Sunday, 22 February 2015

Mother Mountain

I've decided to concentrate a little on my much neglected landscape work for the foreseeable future, but that doesn't mean I will be forsaking my wildlife portfolio in the meantime...On the contrary because I usually always pack my larger lenses when on a shoot for fear of missing something unexpected!
Yesterday the plan was to walk up to the summit of Mam Tor (Mother Mountain) high in the Derbyshire Peak District and hopefully capture the sunrise along the Great Ridge...
I left home around 5.45am to give myself plenty of time to drive to the location, get up to the summit and set up my equipment in anticipation of what nature had to offer. Unfortunately with best laid plans and all that, things didn't go quite the way I was hoping for!
The drive in darkness to Derbyshire was uneventful until I reached the elevated village of Chapel en le Frith and it was at this point I realised I might have to change my plans due to the first flurries of snow that were falling and causing what I call the 'Star Wars' effect...This is when the snowflakes bounce off the car windscreen in a unrelenting manner and in the darkness give the impression that you're driving through the opening titles of the classic sci-fi movie! At this point I was in two minds about what to do because the weather in this part of the world can be unforgiving and unpredictable at the best of times, but I decided to carry on to the location and then access the situation.
I arrived at the base of the mountain at around 6.30am and by this time there was a blizzard blowing. I got out of my car to weigh up the scene and the -8c wind chill factor helped me decided that this wasn't perhaps the best of conditions to tackle Mam Tor's slippery slopes in the dark.
I poured myself a cup of hot green tea (life saver!) from my flask and watched a while as the battle between the wind and the snow unfolded with the ultimate prize for the snow being the chance to settle on the mountain.
Soon, night time became twilight and I set my camera up at the base of Mam Tor to capture a record shot before heading off to a more accessible location. 

Mam Tor base in twilight
I decided to head off towards Sheffield and had a very nice couple of hours capturing Owler Tor in beautiful early morning winter sunshine...Results of this shoot will be published on another occasion!
Pleased with my early morning results from Owler Tor, I pondered for a while about where to go next to make the most of the good light and decided to drive back to Castleton because it offers many different options.
The option I decided on however was to head back to Mam Tor and although disappointed not to get the sunrise shots earlier, I thought I owed it to myself to get at least something from the mountain.
The snow on Mam Tor wasn't as bad as it had threatened to be earlier, although still slippery underfoot and bitterly cold I managed to make it about 3/4 of the way up before deciding not to go any further.
From this altitude I shot the summit...


 Mam Tor Summit

The above image is still a couple or three hundred feet from the top and the bleakness of the landscape doesn't really give any clue to this sense of this scale.
From this same height, I panned my camera around to the other side of the mountain and captured a view of some isolated trees on the down slope...

Mam Tor Trees

Finally, the main point of putting all the effort of reaching these sort of vantage points, in all weathers and at hours when a lot of people are still in bed on a Saturday morning is the views.
Here is a shot of the Hope Valley from the lower slopes of Mam Tor, with the famous cement works chimney puffing out smoke to the right of the image...

Hope Valley From Mam Tor

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

More Tits

Well I've been itching to get out with the camera all week, but unfortunately a combination of work commitments and truly awful light conditions have laid to rest any plans I may have had to get out there and satisfy my desire.
I'm pleased to report that all as not been lost though and I've spent the last couple of evenings processing some photographs which have remained overlooked for the last few years.
I've actually got an archive of unprocessed shots running into the tens of thousands and its actually been a pleasure looking and sorting through some of those.
Today I'm going to carry on from where I left off at the last post and present you with some portraits of a few different varieties of Tit.
All these images were taken in the Derbyshire Peak District on a lovely late winters day in March 2010...

                                                                         Blue Tit

Coal Tit
Great Tit

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Back With A Renewed Passion

Its been a while to say the least since my last post...Over 4 years in fact!
The reason for this I guess is because I became a little disillusioned with the wildlife genre of photography and needed a fresh challenge.

For the last few years my photography has been infrequent and limited to street and urban type stuff, but recently the call of the wild has become overwhelming and the urge to go back to what I love and know best has gotten the better of me.

