Friday, 15 January 2016

My 5 Favourite Photographs: Number 5

Now, bring me that horizon

For my final photograph this week I've chosen this shot of some gannets tagging alongside our research ship (RRS Discovery) as we sailed out into the Atlantic Ocean. I'm not going to lie, the fact that I'm leaving the UK tomorrow has quite a lot to do with this particular photo choice! For me, this photo sums up everything I love about my job - the excitement and anticipation that comes with discovering something new about the world, along with the calmness of just being at sea and away from everyday life for a little while. The next couple of years are going to have some pretty big changes in them, but to be honest, as long as I can get out on the water every once in a while I think I'll be more than happy!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

My 5 Favourite Photographs: Number 4

Cormorant by the Forth & Clyde canal

Considering Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, it is great for wildlife. With dozens of parks, two rivers and the Forth and Clyde canal running through the city, there is plenty to see if you have a little patience. From garden birds, seabirds and birds of prey to squirrels, foxes and even deer, there is a huge amount of urban wildlife to find in our "Dear Green Place".

This portrait of a cormorant relaxing on one leg was taken by the Forth and Clyde canal has been one of my favourite photographs for years now. I love the gentle autumnal colours of the bird and the background and how they contrast with the bright green in the bird's eye. Part of what I really love about photography is that it gives you a chance to stop and really look at the details in your subject, whether it's the texture of a fish's scales, or, as in this case, the subtle differences in the colours and shapes of a bird's wing feathers.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My 5 Favourite Photographs: Number 3

Diving the Endeavour

Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands is an amazing place to dive. With seven German warships still lying on the seabed after being scuttled at the end of WW1 and numerous other vessels that were either sunk accidentally or deliberately through WW2, it's an incredible heritage site that very few people get the chance to visit. Scapa is also one of my favourite places to photograph underwater, because it gives the opportunity to take the sorts of naturally-lit, wide angle photographs that I really like. The shipwrecks provide framing and context for the photographs against the natural sunlight coming in from above, and then any divers in the frame provide a little extra colour and focus with their dive lights.

This particular photo was taken inside the wreck of a small fishing boat in the Northern Isles called the Endeavour, which is an absolutely stunning dive in very tidal waters. The wreck itself is festooned with marine life, and it's open enough that going inside it is fairly safe. This is one of the first underwater photographs I'd taken using natural lighting rather than on-camera strobes, and it came out exactly as I hoped it would (which is particularly unusual considering how blooming difficult underwater photography is!). I love the framing of the wreck around the diver and the little extra warmth he brings in with the yellow light of his torch, but mostly, it's a reminder of why I love diving in the UK so much. With relatively poor visibility and cold waters compared to holiday dive locations, you need a lot of gear and perseverance to do it, and you usually need a bit of luck with the weather too. But every so often everything comes together, and on those days there is nowhere in the world I'd rather dive!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My 5 Favourite Photographs: Number 2

Aerial acrobatics

After leaving Oban and going back to University, I spent a lot of time working with the Scottish fishing industry to try and figure out ways of reducing waste in the langoustine trawl fisheries. Not surprisingly, this meant I needed to spend quite a lot of time on fishing and research boats to get good samples of their catches and turn it into the data I needed. It quickly became apparent that one of the few hobbies I could stomach while we were waiting for the catches to come aboard was photography (reading was a DEFINITE no-no!). After hours and hours of watching and practising taking photos of the seabirds following behind our boats, the gannets quickly became my favourites and I really wanted to get a good photograph of one. Unfortunately, they are damn fast and either kept too far away from the boat to shoot or got hidden in amongst the flocks of gulls that also followed us around.

This photograph was taken during a lucky break in the chaos just as we were hauling our fishing nets back into the boat with a full catch. The gulls and kittiwakes made a gap just as this particular gannet jammed its brakes on midair and twisted into some sort of martial-arts pose just before the dive, which is just the moment I caught on camera. I've taken a LOT of gannet photos since, but this one makes the favourites list because it was the first time I'd managed to get a decent action shot of a bird in flight. Also, that pose still makes me laugh!

Monday, 11 January 2016

My 5 favourite photographs: Number 1

A juvenile golden eagle learning to fly

After I graduated for the first time in summer 2006, I got a job as a guide on a wildlife tour boat in the Firth of Lorn on the west coast of Scotland which I absolutely loved. That part of the world is amazing for wildlife, and is a great place to see dolphins, whales, wild goats, deer, seabirds and of course, eagles.

The summer I worked there, we were lucky enough to have found a pair of nesting golden eagles which we could visit without causing them any disturbance. So we got to see this eagle family almost every day over about three months, and watch their chick grow from a tiny fluffy hatchling into a into a demanding young eaglet which was really cool. By the end of the summer, the chick was doing pretty well, and was providing us with a near-constant source of amusement as it learned how to bird! I took this photograph with my boss's camera right before I left the job at the end of the season, and shows the eaglet attempting to land on the clifftop after a short (and not-very-graceful) test flight. The photo is hardly a masterpiece, but for me, it's a reminder of one of the best wildlife experiences I've had in Scotland in a place I absolutely love.

Shortly after, I decided to buy my first DSLR camera and I've been photographing ever since...

5 Days Until the Big Move (and my 5 favourite photographs)...

Happy New Year!

So this year is promising a whole host of new things for me. Back in October last year, I was offered an awesome post-doctorate job which will see me spending the next 2 years of my life right next to sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida! I'll be joining the DEEPEND project to study how communities of pelagic organisms (stuff that lives in the water column rather than on the seabed) in the Gulf of Mexico vary over time and space in response to changing environmental conditions. It's pretty cool, and signals a definite increase in the number of teeny tiny sea monsters I'll be meeting in the immediate future!

What's not to love about that slimy wee face?

Anyway, although I'll definitely be continuing with the photography when I get to Florida (because holy moly is there a LOT of wildlife out there!), I thought I'd round out my last week in Scotland by sharing five of my favourite photographs with you. These aren't photographs that I think are the "best" from a technical or compositional standpoint, but they're the ones that mean a lot to me because they captured a particularly special moment in time.

So without further ado, here comes my first favourite photo...