. I might wrap the camera in a plastic bag next time right enough.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Photos from Inverary

I'm back! If you're wondering where I've been, read on. If you just want to see some photos from Inverary, you can skip most of this and head straight down to the images!

So if you've been following this blog at all, you've probably noticed that things here have somewhat ground to a halt over the last three months and I have to admit it's entirely PhD-related. I'm coming up to the end of my 3rd year just now, and courtesy of a (really important) conference in June followed by two months working flat-out in an attempt to meet a self-imposed, unrealistic and unnecessary deadline, my stress levels have been creeping progressively higher for a while now. It's been more or less entirely self-inflicted too, but it's meant that I've not been going out to do the things that I find relaxing (like photography) because I've been feeling too guilty about not working. But then the stress gets higher and your work gets worse and all in all, it's a pretty bad place to be. It's fine when it's short-term, but not so great in the long run. I'm sure pretty much everyone has been there at some point.

Last week got to the point where the workplan clearly wasn't working, so I binned my deadline and went back to working the way that works for me (no Gannt charts!) and instantly felt better. This was also pretty much the point I noticed how crap the last 2-3 months have been, and when I also learned that if I don't want to go out with my camera to photograph wild things because of work, I'm probably working too much!

Anyway, this weekend I got the camera back out for wildlife for the first time since my last research cruise in April(!) and we headed up to Inverary (west coast of Scotland) for a day out with the dog. Since it was an an unusually sunny day the town was pretty busy, but there were still a few birds rummaging around the flats at low water when the dog wasn't charging around! I didn't get anything amazing, but here are a few of the better shots:

There were a LOT of jackdaws on the beach, which is a little unusual - most of the times I've been up that way it's been hooded crows everywhere.

These two had a brief fight over a patch of seaweed, which was over in about 5 seconds!

The bright sun didn't make for ideal shooting conditions without a polariser, but allowed for some nice silhouette shots. These are three redshanks and an oystercatcher feeding below the tide line.
Redshanks feeding along the shore.

Until the dog couldn't wait any longer to play in the sea and came to see what I was doing!

Most of the trips our dog gets to the seaside happen when I'm out to take photographs, so it was a pretty awesome day out for him too! Sonny's a rescue dog from the cat & dog home in Glasgow and can be pretty reactive around other dogs, so finding a quiet spot to let him off the lead and play is great!

Of course, if I'm taking photos I'm not the one who has to dog-sit. I'm not sure if Kevin had quite as good a day as Sonny and I did!

Heading home via the Loch Fyne brewery, we spotted this small herd of red deer on the hillside too.

So that was our trip out! I'm fully intending to do this more often from now on, so with a bit of luck the blog posts will pick back up again over the next few weeks. Until then, don't forget you can keep up to date with my news and various happenings in the marine world via my facebook page at

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Science, Photography and Freebies!

To say that the last few weeks have been busy is probably the most ridiculous understatement. The PhD has hit crunch time and I'm working more or less flat-out to have 3(!) presentations prepared for the Deep-Sea Fish Symposium being held at Glasgow University in 2 weeks time all of which are on data which is still being processed.

Unless the fire spreads to my hard drives I don't care and I'm not leaving my desk!

On top of that I've been helping out at the Glasgow Science Festival as a photographer at some of their events which has been brilliant fun, but also a MASSIVE learning curve for me (you'd never know how many strange faces people make when they're talking until you try to photograph them doing it!). I think I was getting the hang of it by the end though!

Helen Arney performing at the Glasgow Science Festival / Bright Club 

Happily, while the extent of my social interactions with the outside world have dwindled away to almost nothing, you guys have been brilliant at spreading the word about Wild Ocean Photography's Facebook page and we hit 500 fans on Friday (hooray!!). As a thank-you, I promised to make the four images I entered into the Glasgow Science Festival's 'Dear Green Places' photography competition available to you for free as desktop backgrounds, and I have now got them up on my main webpage for you to download as you like.

My four entries to the GSF competition. Click to enlarge.

The competition was a celebration of Glasgow's green places and asked people to send in images that showed what these places meant to them. For me, a big part of what I love about the city is the amount of wildlife it contains, and the canal is one of my favourite city photo-spots and is where most of the shots were taken. Of course, it's not just the big parks or rivers that are great for wildlife - virtually any green patch is used by something! Outside our house, there's a concrete carpark, a 1m band of hedge and then a 4-lane road. That tiny hedge is where a local family of foxes make their den every year and is exactly where I took the photo of the fox cub which won 'Highly Commended' in the competition, so I'm pretty pleased!

Anyway, without further ado, here's where you can find them:

These links take you through to my main website's download page (where I can host files for downloading MUCH more easily than on here); just click on the resolution you want, then right-click and select 'save image as' and it's all yours!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

New Deep Sea Gallery on Wild Ocean Photography

Good morning all!