Yesterday I took a walk to a local wildlife haven and for the first time in ages I was armed with my trusty Nikon and 500mm lens.
My God, I've missed it! I cant explain how much I've missed it.
It was a bitterly cold morning and my fingers were frozen to the bone before I was finished, but I'm so glad that I made those tentative first steps back to be with nature.
The sights, smells and just the sheer utter tranquillity of wild places is something I don't want to be any long time away from again...My passion is renewed and I feel I have to make up for lost time.

Anyway...The photography!

To say I was a little ring rusty would be a massive understatement and it took me a good couple of hours to get my eye in and take anything like a half decent image.
The first shots I fired were of a Treecreeper spiraling up a tree in very bad light and the results were I'm afraid disappointing.
My next encounter was with a fleeting one with a Dipper feeding in the river and again I have nothing to show from that.
Finally while heading back to my car (frozen!) I spotted a small flock of Great Tits in a farmers field.
I spent a little time observing their behaviour which consisted of chasing each other and occasionally landing on a barbed wire fence; So really it was just a case of setting the camera on the tripod and waiting.
I managed to get a sequence of fairly pleasing portraits of these tiny birds and all in all I'm very happy with my first day back shooting wildlife.

                                                                      Great Tit

Friday, 30 December 2011


Just a quick heads-up to let you know that I've set up a Twitter account to run along side of this blog and the main website...

If you should wish to follow and you're more than welcome to, it's @ajdixonphoto

I hope everybody has had a good festive period and I'll be back in 2012...Thanks!!

Oh here's a photo of a Grey Heron, for no other reason other than I like them...

All the best for the New Year.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas

I'd just like to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year...Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Cheeky Visitor...

On the bird table!

Monday, 5 December 2011

House Sparrow

After a second day of zero sunshine, I decided I needed to look through some old shots to remind myself why winter is my favourite season for photography...

I have always felt there is something quite special about the winter light and when the sun is low in the sky, I feel it always gives the subject a lovely warmth that is often lacking from shots taken in the sometimes harsh light of summer...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Formby Reds On The Up!

Heartwarming news from the National Trust regarding the plight of the Red Squirrel at Formby Point on Merseyside...

Formby has been for many years one of the last English strongholds for our true native Squirrel, but a devastating outbreak of Squirrel Pox in 2008 left the animals on the brink of extinction at this important site.

The good news is, against all odds, the Red Squirrel has made a remarkable fightback and after a very successful breeding season, 2011 numbers are up 60%.
Long may it continue...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Red Grouse In Snow

Following on from the other days wintry post, I thought I'd share a couple of shots of Red Grouse taken on a very cold but sunny morning in the Derbyshire Peak District...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Frozen Planet

Myself like many of you I'm sure, have been captivated for the last few Wednesday nights by the BBC's latest brilliant wildlife series 'Frozen Planet'.
This amazing Attenborough presented masterpiece is set in the harshest environments on earth, namely the Polar regions.

In the winter of 2009-2010, Britain suffered arctic-like conditions for long spells as temperatures plummeted to as low as -20 degrees.
During this period, I was out and about with my camera, documenting the affect the weather had on wildlife and today, inspired by 'Frozen Planet' I thought I would share a few images...

                                                                    Sheep in blizzard 

                                                                      Grey Heron

                                                                      Greylag Geese

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Robin Is For Life And Not Just Christmas...

It's only 4 weeks until Christmas and of course there isn't a bird that signifies the festive period more than the Robin...That is if you don't count the Turkey that is!

Like a lot of people, the charming little Robin is a favourite of mine and I  can never resist taking a photo of them whenever I get the opportunity.
To celebrate the humble Robin, I've chosen the bird to be the subject of the latest portfolio in the 'Showcase' gallery on my main website...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Red Deer In Red Mist

The goal today was to capture some shots of Red Deer, so I set off just before dawn and arrived at my moorland location just as the sun was rising.
It was a beautiful start to the morning and I was treated to the rather pleasant scene of the sun rising from behind the hills where a light mist was rolling in...

All the signs were that this was going to be a nice morning of photography and all I had to do was locate the Red Deer!
As I scoured the landscape for the Deer, it became apparent that the mist that was rolling down from the hills was getting a lot denser and the early promise of good light was evaporating quickly...

 By this time, the mist could no longer be called mist as it had become thick fog and visibility was down to only a few yards.
There wasn't going to be much chance of photographing Deer in these conditions, I thought to myself...It would be impossible to even spot them, let alone get pictures of them!