Black coral from 800m

Now I'm back on land after a very muddy two weeks away, I've had a chance to update the website a little bit and have added a new 'Deep Sea Animals' gallery to the Marine ID section. You can check it out here:

And let me know what you think in the comments section below.

A polychaete worm living on a cold-water coral.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Work, work, work (and sea monsters)

It's been a hectic two weeks.

Busy busy busy.

After the weather finally decided to stop chasing us around, we got ourselves over to our study site at the Porcupine Abyssal Plain to start what has probably been the most diverse range of deep-sea work I've encountered on a cruise! We've deployed and recovered environmental moorings, autonomous gliders, and a time-lapse camera ("Bathysnap") that's been photographing the seabed for the last 12 months; we've sliced mud, trapped amphipods and sampled a LOT of water!

Trawling in the Abyss

But the work that I came out here for was the trawling, and despite a couple of minor issues with the net along the way, we managed to catch ourselves a decent selection of fish which will help massively with confirming the species identifications of the fish I'm seeing in my photographs from the region. It's also a bit more data to add to our long-term dataset from the PAP which has been being added to gradually over the last 20 years and is one of only two such datasets to exist in the world, so all of this is pretty valuable.

The benthic fishes include the grenadiers (top four images) and eels (bottom image).
My primary interest is in the benthic fish (the ones that live on or close to the seafloor), like the ones in the image above. However, from a purely photographic point of view it's the pelagic or mid-water species that have been holding my attention over the past few days, because they are brilliantly monstrous little things! Here's a selection (most backgrounds have been photoshopped out and replaced with black):

Female Anglerfish

Female angler fish (head detail).

Gulper Eel (head detail)


As usual though, we unfortunately also collected a lot of litter in our catches. It's not surprising - this far offshore there are few regulations regarding the disposal of waste at sea (it's legal to dump most things once you reach international waters), but it's still a shame to think that even out here in an environment that is so distant from us, we're still disturbing and impacting it.

The litter brought up in our first trawl.

A coke can in the net.  

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Stormy Weather!

Guess where our study site is? I'll give you a clue - it's under where the red bit's going

Well, it’s been five days at sea now, and so far we’ve spent most of that time steaming towards our survey site at the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP) and then bravely running away again! In fairness, the forecast has had Force 11s right over where we want to be working and since those are neither comfortable nor safe conditions to be attempting to launch and recover hundreds of kilos of equipment in, we opted to pick up a monitoring buoy from a nearby site instead and then try and sneak back to our survey site around the back of the weather. The headwinds mean we can only do around 4 knots at the moment (about walking pace) so it’s looking like it’ll be Friday before we can start work at the PAP properly – keep your fingers crossed that we manage to get the fishing gear in the water before we have to come home again!

It's always good value when the sea is actively trying to get in your cabin!
The sun came out today so I took a break from working on PhD stuff in my cabin to try and take a few photos of the gales we’re trying to push through. I’ve got a few videos which show the size of the swell a lot better, but with the restricted internet you’re not going to get to see those until we get back to land! Still, at least we’re not out here in a sailing ship...

A square-rigger we passed yesterday evening. Anyone know what it might be?

Other than occasionally popping outside to admire the weather, I’ve been working on some of the photos from last year’s cruise to the PAP site when we had the AUV with us, and there are some pretty cool images of the fish:

Abyssal fish from last year's cruise - hopefully we'll get to see a few for real when we start fishing

With a bit of luck we’ll get to see a few of these in the flesh if we manage to get the fishing nets in the water this week!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

I'm on a boat...

After a rather hectic weekend of data processing and frantic presentation-writing in time for a meeting yesterday, it's now time to pack up my rigger boots again and head to Southampton for another two weeks at sea for what is likely to be my very last cruise as part of my PhD.

Mud and muddy animals! Yeah! 

This time, we're heading back out to the Porcupine Abyssal Plain to learn how to trawl for sample in deep-water! I've done a similar trip before, but the guys who knew all the details of how to work the gear and get it properly set up are starting to leave or retire now, so there's a bunch of us heading offshore to gather as much knowledge as we can (and hopefully catch some interesting things while we're out there too!).

An abyssal grenadier almost 5000m down

As well as a lot of mud-sampling (it just wouldn't be a trip to the abyss without it!), we'll be conducting at least two seabed trawls and hoping to collect another batch of samples to add to the long-term dataset which has been being collected at the PAP site since the early 1980s to track temporal changes in abyssal animals over the course of several decades to improve our understanding of the fragility of those systems. As always, I'll be on the lookout for fish specimens to bring back with me, and will of course keep you posted on our progress as we go. Keep your fingers crossed for us getting good weather!