I was at this point ready to call it a day, but the visibility was so bad, it would have been treacherous to attempt to walk back through the fog over the moors, so I decided to sit it out until the light got better.
Eventually, the sun made an effort to break through the fog..

One thing to remember about the moors, is weather conditions can change in minutes and a short time later the sun had won it's battle and the fog had reverted back to a rolling mist.

Looking into the direction of the sun there was a wonderful golden misty glow and I surveyed the landscape through my lens hoping to pick up some sort of focal point so to capture the atmospheric scene.

I could hardly believe my luck when I spotted up on a hill, through the dreamy golden hew, three Red Deer Stags perfectly silhouetted...

It was the kind of shot that I'm always on the lookout for and I often find that shooting into the sun can  provide some stunning effects.

I've been successful using this technique with a number of species before, but never with Deer.
All in all a pretty decent mornings work despite at times feeling that it was going to be fruitless.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Brothers In Arms

According to his various news feeds, Andy Rouse one of the worlds leading wildlife photographers, this week embarked on a new project for 2020 Vision...
The criteria is for Andy to photograph Red Kite and on Monday he paid the first of several planned visits to Gigrin Farm in Wales.
Gigrin is a wonderful place that myself and of course hundreds of other photographers visit every year and seeing a few of Andy's images from the day prompted me to look in my archives at shots that I have taken at this location.

It's not just Red Kites that are attracted to the Gigrin feeding station, there are also good numbers of Common Buzzard that wouldn't pass on the opportunity of a free meal also, so I thought today I'd post something a little different from the usual close-up and show you a shot of the two species flying in tandem over the landscape...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Juvenile Shag that I saw on West Kirby Marine Lake a couple of winters back.
I just had to remind myself after Sunday's disappointing trip, that there are more often than not some very nice birds to see on the lake.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Wirral...One Of Those Days!!!

I had a choice to make yesterday...Stay fairly local and photograph Red Deer or drive the 50 or so miles to the Wirral and capture some coastal birds.
Having checked the forecast for both locations for a few days leading up to Sunday (bright sunshine) I decided on the Wirral.

I left the house at around 6.30am in darkness and the longer the journey went, the more I noticed that there was a distinct lack of any hint of a sunrise!
On arrival at my first planned stop at West Kirby, I was greeted by a very gloomy looking scene.
In fact not just gloomy, but very cold and windy too!

On the rocks by the Marine Lake, there were various waders roosting which included Turnstone, Dunlin, Knot and Redshank.
Unfortunately without flash and with a shutter speed of 10s at iso1000 I wasn't able to get any decent shots before the birds departed for the shore.

By the time I made it down to the shore, the light had improved enough for me to get some sort of photography out of the trip and with my Wellingtons sinking deep into the very boggy sand I made my way towards some distant feeding Shelduck...

I didn't attempt trying to get any nearer the Shelduck, because there was a real risk of quicksand and I had already prised my boots out of the sand several times up to then!
I next headed (on much firmer ground)  on the fruitless venture of trying to capture some feeding Redshank.

Missing out on the Redshank didn't annoy me as much as missing the Little Egret that had taken to feeding at the spot where I stood photographing the Shelduck!
To be honest, the morning was turning out to be a very frustrating one indeed and despite there being large numbers of birds on the beach, getting close to them was becoming a real problem.

The one highlight at West Kirby yesterday as always, was watching the large flocks of Knot lifting to the sky every time something spooked them...

The sad news is, that on a 5 hour shoot at one of my favourite and most productive locations, the best I could do at getting close to a bird was this Herring Gull...

After spending a very cold and frankly disappointing morning at West Kirby, I decided to move down the coast and try my luck at Parkgate.
Parkgate despite being a birdwatchers paradise is a place where no small amount of luck is required to get decent images and it isn't always the most photographer friendly location.
The trouble with Parkgate is the more interesting subjects are usually quite a fair distance away in the scrapes.

I only stayed an hour or so at Parkgate and after missing out at West Kirby, there was a little consolation after I spotted a distant Little Egret...

By now I had just about had enough for the day and after receiving a phone call telling me how sunny it had been back home, I decided it was time to head back there.
I did however very nearly give into the temptation of stopping off at Burton to try and photograph a reported Glossy Ibis...Sometimes though, you just know when your lucks not in and when to cut your losses!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Shall We Have A Robin?

Well it's Friday, I haven't taken any new photos this week and I really like Robins!!